Mainline denominations love to talk about sustainability. Usually, it relates to the church’s obsession with anthropogenic global warming, something that may not actually exist and, therefore, something that demands the full attention of pious clergy everywhere.
The Diocese of Montreal faces a real instance of sustainability – or, rather, unsustainability. Its deficit is unsustainable. Ultimately, that means the diocese itself is unsustainable; the only question is, will debt cause it to evaporate before it melts due to global warming?
Delegates to the annual diocesan synod approved a budget for 2017 with revenue of $2.08 million and expenses of $2.38 million, calling for a $300,856 operating loss, a little less than the $331,975 loss now forecast for this year.The operating losses were $529,482 in 2015 and $400,983 in 2014.
Diocesan treasurer Ron O’Connell told delegates, “Our diocese cannot sustain this rate of loss.”He said, “It’s very important that these things be addressed sooner than later, so that people understand that it’s time for action.” A number of parishes as well are facing threats to whether they can sustain themselves, he said, and some of them need assistance from the diocese in ﬁnding ways to “re-purpose” church buildings and other properties.
In addition to the operating losses, the diocese is shouldering special costs of establishing a new “church plant” in the former Church of St. James Apostle. The impact of these on diocesan funds is estimated at $200,000 in 2016 and the budget provides for another $200,000 in 2017. Mr. O’Connell said a further $100,000 is expected to be spent in 2018, following which collections from new worshippers at the church plant are forecast to move the plant into the black.
The 2017 budget approved by the synod includes some spending reductions. With the shift to publishing Anglican Montreal to four times a year rather than 10, beginning this fall, the newspaper is expected to cost the diocese $40,000 in 2016 instead of the $53,500 in the original 2016 budget, and $32,100 in the 2017 budget.
Also, spending on the French language ministry in Sorel, expected to cost $31,500 this year, is eliminated from the 2017 budget. Audited ﬁnancial statements presented to the synod showed that the assets of the diocese declined to just under $14.1 million including $8.7 million in investments at the end of 2015 from $15.1 million including $11.1 million in investments at the end of 2014. After deducting liabilities, net assets declined to $11.3 million from $12.9 million.