THE finances of the Episcopal Church in the United States have not only survived the global economic impact of the coronavirus, but thrived, owing partly to budget cuts and reduced expenses during lockdown, the Episcopal News Service (ENS) reports.
The Church’s chief financial officer, Kurt Barnes, told a meeting of the Executive Council at the end of last month that dioceses had been paying their assessments at nearly the same rate as before the pandemic, and that church trust funds had rebounded from investment losses in the spring.
Diocesan assessments provide the Church’s largest income — more than 60 per cent of the triennial budget, which the Council recommends to the General Convention for approval every three years. Dioceses had reported “no surprises” and “unexceptional” finances during the pandemic, Mr Barnes said. “Those are words that most people want to hear in a financial report.”
Since 2015, each of the 110 dioceses and regional areas has been expected to contribute 15 per cent of its adjusted annual income — its reported income minus $140,000 — to the central Church. Of these, 88 pay in full, 17 have been given waivers while they work to increase their contribution, and the remaining five are ineligible to receive grants, loans, and scholarships from the Church. In some instances, these underpayments are due to longstanding theological disagreements with the General Convention on issues of human sexuality, ENS reports.
The chair of the Executive Council’s Finance Committee, the Revd Mally Lloyd, said that, so far, only the diocese of Mississippi had indicated that it might have to reduce its assessment payments. “We’re on pretty solid ground, still, halfway through the fiscal year.” Others may yet follow suit, however.
The Church had saved about $3.5 million on staff costs, she said, through forced cuts in expenses during the lockdown such as travel and conference attendance. This had significantly offset a $1.8-million deficit originally budgeted for 2020. The Church, through its legal body, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, had also benefited from a $3-million federal stimulus loan.
The Church had more than $5 million in cash and a further $12 million in short-term reserves, Ms Lloyd said, of which about $9.5 million had been set aside for “the rainiest of rainy days”.