Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, kicked off the fall meeting (Nov. 15-18) of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) in Mississauga, Ont. by urging members to view declining revenues and a looming budget shortfall as a “teaching moment handed to us by God.”
What’s needed now, said Hiltz is “transformational change.” He called on members to find “the courage to let go of our deep attachments to old ways and structures” and to “dare to imagine new scenarios.” In recent years, the church has attempted to effect change but “the structures don’t really look very different,” Hiltz noted.
CoGS members are being asked to discuss ideas that support priorities set out in the church’s 10-year strategic plan, Vision 2019. These priorities include envisioning a more streamlined structure for General Synod. The work being done at CoGS is part of a series of discussions that will take place over the next eight months leading up to General Synod 2013 in July. In January, Hiltz is convening a national consultation in Toronto to look at the future of church.
In its written report to CoGS, the financial management committee (FMC) has stressed that “revenues have been declining more rapidly than expected” and as a result, anticipated deficits for 2013 and beyond “have materialized much earlier than expected.” This weekend, CoGS will be asked to approve a 2013 budget with a proposed deficit of $513,000.
Rob Dickson, FMC chair, cited declining membership as a factor for the deficit. Diocesan giving has been declining annually at an average rate of 3%, said Dickson, adding that capital fundraising initiatives undertaken by the national office in partnership with dioceses are “not a quick fix.”
Bishop Dennis Drainville, of the diocese of Quebec, said CoGS must focus on mission and not be paralyzed by discussions around structure and finances. “Our minds have to be on mission, it will help us get out of this mess,” said Drainville. “What is God calling us to do and be? What is the mission of the church? If those are not the questions, we won’t end up where we need to be.”
Bishop James Cowan of the diocese of British Columbia expressed the hope that the staff at the General Synod office in Toronto and people who worship in church on Sunday would also be encouraged to view the challenges as an opportunity even while “there is a good deal of anxiety” about what changes they might bring.