National church cuts jobs, grants and programs

By on September 1, 2000

The Anglican Church is eliminating the equivalent of eight full-time positions at its national office and cutting $500,000 in grants to northern Canada and overseas in an effort to balance this year’s budget and cut next year’s by about 11 per cent.

The church is eliminating the national resource centre, letting go the sole employee, Annie Kakooza, who loaned videos and other resources to parishes. The job of the eco-justice co-ordinator, Joy Kennedy, has also been eliminated and cuts made to that program.

Several positions are being reduced to half-time, including administrative staff for the Journal and the director of information resources, the assistant librarian and the assistant archivist. Other positions will go unfilled, as Barbara Liotscos leaves as ministry and worship consultant to become archdeacon of Kootenay and Stuart Brown leaves as Partnership’s African and Middle East mission co-ordinator to return to work in Africa.

Anglican Journal staff are being combined with MinistryMatters and Web-site staff to form a News and Information group. As a result, David Harris accepted a severance package after nearly five years as editor of the Journal.

The financial management department will not replace two staff who have left and is cutting money to regional programs.

Archbishop Michael Peers insisted that people leaving the national staff with severance packages should not be viewed as the first getting off a sinking ship.

General Synod may face bankruptcy as early as next year if the federal government does not agree to a deal that would cease the litigation against it that now amounts to more than 350 lawsuits, 1,600 plaintiffs and billions of dollars in claims.

Even in the worst case scenario of continuing litigation until the church’s resources are exhausted, Archbishop Peers said in an interview, he believes the dioceses will continue to want some sort of national manifestation of the church. The four provinces of the church in Canada are now being asked to define the national work that needs to continue to promote cohesion.

Bankruptcy of General Synod is considered a last option, although the church may pursue protection from its creditors under the Companies Creditors Arrangements Act in a bid to restructure if there is no deal from the government.

“Our reputation as a house within the Anglican Communion is the reputation for competence,” Archbishop Peers told a sombre all-staff meeting on Aug. 14, the day of the cuts. “And some of that competency is lost,” with the cuts to staff and programs. “I hope we emerge intact with our most precious contribution: that is, not only our competence, but our integrity.”

Revenues are down this year by about $650,000, partly due to a cut of about $330,000 from the Diocese of Niagara (a reduction expected to continue through next year), reduced givings from other dioceses hit with legal bills due to residential schools and lower income from investments that are being liquidated to pay legal bills.

Daily cash flow is also being affected since the Toronto Dominion Bank – General Synod’s bank for about 30 years – cancelled the national church’s $2.4-million line of credit, spooked by media reports of impending bankruptcy after the May meeting of Council of General Synod in Fredericton.

That has speeded up the national church’s drain on its assets since it’s had to sell extra securities to maintain cash flow. Treasurer Jim Cullen estimates General Synod has about $7 million to $7.5 million in assets left, including its $3-million building and $1.5 million in Anglican Book Centre inventory.

The cuts are designed to allow the church to balance its budget this year and the proposed cuts for 2001 will slash the budget by about 11 per cent, to $9.6-million.

The size of next year’s Journal will be cut to an average 12 pages from its current standard 20 pages.

Questions have been raised about whether the Journal will be able to maintain its editorial independence from the church, now that it will be integrated in the new group. Both Archbishop Peers and General Secretary Archdeacon Jim Boyles said the Journal’s mandate of editorial independence is set by General Synod and remains intact.

The new acting editor of the group is Vianney (Sam) Carriere, also editor of Ministry Matters. “The editorial independence and mandate of the Journal do not change,” he said the day after the cuts were announced. “The changes that have taken place are resource and finance driven. We’re going to do the best we can with the resources we have. We will chart a parallel course to the church, a course that sometimes converges, sometimes diverges. But our mandate remains unchanged.”

The only program receiving a boost is indigenous ministries, with the budget being doubled from $262,000 to $547,000. Some of that cash pays for grants to projects proposed by aboriginals. Council of General Synod has said the church’s first priority must be to healing and reconciliation with aboriginals.

The church is also hiring a media consultant and redoubling its efforts to pressure the federal government to come to an agreement.

According to Mr. Cullen, “For normal operations, we’re okay for the foreseeable future.”

But once the national church has to pay settlements to eight former victims of child-care supervisor Derek Clarke in a case expected to wrap up in British Columbia this fall, “then we’re in trouble,” he said.

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