How are dioceses that are already stretched for cash, and often cutting diocesan level staff or restructuring their organizations, supposed to come up with money for Congregational Development and Stewardship Development? It seems like the other shifts in the budget means that these functions simply are not going to be done except in a piecemeal, inconsistent fashion at best. Since a budget should be the numerical statement of its mission, vision and values, are we comfortable as Episcopalians saying that we value more staffing for administrators more than we care about congregational development or campus ministry? If that's true, we may want to rewrite the mission and vision statements to reflect our new emphasis on the survival and expansion of our central offices and our de-emphasis on the mission of God as expressed in local congregations.
Can someone explain the cuts to the (presumably domestic) multi-cultural ministry budgets as well as the decision to increase support to Province IX dioceses? For a denomination which talks so much about diversity, isn't it a problem that we are so predominantly Caucasian? Shouldn't we be working to fund programs which work with cultural minorities? Isn't racial justice a priority?
The reduction in the formation budget for youth and campus ministry is the most egregious part of this budget. The claim of the document that "Reduced based in subsidiarity principle toemphasize local ministry" is essentially a euphemism, as I see it, to say that the GC is not going to fund youth ministry, so the dioceses will have to do it. My diocesan staff is a bishop who answers the phone when someone calls the office, and a part-time secretary. What this means is that there will be no funding outside of local congregations for youth ministry, and our churches will continue to age dramatically. I fail to see how this reflects our vision or values, or how the other staff increases in this budget are more important than this money. If someone would make the case for why additional staff for 815 is a better expression of Episcopalian values and identity than money for formation, I'd be all ears. Someone must make the case for why this budget makes sense theologically and ecclesiologically, not why it makes sense practically.
Regards to Formation/Vocation:I was 15 years old when my life was changed by the Episcopal Youth Event. Coming from the small diocese of Northern Michigan, most churches were too small for youth groups, and even diocesan events were small and few in number. My dad was a priest in the diocese, and I was nervous about joining that community. EYE, however, sparked my interest. An opportunity to travel to another city and meet youth from all over the Episcopal Church sounded exciting. I felt like an outcast in high school, and struggled with depression and low self-esteem. I needed to get away, and I could not have entered a better community than the Episcopal Youth Event in Terre Haute, Indiana. There, on the campus of Indiana State University, I felt accepted for who I was. I interacted not just with other teenagers, but with adults who were genuinely interested in me and were glad I was there.Sixteen years later, I have a vocation in the Episcopal Church, serving as the Missioner for Children and Youth and on the Communications team in the Diocese of Iowa. I am pursuing a Masters in Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School. I also serve on the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education. It may seem like an exaggeration to say that I would not be who I am today if I had never attended EYE, but it was definitely a transformative event in my faith journey.As a youth, I returned from EYE committed to finding my place in the church. I became a camp counselor and got more involved in diocesan events. I became an advocate for social justice at a young age and pursued a career in social work. I know many others, too, who, because of the ways the Episcopal Church impacted them at a young age, have had their lives changed. For this reason I feel the need to speak up.The near depletion of funding for the Formation/Vocation office in the proposed 2013-2015 budget for the Episcopal Church is unsettling – not just because it may mean an end to EYE, but because it is sending a message that Christian formation is not a church-wide matter. Hand it over to the dioceses and local congregations, the notes on the budget say.2011 EYE participants from the Diocese of IowaSpeaking from the point of view of a diocese that puts formation at the center of our ministry, I absolutely agree that formation needs to happen on the local level. As a diocesan staff person with formation as a focus, I have fewer and fewer colleagues these days, not just on the diocesan level, but in local congregations as well. In our diocese alone, I know of only three paid formation professionals, and all three are part time. I receive requests every day for resources, curriculum, and assistance with Christian Formation, and not just for children and youth. A majority of our congregations are seeking multigenerational resources.I am blessed to have a full time job which allows me to serve these congregations. We are blessed as a diocese to have a community that does not just say they value Christian Formation, but acts on it. Yes, we are doing the work on the local level AND we need the help of The Episcopal Church (church-wide). Our youth need opportunities to gather with others from near and far, who look different from them, and come from different life experiences. Personally, I need a network of colleagues to rely on to share resources and best practices. I value Forma (formerly NAECED) for assistance with this work, but this work also has a place in the Episcopal Church center.We must come together from time to time to vision and dream about who we can be as a church. We must support and hold up one another in this ministry that can wear us down, but is ultimately life giving beyond belief. We need staff and funding on a denominational level to hold us together, to organize for us, to advocate for us, to nurture us, to motivate us, and to inspire us. Please give this line more creative thought.
