Dioceses cut donations to General Synod

Published January 1, 2004

Some Canadian Anglican dioceses, facing reduced investment income and a new obligation to contribute to the native residential schools settlement fund, are cutting their annual donation to General Synod.

At its diocesan synod Nov. 20-21, Toronto reduced its 2004 contribution to the national church to $1.72 million, down 10 per cent from $1.91 million in 2003.

“Early in 2003, we determined that income for 2003 would be less than the original plan primarily due to investment market conditions,” read the notes to the financial statement presented to synod. Investment income, according to the statement, is projected to drop to $968,700 in 2004, down 40 per cent from $1.61 million in 2002.

“It was not a decision made lightly,” said Robert Saffrey, finance director of the diocese of Toronto. At pre-synod information meetings, he said in an interview, “some people said they wished we could maintain the level of funding to the national church, but others said the parishes are giving all they can give.” Before the stock market decline started in 2000, investments were generating returns at the level of 10 per cent a year and those capital gains were built into revenue planning, he said. Recent returns have been lower.

The diocese is also seeing some evidence that its fundraising appeal for the residential schools settlement fund is cutting into other fundraising efforts, he said. As Canada ‘s wealthiest diocese, Toronto is committed to contributing the largest amount, $5 million, to the $25-million fund that caps church liability in damage suits brought by natives alleging abuse in the now-defunct school system.

(All 30 dioceses signed an agreement last year which requires them to contribute set amounts to the settlement fund; their contributions to General Synod, however, may be adjusted.)

About $1 million has been raised through a direct appeal by Archbishop Terence Finlay called the Archbishop’s Challenge, however, that seems to have come partially at the expense of FaithWorks, a diocesan appeal that supports social and health services. In 2002, FaithWorks raised $1.16 million, but is now tracking at about $900,000 to $1 million for 2003, Mr. Saffrey said. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of new money for the settlement fund,” he said.

The national church’s 2004 budget reflects the possibility of reduced income from the dioceses, projecting diocesan contributions at a total of $8.77 million for 2004, down two per cent from $8.95 million in 2003. “The dioceses are struggling,” noted Jim Cullen, treasurer of General Synod at the church’s national office in Toronto. “They are trying not to reduce their contribution to General Synod. In many cases, it’s the last thing to go. Ontario told me they were going to cut their contribution by $30,000, but the diocesan council said ‘No, you do not cut that,'” he said. The meeting of General Synod in 1998 phased in a system of proportional giving for the 30 dioceses, setting a target of 26 per cent of diocesan revenue to go to the national church. Currently, some dioceses give more, some less, Mr. Cullen said.

In addition to Toronto, dioceses that are expected to reduce their donation to the national church (according to General Synod budget projections) are:

  • Algoma, which pulled back to $240,000 in 2003 from an earlier projection of $299,000, and expects to contribute $263,000 in 2004;
  • Central Newfoundland, at $145,000 in 2004 from $150,000 in 2003;
  • Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, at $495,000 next year, compared to $500,000 in 2003;
  • Huron, pulling back to $740,000 this year from an earlier-projected $880,000 and a commitment to $780,000 next year;
  • Ottawa, expecting to contribute $616,800 next year compared to $682,000 in 2003,
  • Brandon, at $108,564 for 2004 from $115,110 in 2003;
  • Rupert’s Land, at $183,000 next year, the same as 2003, but down from an earlier 2003 projection of $192,921;
  • New Westminster, projecting a contribution next year of $584,800, down from an earlier projection of $656,000 in 2003.

The financial situation in two dioceses is complicated by other factors: Huron has legal bills for its defense of lawsuits concerning a native residential school, the Mohawk Institute, Mr. Cullen noted. Additionally, eight parishes in New Westminster are withholding financial support from the diocese since they do not agree with the diocesan decision to allow the blessing of gay relationships.

The financial picture is not bleak at all dioceses, however. Some are increasing their contribution to General Synod in 2004. They include Quebec, Calgary, Edmonton, Qu’Appelle and Yukon. Among the dioceses maintaining their contributions are: Fredericton, Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Saskatoon and British Columbia.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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