MONTREAL-Despite efforts to balance its budget the national synod of the Anglican Church of Canada was running about $900,000 in the red at the end of the second quarter of 2012, the primate of the church, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, says.
He told representatives of eastern Canada dioceses Friday that the shortfall was due mainly to revenues lower than anticipated from dioceses. This was despite impressive efforts by some diocese to grapple with their own financial challenges and the decision of some diocese able to do so to voluntarily increase their contributions to the national church.
“The General Synod is struggling financially and if the truth be known we have been on this trajectory for a long time,” he told the synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada, made up of seven dioceses in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. After slipping into “a dangerous tendency of deficit budgeting” it had been seeking to balance its budget through austerities including a 25 per cent reduction in national staff in the last three years, while at the same time seeking to re-focus its activities on mission.
“We have done some pruning and we have some more to do,” said Archbishop Hiltz, who also issued a memo to staff at the national office in Toronto.
Carrying out a mandate from the 2010 General Synod, the primate is convening a national consultation in Toronto January 8-10 on church structures, particularly the General Synod. It will include representatives from across Canada and will be “facilitated” by Janet Marshall, who has an extensive background consulting with national and international Anglican bodies and is currently congregational development officer of the Diocese of Montreal.
“By 2016 our national church structure will look very different than it does now,” the primate said. “We will make some tough decisions about the national budget.”
The synod of the ecclesiastical province approved motions calling for further study of cutting down the number of dioceses in the ecclesiastical province from seven to no fewer than three-presumably one each in Newfoundland, in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick together, and in Quebec.
It also approved a reduction in the size of the synod of the ecclesiastical province to about six delegates from each of the existing seven dioceses from about 10.
Pruning was also the theme of the opening address to the synod Thursday night by its metropolitan, Archbishop Claude Miller of Fredericton. But he said spiritual matters must remain central.
“I don’t for one minute believe that the Anglican church is doomed because of aging and dwindling congregations, the indifference of our youth or financial costs. Our biggest enemy is loss of memory, and I would argue that we have forgotten God in the midst of our self-centered and anxious lives.
“We have put our faith in other gods for our security and salvation: governments, money, possessions, knowledge, industry, commerce, even entertainment and sports. Witness the Sabbath day and the parking lots of churches versus the parking lots of the shopping malls. Where our treasure is, we find our hearts.”