Formation/Vocation I was 15 years old when my life was changed by the Episcopal Youth Event. Coming from the small diocese of Northern Michigan, most churches were too small for youth groups, and even diocesan events were small and few in number. My dad was a priest in the diocese, and I was nervous about joining that community. EYE, however, sparked my interest. An opportunity to travel to another city and meet youth from all over the Episcopal Church sounded exciting. I felt like an outcast in high school, and struggled with depression and low self-esteem. I needed to get away, and I could not have entered a better community than the Episcopal Youth Event in Terre Haute, Indiana. There, on the campus of Indiana State University, I felt accepted for who I was. I interacted not just with other teenagers, but with adults who were genuinely interested in me and were glad I was there. Sixteen years later, I have a vocation in the Episcopal Church, serving as the Missioner for Children and Youth and on the Communications team in the Diocese of Iowa. I am pursuing a Masters in Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School. I also serve on the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education. It may seem like an exaggeration to say that I would not be who I am today if I had never attended EYE, but it was definitely a transformative event in my faith journey. As a youth, I returned from EYE committed to finding my place in the church. I became a camp counselor and got more involved in diocesan events. I became an advocate for social justice at a young age and pursued a career in social work. I know many others, too, who, because of the ways the Episcopal Church impacted them at a young age, have had their lives changed. For this reason I feel the need to speak up. The near depletion of funding for the Formation/Vocation office in the proposed 2013-2015 budget for the Episcopal Church is unsettling – not just because it may mean an end to EYE, but because it is sending a message that Christian formation is not a church-wide matter. Hand it over to the dioceses and local congregations, the notes on the budget say. Speaking from the point of view of a diocese that puts formation at the center of our ministry, I absolutely agree that formation needs to happen on the local level. As a diocesan staff person with formation as a focus, I have fewer and fewer colleagues these days, not just on the diocesan level, but in local congregations as well. I receive requests every day for resources, curriculum, and assistance with Christian Formation, and not just for children and youth. A majority of our congregations are seeking multigenerational resources. I am blessed to have a full time job which allows me to serve these congregations. We are blessed as a diocese to have a community that does not just say they value Christian Formation, but acts on it. Yes, we are doing the work on the local level AND we need the help of The Episcopal Church (church-wide). Our youth need opportunities to gather with others from near and far, who look different from them, and come from different life experiences. Personally, I need a network of colleagues to rely on to share resources and best practices. I value Forma (formerly NAECED) for assistance with this work, but this work also has a place in the Episcopal Church center. We must come together from time to time to vision and dream about who we can be as a church. We must support and hold up one another in this ministry that can wear us down, but is ultimately life giving beyond belief. We need staff and funding on a denominational level to hold us together, to organize for us, to advocate for us, to nurture us, to motivate us, and to inspire us. Please think creatively about how to maintain this ministry at the churchwide level. Lydia Kelsey BucklinMissioner for Children and YouthEpiscopal Diocese of Iowa
I can't even begin to express how much the cuts to the Christian Formation budget break my heart. Up until recently, I was one of the two people in The Episcopal Church paid to only work on Young Adult Ministries at the Diocesan level and I am the only provincial coordinator that works solely with young adults. My Diocese had to eliminate my position based on budget restraints which leaves one person focusing solely on young adults at the Diocesan level. There are other Diocesan workers that focus on youth and young adults, but if you ask any young adult in those Dioceses (and most of the Diocesan workers), they will tell you that about 95% of their time goes to the youth work and young adults get whatever is left over. The idea that this work will be done on the Diocesan level for young adults is a false one. If this budget goes away, the work will pretty much disappear. Those of us who work with young adults have spent a lot of time and effort trying to show the church why this is a priority and we thought the message was being received when the PB made youth and young adults a top 5 mission in the church. It saddens me that less than ten years later it is being removed completely.Young adults are a largely disenfranchised group of Christians across denominational lines. We do a great job empowering our youth only to have them neglected for the years between high school and having kids and research has shown that they aren't coming back. If we expect to be a church that grows and cares about the health of its members, then we need to continue to make these programs a priority. Otherwise we turn out to be exactly who these young people expect us to be, a huge disappointment. We become the people that "don't care about them or their future:, and "don't have a place for them in the church." Please reconsider this decision. While some formation programs might survive this budget break by focusing on the Diocesan level ministries, I promise you the Young Adult Ministries will not. It can only survive with the overall umbrella that helps share resources and links young adults across Diocesan lines. Please don't make all of our hard work be in vain. But especially, please don't let these young adults down. They are trying so hard to find their place in this world and the last thing we need to do is shut our doors in their faces.Thank you for your time,Lauren CaldwellProvince IV Young Adult Coordinator Member of the Diocese of Atlanta
The purpose of the Church used to be Christian Formation, in obedience to Jesus' command to teach others what He taught us, and make disciples of all nations. This budget declares that the purpose of TEC is no longer Formation, but Administration.In addition, I am baffled by the thinking that spends $$$ developing a teaching on "repudiating the doctrine of discovery" while slashing the funding for Native American Ministry.
