Major developments in the financial management of General Synod took place in the fall and winter with the resignation, effective Dec. 31, of treasurer Peter Blachford, and the layoffs Nov. 25 of seven staff at the national office in Toronto.
The layoffs were part of a plan to cut the 2009 budget by $1.3 million, reduce the deficit to $800,000 and to try to put an end to what had been a pattern in recent years of incurring deficits.
In a memo sent to staff Dec. 11, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that he and Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, general secretary, accepted Mr. Blachford’s resignation.
Mr. Blachford, who served as treasurer and director of the financial management and development (FMD) department since June 2004, cited personal reasons for his resignation. Mr. Blachford said that he intended to go back into consultancy work and deal with a recurring health issue.
When asked by the Anglican Journal whether Mr. Blachford’s resignation had anything to do with the church’s financial situation, Archbishop Hiltz said, “No. I would hope that people would not put the two pieces together. Peter’s been very much part of the budget process and has worked alongside others to help manage the financial restraint that we’re in.” He added, “I hope people wouldn’t speculate. What I would hope is that people would respect his reasons.”
Members of the national office’s staff association had earlier sent a letter to management team asking what steps were being taken to address financial governance issues.
Archbishop Hiltz said Archdeacon Pollesel, in consultation with the controller Michael Herrera, will handle the financial matters in the interim.
The layoffs “were due to structural changes we are forced to make as a result of financial constraints we’re facing,” said an internal memo sent to staff by Archdeacon Pollesel. “Each of the seven individuals contributed to the ongoing life of church house and we thank them for their time with us.” They included four staff from FMD and one from the information resources department; the positions of two staff (yet unidentified pending negotiations), set to retire next year, will not be filled.
The management team of General Synod earlier told staff that eight positions would be terminated. That number was reduced to seven because of “unexpected and unforeseen circumstances,” Archdeacon Pollesel said when asked for clarification by the Journal.
Archdeacon Pollesel said an audit review currently being conducted at the national office will help directors of each department determine the nature of other cuts in their areas.
Last fall, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) approved the 2009 budget which projected a $745,639 deficit with revenues anticipated at $8.6 million and expenditures at $9.4 million.
But the approval was not made without the vocal opposition of some CoGS members who noted that the information presented to them was short on details.
CoGS also approved a motion recommending to General Synod, the church’s governing body, when it meets in 2010 “that there be no deficit budgets for the work of General Synod after the year 2012.”
Prior to the recent terminations, General Synod (including two incorporated bodies – Anglican Journal and Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund) employed a total of 75 full-time, eight part-time and 12 contract employees. The figure does not include the number of two other independently incorporated bodies – pensions department and the Anglican Foundation.