Diocesan Synod approved a new system for diocesan ministry and outreach – and how to pay for it – at a special financial synod meeting at St. Catherine’s Parish in North Vancouver on Saturday, November 26.
Some 182 lay and 83 clergy delegates voted to increase diocesan assessments – the money that parishes agree to pay to fund the diocese - by a show of hands, and passed an amended budget for 2006.
The Rev. Dan Meakes, rector of St. John the Divine in North Vancouver, described the new budget as representing a “watershed” in the way the 79 parish diocese does ministry and pays for it on all levels - international, national, diocesan, and local.
|The Rev. Dan Meakes of St. John's, North Vancouver, speaks to delegates
For the past 15 years, much of the Diocese of New Westminster’s ministry had been funded through a program of voluntary giving called Stewards in Action (SIA). Highly successful in the early years, SIA had seen its donations drop sharply in recent years. (SIA does continue till the end of 2005)
The changes had been approved in principle at the regular annual meeting of the diocese in May. The November special meeting on finances was left to flesh out the detail.
The November synod followed a series of six archdeaconry meetings conducted by the diocesan Administration of Finance Committee headed by the diocesan treasurer, Jim Stewart of St. Dunstan’s, Aldergrove.
Previous to the change, parishes sent to the diocese about 12.1 per cent of their operating income – not including any money set aside for building or other capital campaigns. The new system incorporates a range of assessment rates: 17.65 per cent for the larger parishes, 16.65 for mid-sized parishes, and 15.55 for the smaller parishes.
The Stewards in Action campaign was formally wound up, with any surplus funds going to several designated charities.
Bishop Michael Ingham consented to the changes. Before the vote he urged delegates to keep in mind what the “flow charts and financial spreadsheet” represented. “They represent decisions for mission,” he said.
The decision was not unanimous. One delegate complained that his parish found the higher diocesan assessments “onerous.” Bishop Ingham agreed that some struggling parishes faced “a great deal of difficulty.”
“We recognize and respect the different situations each parish is facing, and we will do our best to support one another,” said the bishop.
Several questions were asked about the changes during question and answer periods, but the motion on assessments passed by show of hands without debate.
The text of Bishop Ingham's remarks can be found here.