I'm concerned at the (yet further) cut in funding for the Anglican Communion Office. Given that this General Convention is also likely to reject the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, further cutting funding for the ACO would seem only to compound the message that we Americans want nothing to do with the Anglican Communion. Yet this is clearly not true, as seen in recent General Convention resolutions of the past decade that have affirmed the church's deep desire to be a true part of a global church.PB&F may not take into account other resolutions, such as that on the Covenant, but even if not I think the case for the ACO stands on its merits. It is the ACO that is coordinating such important work as the Continuing Indaba project, the Bible in the Life of the Church project, and the significant work of the wide range of Anglican networks that bring together clergy and lay people from around the world to work on issues of common concern.This proposed cut to the ACO would further reduce the ACO's ability to advocate for a truly global church that can help the Anglican Communion be a witness for a peace and reconciliation in a globalized - and fractured - world.The American church has long been associated with the ACO. The first executive officer of the Anglican Communion was Stephen Bayne, one of the great bishops of the mid-twentieth century American church. This cut - not to mention earlier ones in previous years - show the American church turning its back on our sisters and brothers around the world.Thank you for providing this forum for comment.Jesse ZinkDiocese of Western Massachusetts
Perhaps the Episcopal Church would be in a better financial position if it put its money into following the Great Commission instead of into Diversity, Social and Environmental. My review indicates the following:Diversity, etc: $3,641,073Evangelism & Congregational Support Evangelism & Church Plant $ 393,455 Congreg Planting 854,317 Congreg Vitality 852,152 Total $2,099,924 Difference $1,541,149To me, it seems the Great Commission is only receiving about 2/3 the support that politically correct activities receive. Is this what Christians are really called to do?
I attended the National Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) in Minnesota this summer. It was an event filled with faith and fun, an event in which I found God, found friends, and found myself. One of the common sayings during EYE was “Are you on fire?!” To which one would respond “I’m on fire, are you on fire?!” What we meant was on fire with the Holy Spirit. EYE, along with the myriad of other church events I have attended since eighth grade, served to foster my faith, helping it to grow by leaps and bounds. My faith is what sets my heart on fire. The first church event I ever attended was during the winter of my eighth grade year. It was a weekend retreat titled Winter Conference, and it would change my life forever. After that weekend I was hooked. I was inconsolable when I had to leave behind all my newly made, but deeply forged friendships. I joined a social networking site for the sole purpose of keeping in touch with these friends, and was back again for the next retreat. Returning to my everyday life was like leaping headfirst into a pool of ice cold water. Interactions with my classmates seemed far different, and not near as genuine as interacting with my church camp friends had been. I couldn’t wait to go back. Since then I have lost count of the number of summer camps and weekend retreats I have attended. What I do know is how profoundly they changed me. These events fostered not only my faith, but my character as well. I became more confident in myself, more open-minded, more compassionate. I discovered that I have a passion for public speaking, for using my words and my voice to change the lives of others. During these events there are always several talks given, usually by the older participants. I gave my first talk during 10th grade. I love being able to share my faith with others, to help them through difficult times in their lives, to watch them grow in faith as I have. My faith guides me to seek out and help others whenever possible, to treat my enemies as my friends, and to practice wasteful love and radical acceptance. This is what sets my heart on fire. As I understand it, the proposed budget for children/youth/young adult/adult formation has been cut from three million to about two hundred thousand. This would eliminate the children/youth/young adult/adult formation staff and offices at our Episcopal Church Center in New York City. As someone who has reaped the benefits of youth and young adult formation, this horrifies me. I do not know who I would be today if not for the life changing experiences I had through both diocesan events and national wide events like EYE. It is my understanding that this budget cut was made under the assumption that all dioceses are independently able to provide adequate, if not strong, programs in these areas. I can tell you without any doubt that this is false. My own church was no youth programs, because we have next to no youth. But why should children and youth suffer because they are alone at their church?
