“We believe that building relationships between congregations and the diocese increases the quality of ministry in both.
We want to understand more clearly the way that money is used to carry out the work of ministry in the diocese.
We want to increase fellowship with each other: congregation to congregation and between the various groups in the diocese and the congregations.
We want to imagine our financial life together in new ways.
We are seeking to articulate a new paradigm of funding that leads to a formula for assessing congregations.
We wonder whether or not we are at a place in our common life where we can trust a formula that includes a portion of giving that is voluntary.
We wonder how discretionary giving – congregations selecting specific areas of mission and ministry in the diocese to support financially – would fund ministries in the diocese.”
With these words, the Executive Council of the Diocese of California invited the Deanery Presidents and Vice Presidents to gather the faithful in a process of discernment and dialog about the implications for changing the formula for the diocesan assessment to submit to the Convention in 2011.
This is a big deal.
It is a big deal that it is happening at all given the long contentious history of this Diocesan equivalent of the alternative minimum tax on the parishes to support the work of the diocese.
It is a big deal because it represents a fair and deliberate process for considering alternatives that materially address the concerns of the largest parishes in the Diocese that the assessment was sapping their resources and discouraging the mission growth of the church in order to subsidize a growing number of weaker parishes who were no longer self-sufficient.
It is a big deal because St. Timothy’s Danville was the protagonist for change by action of its Vestry to challenge the current assessment formula and in so doing force the issue to a head, but instead of a censure St. Timothy’s or other canonical action against it, the Diocese formed a finance working group that included St. Timothy’s and others to consider the issue and propose options.
The proposals going to the Deaneries for discussion and feedback represent the results of that collaborative working group, and if, approved by the Convention, will reform both the finances and the participation of the parishes and laity in the work of the Diocese of California.
Transformation Mission Scenario
Transformation Mission is one of the four scenarios of the future I envisioned as part of 20/20 vision process. It has the potential to be either liberating or exasperating. See Discernable Futures Scenarios Category.
Here is its plot line:
Financial pressures on the Diocese of California worsen. Average Diocese daily attendance flat for years declines with revenue stagnating. The mission of the church is weakened by financial problems and half the parishes are not self-sustaining. To avoid conflicts and restore Diocesan finance a transformation mission strategy emerges from dialogue of clergy and lay leaders. The bold plan consolidates 79 parishes to 35 in five years. Using an area ministry strategy, larger parishes absorb small ones, manage transitions, serve multi-site congregation needs and end Diocesan subsidies and cutting costs to balance budgets. Executive Council uses surplus property sales to create a Diocesan Mission Growth fund for endowment income for shared program ministry costs by parishes. The transformation mission strategy restores a sustainable Diocesan finance base, builds its endowment and focuses its mission to double average attendance in five years with stronger programs, shared staff and collaboration.
The ugliness of transformation mission was caused primarily by ignoring the financial and other problems the Diocese faced until they got so bad the cure was almost worse than the disease. The better outcome is the collaborative— ‘we can work together’ approach envisioned by the Finance Working Group and the actions of the Executive Council to bring the parishes together around a shared action plan for the financial issues and a shared vision for the Diocese’s healthy growth and Holy focus on its spiritual future.
It is a good sign.