Friday, October 29, 2010

Assessing the future of Anglicanism

Some Anglicans are interested in the financial affairs of churches not their own. So recently we heard more news about the difficulties the Diocese of Sydney is facing through a loss of income of redundancy making proportions (though its assets remain substantial, $200m or so). Then in the last few days is the emerging story of the financial difficulties of TEC in respect of its corporate life, where it is looking to extend a $46m line of credit to a $60m mortgage. Naysayers do need to remember that this national difficulty is not in itself a guide to the financial health of individual dioceses (though it has been exacerbated by lower than expected diocesan contributions), and the difficulty is all about choice (sell some buildings and land and, puff, the debt goes away), Prognostications of demise are overwrought: TEC's annual budget is still an amazing-to-most-Anglican-churches mid $30 millions.

Also from faraway is the possibility of evaluating the situations and making calls from 'see I told you so' to 'if I were in charge I would never have made such and such a decision.' It is far from clear why anyone in Sydney or New York should pay any heed to such thoughts.

But what may be appropriate - in appropriate diplomatic language rather than in the language of schadenfreude - is to raise a 'Communion' point which goes like this. In different ways Sydney and TEC (arguably) have something in common: both have a vision for what Anglicanism is, and therefore what current Anglicanism should become. Sydney has a particular evangelical vision which is not shared by all evangelical Anglicans because it emphasises some aspects of Reformed theology to a point where the character of its Anglican life looks more like a Puritan character, familiar to historians of the late 16th and 17th centuries which the Church of England chose not to take. Let's call this 'Reformed Anglicanism' for now.

TEC has a particular progressive vision which is shared by many progressives around the Communion, though (in my limited knowledge) its application to the point of making decisions knowing that division will ensue as night follows day is not shared by all progressive admirers. Let's call this 'Progressive Anglicanism' for now.

In both cases I suggest that Anglicans outside of Sydney and outside of TEC hear a message, no doubt often implicit, that the future of the Communion either will be or should be Reformed or Progressive.  Some proponents of these views are more than capable of pointing out (say) that non-Reformed Anglicanism is collapsing, or that it is just a matter of time before we are all Progressive Anglicans because that is where history is inexorably taking us.

So for Anglicans looking at these 'laboratories' of ideal, if not also of future Anglicanism, it is appropriate to look at the whole package of life in the laboratory. How are congregations faring? Is the money following the vision? Are claims that theology X makes a difference to life supported by evidence?

The fact that all is not absolutely brilliant in Sydney or in TEC is fine - other Anglicans live less than absolutely brilliant lives. What is not so fine is the sense that we are being told how to be Anglican from these less than absolutely brilliant places.

22 comments:

Kurt said...

”The fact that all is not absolutely brilliant in Sydney or in TEC is fine - other Anglicans live less than absolutely brilliant lives. What is not so fine is the sense that we are being told how to be Anglican from these less than absolutely brilliant places.”--Fr. Carrell

Argh! No one, absolutely NO ONE in The Episcopal Church is telling you “how to be Anglican”! No one! Now, Peter, we may be proclaiming and witnessing our understanding of the Gospel, this is true. This is our right—and our obligation. But TEC has NEVER said to other Anglicans, “You must ordain women and gay people, or else…” No one has ever said this! (Nor is our leadership saying to TEC parishes : “You must call women and gay people to be your Rectors and Curates.” No one is saying this! We respect (even if we disagree with) other peoples’ views.

This respect extends to what used to be called “Churchmanship,” too. We have always had room for different traditions, side-by-side. Even prior to 1850 and the beginnings of “Ritualism” in America, parish traditions varied considerably from location to location: from the placement of huge, “three decker” pulpits in some church chancels to the placement of altars adorned with altar-lights and Full Laudians in others; from clergy who preached in cassocks and bands to bishops who wore miters and wigs; from simple, spoken, Prayer Book worship to celebrations of the Choral Eucharist; from the employment of Tate and Brady psalmody to the revival of Anglican and Gregorian chant; from parishes with Sunday Morning Prayer and quarterly celebrations of the Holy Communion to parishes with daily public services of Morning and Evening Prayer and weekly Sunday celebrations of the Holy Eucharist. There has always been room in The Episcopal Church for differences.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

John Sandeman said...

Any discussion by Anglicans of different types, and your blog draws quite a variety, will involve all of us being told how to be Anglican at least to some degree. If Sydney and TEC are the outliers, they will no doubt irritate but to take TEC's point of view for a moment it seems to take a lot of heat for actions that other provinces have done (eg Canada on same Sex Blessings).
Similarly Sydney takes heat for what in other places is called "total ministry".

And if your mind is boggled by a budget of $40m, consider that the pledge and plate of TEC is $2.2 billion annually. It's a truely mind boggling figure!
Okay you want to see my source? http://www.episcopalchurch.org/109378_ENG_HTM.htm and call up fast facts.

John Sandeman said...

