Diocesan Council has approved a total diocesan operating budget of $2.71 million, up about 3.3 per cent or $86,000 from the $2.62 million spent last year.

At its March 13 meeting, Diocesan Council, a group of 40 clergy and lay people who act for the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster between synods, decided that about 72 per cent of the money will come from parish assessments.

Members of Diocesan Council engaged in study of the diocesan budget.

The rest will be financed by various funds and fees, plus a $33,000 deficit – a bit less than the $37,000 surplus in 2007.

Once again about 26 per cent of what the diocese collects will go to the national church, just about half a million dollars, to support General Synod partnerships (mostly international aid), the Church of the North, and General Synod administration.

The budget is similar to last year’s, adjusted for inflation. Among the significant increases are $16,000 for the Environmental Unit, which will go towards hiring four summer students to do work in the diocese; $10,000 to enable the Communications Committee to hire a consultant to study and make recommendations for the future use of the diocesan web site; $7,000 for increased printing and postage costs for TOPIC; and $6,500 in increased audit fees.

The only significant decrease is $12,500 due to the resignation of the diocesan coordinator for First Nations Ministry, an amount that came from the Columbia Coast Mission Fund.

The Rev. Paul Borthistle, diocesan Director of Parish Support Ministries, told Diocesan Council that he is reviewing how best for the diocese to do Aboriginal ministry in future.

Dean Peter Elliott said that his Cathedral parish had found it taxing to pay an increased diocesan assessment in 2006. The assessment was raised at a special financial Synod in November 2005 to include, on average, what parishioners had previously given to Stewards in Action, a voluntary giving program that was phased out. The extra money collected goes for diocesan mission, as Stewards in Action had.

Council member Margaret Briscoll and Dean Peter Elliott at Diocesan Council.

Elliott asked Treasurer Jim Stewart to examine parish financial reports for the last fiscal year as they come to see whether the added cost of the diocesan assessment has caused any parishes to run a deficit.

Stewart said he would but suggested it will take a couple of years under the new system to find out whether an undue burden was placed on parishes. He said all but a few very small parishes had met their obligation to pay their assessments.

After this year’s budget was approved by council, it began consideration on the 2008 “Vision Budget,” which will be presented to Diocesan Synod in May. Several suggested changes were made, and this budget was tabled until council’s April meeting.

Honouring Our Commitment

The Honouring our Commitment campaign has now raised more than was required to pay the diocese’s portion of the national residential school settlement negotiated between the Anglican Church of Canada and the federal government.

Business Administrator Rob Dickson reported to Diocesan Council that an advance from diocesan funds of $976,000 that had been made to the national Church’s residential schools settlement fund has now all been repaid, along with the $142,000 the campaign itself cost – a total of about $1,118,000.

So far the money collected has totalled $1,128,000, so there is a surplus of about $10,000, Dickson said. In the past Diocesan Council has resolved to use any surplus for work with Aboriginal groups, either nationally or on a diocesan level.

Originally, the diocese was asked to come up with $1,600,000, but that figure was reduced by about 30 per cent after the Roman Catholic Church negotiated a lesser settlement – and by previous agreement the Anglican Church’s contribution was likewise reduced.

Dean Elliott suggested that the campaign should soon be declared over, since the required funds had been raised. Bishop Ingham replied that he wished first to consult the chairs of the HOC campaign, Linda Robertson and Gordon Lee.

An Anglican Covenant

Anglicans throughout the Anglican Church of Canada will get a chance to examine a draft Anglican Covenant produced by Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Tanzania  in February.

Bishop Michael Ingham told Diocesan Council that most of the Covenant is uncontroversial, consisting of statements that Anglicans have historically agreed to.

What is new is the granting of a certain form of “legislative authority” to various meetings – the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meetings – and to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop said.

As proposed, the draft Covenant “gives the Primates the last say in matters of dispute,” said Bishop Ingham. Some feel this would give a group of archbishops too much power. (The draft Covenant is available on the Anglican Church of Canada website here.)

The Bishop, who had recently attended national Canadian Church meetings in Toronto, also reported that a recommendation will be presented to the national General Synod in June that it decide whether or not to approve the blessing of same-sex unions on the basis of a one-time vote of 60 per cent of the laity, clergy, and the House of Bishops.  (See story on the Anglican Journal website here.)