Continued: I write to you not to ask for reconsideration on the behalf of myself and those near to me in age, but for those youth who have never experienced the true beauty of one of these programs. These programs make a world of difference in people’s lives. To cut the budget for them, effectively killing province and national events, and even significantly harming local ones, would be to pass a death sentence upon the church. The church of the future, the church of the present, is a church of the youth. If children, youth, young adults, and even adults do not experience formation in their faith, they will never learn to appreciate and love the gift we have in the Episcopal Church, and they will not come back to the church, leading and loving through it. Without the youth, the church will wither. And without youth programs, the youth not learn to love the church. And without an adequate amount of money in the budget for these programs, there will be no youth programs. So I ask you from the bottom of my heart and soul to make a change to the proposed budget for General Convention 2012. The children and youth need you. May the Lord disturb and trouble you, may the Lord set an impossible task before you, and dare you to meet it. May the Lord give you the strength to do your best for youth and young adults, and then may the Lord grant you his peace. Sophia Reeder, age 18, Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
Seems to me we need to ask, "What is going on with our Church?" If the intent is to devolve responsibilities, how about some advance notice and planning? Are we going to become Congregationalists, God forbid?! For what it is worth: move the National Offices to a large midwestern city with good air access, sell 815, put more money into formation for ALL church members using best communication practices, sell off several of our seminaries or re-purpose them, we need to look at involving laity MORE in provision of pastoral services and emphasize the Episcopal commitment to learning...any budget that doesn't support these is getting in the way of our Church's future, in my opinion.
I would like to start by saying thank you to Sophia for her beautiful expression of the need for continued support for youth and young adult ministries in the Episcopal Church.I myself am new to the church. I am 24 years old and I had my first experience with the Episcopal Church at the most recent Vocare for Diocese of Florida. Since that retreat I have felt God's presence in my life every day. I have served on staff for Vocare #21 in Diocese of Georgia and I am currently in the process of becoming a confirmed member of my home church, St. Luke's in Atlanta.I am writing to beg you to reconsider the decision to cut funding to youth and young adult ministries. Without programs like Vocare (and Happening for those younger than myself), the ability of the church to touch the lives of people is going to be lost. How would we expect to grow the church, to bring Christ's message of love to anyone but those who already know it if we aren't reaching out to the next generation, to the people who are just finding a faith....who can only find that faith if the given the opportunity? One of the things I love most about the Episcopal Church is the close friends that I have made through young adult ministries programs. These are people I can rely in, that I can ask questions about my faith, that constantly remind me why being a Christian and an Episcopalian is so wonderful, and that because of our similarities in age I can feel completely comfortable with and understood. At a time in our lives when we are most vulnerable, when we are journeying out into the world for the first real time as individuals trying to find our callings and a foothold on the path the God has laid before us, having people to surround ourselves with that are fumbling faithfully through the same part of our journey on this Earth is of utmost importance. PLEASE reconsider the discontinuation of these programs.Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God.Tiffany Andras, age 24, Diocese of Atlanta
I would also ask that you reconsider the cuts in funding to our youth and young adult programming. I have a daughter who just entered the youth program and another who is 2 years away. Watching my older daughter get involved and form relationships with other youth and adult mentors has been a blessing. We've been in our Parish for over 12 years and during that time I've watched our youth grow and mature into amazing young men & women with strong relationships to God, family and each other. I want that for my daughters. Connecting with our children, youth and young adults is a crucial part of our lives together. Please don't take that away.Ellen Adams, St Catherine's, Marietta, GA
I would also ask that you reconsider the cuts in funding for youth and young adult programming. I have a daughter who just started in Rite 13 and her sister is a couple of years behind her. Watching her become involved and form relationships with other youth and adult mentors has been wonderful. We have been in our Parish for over 12 years and during that time, I have seen our youth grow and mature in their faith and become amazing young men & women and I want that for my daughters. Connecting with children, youth and young adults is crucial to our lives together, Please don't take that away.Ellen Adams, St Catherine's, Marietta, GA
