Responsible Stewardship in the 2020 Budget: A Letter from Bishop Jennifer

Dear Ones,

As I begin my third year as your bishop, I rejoice that we are fulfilling our mission to be beacons of Jesus Christ offering generous welcome across central and southern Indiana. Thanks to your faithful ministry, we are doing the work that we promised God and one another to do.

Among the things we promised to do is be responsible stewards of all the resources of our diocese. That commitment emerged first at the listening sessions I held in 2017, and the draft 2020 budget that the budget formation committee of Executive Council is releasing today takes some important steps in bringing it to fulfillment.

First, you’ll see that the draft 2020 budget continues the process, begun in the 2019 budget, of aligning our resources with our mission strategy. When you look at the draft 2020 budget, you’ll see that programmatic expenses are categorized according to the area of our mission strategy they support:  Serve as Beacons of Jesus Christ, Offer a Generous Invitation and Welcome, Stand with the Vulnerable and Marginalized, Connect Within and Outside the Church, and Develop Clergy and Lay People to Lead.

You’ll also see that the draft 2020 budget continues our focus on allocating resources to programs and initiatives that promote congregational vitality and community engagement. These include Faithful Innovation Initiative, Evangelism with Integrity, and the College for Congregational Development, which will begin in December.

The next step in this process, which you can expect to see in the 2021 budget, is a significant change to how we provide direct aid to congregations. With the leadership of Executive Council, we will shift to a new system, by which all congregations in the diocese will be provided with the opportunity to develop new mission initiatives and apply for grant funding to support them. Parishes currently receiving direct aid will have the opportunity to seek particular support from my staff, including participating in congregational vitality programs that provide intensive resources for ministry. In short, we will be moving from aiding parishes to working together with their clergy and lay leaders to develop them with both financial and practical resources. At the same time, self-sustaining congregations will also be able to imagine new initiatives and ask for support from the diocesan budget to try them out.

You have heard me speak with some urgency about our need to do and be church differently. I truly believe that all of our congregations have the possibility to become healthy and thriving communities of faith. I trust that this new budget structure developed by Executive Council will reshape our ability to use our resources to bring about the flourishing that God desires for our common life.

I am grateful to the members of Executive Council’s budget formation committee for their prayerful work to align our resources with our mission. And, realizing that this new system means significant change for a number of congregations, I am especially thankful for the energetic and forward-thinking support of several leaders from aided parishes who have been involved in developing this new grant-funding system.

Since I first became your bishop, I have invited you to dream dreams worthy of the reign of God. By reconfiguring the ways in which we allocate our resources—financial and human—we can continue to labor with God to make many of those dreams come true.

Faithfully,

Bishop Jennifer