Stewards in Action, a voluntary program of giving that has supported outreach in the diocese for the last 15 years, will be wound up at the end of 2005 and replaced with a new initiative, Diocesan Synod decided last month.

The synod voted to accept in principle all 19 recommendations presented to it by the Task Force on Diocesan Ministry and Outreach which include a recommendation to fund both Missions to Seafarers and Camp Artaban on a continuing basis from the diocesan base budget.

However, the new system of funding diocesan outreach – currently about a third of all the money the diocese spends – won’t be put into final form until a special financial synod, which delegates agreed to hold on November 26.

Before this one-day financial synod, to be held a location yet to be set, the diocesan Administration and Finance Committee plans to hold meetings in each of the diocese’s five archdeaconries and get input from across the diocese.

The task force’s report which Diocesan Synod adopted said that the diocese should eliminate deficit funding. It also emphasized that any new way of raising money must recognize “the financial stress for the most vulnerable parishes.”

The Rev. John Stephens of St. Philip’s, task force chair, said there will still be a diocesan program replacing SIA which asks for voluntary contributions from parishes and individuals. These contributions are to be collected and spent on a “dollar in, dollar out” basis.

Currently, some of what Stewards in Action collects (or “SIA” as it is known for short), goes towards diocesan administrative costs, and also pays some of the diocesan apportionment that is passed on to national Anglican Church of Canada.

Fiona Brownlee describes the outreach of the national Council of the North to Synod delegates

The task force said all this “overhead” should be paid for out of parish apportionments – the money that parishes are expected to send on to the diocese. Parish apportionment is currently 12.1 per cent for all parishes. In addition, the top 50 per cent of parishes are expected to pay approximately another 1.9 per cent into the Diocesan Growth Fund.

The Rev. Roger Cooper of St. George, Maple Ridge, said that the new voluntary program, yet to be named, will be what Stewards in Action was originally intended to be. “I see this as a rebirth or resurrection of SIA,” he told the delegates.

But the Rev. Craig Tanksley of St. Alban’s, Burnaby, warned: “If we move in this direction of course we will have to add to the diocesan apportionment.” A few others delegates expressed concern whether their own parishes could parish outreach if they had to send more money to Synod Office.

A table group at Diocesan Synod discusses what is diocesan ministry

Action on the task force’s recommendations came after a “table exercise” which involved the gathering and sharing of information on the many ministries now carried out on a diocesan basis. The task forces recommendations were adopted by voice vote.

Later during synod the Primate Andrew Hutchison gave his impressions of the meeting to delegates before leaving and commented on the apportionment figure of 12.1 per cent.

“I don’t know who does the math and how you get away with it,” he said, adding that in most Canadian dioceses the apportionment that parishes are expected to pay is considerably higher.

The complete report of the Task Force on Ministry and Outreach can be found here.