Diocesan Council meets via Zoom on March 14. (Not all council members in attendance are pictured.) Photo: Screenshot

[The Episcopal News] Bishop Lennon Yuan-Jung Chang of Taiwan’s recent visit to the Los Angeles diocese signals exciting possibilities for mission, evangelism, and ministry between the two, Bishop John Harvey Taylor reported to Diocesan Council at its March 14 online meeting.

“This is very important to us for any number of reasons,” said Taylor, noting that delegates to the November 10 – 11, 2023, annual meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles overwhelmingly had approved a three-year companion partnership with the Taiwan diocese.

“We are a Pacific state and have among us many members of the Chinese diaspora, and in our recent political history have had the experience of people of Chinese background being falsely and dangerously scapegoated for circumstances beyond their control, namely the Covid pandemic,” said Taylor, who also blogged about Chang’s visit.

Bishop John Harvey Taylor of Los Angeles welcomes Bishop Lennon Yuan-Jung Chang of Taiwan to St. Paul’s Commons on Feb. 23. The two diocese recently launched a companion relationship, and the bishops will exchange official visits late in 2024 and in 2025. Photo: John Taylor

Chang had stopped in Los Angeles enroute to the Feb. 28-March 4 regular meeting of the House of Bishops at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, which Taylor also attended. Taylor, along with Canon Kathy O’Connor, intends to visit Taiwan this September as that diocese celebrates its 70th anniversary, he said.

The companion relationship possibly will also include reciprocal youth and young adult and seminarian engagement, Taylor said. Opportunities are under consideration for camping, mission, and ministry exchanges. While Chang wants to encourage more of those being prepared for leadership in the Taiwan church to learn English, “we feel similarly inspired to encourage vocations to learn Mandarin and Taiwanese,” Taylor said.

Program Group Report: Compensation and Benefits

A series of Church Pension Fund-led seminars available in the Los Angeles diocese the week of March 19 offers educational opportunities for laity and clergy – a key focus of the Program Group on Compensation and Benefits, Council Secretary Samantha Wylie reported.

“There’s a lot of information to know and not everybody knows it. Not everyone takes advantage of their benefits,” added Wylie, who is also convention coordinator and a diocesan staff liaison to the program group.

The program group was formally established at the 2022 diocesan convention, along with resolutions providing for parity among ordained and lay church employees, and a redefinition of clergy compensation minimums.

The group, which includes lay and ordained representatives from Episcopal schools, institutions, and churches, has also examined salary parity among lay and ordained diocesan employees, she said. “A lot of work done last year was forming what the work will look like, recognizing that schools and congregations operate differently. There’s a wide range of employment and it looks different depending on the institution.”

An Episcopal Church Medical Trust Fund CPG-generated “Compass Report” breakdown of church employees across the diocese offered a “deep dive” into how people use their benefits, which “is really instrumental in developing strategies going forward to provide the most effective benefits for diocesan employees.”

In addition to readiness seminars for lay and ordained employees, the Church Pension Fund is also offering a March 20 – 21 Planning for Wellness Conference in Long Beach.

“We’re promoting the educational aspect of the program group and making sure employees of the diocese – not just that they have compensation and benefits – but that they understand and take the best advantage of them as possible,” Wylie said.

Financial news

Canon Andy Tomat, treasurer of the diocese, submitted a written report to council noting, among other things:

  • As of the end of February, the Finance Office has received digitally signed 12% assessment confirmations from 25 out of the 90 parishes. A number of others have confirmed their intent to pay 12% but have not yet collected digital signatures from the rector and treasurer. Anyone with questions on this process should contact finance@ladiocese.org.
  • All 38 mission congregations have always been required to pay 10% of their annual plate and pledge income, plus additional assessments amounting to about 5%.
  • The Assessment Review Committee has received 11 requests for assessment waivers, and will report its findings to the April 11 regular meeting of Diocesan Council. The assessment is necessary, Taylor said, “to make sure we have in perpetuity the wherewithal to respond to the Program Group on Mission Congregation’s recommendations about assistance to mission congregations. It has to do with making sure PGMC has free reign to be able to make sure these extraordinarily abundant and vigorous and healthy mission institutions which happen to be in neighborhoods that aren’t that wealthy get the help they need.”
  • MSF payments were down by about 60% in January from the $412,083 budgeted for the month, to $248,741, but returned to budget levels in February. Past-due MSF payments from 2023 and prior years declined to $859,771 from $903,138 by year-end.

Also in January 2024, among grant-funded programs:

  • IRIS, the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service, received grant income of $234,661 versus resettlement expenses of $247,037; a -$12,377 difference;
  • Seeds of Hope, the diocesan food justice ministry, received grant income in January of $52,314 versus $45,259 expenses, for a positive net of $7,055;
  • Center for Lay Chaplaincy/ Prism income was $1,473 versus expenses of $5,825; a negative $4,350 difference.
  • Excluding the three grant-funded programs, the diocese’s operations ran a $127,664 shortfall in January, largely caused by the assessment payment delays, according to Tomat’s report.

Other reports of mission

The Rev. Lester Mackenzie reported that the Standing Committee, with the recommendation of the Corporation of the Diocese, approved lease agreements for: St. George’s Church in La Cañada to lease space to another church; for St. Paul’s Commons to lease space to Nefesh, a Jewish spiritual community; and for St. Michael’s and All Angels, Corona del Mar, to lease space to a school.

The Standing Committee also approved, upon the recommendation of the Corporation: a loan repayment agreement for St. Richard’s, Lake Arrowhead; transfer of property from the diocese to St. James, Newport Beach; and approval of an infrastructure grant to St. Simon’s, San Fernando, from the California Department of Social Services.

The committee also consented to the elections of Austin Keith Rios as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of California and Dorothy Sanders Wells as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Mississippi.

The Province VIII Episcopal Church Women will present an online women’s empowerment and leadership forum as part of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 22, according to Christine Budzowski, diocesan president. Sign-ups are free here. (https://ngocsw68forum.vfairs.com/)

“It’s amazing. The last time we did this presentation was two years ago,” Budzowski said. “We had women from all over the world coming together to talk about women’s leadership. It was an amazing way to participate in the UNCSW without having to fly to New York.”

Locally, the diocesan ECW held its first online Wisdom Circle on Feb. 22, with deaneries 6, 7 and 4 represented. The group will meet again April 4 at 7 p.m. via Zoom; Budzowski invited all deaneries to send at least one representative. (For information, contact Budzowski at christine@trinitywebconsulting.com.)

The Program Group on Mission Congregations (PGMC) met online March 7 and plans to come up with new criteria for awarding ministry grants to mission congregations, according to Ann Seitz. The program group also is looking for new members so that each of the diocese’s ten deaneries may be represented.

Secretary of Convention Canon Steve Nishibayashi reported that late parochial reports may still be filed online through April 1, with the help of Wiley, convention coordinator. Budgeting for the wider Episcopal Church depends upon the parochial report, Nishibayashi said.

Planning is underway for the April 29 Annual Shepherd’s Cup golf fundraiser, Taylor said.

Canon for Community Life Bob Williams said the diocese will welcome a fourth new interfaith minister-in-residence, Leah Julien, a rabbi-in-training at Hebrew Union College. Other interfaith ministers in residence represent the Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Evangelical Christian faiths.

Council meets next at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 11 via Zoom.