Executive Council approves grants of up to $ 40,000 for each diocese, emphasizing renewal amid pandemic – Episcopal News Service
[Episcopal News Service] The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, meeting online on April 16, approved a resolution allocating up to $ 40,000 in pandemic relief for each diocese that requests it – no formal request is necessary, no conditions.
Emergency aid will total more than $ 4 million if the 109 dioceses and mission areas so request. The vote at the one-day Executive Council meeting marked the culmination of a year-long deliberation among Church leaders on how best to help dioceses and congregations overcome disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when the Episcopal Church remains on a solid financial footing. .
Although no formal request is necessary, the council invited the dioceses to engage in discernment on how the money they receive can best serve the mission of the Church.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in his opening address, stressed that there was more at stake for the church than providing direct financial aid. “What started as a financial aid problem has emerged as a possibility of a Church-wide rebirth in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.
The money, which will be taken from the church’s financial reserves, will be available from May 1, and dioceses can apply for the one-time grants until November 2022. The Executive Council has set up to $ 40,000 per diocese because it was “substantial enough to provide assistance”. in various forms to various different programs of the dioceses, ”said Reverend Mally Lloyd, Chairman of the Finance Committee. “The need for help was not universal, and yet our mission was to bring help to each diocese.”
The church’s ongoing reconciliation work also featured prominently at the April 16 meeting of the Executive Council, which serves as the church’s governing body between General Convention meetings. Council members approved a resolution affirming episcopal support for the equality and inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Church, and a separate resolution condemned recent incidents of violence and hatred against people of Asian descent and people of Asian descent. Pacific Islanders.
“This is a very timely and somewhat overdue resolution,” said Warren Wong, a member of the Diocese of California, who was the lead author of the anti-hate resolution. “We are facing an increased number of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and particularly against women and the elderly.”
The resolution drew particular attention to the deadly March attack on a spa in Atlanta, Georgia, where a gunman killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent. Since then, Church leaders have spoken out against this attack and the broader issue of racist hatred towards Asian Americans.
The LGBTQ + resolution alludes to the church’s slide for more than 40 years towards more fully welcoming gay and lesbian Christians into church life, and it deplores the wrong done by the church against members of the Church. the LGBTQ + community.
“The Executive Council is committed,” says the resolution, “to ensuring that the Episcopal Church truly and authentically reflects the“ full and equal claim ”that LGBTQ + people have on“ love, acceptance ”. , pastoral concern and care of the Church, ”focusing on, honoring and recognizing LGBTQ + voices, experiences and leadership, proclaiming that we support LGBTQ + equality not in spite of our faith, but because of it.
The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, expressed her support for the renewal of these commitments by “listening to those who have been harmed by exclusion from the church”.
“This pandemic year continues to push us to redouble our commitment to be agents of God’s love and righteousness and to continue on our path to beloved community,” Jennings said in a pre-recorded video. Jennings is recovering from shoulder surgery and was unable to attend the meeting live.
The Executive Council typically meets three times a year in person, but during the pandemic all of its meetings were held online through Zoom. The April 16 session took place in plenary, without a committee meeting, and was broadcast live on YouTube.
The church’s governing body has 40 voting members, including the presiding bishop and the president of the Chamber of Deputies. Twenty of the voting members – four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people – are elected by the General Convention for six-year terms, half of those members being elected every three years. The remaining 18 are elected for a six-year term by the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church, each province sending one ordained member and one lay member.
In January, at its last meeting, the Executive Council considered a request from the bishops of Province IV to allow dioceses to exempt federal pandemic aid from the diocesan income that the Episcopal Church will count when it calculates. the next round of annual reviews. Federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, loans can be converted into grants if recipients meet certain conditions. The Episcopal Church has also received $ 3 million in PPP assistance.
Lloyd, in his presentation, explained to members his committee’s deliberations on how the church should treat diocesan income from P3s. She noted that PPPs “were not distributed evenly or even fairly”. Not all dioceses and congregations requested and received this help, and because it was an American program, dioceses in other countries were excluded.
Ultimately, the committee concluded that P3 aid met the definition of church income and should be reported as such, Lloyd said.
But the members of the Executive Council expressed a consensus on the need to provide some form of financial assistance to the dioceses, in particular given the good financial situation at the denomination level. The Episcopal Church ended 2020 with $ 10 million more in income than expenditure, according to a report by Kurt Barnes, treasurer and financial director of the church. These results were in part due to spending cuts made by church leaders after the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, as well as pandemic-related restrictions on staff travel.
Church leaders and their diocesan counterparts, however, remain uncertain about the long-term financial impact of the pandemic, and “2021 might not be the worst year ahead,” Lloyd said in his presentation. The pandemic relief grants will therefore be available for the next 19 months, if and when the dioceses need them.
Dioceses don’t need to give a reason for applying for the grants or even say how they intend to spend the money, Lloyd said, although the application form includes optional questions meant to encourage discernment. on local needs.
The committee also drafted guidelines for diocesan discernment. In some cases, this focus suggests that using the money to make up for deficits in diocesan or congregational budgets will be the best way to maintain the church’s mission in the community. Other dioceses can invest this money in ongoing work of social justice and racial reconciliation or use it to support vulnerable and marginalized members of the community. Some dioceses may choose to pass the money on to non-episcopal organizations engaged in this work. They can also choose not to apply for a grant and leave the money to the Executive Board to determine how it is to be used.
After the Executive Council voted to approve the grants, Lloyd expressed optimism about the action. The discernment process, she said, could “open the church to a larger reflection on how we are called to be church, how we support our brothers and sisters who feel so under siege and so little heard. and appreciated.
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. It can be reached at [email protected].