Correction: TEC "Pledge and plate" $1.3 billion, total TEC income $2.2 billion!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
The voice of TEC's official leadership is sensitive and diplomatic, as is the voice of Sydney's leadership, so from those sources other Anglicans are not being told what to do (and a careful reading of my words shows that I did not impute this of the official leadership).

But from within TEC and from within Sydney are plenty of voices which suppose they are unquestionably in the right, and, in particular, from within TEC are voices which confidently presume that the rest of the world will catch up in the future with TEC's pioneering work.

Further, when many Anglicans support the Covenant as the key to being Anglican in the future, there are many progressive voices which are clearly and sometimes loudly telling us that we should have no such thing ... so we are being told 'how to be Anglican' ... 'by not having a Covenant.'

Peter Carrell said...

Hi John,
What is a billion? Just a set of noughts that bankers misplace all the time :)

Either figure you note gives cause for hope that a $60m loan is 'not a problem'!

David |Dah • veed| said...

Part One-

Peter, there is a lot happening in North America. Two churches in Full Communion, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church are in consultation with each other about shared administrative centers. So are their counterparts the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. When compared to your province, yes the sums of dollars these churches handle and the debt they carry may seem mind boggling, not so much in North America.

Just one US parish could probably pay off TEC's debt without batting an eye, Trinity Wall Street, the wealthiest episcopal/anglican parish in the world. But TEC itself holds tens of millions in trust funds, as do parishes scattered all across the USA. Not to mention the Church Pension Fund which handles monies for TEC, Mexico, Cuba, Central America and perhaps more than I know.

My question is why is that important to you? And why is it really your business other than to stir up the hornets nest of folks like Al M? Because you want to know where the money for the civil suits against parishes and dioceses trying to steal TEC assets is coming from! You had your answer in the quotes you made in your post: 37 million for the renovation of the Episcopal Church Center; 10 million for the land in Texas for a future home of the Episcopal Church archives; and 13 million in liquid cash for operating expenses. Are they going to fund the law suits against thieves, perhaps, but in reality it is none of your business. However, if you go back to the budget passed by General Convention in 2009, TEC's legal expenses were a line item approved in the triennial budget.

But the question comes down to cost vs assets recovered. Is it financially worth it to spend 5 million dollars to recoup stolen assets worth 90 million? (Those are figures I pulled out of the air BTW.) Any financier will tell you yes!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I am interested in whether TEC is united on certain matters as it seems. A question being teased out elsewhere in the blogosphere is whether the recent Executive Meeting was comfortable or uncomfortable about the debt level, and whether the litigation funding (yes, I understand it is a line item in the approved budget) is or is not a cause of 'governance' concern.


I also understand that if one spends (say, as you give as a 'for instance') $5m in litigation to retain $90m worth of assets then that is money well spent.

David |Dah • veed| said...

A question being teased out elsewhere in the blogosphere is whether the recent Executive Meeting was comfortable or uncomfortable about the debt level, and whether the litigation funding (snip) is or is not a cause of 'governance' concern.

Actually I believe that you misunderstand that comfort/discomfort. I believe that it was more about TEC Church Center staff officers, such as TEC's treasurer feeling that they were being set aside as so much chopped liver by members of a subcommittee appointed by the Chair of a General Council finance committee and so overstepping his bounds of authority. It is reported in the same excerpts that she told the chair in no uncertain terms not to let it happen again.

And I also think that played into the very ambiguous reports of the PB's remarks regarding suicide by governance. The mistake that many folks in the blogosphere make, even the liberal ones at the Lead and Preludium, is that not all of the staff at TEC's Church Center work for TEC, as such. They are the personal staff of the Presiding Bishop and serve at her pleasure! In those cases, committees or sub-committees of General Council are way out of bounds when they take upon themselves the authority they do not hold to oversee members of her staff and oversight.

Another thing that folks need to remember is that there actually is no legal entity called the Episcopal Church, the legal entity is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the PECUSA. And as PB she is also that legal entity's president, its executive officer. She has a very powerful fiduciary responsibility to DFMS, and it is obvious that +Jefferts Schori, more so it seems than her most recent predecessors, takes that with profound seriousness.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks David for helpful clarification ... perhaps needed by others as well as moi!

Rob Culhane said...

What does TEC stand for??

liturgy said...

In a thread a day or so ago where Peter brought up the money issue, I pointed out it is equivalent to the NZ Anglican Church borrowing $500,000. I don't think our church would blink twice at such a sum and so, along with others here, I am surprised that this is being brought up again as some sort of issue from downunder. One of the things our church seems to forget is we are very, very, very, very small. Had we acknowledged that we would not be in a lot of the mess we are in. And until we do, and see positive benefits to being so small, I don't think we will move creatively forward.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rob
TEC stands for The Episcopal Church known formerly as ECUSA or the Episcopal Church of the USA.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
It is not so much the amount of money but the possibility that monetary concerns within a diocese or province or member church represents something else such as troubles whose reality belies appearances or a fracturing unity or a diminishing support for policy/theology.

As you know, in our small church we have some rather large trust funds that sometimes enable us to maintain an appearance at odds with reality!!

