Faced with declining revenue and recurring budget deficits in recent years, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada announced on Nov. 25 the termination of seven positions at its national office in Toronto. The terminations were part of a plan to cut the 2009 budget by $1.3 million and reduce the deficit to $800,000.”I want to emphasize that all these decisions were due to structural changes we are forced to make as a result of financial constraints we are facing. None were due to performance issues,” said an internal memo sent to staff by Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, the national church’s general secretary. “Each of these seven individuals contributed to the ongoing life of church house and we thank them for their time with us.”Five staff from the financial management and development department and the communications and information resources department were laid off; the positions of two staff (yet unidentified pending negotiations) set to retire next year will not be filled.The management team of General Synod earlier told staff that eight positions would be terminated. That number was reduced to seven because of “unexpected and unforeseen circumstances,” Archdeacon Pollesel said when asked for clarification by the Anglican Journal. He declined to elaborate.Archdeacon Pollesel said an audit review currently being conducted at the national office will help directors of each department determine the nature of other cuts in their areas.Earlier last week, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) approved the 2009 budget which projected a deficit of $745,639, with revenues anticipated at $8.6 million and expenditures at $9.4 million.
But the approval was not made without the vocal opposition of some CoGS members who noted that the information presented to them had been short on details. At that point it had not mentioned the number of staff positions and programs being eliminated as part of the deficit-pruning measure.CoGS also approved a motion recommending to General Synod, the church’s governing body, when it meets in 2010 “that there be no deficit budgets for the work of General Synod after the year 2012.”A consolidated income and expense summary presented to CoGS by the financial management and development department has forecast budget deficits of $500,000 in 2010 and $100,000 in 2011. It also included a plan for “renewed philanthropic initiatives” aimed at achieving a balanced budget by 2012.The pattern of accruing budget deficits and making subsequent cuts has taken its toll on programs and staff in this decade. In 2005, six staff members at the Anglican Book Centre (ABC), the church’s retail and publishing department (which has since been managed by the Lutheran bookseller Augsburg Fortress Canada), were laid off when the 2006 budget was cut by five per cent due to a deficit. In 2000, General Synod also announced budget cuts which affected jobs, grants and programs, as a result of numerous lawsuits brought by former students of native residential schools as well as a drop in diocesan givings to the national church.Prior to the recent terminations, General Synod (including two incorporated bodies – Anglican Journal and Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund) employed a total of 75 full time, eight part-time and 12 contract employees, according to Sandra Kitson, human resources manager. (The figure does not include the number of two other independently incorporated bodies – pensions department and the Anglican Foundation.)The deficits in recent years have been attributed to losses at ABC, a decline in diocesan givings, the loss of investment income, and a drop in donations to the Anglican Appeal, among others.Hours after the termination was announced prayers were held in the chapel for those affected by the staff cuts. A eucharist to be led by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has been scheduled on Dec. 11 for the departing staff to offer them thanks and prayers, said Archdeacon Pollesel.