Robert Dickson of the diocese of New Westminster, chair of the General Synod’s expenditures committee. Photo: Neale Adams
For an interview with expenditures committee chair Rob Dickson, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAdLC79bDKo
A motion that three officials-the Primate, the General Secretary, and the Prolocutor-be given the power to decide whether expenditures authorized by General Synod should go ahead-was approved by the General Synod Friday.
However, synod members were unwilling to pass the motion without an appeal provision, and amended it to say decisions made by these three people could be “reconsidered” by the Council of General Synod (COGs), currently a 42-member body that makes decisions for the church between the triennial General Synods
Robert Dickson of the diocese of New Westminster, chair of the General Synod’s expenditures committee, made the proposal, arguing that General Synod has been known to vote for programs after being advised there is no money for them. “This process has led to a series of unsustainable annual operating deficits,” he said.
Archbishop Colin Johnson of the diocese of Toronto supported the motion but was concerned there wasn’t any appeal from the decision of “this small group.”
Bishop James Cowan of the diocese of British Columbia also wanted an appeal to COGs made available:
“I think it is the responsibility of the church as a whole through our elected body to make those decisions. I don’t think it should be on the shoulders of the Primate, the General Secretary, and the Prolocutor to make those decisions alone.”
With the amendment, the motion passed by a show of hands.
In an interview, Dickson said that COGs has made it a priority that the General Synod budget be balanced by 2012.
The national church’s reserves, once substantial, have been whittled down by a series of deficit budgets starting in the 1990s. It got to the point that the church had to get a line of credit from a bank to pay its current bills, he said.
During the past two years, the national church has been kept afloat through a series of undesignated bequests totalling $7.3 million. Without these bequests, the church would have had a deficit budget of two million dollars in 2008, and a deficit budget of $873,000 last year.
“These two years have been extremely unusual,” said Dickson. “They have been a blessing.”
But it would be very unwise to rely on bequests. COGs has ruled that only 40 per cent of funds for expenditures should come from bequests this year. By 2012 it should be no more than 10 per cent.
So with $7.3 million received in bequests, and about $2.8 being applied to recent deficits, the reserves have begun to slowly build up again-by about $4.5 million over the past two years.
To reach a balanced budget in 2012, COGs has decided the deficit should be no more than $500,000 this year, and $100,000 in 2011, Dickson said.
Although returning to a balanced budget and building up reserves is difficult-it means substantial cuts in program even though there is money in the bank-it is the only way to go, insisted Dickson and the church’s national treasurer, Michele George.
Otherwise, said George, “All you are doing is running yourself into bankruptcy…We want to focus on ministry instead of always asking, ‘How are we going to make ends meet?’ “