I raise my voice in agreement with those who ask for a reconsideration of cuts to Youth and Young Adult Ministries—National Church support for this is essential to promote cooperation and avoid reduplication of efforts. It is also essential for smaller dioceses that simply do not have the funding to do this on their own. I would also like to resist the cuts being made to our ecumenical work. This proposed budget cuts almost a third of our ecumenical budget away in one fell swoop. This is a huge mistake for two reasons. (Disclaimer: I am an appointed Commissioner to the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches, so not only do I have first-hand experience with this ministry but have a personal interest in its continuation). First, our ecumenical work over the past decades has brought great fruits to our life as a church. Documents like "Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry" (BEM) were a part of the same conversation that produced the 1979 prayer book with its emphasis renewed emphasis on the place of baptism in our church and Holy Eucharist as the principal service of worship on Sundays. The Episcopal Church used to be one of the leaders in the ecumenical movement. At the last two NCC Faith & Order gatherings I went to I was THE ONLY Episcopal voice present. This is a tragic loss. Second, our ecumenical ministries produced "Called to Common Mission," our agreement with the ELCA church. This agreement has been a huge gift to local ministry in my own area, as partnerships and work with our Lutheran colleagues has enabled a strengthening of ministries. The agreement enabled me to call a Lutheran pastor to serve as a priest associate, greatly enhancing the depth of our worship and liturgy. The agreement has enabled other parishes in our diocese to yoke with Lutheran parishes and find new ways for ministry to continue in small communities.These and other gifts will be greatly diminished if this budget is cut so significantly. In this age when we are revisioning who we are as a church, we need more conversations with our ecumenical partners—not less. The 1.4 million dollars in increases, particularly the over half a million in increases just to the PB and PHoD offices should be reconsidered if they are possible only on the backs of Youth Ministries, our relationships with the Anglican Communion Office, and the continued gutting of our ecumenical ministries.
I am writing to call attention to a portion on our country that typically goes unseen and neglected; the Appalachian Region. I am also writing to voice the need to reconsider the lack of funding in the draft budget on lines #678 and #679; Appalachian Ministries.Since the leadership of the Episcopal Church called on the Appalachian bishops to develop a program in response to Appalachian poverty over 45 years ago, Episcopal Appalachian Ministries has been responding. The resulting coalition of Episcopal dioceses has existed under three different names: Appalachia South, Appalachian Peoples Service Organization and now Episcopal Appalachian Ministries.The Appalachian Region is the 205,000-square-mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. There are 22 Dioceses of the Episcopal Church that have counties within the Appalachian region. Forty-two percent of the Region's population is rural, compared with 20 percent of the national population. Currently, over 80 of the counties in the Appalachian region are economically distressed. The poverty rates for Appalachia average about 18% as compared to 13% for the nation as a whole. In many parts of the region, poverty rates are well over 20% and as high as 54% in some counties. Much of Appalachia remains isolated geographically and economically. Public housing is just not an option or available in the rural and isolated areas of Appalachia. Safe and affordable housing is still a major barrier for many of those Appalachian people living in poverty. Literacy rates are well below national averages. Health care is difficult to get in some areas, with only one doctor or health care provider for a county. Conditions in Appalachia are improving over time, but the effects of both economic and environmental exploitation of coal and other big industries are still present. Appalachia is at the heart of domestic poverty issues. (Source: Appalachian Regional Commission)At the heart of EAM’s ministry are the EAM sponsored work camps. These work camps provide much needed home repairs and upgrades to Appalachian families living in poverty. Each year, EAM sponsors work camps in which Episcopal parishes from all over the country send groups of youth and adults to provide home repairs for underprivileged families in the coal fields of Appalachia. EAM continues working to help sponsor and promote work camps in each of Appalachian dioceses. This past year (2011) three additional mission sites were sponsored. Work camps are very much the hallmark of “hands on” ministry being done by EAM.In 2008 EAM began an Appalachian Small Grants Initiative in which monies are granted to Appalachian organizations connected with the Episcopal Church. These “small grants” are usually between $500 and $1000. The grants are to be used as seed money for ministries and organizations to seize opportunities of a one-time nature and project start-up costs. Grants must be for a specific ministry, project or program. Successful grant requests would typically be for purchasing specific items (e.g., computer equipment, building supplies, etc.) The grant selection committee is made up of bishops from the EAM member dioceses. The money over this past triennium has come from a block grant from the General Convention for $19000 a year. Ministries in 10 of the supporting dioceses have received grants over the past year.Episcopal Appalachian Ministries is a mission of the Episcopal Church. If we sincere about putting "our money where our mouth is", the Church will continue to fund and support the people living in poverty in the Appalachian region.God's Peace,The Rev. L. Gordon BrewerExecutive Director of EAM