Anonymous said...

"One of the things our church seems to forget is we are very, very, very, very small. Had we acknowledged that we would not be in a lot of the mess we are in."

Is this a reference to the three-tikanga structure and the Potemkin Maori 'parishes'?

Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al,
The word 'Potemkin' only just scrapes through the moderation process.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no offense intended; I simply meant there appears to be a gap between rhetoric and reality, not that there is deliberate deception. The structures of ACANZP appear top-heavy for a small church. Have they really served the evangelistic mission of the church or are they politically decided?
Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al,
There is always a gap between rhetoric and reality in the church, the question is how large is the gap!

As (I imagine) with any church of more than one congregation, we have ongoing conversations about the structuring of ourselves as an institution and whether they represent (e.g.) value for money (travel costs to a central meeting place etc), and, increasingly in the last decade, whether they contribute to the mission of God or not.

Personally I find that some 'let's have less structure' talk seems not to realise that it would involve less accountability re finances, more autocratic decision making etc. Such 'nimble' leadership can be very useful at times, but in the long run it can be very dangerous too.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
This thread seems to assume that the source of authority for churches to speak out on particular issues is the health of their balance sheet and the numbers in their parishes. I think that needs challenging. Paul had to tell the Corinthians repeatedly that their spiritual gifts and outward strength was a facade - they needed to walk the path of humility to experience God's power and grace in their lives. It is our faithfulness that God will judge.

Any province should have the right to call another province to account if they see them violating the Scriptures. If done in a Biblical way, it is a loving act, since it is calling them away from danger. It is Scripture that is the measuring stick for our actions, not the balance sheet or parish statistics. That's why I would listen to brotherly advice and rebuke from Nigeria and Uganda, despite their relative poverty, before the US or Canada,

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
My understanding of Nigeria and Uganda as that if they tell the rest of the Communion what the best way to be Anglican is, they have more than a few people going to church (numbers) and they have money following vision (wealth) as in when their numbers grow, as they envision, then pastors and bishops are raised up to multiply new dioceses (of course, the actual dollars involved may be very small by TEC or Sydney measures).

Incidentally, in a comparison between Sydney and TEC it is interesting to reflect on the stringency in Sydney reflecting a commitment to not be in debt, whereas in TEC the stringency reflects income v expenditure with no particular short-term commitment to minimise debt.

liturgy said...

Since Al M wants to press my point about the value of our accepting the small size of our church in his own particular direction, might I clarify to say that there really was no cryptic intention in my remark. [I understand Tikanga Maori is not over-resourced, but under-resourced with only 3 stipended priests in the whole country]. We keep no national statistics (might they be too shocking for us?) but would we have 100,000 people who darken our doors? With maybe a third of that number in our churches this coming Sunday? Barring area, would this be a reasonable-size CofE diocese? Accepting our smallness might produce structures, resources, etc. which serve a small community. Planning BIG also means we attempt to make things far bigger than we can complete. We could have ended up actually with something that could have been so much better had we started with an appropriately-sized plan in the first place. A metaphor: I think we have one (count it 1) cathedral completed according to plan – all the others are “unfinished” because the original plan was FAR too grand. I imagine what we might have built had we accepted that.

David |Dah • veed| said...

I bet Father Bosco that if you go back and look at the time when the plans for those unfinished cathedrals were drawn up, economically things were good and there were no reasons to believe that this was beyond the means to accomplish. Then economic hardships ensued and things never were quite the same after that and the plans got changed.

And that was what happened in the USA when TEC decided to renovate their church's central denominational office building, which provides office space, worship space and a small home for the Presiding Bishop and family, in midtown Manhattan, NYC to the tune of borrowing 39 million US dollars! It was economic good times and no reason to question easily paying off the debt.

At the same time the Seminary of the Southwest in San Antonio,TX decided that they were no longer interested in the archives of TEC. Archival data and records that go back to the founding of TEC during and immediately after the US's war of independence from England. So they bought a parking lot adjacent to the seminary for a new archival library. They borrowed 10 million to purchase the parking lot. Fortunately that is a profit making business currently that brings in enough to pay its own mortgage, should they finance one.

Unfortunately they did not use mortgage instruments to renovate the offices or buy the parking lot, but a line of credit. Expensive credit, which is unfortunately tied up now and not available for other needs.

But when these decisions were made, the US was enjoying the final years of the Clinton economic upturn. Unfortunately, that was followed by 8 years of Bush idiocy and everything fell apart.

liturgy said...

I understand the dynamic you describe, David, but I still think there has been a culture here of an inflated self-understanding. The plans for our own cathedral were drawn up in England when there were few people living here and the site stood empty for such a long time there was discussion about selling it. Three NZ Anglican cathedrals spring to mind that are about 1/3 of the original plan completed. It is not just Anglicanism that has this issue - our parliament building is only 1/8th of the original plan built.

Peter, FYI: your list of recent posts is missing off the sidebar, your comments list is not complete, I sent a comment & it didn't arrive.