Report to Convention 2021
Executive Council is one of three governing bodies of the Diocese of California. It shares primary responsibility for planning and directing temporal affairs of the Diocese with the Bishop and the Standing Committee; acts for the Diocesan Convention between its annual meetings to implement the programs, policies, and budgets approved by Convention; and serves as the Board of Directors of the Diocesan Corporation. In consultation with the Finance Department and the Treasurer, Council has oversight of the operating fund and of investments, including real estate. The Bishop is President of Council while other members are elected by Deanery Ed and by Convention to be representative of our Diocese. In addition, the Bishop has the right to appoint up to six members, and the chancellor, and the treasurer, and secretary of the Convention are ex officio members.
Over the past year, Executive Council has wrestled with issues and crises confronting our congregations. We dedicated our retreat in January to prepare members for the sometimes-conflicting work of fiscal responsibility and pastoral consideration. However, the ongoing global COVID pandemic impacted various outcomes of the retreat as we were forced from our typical in-person format at The Bishop’s Ranch to the online, one-day, Zoom format. This limited the breadth of materials covered at retreat because of time limitations and the inability to raise questions and concerns, as thought of, which might have allowed a broader reach otherwise. This also limited the ability to develop personal relationships which might have assisted the discussion of sensitive issues throughout the year.
Much of our work this year has centered on managing and responding to the global pandemic. Council has worked closely with the Bishop and Diocesan staff to monitor, support, and advise our response to the pandemic. Discussion has taken place regarding virtual and hybrid worship and meetings for both The Council and our congregations. Despite the pressing concerns of the Church in the time of pandemic, the Council continued to attend to its regular business:
We received regular updates from Diocesan staff about key initiatives and matters concerning the legal and financial business of the Diocese.
We heard reports from St. Dorothy’s Rest. Its Financial Sustainability Plan was received. Becoming more aware of the gravity of its financial situation, SDR was granted the early release of its total allocation from the Expanding Horizon Campaign funds. The sale of the office building, not necessary for SDR’s functioning as a camper/retreat center, was approved by the Council. The Council requested that SDR do a reserve study of the property. The Rev. Alan Gates is the Interim Executive Director, following the resignation of Katie Evenbeck.
In anticipation of a higher than usual volume of assessment appeals applications due to the pandemic, we made sure the Assessment Appeals Committee was fully staffed and that the assessment appeal process was updated. Pandemic funding was provided through the Bishop’s Resurrection Fund. Relief was granted to four congregations in July with a second round of applications expected in October. The Diocese will return to normal funding levels for relief in 2022.
The Rev. Michele Racusin was appointed as the new Diocesan Chief Financial Officer.
The Council heard, and responded to, the plans for the Bluebird Village project in Brentwood, which would provide market-rate and affordable housing, a community farm, a community building, and a childcare facility. In May, the Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Eden Housing as a way forward in the project’s development; in July, a Lease Option Agreement was authorized.
The Council discussed the process of cultivating Diocesan leadership.
The Council heard reports from the Sabbatical Working Group regarding a proposal for sabbatical leave for Intentional Interim Rectors and approved continuing work to be reviewed at the Council retreat in January 2022.
It has been an honor and a privilege to have served my second term on Executive Council for the past three years and to have been its chair this year. I am extremely grateful to everyone on Executive Council for their hard work, commitment to the business of this Diocese, and the flexibility with which they approached the work.
Chair, Executive Council
Episcopal Diocese of California