Executive Council Report

Submitted by: Sherry Lund, Chair of Executive Council

Submitted to: the 174th Diocesan Convention, 25 September 2023

Who We Are.  The Executive Council (EC) serves as the board of directors of the diocesan corporation, exercising all the fiduciary responsibilities and powers of such a board under California law governing religious corporations.  It has primary responsibility for planning and directing the temporal affairs of the diocese, and acts for the diocesan convention between its annual meetings to implement the programs, policies and budgets convention approved.  We routinely monitor financial reports, review and approve expenses and lines of credit, deal with legal matters, properties, and review and approve assessment appeal applications for congregations with significant financial needs.

What We Accomplished This Year.  We have had an exceptionally challenging first three quarters of the year, with a number of very significant items coming to us.   Some of the Council’s major work, accomplishments, and plans in the first three quarters of this year follow:

  • The Assessment Formula Task Force members were Rev. Kirsten Snow Spaulding, Rev. Krista Fregoso, Rev. John Kirkley, CFO Michele Racusin, Jim Forsyth, the Finance Committee, and Canon Debra Low-Skinner. Their objective was to support the Finance Committee in their assessment formula for 2023 Convention review and approval. Diocesan staff researched extensive data on assessment formulas in other dioceses and analyzed the Parochial Reports for data on the state of parishes and missions in our own Diocese.  The Task Force:
    1. Reviewed the comparison of assessment formulas and provided comments before the presentation went to the EC. Reflected to the Finance Committee the concern, needs, and financial realities of congregations who will pay the assessment, with particular focus on the variety of congregational circumstances (e.g., those highly endowed, with pre-schools and significant non-pledge income, those with declining membership or pledge income).   Presented findings from a series of informal interviews to the Finance Committee.
    2. Worked to understand diocesan budget concerns, needs and financial realities as the assessment formula proposal was developed, and to reflect these concerns to the congregations.
    3. Provided input into the CFO/Treasurer’s reports to the deaneries, and to the Chancellor’s presentations to the EC and the Deaneries.

Looking Ahead.  The final result has been reviewed by the Finance Committee, the Executive Council and the Bishop.  While there are no changes to the formula proposed at this time, we intend to be proactive and begin looking at structure and function at the Diocesan level.  These will also inform future assessment levels.  We plan to form an ongoing EC Committee with representation from the Standing Committee and staff, with input from our Vital & Thriving consultants plus other thought leaders.

  • The Canon for Racial, Social and Environmental Justice. We approved the seed money to fund this position for a period of three years.  Adding even a temporary position was thoughtfully discerned and discussed in detail over multiple meetings before a decision was reached.  The purpose of a dedicated Canon position is to focus our work in racial, social and environmental justice, to attract and better serve the Bay Area’s multicultural population, and to take a further step toward becoming the Beloved Community.  A successful model for this combined position exists at the national church level.  The funding for this position plus a modest budget will come from donated funds and not from the Diocesan operational budget/assessments.  A search process is underway.
  • Qualitative Data from Parochial Reports. We formed an ad hoc subcommittee (Leigh Flesher, Rev. John Kirkley, and Rev. Kirsten Snow Spaulding) to review the qualitative data from the Parochial Reports and see how these learnings could inform Executive Council work.  The results the EC saw pointed to how that information could inform the work of parish vestries as well.  The EC has asked the subcommittee to determine how to quickly get this information directly in the hands of senior wardens, junior wardens as well as clergy.  We are developing a larger plan to disseminate additional communications directly to wardens and vestries in the future.
  • Real Estate Sales. At the 173rd Convention, St. John’s Clayton and St. Michael’s, Concord merged to become Holy Spirit Episcopal Church and worship together at the former St. Michael’s campus.  As a result, we approved the sale of St. John’s Clayton. 
  • Discerning a Process for Selling Property and for Utilization of Proceeds From Sales. We are planning to form a task force with Standing Committee and staff representation to discern values/criteria/process for selling a property vs. pursuing another use.  The second part of this work is to determine where the proceeds go from any future sales.  There are a number of questions to be answered, among them:  Should funds from the closing of a parish be set aside as seed money for new parishes? Could other community-based uses generate income and maintain a church presence and property in that location without overwhelming staff time and resources?  Who needs to have input in these decisions?  This will be very important EC work and discernment in the near term. 
  • New Bishop Search-Related Decisions. We approved a budget for the new Bishop Search Committee based on the funds accrued for this purpose over the last 17 years.  A  Bishop’s Compensation Committee was formed (Anna Haight, Tom Matthews, Rev. David Erickson, and Rev. Mauricio Wilson) to research comparative data, and the EC approved the Bishop’s total compensation package. We also took steps to assure that the electing Convention costs were adequately funded.

Task Force Actions From Previous Conventions.  We were charged with two additional items from previous conventions:

  1. First, we heard a summary of the background research and recommendations of the Clergy Housing Task Force at our September 19, 2023 meeting and had a chance to ask a few preliminary questions.  The team includes:  Jon Owens, Rev. David Erickson, Rev. AnnaMarie Hoos, Rev. Annalise Deal, Peter Fairfield, Rev. Stephen Siptroth, and Robin Weiland.  This is an important and complex topic that will require more discussion by the Executive Council before being able to report a short or long-term plan to the 2023 Convention, as was the initial charge from last year’s Convention.  Reporting to the 2024 Convention provides a realistic timeframe to develop those plans.
  2. Second, we have not yet heard a report by the Non-Binary Task Force, which was chaired by Rev. Iain Stanford, so we have not taken any action in time for this Convention. We were deeply saddened as Rev. Stanford fell ill early in the year, and died in July.   

I want to thank the Executive Council for their dedication to our current work and our future.  Thank you, as well, for the privilege to serve the Convention and the Diocese of California. 

In Christ,
Sherry Lund, Chair