No small task: serving on the Joint Standing Committee for Program, Budget and Finance

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This is one of a series of articles about how deputies are making up their minds about the issues before their legislative committees.

Before I agreed to serve on the Joint Standing Committee for Program, Budget and Finance, I was warned about the overwhelming nature of this assignment. Working on diocesan staff for a few years, I imagined I would need to get up to speed, but that at our meetings prior to General Convention I would learn most of what I needed to know in order to understand the church-wide budget and the process by which it is drafted and perfected.

Oy vey, how foolish.

Simply put, this thing is a monster. In ways big and small, apparent and hidden, the church-wide budget will affect Episcopalians and all whom we serve for the next three years. We’re talking about a lot of money that funds a lot of worthy ministry. The budget supports mission grants, church-wide program ministries, Anglican Communion partnerships, and the governance of our beloved church, among other important ministries. PB&F is tasked with a multilayered process of legislation, hearings and testimony, expert advice, and support from church-wide staff to parse and analyze and ultimately decide how to create a balanced budget, line by line. No small task, indeed.

A significant part of our process involves listening.  We listened to the Executive Council finance committee explain the choices it made in preparing the draft budget. We listened to church-wide staff and officers as they explained expenditures and revenue from previous triennial budgets. We have listened and continue to listen to individuals testifying before out committee as they advocate for funding needed for incredibly worthy mission efforts. We have been listening in face-to-face gatherings, by way of an online commenting system, on social media (I tweet #episcomoney), and by monitoring resolutions with funding implications.  In a sense, we are listening to the Holy Spirit through all these means and in all these voices, as we seek to discern God’s call to us as stewards of the abundant blessings evident in this church-wide budget.

The presiding bishop, at one of those early meetings, exhorted us to see the church-wide budget as a visionary document, rooted deeply in God’s mission, and supporting the church’s efforts to do the work of the Kingdom in Christ’s name. In my deliberations I have sought to be reminded of her words, and to prayerfully seek guidance about how the Episcopal Church’s triennial budget might more perfectly aid us in our call to follow Jesus into the neighborhood, traveling lightly. The budget is a gift to the Church that can equip us with tools and resources to do the Kingdom work we’re about. It tells us, if we read it carefully, that God is good, and we are richly blessed to be the body of Christ.

Michael Spencer, a deputy from the Diocese of Eastern Michigan is a member of the Joint Standing Committee for Program, Budget and Finance.

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