Revised 2020 Budget Offers Financial Relief to Congregations

At its regular meeting on May 9, the diocese’s Executive Council approved a revision to the 2020 diocesan budget designed to ease pandemic-related financial strain on congregations.

The revisions, which are highlighted in the new budget document, free up approximately $455,000 for congregational financial relief, said Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, canon to the ordinary for administration and evangelism.

“When these funds are added to all of the other ways the proposed budget directly funds congregational ministry, including cash aid to congregations, diocesan payment of some congregational clergy salaries, and congregational clergy medical insurance, approximately $1.6 million of the proposed 2020 budget directly supports congregations,” O’Sullivan-Hale said.

New apportionment relief guidelines approved by Executive Council will allow any congregation in financial need to forego any three months of 2020 apportionment payments. Congregations intending to reduce apportionment payments are asked to notify the bishop’s office using this form.

Congregations in distress can apply for further assistance in the form of additional apportionment relief and cash aid. The revised budget makes approximately $221,000 available for emergency assistance. Congregations may also apply for aid from the Ministerial Excellence Fund, O’Sullivan-Hale said. The fund has recently received a $25,000 anonymous donation to assist congregations in need. Congregations in need of assistance can apply using this form.

“We ask that congregations with financial capacity continue to pay their assessments as scheduled so that the diocese’s resources can be directed toward helping our congregations most in need,” he said.

To make funds available for apportionment relief and other assistance, Executive Council reduced $146,025 of planned expenses, including budgets for summer and fall events that have either been postponed or moved online. Most program funding for campus ministry will be suspended while the campuses of Indiana University and Purdue University are closed, and the position of diocesan youth minister, vacant since January, will not be filled until in-person gatherings are again possible.

“Youth and campus ministry are integral to our mission, and we know that responding to the spiritual needs of people coming of age in the pandemic is essential,” said the Rev. Kristin White, canon to the ordinary for congregational development and leadership. “We are committed to supporting youth and young adult ministry, and we hope that this temporary reallocation of funds will help all of our congregations emerge from the pandemic ready to collaborate in ways that will support the youth and young adults of our diocese.”

The diocese is suspending periodic accruals for General Convention expenses, for a future bishop search, and for office equipment purchases to free up funds for congregational support, O’Sullivan-Hale said. A one-time forgivable loan of $203,920 through the federal Paycheck Protection Program will cover some payroll expenses typically funded by congregational apportionment payments. At this time, all members of the bishop’s staff are continuing to work full time, and no staff layoffs or reductions are included in this revised budget.

In order to meet a June 20 deadline imposed by diocesan canons, Executive Council also approved a provisional 2021 budget with the caveat that it should not be used for planning purposes.

“We need to understand more about how congregations will be able to continue supporting the ministry of the bishop and her staff,” O’Sullivan-Hale said. “And because the health insurance market is currently volatile and premiums constitute a significant portion of the diocesan budget, we will need to know more about our 2021 rates, which will be issued in late August, before a realistic 2021 budget can be drafted.”

Executive Council will meet monthly through at least August and will review the 2020 budget at each meeting. “Expect that the budget will be revised again,” O’Sullivan-Hale said.