Friday, March 27, 2009

TEC and the MDGs

Many of us were dismayed this winter when the Executive Council approved a budget that eliminates the Episcopal Church's 0.7% line item for the Millennium Development Goals. It appears that the Program, Budget & Finance committee is still going along with those cuts this month.

Our church -- with the Executive Council majority concurring -- apparently decided to find all the ways in which we were effectively contributing to projects that were in the "spirit" of the MDGs and claim them in lieu of the 0.7% commitment.

I could play that silly game, too. I could look at my pay stub and see how much is supporting welfare, Medicare, health care for others, etc. ... and I could pretend those taxes constitute my 0.7% toward the MDGs. I could play that tawdry game, if I wanted to play by the rules our Program, Budget & Finance Committee now seems to be playing. But I'm not going to sink that low. They may play that game, but I won't do it.

And neither should our church.

The call to contribute to the MDGs is a call to give from the first fruits. The first fruits! -- not what we can weasel into a claim for giving. That is why I give a little more than 0.7% of my salary to the MDGs through my diocese.

My parish does the same. We are not large -- just about 140 ASA. But for the past three years, our parish has budgeted a line item of 0.7% to the MDGs. Each of these years, the vestry has sent those funds to support our diocesan relationship with the Sudanese diocese of Lui. We budgeted that amount off the top. We didn't try to weasel out an excuse, trying to find other areas in which we are supporting projects that "are in the spirit of the MDGs." We gave it off the top. My parish even kept that line in this year's budget -- despite the fact that we have a deficit budget. My parish "gets it" that we need to make this commitment from the first fruits.

My diocese did the same. When we met in convention last fall and wrangled with the budget, we saw that times are lean. Some parishes are not meeting their assessments. Endowment income is down. But no one suggested we eliminate the 0.7% line for the MDGs. Our diocese is deeply engaged in mission with the Diocese of Lui (Sudan), and no one suggested eliminating that 0.7% line.

I am doing it in my personal budget ... though it is something of a sacrifice.

My parish is doing it ... despite our financial struggles.

My diocese is doing it ... despite the economic uncertainties.

So ... I am furious that our Executive Council suggested cutting it out of TEC's budget and that TEC's Program, Budget & Finance Committee now seems to be leaping at this opportunity to weenie out.

The story about the Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance reports:
During their Maryland meeting, the PB&F members who review the program side of the triennial budget discussed reinstating the line item appropriating 0.7 percent in revenue for specific Millennium Development Goals spending.
When Executive Council passed its draft version of the 2010-2012 budget in January, it eliminated the line item in a budget-balancing effort. That line item in the 2007-2009 budget amounted to about $924,000. At the time, council said that the Episcopal Church actually spends "much more than 0.7 percent" on MDG-related programs, in the words of Executive Council Administration and Finance Committee chair Josephine Hicks.
That is a "weeny-out" argument. Do not let it fool you.

The committee met at a delightful retreat center of which I have heard. I wonder how much it cost us?

In the whole scheme of the Episcopal Church's budget, 0.7% is a tiny drop in the bucket.

I beg you: Find the names of your General Convention Deputies, and ask them to honor our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. Beseech them to keep that pittance in TEC's budget. Remind them of Christ's preference for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the "least of these."

Or look at the note I blogged earlier. Canterbury spent over five million dollars for a meeting of a few hundred Anglican bishops at Lambeth. I dare you: Look into the face of a child in one of our Anglican provinces and explain to them how we contributed over $3,000 per bishop to attend Lambeth, but cannot give these people clean drinking water, seeds for their farms, literacy training for their people, basic vaccinations.

If our church cannnot budget 0.7% "off the top" to care for the poorest people on earth, then I think we should quit calling ourselves a church.


Blogger Caminante said...

Speaking as a deputy, get your deputies to turn out to the PB&F hearings and raise this point over and over again. What we have now is a draft budget. Even though PB%F are considering the same omission, the budget is still in draft form and is not perfected until Anaheim.

Members of Executive Council's International Concerns Committee, myself included, expressed their deep displeasure with this draft but our comments were not heeded.

So not everyone on EC was in favour of this cut and said as much.

At this point it is up to deputies at GC to insist that the 0.7% be reinstated... knowing that somewhere else about $900K will have to go. (I do not know the exact figure but am drawing on the past triennium's 0.7% amount.)

3/28/2009 3:34 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Yes, Caminante, I saw that several of you on Executive Council opposed this budget measure, and I am thankful.

And, yes, I am writing to the Deputies from our diocese, urging them to attend the PB&F committee hearings and oppose this budget action. I've also urged members of my parish to contact the Deputies on this matter.

3/28/2009 6:28 PM  

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