Wednesday, January 6, 2010

ECUSA's Finances Are a Disgrace

The latest budgetary statement available from the ECUSA finance site is the (as yet unaudited) report for November 2009. With eleven-twelfths of the year's income and expenses booked, the picture of ECUSA's finances is becoming clear. ECUSA is no longer fulfilling its mission as a church. Its mission operations have been scaled back severely. The greatly reduced expenses help keep ECUSA's deficit from being so large -- and they help bury the unbudgeted drain caused by 815's subsidies to the dioceses engaged in litigation over property. Meanwhile, ECUSA is able to show an operating "surplus" in part because -- are you surprised? -- its revenues from the Government are up.

ECUSA? Getting federal money? Yes -- the Government is the second largest source of ECUSA revenues, after diocesan contributions, and is now even greater than ECUSA's income from investments. They are called "EMM Revenues," for "Episcopal Migration Ministries." Essentially, the Government pays ECUSA to assist in finding homes for refugee families. ECUSA is one of ten official "resettlement agencies" recognized by the federal Government, and accounts for settling between 2500 to 3500 individuals per year via a network of thirty offices in twenty-six of the 96 domestic dioceses.

The EMM operations for 2009 have helped keep ECUSA in the black (on paper, at least). Here are the year-to-date figures through November 2009:

EMM Revenues (Govmt.) $ 8,843,729
EMM Revenues (Non-govt.) + 517,852
Total, all EMM Revenues $ 9,361,581

EMM Expenses (all depts) - 9,022,731

Operating Surplus $ 338,850

These actual figures may be compared with the budgeted amounts:

EMM Revenues (Govmt.) $ 8,238,420
EMM Revenues (Non-govt.) + 385,917
Total, all EMM Revenues $ 8,624,337

EMM Expenses (all depts) - 8,374,545

Budgeted Surplus $ 249,792

Now let's look at ECUSA's other sources of revenue. Here are actual contributions from dioceses for the first eleven months of 2009, compared with the budgeted amount (in brackets), and the shortfall between budget and actual (in parentheses):

Diocesan commitments $ 27,924,731 [28,447,217] (522,486)

And here is 2009 investment income through November:

Investment Income $8,640,855 [8,800,917] (160,062)

All together, then, these two sources are below budget by nearly $700,000.

The operating surplus from EMM, as you can see, compensates for slightly more than half of this shortfall. And yet ECUSA's total picture is a healthy overall surplus:

2009 Total Rev. to Date: $ 50,688,591
2009 Total Exp. to Date: $ 49,271,519

Operating surplus to date $ 1,417,072

How can this be? Well, scroll through page 2 of the November 2009 report, and have a look at how the amounts budgeted for mission have been slashed in actual operations. Here are some examples of total mission expense, year-to-date, compared with the amount that had been budgeted (in brackets), and the savings thus achieved (in bold):

Mission Direction $262,993 [360,393] $ 97,400
Mission Funding $741,792 [808,016] $ 65,224
Mission Leadership $3,205,377 [4,451,037] $ 1,245,659

So that is the story: to show an operating surplus of $1.4 million, after revenues have fallen short by $350,000, simply slash mission expense by $1.4 million from what you had budgeted on spending (and make up the $350,000 in savings elsewhere, as we shall shortly see).

But that is not the real picture, even yet. For there is a huge unbudgeted expense which is also throwing the numbers out of balance. The annual (full-year) budget had only $100,000 allocated to this expense, but the actual year-to-date number is a whopping $1,896,217!

Can you guess what this item could possibly be? You are right -- it is called "Legal Assistance to Dioceses". (See my earlier post on this topic for more detail on this expense.) It represents an item that is 1,896% over budget. What kind of management of a $60 million-per-year outfit could get away with misjudging such an expense? After all, it is not as though the attorneys' bills are a sudden surprise.

How does ECUSA make up this drain, and manage to hide it in an overall "surplus"? Easy: just cut back by $1,000,000 in "Partnerships", such as payments to the Anglican Communion (down by $344,841 from the $1,630,390 budgeted contribution), ecumenical and interfaith operations, and in grants and covenant expenses, and throw in another half a million saved on slashing CCAB (Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards) reimbursables, and on trimming the expenses for the Office of General Convention (the next one will be shorter, remember).

Oh, and one other contribution to the bottom line: if you lay off your financial staff (you are handling less money now, anyway), and postpone debt repayment from what you had budgeted, you save another $1,000,000 which you can use for those expensive attorneys! And voilĂ  -- the $1.9 million is buried, and you can show a $1.4 million operating surplus for the ones who cannot figure out what is really going on.

Overall, then, ECUSA's public finances are a disgrace. It is surviving only by slashing to the bone its entire raison d'ĂȘtre at the national level (remember, it created the "Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society" to be able to accept charitable gifts for its mission as a national religious organization). It is as dependent on revenues from the government each year as it is on income from investing all of the gifts made to it over the past one hundred and sixty years. And it is slackening on repaying its obligations.

Meanwhile, the Executive Council allows the Office of the Presiding Bishop to dole out nearly $2 million in money to pay litigation costs that is not part of the triennial budget approved just seven months ago. (Yes, I know -- the budget approved by GC 2009 was for the 2010-2012 triennium. But the failure to take the overrun for the 2009 into account for that budget makes it suspect as well. For example, ECUSA has gone 1,896% over the $100,000 it budgeted for that category in 2009. And what does it have budgeted for that item in 2010? Only one-half of what it managed to spend in 2009, or $1,000,000. Is it rational, when the lawsuits keep multiplying, to project that even less will spent on attorneys' fees?)

When an organization evidences such out-of-control behavior as ECUSA is doing, the receivers cannot be far off. No one is in charge; 815 is spending money even faster than a drunken sailor, and robbing its own missions to do so. Will no one in the church call 815 to account? Where is the much-vaunted "hierarchy" at the top? Even the Pope has to be accountable to his bankers.


  1. Maybe they'll get a government bailout!!! (Sarcasm here - I know the government probably can't or wouldn't bail out churches...)

  2. Marianne...normally the gov't wouldn't bail out churches due to the so called "separation of church & state". However, in TEC's case, since they aren't a real "Church" anymore.........

  3. They do get one. If they take federal money. Since the church itself is not paying in.

    In pure accounting, what is the difference between "bailout" and beneficiary of any other program?

    And since money is fungible, isn't the federal grant opening up other money that the church then uses for litigation?

  4. Thanks for that report - confirms what many of already believed. The national church is morphing into a nonprofit organization.