As a native East Tennessean, I want to underscore all the concerns presented by the Rev. Gordon Brewer, Exec. Dir. of EAM, in the above letter. Appalachia has a history of being a disadvantaged and largely ignored section of our country, with just the kind of communities and individuals whose needs are those our Lord himself placed before us: hunger, illness, homelessness and inadequate housing, oppression by those in power, inadequate resources to prepare children, young people and families for life skills--all the disadvantages of the poor. I believe it would be unfaithful for us as the Episcopal Church to diminish our care and actively choose to neglect this faithful work.The Rev. Peggy BlanchardDiocese of East Tennessee
Yes, as a native Appalachian and priest serving two churches and serving as a ministry developer in Western Maryland, I whole-heartedly support the statements of The Rev. Peggy Blanchard and the Rev. Gordon Brewer. EAM does VERY VERY important work. The work does not end but instead continues to blossom as our ministries develop and new needs arise. With the fire at Grace House in SW Virgina, ever-increasing gas and fuel prices, and the economy, EAM's work becomes increasingly important. We in Appalachia are increasingly marginalized by commercial America, making the needs even greater with each passing year.
One doesn't have to look far to read all about the decline in "mainline" churches, including our own, and more importantly, the disinterest in religion apparent in a large majority of young adults in our culture. Now is exactly the wrong time to de-fund our ministry to and with young people. Since last fall I have seen with deep interest the birth and growth of a vital campus ministry in our diocese based in Chattanooga. Our lay missioner, Zach Nyein, has established an enthusiastic campus ministry group, Project Canterbury, that is off to an exciting start and is attracting young people and inspiring them. In what way could we possibly be supporting and encouraging this vital work if we cut all funding from the national church? Our diocese is in Appalachia, and is far from wealthy. I urge you to reassess our national priorities in light of the faith we profess, and to continue to support the future of our church.The Rev. Peggy BlanchardDiocese of East Tennessee
I am a younger priest (32) who never attended church camp or went to EYE, or knew anything about the Diocese until I started talking to the Bishop about a possible call to the priesthood. My college church was not dialed in to any form of young adult formation, and I resisted the events like Intervarsity. The best "young adult" formation I ever had connection to was the Bath Anglicans club during my semester abroad in Bath. Since we cannot send all of our youth and young adults for a semester in Bath England, I respectfully suggest that the evisceration of the youth and young adult budget is extremely detrimental to our call to make disciples of God's people. I am distressed by the large elimination of funding. It does not seem as if the eliminated funds will be channeled back into the Dioceses in an organized way to help them build and fund their own ministries. That (to me) is a major oversight. A good parallel situation would be the split of the Federal ministries such as military and prison chaplaincy from the healthcare chaplains. Healthcare chaplains are now overseen by their own Bishop. For example, Connecticut, with its three Bishops, has the luxury of doing this local oversight in a healthy, well-connected manner as one of the Suffragan Bishops, the Rt. Rev. Laura Ahrens, hosts quarterly gatherings and conducts visits at the chaplains' workplaces. Healthcare chaplains also have a national network (Episcopal Conference of Healthcare Chaplains) and two professional organizations with deep roots: the Association of Professional Chaplains and the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. This offers resources, education, peer connection, and professional quality control. In other words, the Healthcare chaplains had strong professional infrastructure to which they could fall back and still continue to learn and grow in their profession. This was in place and functional before the national church split the Federal and local chaplaincies. This is what we lack on the youth and young adult side of the ministry. We are cutting off a limb without any fall back or any other professional-level infrastructure. The time for this change is just not here yet. If this is the direction that the National Church feels God is calling them to go, I would expect to see a pattern of consensus and discernment. I would also expect to see a strategic plan for first building up diocesan and local level youth and young adult ministry and funding. Instead, what I see is a short-sighted elimination of funding to programs and ministry coupled with a dramatic increase in administration, which I just don't see connected to the ministry we hope to do. There is simply no plan to replace any sort of professional structure. I urge the National Church to dramatically revise this budget.
