Every three years, several hundred rostered ministers, lay delegates and visitors, representing congregations across the territory of the Eastern Synod, gather over several days for inspiring worship, stimulating educational experiences, highly valued fellowship and to conduct the Synod’s business. One of the important business matters that delegates to this year’s online event, Assembly 2021, will consider in late June is the adoption of budgets for the next three year period.
Since the early 1990s our Synod has experienced a slow, but steady, decline in benevolence offerings received from congregations. Given the financial and other challenges that many congregations have been facing, this isn’t surprising news. This downward trend is worrisome, nonetheless, since the ministries that are supported by the synodical budget are funded primarily by benevolence offerings. The past year has introduced an additional, potential concern – what longer term impact might the pandemic have on congregational (and hence synodical) finances? With these concerns about to confront us head on, one of the initiatives in the Synod’s strategic plan included a review of the budget setting process, followed by a rigourous review of the dollar amounts that are allocated to fund each of the synodical ministries.
Many aspects need to be considered when developing budgets for the Synod. How do we strike the most appropriate balance between providing sufficient funding for the many traditional forms of synodical ministry that we have valued so highly for many decades now, while ensuring that exciting new forms of ministry that are emerging also receive their share of diminishing resources? It takes many hands and a variety of perspectives to build budgets that identify, evaluate and weigh all of the possibilities!
The process to build a better budget started last fall when Synod Council members held a working session to develop high level budgetary principles, to suggest ministries that should be considered for new or additional funding and to identify lower impact areas where it might be possible to consider funding reductions. The Deans, representing each of the seventeen different geographic areas across the Synod, were also invited to provide their input.
In March, the four synodical officers along with synod office staff, met on several occasions to assess all of the ideas that were generated, to review historical spending patterns and to finalize budgetary principles and assumptions that could be used as a foundation for budgets over the next triennium. Next, Kim Marcy (Director of Finance and Administration) and Keith Myra (Treasurer) forged the output from these sessions into draft versions of budgets for 2022 – 2024. These drafts were subsequently reviewed by Synod Council’s Finance Committee (Rev. Davis Kaneps, Anne Drouillard, David Wilk, Kim Marcy and Keith Myra) prior to being finalized and approved by the entire Synod Council.
The next step of the budgetary process is the upcoming opportunity for Assembly 2021 delegates to discuss, possibly amend and then adopt Synod Council’s recommendations. The proposed budgets that are being recommended include modest increases to bursary/internship support for seminary students, increased funding for several social justice initiatives, as well as reduced funding in several areas. It goes without saying that any reductions, especially when they directly affect people, are difficult and not made without considerable thought and discussion.
It’s virtually impossible to develop 100% realistic budgets several years in advance. As such, even though the Synod’s budgets have been developed for the upcoming three year period, it is expected that the budget for each specific year will be reviewed and fine tuned, as necessary, by Synod Council at the start of each year.
Thank you, in anticipation of your continuing partnership and your generous offerings that support all of our vital and vibrant synodical ministries!
Eastern Synod Treasurer