Slideshow image
Sarah Lehman
June 3, 2024

I long to write about the glorious things that happened at the meeting of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), May 31 to June 2 in Mississauga. I want to share the reports about an emerging and renewed vision for the diaconate, powerful work germinating in the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, and our Primate’s ecumenical work with the Roman Catholic Church and across the Anglican Communion. But I need to tell you one thing above all else: the Anglican Church of Canada is running out of money at the national level.

Our church largely operates “upwards” in financial terms: from parish-level donations come diocesan apportionments. From diocesan funds, annual contributions fund national-level work: General Synod, CoGS, the work of the dedicated staff of Church House, and essential transfer grants that sustain the Council of the North. In a presentation on 2023 financials, we heard in unambiguous terms that as parish-level donations continue to fall (“plummet” may be a more apt description), dioceses increasingly struggle to make their annual national contributions.

In 2023, there were revenues of $9.4 million at the national level and expenses of $10.6 million, ending with a small surplus only due to taking $1.617 million from reserves, favourable investment returns, and depreciation.

We’re running out of money.

This is no blip due to the pandemic. 

This is a long-term trend that is rapidly gaining speed. Diocesan contributions are by far General Synod’s largest source of revenue, have trended downward for more than two decades, and are expected (if nothing changes) to shrink by a further $200,000 annually in coming years.

We face immediate, strategic, and difficult choices.  

CoGS voted on June 2 to create a working group tasked with multi-year financial modelling, considering options to improve revenue and cut expenses.

The group will propose strategic scenarios and programmatic options for CoGS and General Synod consideration, based on clear-eyed financial realities. Prolocutor Ian Alexander and I bring our faithful witness and professional backgrounds to the working group, carrying the perspectives and needs of the Ecclesiastical Province of B.C. and Yukon with us.

We roll up our sleeves immediately for intensive consultation, information gathering, financial modelling, and prayerful discernment to prepare an initial report for November’s CoGS meeting and full report for 2025’s General Synod. Reserves will carry the Church’s national level through the upcoming budget year to ensure that we do not rush to decision. Thereafter, the church will need to work within sustainable and realistic budgets at the national level.

If financial stabilization is not possible, potentially radical restructuring of national-level operations and programme cuts will be required. We all enter this work deeply mindful that more than 20% of the national budget is dedicated to transfer grants that sustain ministry in The Council of the North: the grouping of seven financially assisted dioceses (including Caledonia), the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, and the Territory of the People. 

“We want CoGS to make strategic decisions that are good for the life of the church as a whole,” said the Most Reverand Linda Nicholls, Primate, not just incremental cuts that shave off excess here and there.

“We’ve been doing that for a long time. We’ve been asking our managers and staff to take 10 per cent here, 10 per cent here, 10 per cent here. At some point … you can’t do that any longer and continue to do the work.”

“Our pruning is for our healing and our growth.”

I take real comfort – and inspiration – from words shared by our Episcopal Church observer, Sr. Liza Anderson. She directed my vision especially to the image of the true vine in John 15 and to the language of pruning in verse 2:

“He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”

There is no mistaking that the Anglican Church of Canada has entered an immediate season of strategic pruning.

While it is easy to recoil from the anticipated sting of pruning shears, I ask for your prayers, wisdom, and action at those points where the resurrected life of our church can emerge as fresh growth: renewed energy for evangelism and service, deepened faith in Christ, and new ways of making and being church, both locally and nationally. 

 

You can find daily highlights from the Council of General Synod on the Anglican Church of Canada's website by using the following links:

May 31, 2024 | June 1, 2024 | June 2, 2024