Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Response to Draft Diocesan Funding Principles and Priorities for 2013 - 2015

At the Sydney Anglican Diocesan Synod in 2011 the leadership presented a draft of the funding principles they believe we ought to adopt over the next three years. This is a response to the major financial disaster that the diocese experienced after the GFC in 2009. The drafters asked for feedback. Here is what I sent:


1. I agree that the significantly changed financial situation of the diocese gives us an opportunity to re-think the principles we adopt in budgeting and spending the resources which God has given us, however I disagree with many of the specific recommendations of the paper.

2. I suggest that any principles we adopt must reflect our theology – especially our commitment to the priority of local congregation - while not discounting the value of ministries which serve the network and those missional activities which seek to grow the Kingdom of God without immediate benefit to any one local congregation. I would suggest that we also believe that the Archbishop and his leadership team are servants of the diocese. The diocese is not defined by the existence and ministry of the Bishop(s). To claim that the ministry of the Archbishop is an “Anglican Essential” and should therefore be funded – as a first priority – by the parishes is inconsistent with our theology. If we were to define “Anglican Essentials” I believe we would choose the Word of God and the Doctrine of the 39 Articles and BCP rather than Episcopal Leadership and membership of the national church.

3. The document appears to start with the assumption that the parishes must pay more. The fact that net receipts of the parishes has increased does not mean that the parishes should be required to pay more, but rather that the parishes are already paying for the bulk of Anglican ministry in the diocese. The move to imposing a levy on parishes in addition to ‘parish cost recoveries’ is a significant departure from existing policy and should not be assumed. The change in financial situation: ie. The decrease in funds available to the EOS and the DE, does not in itself constitute a reason to increase diocesan levies on parishes. The case might be made that the parishes are already funding the bulk of Anglican ministry in the diocese and that they are best placed to make decisions about where their money can best be used for mission. The first assumption of those involved in the budgeting process should be the ‘zero levy’ option and this option should always be made available to Synod.

4. The financial difficulties now faced by the DE and EOS highlight some imprudent decisions by the trustees of these endowments regarding distributions. Trustees of both the EOS and the DE ought to take a prudent approach and aim to maintain – and if possible increase – the value of these Endowments over the long term. It would not seem unreasonable to assess this by comparing the real value of funds held at the beginning and end of the incumbency of each Archbishop. While diocesan funding ought to be considered holistically it does not seem prudent to merge the EOS and the DE, but rather that expenditure of each endowment ought to be spent on the highest priority items which fall within their purview. It would also be appropriate to make details of expenditure of the EOS open to review by Synod.

5. The position of Archbishop and membership of the national church may be considered Constitutional requirements or essentials and have a high priority in funding, but this does not require that they be funded by a levy on parishes. In fact these expenses (and possibly a number of others) should be the first priority of expenditure of moneys sourced from the EOS and DE respectively.

6. The decrease in real value of the EOS in recent years seems to be preciptitated – at least in part – by the EOS spending more than what is prudent. Such a situation would suggest that, notwithstanding recent cuts, the Archbishops ministry team may need to be further cut. There should be no assumption that funding shortfalls should be made up by levies on the parishes. Fundraising through voluntary contributions for specific ministries should be seriously considered. There is no necessity for the Synod to prioritise spending on regional Bishops / Archdeacons simply because the EOS does not have sufficient funds to maintain current numbers. Genuine consideration ought to be given to creative solutions (including Bishops who are also Rectors and to fundraising). Reducing the number of regions (and Bishops) should not be ruled out. If the Archbishop wished to supplement EOS funds with Synod funds the ministry case would need to be presented in an equivalent way to every other request for Synod funds.

7. The ministries which the Diocese as an organisation is best placed to conduct are those network ministries which:
a. serve the parishes and are best combined (eg. Insurance, property trust oversight, general legal services, Professional Standards Unit)
b. involve ministry recruiting and training (eg. MT & D, and to some extent, Moore College & Youthworks college)
c. involve the development of extra-parochial ministries (eg. tertiary ministries).
d. Involve the development of Diocese wide ‘helping ministries’ (eg. Anglicare)
e. Involve long-term forward planning activities (eg. Mission property Committee)
Other ministries (including support of new ministries) may be desirable to be funded by the diocese (as in the past through regional councils), but may be better funded through a diocesan ministry development fund sponsored by the Archbishop and funded through donations in response to presentation of the specific needs

8. There is no justification to extend the idea of parochial cost recoveries to cover ministries which are not obviously parochial costs. Notwithstanding the above statement, it is likely that a careful review of Secretariat functions may find additional costs that can legitimately be called ‘parish services’. The cost of running Synod could legitimately be argued as a cost to parishes, provided other organisations that are represented are likewise charged (colleges, Anglicare, Youthworks etc.)

9. Serious consideration should also be given to raising funds from non-parochial Anglican organisations in the diocese, including Schools, ARV, Hammondcare etc., where such organisations trade on the name ‘Anglican’ (or even ‘Church of England’) or where they appoint licensed clergy, invite the involvement of the Archbishop’s ministry team, have representation at Synod or use the services of the secretariat.

10. Serious consideration should be given to the Archbishop and bishops leading a fundraising effort to raise funds for mission activities which are not able to be funded by synod allocations. An obvious area would be support for the creation of new ministry positions. (To be determined in consultation with Regional councils).

11. As a matter of principle I believe that any specific ministry funded through Synod grants (which is not a parochial service ministry) should only be partially funded (with the rest made up by fundraising) and for a limited duration. Ongoing assessment of effectiveness of grants should be undertaken. It should be noted that some Synod allocations are to organisations which already incorporate this principle (eg. TEMOC).

Richard Blight
29th February 2012

Sorry for the abbreviations. Any explanation needed just ask in comments.


  1. Thanks for your post Richard. A point of clarification... while HammondCare is very appreciative of its Anglican links, we are an independent Christian charity, not an Anglican organisation. For more information about us visit:
    Peter Hallett
    HammondCare Communications

    1. Thanks Peter, I should probably have been a little more careful in my research, but in reality my point is that trying to charge people for having the name Anglican - or an Anglican heritage - is really impossible and will only result in more organisations being set up as independent of the diocese.