I am concerned about the elimination of funding for Jubilee Ministries, Episcopal Appalachian Ministries, and the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice. All of these networks involve grassroots efforts to engage Episcopalians in efforts to alleviate poverty and to create a more just society for all God's people. All involve only a token investment but that investment helps sustain these networks and the funding multipies by attracting individual an diocesan investments. Maintaining these networks expands the capacity of the Episcopal Church to engage in mission. It is not a question of whether these groups need the funding as it is whether the Church would be diminished if they are allowed to fail. Michael Maloney
I write to you as the formation officer for my diocese and was stunned to see how the formation/vocation line had been slashed 90% in the draft budget (One immediate question: What is the remaining $280K meant to fund? I hasten to point out that less than three years ago, the 2009 General Convention adopted the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, upholding the importance of formation across all age groups. Now the same body would be asked to approve a budget which essentially eliminates chruch-wide support for this work. If, as I often say, the Church is in the business of "helping to grow Christians and helping Christians to grow" and then we don't support that work, then I believe that we will continue to decline in numbers and spirit as a denomination because we will no longer be forming disciples for Christ or nourishing the ones we have. If, on the one hand, we bemoan the fact that we are a denomination composed of aging congregations and at the same time fail to support ministry to children, youth, families and college campuses, then we should NOT complain about the rising average age of those in our pews or that fact that no younger people are available to step into leadership positions, lay or ordained.I read in the draft budget that the rationale for these cuts (i.e. the "principle of subsidiarity")is that formation ministry is best accomplished at the local level. While that is true, it is also true that support and infrastucture is needed at the church-wide level. This is a "both-and"( very Anglican) situation. Current trends point to the need for church-wide support for local formation ministry. Increasingly in the Episcopal Church: 1)Many parishes and more and more dioceses, (including some large dioceses) have recently eliminated their paid formation ministry positions for budgetary reasons. In fact, as a demonination comprised of many small congregations, few parishes have ever been able to afford to employ someone even on a part-time basis to guide formation. 2) Congregations are finding themselves unable to afford full-time clergy and must rely on part-time clerics whose availability for work and focus beyond Sunday is limited. 3) Congregations are composed of individuals who were either formed in other Christian traditions and are thus unfamiliar with Episcopal ecclesiology, liturgical and sacramental traditions or who are new Christians and may lack familarity with basic Christians beliefs and practices. These trends beg the question-How is a small parish that has no formation person on staff, has limited financial resources, has perhaps a part-time cleric and is located in a diocese that never had/no longer has a staff formation officer supposed to obtain information/guidance about appropriate formation resources? For example, the Church Center formation group currently provides a free-downloadable lectionary-based Episcopal curriculum that is regularly updated and is of great assistance to small congregations with limited finances. Under the draft budget, this kind of valuable resource would be elminated and such congregations would be on their own to figure out what curriculum to use.At the macro level, several questions arise. In the absence of a church-wide formation infrastructure what would be the mechanism for convening a church-wide conversation about formation resources, trends and best practices? As fiscal resources shrink and the need for collaboration increases, by what mechanism would opportunities for networking regarding formation be created? In summary, I find this to be a very short-sighted document as far as formation is concerned. It represents short-term thinking that has the potential to do long term damage to the Episcopal Church. If we are serious about forming disciples and thus about the future of our denomination then formation must be supported at the church-wide level. I urge you to revise this budget and restore support for formation.