Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I am relieved

to find that some of the worst fears of supporters of the Diocese of South Carolina may be misplaced. In this report from the Executive Council of TEC's recent meeting is this gem:

"authorized a letter to be sent to the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, which had asked the council and the House of Bishops to investigate a series of actions which it said "are accelerating the process of alienation and disassociation" of the diocese from the Episcopal Church. The letter says that the council and the presiding bishop are "committed to doing what we can to help the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina continue to participate fully in the life, work and mission of the Episcopal Church," but notes that "there are canonical limits to how her office and the Executive Council can intervene." Jennings told the council that those limits prevent the investigation that the forum requested. Council member Jim Simons, Diocese of Pittsburgh, offered any help he could by drawing upon his 25-year friendship with South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence. Jefferts Schori encouraged Simons to make informal, personal contact with Lawrence, saying "the more bridges we can build, the better." "

But do read the whole article as it makes for very interesting reading, not least a staggering amount (at least to little ol' me) of debt which TEC is carrying:

"By way of a related resolution proposed by FFM, the council approved borrowing of up to $60 million to refinance $46.1 million in debt that comes due at the end of this year. The $37 million renovation loan makes up the bulk of that amount. In addition, close to $10 million was spent on property in Austin, Texas, as a potential site for relocating the Archives of the Episcopal Church. The resolution said that the borrowing authority is also meant "to provide continuing working capital and liquidity."

The resolution requires that any refinancing agreements include a mandatory repayment schedule for the $37 million at a fixed interest rate. FFM chair Del Glover told his committee earlier in the meeting that because of past budget decisions, only about $500,000 of the principal has been paid off.

"To the extent that we are not paying debt, we are borrowing money to do the ministry of the church," he said.

The resolution calls for mortgaging the Episcopal Church Center in Manhattan and securing the rest of the borrowing with unrestricted endowment assets. The current debt is in the form of a line of credit."

The article conveys a clear sense of 'heated' difficulty in respect of this (and other 'suicide by governance') matters. But one thing the article says nothing about is the costs of litigation. Are they part of the debt?

PS Comment all over the web is starting to emerge re these news reports re the 'heated' parts of the meeting. Naturally one can expect a certain amount of glee from certain websites. So why not head to The Lead at Episcopal Cafe where there is no glee but there is some pretty serious critical reflection going down from one of the TEC-friendliest sites. Personally I am waiting to see what Mark Harris at Preludium might have to say (he is a member of the Executive Council). His one post so far is about an appeal for Haiti. The one comment on that post so far urges him to reflectively post on the meeting!


Andrew Reid said...

The Curmudgeon offers his usual forensic analysis of the EC meeting and the budget issues in particular.

He also highlights that the Presiding Bishop will have a heap of new powers to intervene in South Carolina and elsewhere from 1 July next year.

If you search through the archives, you can find his series on legal costs in TEC over the last few years, and projected costs for the next 3 years. With the amount of money they are spending on legal fees, combined with the spending cuts in other areas, you would think TEC's core mission was suing people.

Peter Carrell said...

It's core mission is about to change, Andrew. To fund-raising.

liturgy said...

Does it look a lot from NZ's perspective because everything is so small here by comparison? A quick translation - it's a bit like our church borrowing $500,000 or maybe a million. That's what some Kiwi individuals have as their mortgage...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
$60m may be small beer by NZ standards ... and even here we could (theoretically) sell a few of our prime inner city churches-and-land (aka "cathedrals"!!!!!!) and raise that sum.

But the better comparison would be whether there is anxiety on the Executive Council which is the same as or greater than the above average homeowner has about their mortgage.