Dear Executive Council,
Much has been said, and much has been written about the budget. We started out talking about the priorities of funding, which was one discussion. Now, we’ve moved on to the fact that the budget, as it is currently constructed, literally doesn’t add up, which is another discussion altogether.
And not only that, but also you, members of ExCoun, have said that this is not a budget that you recognize, suggesting that somewhere along the line, Something Occured to change the draft budget you passed.
So there’s quite a lot happening now, in the Land of Budget. Many Layers. Much to prompt recreational inebriation from those of us so inclined.
And so, in response to this, you released a statement (& a memo) yesterday informing the wider church that you were “deeply disappointed” with the way the budget turned out.
While I join in your disappointment, I have to point out that this is not the best language to use. Saying you are disappointed with the budget that you yourselves passed is like a government official in the secular world informing us in a press conference that “mistakes were made.”
This budget did not fall from heaven in a Glad bag. No dryer-sock-stealing gremlins were involved. And while I understand that apparently, the numbers weren’t there until the night before, and that you were overwhelmed and flooded with spreadsheets, and yes, I don’t like math either, but the bottom line is this:
While General Convention isn’t meeting, you are the governing authority of the Church. We, the rest of us down here, elected you for that. The buck stops with you.
You passed this budget, whether you fully understood what was happening or not, and it has caused, and is causing a lot of damage. (For example, does anyone know the actual funding level for Formation at this point? Ok then. I’ll return to my low level panic.)
You need to own that action. You need to apologize. Acknowledge that this went badly, and that you hear people’s anger, pain, and frustration. (By the way, this has nothing to do with you all as bad/evil/ugly people. You’re not– you’re loved by God, saved by grace, probably personally really nice people, and nothing changes that. This has nothing to do with blaming you at all. This has to do with empathy for us. These other people in the church you serve. Do this for the rest of us.)
And then, you need to talk to us about what happened. Ok, you got the figures late. Where are you getting the numbers from? Do you know who changed the budget after you passed it? There seem to be some steps missing from this story, and they sound important.
Can we have a wider conversation about why programs were slashed, and staffing levels were kept, because, really, that flies in the face of what everyone, including you all, have been talking about for the past year. What was your thinking like around that?
Clearly, our budget process is badly broken, but the thing is, we can’t fix it unless you are transparent about the process you went through, because otherwise we don’t know what exactly the process is. Right now, I’m tempted, in my wilder moments, to believe that the budget is constructed through sacrificing a goat and examining the entrails under a full moon. (Sorry, PETA.)
One final thing, members of ExCoun, while I have you here in my imaginary auditorium:
Everyone in this church is anxious. Everyone in this church is frustrated. Everyone is even a bit defensive, I think. What we need from our elected leaders is none of those things. What we need from you is a deep breath, an apology, and concrete answers. We need non- reactivity.
Really, honestly and truly, this is not about you personally, Executive Council. This is about a collective choice you made, and its fallout for the church you serve. So, for the sake of that church, exercise your leadership, and make it right.