[The Episcopal News] It is critical for congregations to maintain – and to catch up with – their Mission Share Fund contributions to avoid an overall diocesan year-end shortfall, Treasurer Canon Andy Tomat reported at the Dec. 14 regular monthly meeting of Diocesan Council.

“MSF receipts were back to budgeted levels of $370,000 per month in October, but we could still end the year with a $240,000 shortfall,” Tomat said. “It’s critical we get the message out to maintain contributions through year end … and pray for generous Christmas offerings.”

Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy chaired the brief meeting, shortened by an unusually high number of absences because of illness and other obligations. Bishop John Harvey Taylor was away in London, serving as a judge for the Michael Ramsey Prize for contemporary theological writing.

The MSF shortfall has contributed to a deficit of $129,000 through October for core diocesan operations (excluding grant-funded programs), according to Tomat. Through October, among grant-funded ministries of the diocese: the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service is experiencing a $62,000 surplus; Seeds of Hope has reduced its deficit to $27,000, down from $60,000; and the Center for Lay Chaplaincy/Prism has a $10,000 shortfall, he said.

Tomat praised the Finance Office, the Joint Budget Committee, and the Assessment Review Committee (ARC) for their support in initiating “the cultural change” represented by convention’s November approval of the $5.8 million MSF portion of the consolidated $11 million budget for 2024, including the move to a 12% mandatory assessment, by an unexpectedly wide margin.

The ARC will oversee enforcement of assessments on parishes for the MSF, as voted on by the 1996 special convention, reaffirmed in 2011, and again this year with the approval of this budget.

In recent years parishes have contributed to the MSF on a voluntary basis, with 12% contributions expected and 15% encouraged. Under the new system the diocese will enforce contributions from each parish of 12% of normal operating income (NOI). Because many parishes have not met that threshold, the diocese has over the years continually reduced staff, structures and services required to support the ministries of its congregations and deferred mission vicar pay increases while depleting remaining unrestricted cash and savings.

Under the leadership of the Rev. Rachel Nyback the ARC’s “process is already underway and is engaging with larger parishes, deaneries and others most affected by this change. We look forward to your careful consideration of their recommendations,” Tomat said.

Gospel Justice and Community Care

The mission of the Bishop’s Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Care is “to bring the church’s attention to the places in our law enforcement and legal systems, particularly those involving race and mental health, that are not in alignment with the Gospel message; and to support activities that will bring the Gospel message to bear on them,” according to Commission Chairperson, Sister Patricia Sarah Terry in a written report received by council.

“Our primary focus at the Diocesan Convention was the need for Mental Health First Aid Training, which is now being promoted nationwide by The Episcopal Church,” according to the report. “Sign-up sheets were available in the exhibit hall to either request mental health first aid training or to join a mental health support group. The response was very positive. We will be contacting all who expressed an interest.”

In 2024, the commission will also be seeking ways to promote gospel perspectives and the need to reduce rates of incarceration of marginalized communities, Terry said.

McCarthy said that a presentation to council by the Rev. Michael Bell, director of housing and business development – a newly created position key to Taylor’s vision to build affordable housing on 25% of diocesan properties – had been rescheduled for January 2024.

Diocesan Convention Resolutions

Delegates attending the 128th annual meeting of the Diocese of Los Angeles approved four resolutions, according to convention coordinator Samantha Wiley, including:

  • Designating the first Sunday in Advent, or another Sunday if more appropriate, in special recognition of Holy Family Adoption and Foster Care Services, an institution of the diocese. The resolution provides that congregations and individuals be encouraged to support HFS’s work (https://diocesela.org/news/hfs-seeks-foster-families/) to find homes for children through prayer and with a special offering;
  • Commemorating the Philadelphia Eleven and submitting a recommendation to the 81st General Convention of The Episcopal Church, to be held June 23-28, 2024, in Louisville, Kentucky, that such commemoration be added to the church calendar;
  • Approving formation of a companion relationship with the Diocese of Taiwan, beginning Sept. 2024 and continuing until Sept. 2027 or until terminated by mutual consent;
  • Commemorating the 80th anniversary of the ordination of Florence Li Tim-Oi, the first woman ordained a priest in the worldwide Anglican Communion, and supporting a series of celebrations, including a Jan. 6, 2024 fundraiser dinner; a Feb. 10 art show, dinner and panel discussion featuring former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and a Feb. 11 Eucharist honoring Li Tim-Oi and celebrating the lunar new year.

General Convention report

McCarthy reported that she has been assigned to the General Convention Committee on the Dispatch of Business, which determines the daily calendar for legislative action in the houses, schedules elections and proposes special orders of business. She is also the liaison to the Title IV Committee, which receives and proposes resolutions on the Title IV disciplinary Canons and procedures of the church.

“We’re about ready to start gearing up for the convention in the summer,” she said.

Secretary of Convention Canon Steve Nishibayashi reported that Kathryn Nishibayashi has been assigned to the Prayer Book, Music and Liturgy Committee.

The election for the next presiding bishop will be held June 26 in Louisville, added Nishibayashi, who co-chairs the nominating committee along with Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime. The Rev. Antonio Gallardo and Thomas Diaz of the Los Angeles diocese are also members of the committee, which now is evaluating those whose names have been submitted for consideration. They will present a slate of no fewer than three names for election by the House of Bishops, Nishibayashi said.

A petition process will be available to add other names to the slate; each such nominee will be vetted by the committee. The presiding bishop is elected by the House of Bishops; the House of Deputies votes to confirm or accept the bishops’ choice, he said. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s term ends Oct. 31, 2024.

Canon for Community Life Bob Williams reported that the communications office is still seeking online mailings lists from at least 30 of the diocese’s 130 congregations. He also reported that the artwork of the Rev. Canon Warner Traynham, retired rector of St. John’s, Los Angeles – now the Cathedral – has donated 50 canvases from his “Abstracts in Action” art collection to St. Paul’s Commons. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the canvas sales will benefit the diocesan annual appeal.

‘A Case for Love’

Williams also mentioned the single day release of A Case for Love, a documentary based upon the teachings of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, that will be screened in local theaters.

Other reports of interest

The Rev. Barrett Van Buren, rector of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Placentia, reported that over the church has received over 6,000 applications for its Santa Angelina Senior Housing project, expected to be completed early next year.

“It is incredible how our campus has transformed into a whole new community,” he said. “We are planning on a grand opening by February.” The apartments are for those ages 62 and over; a lottery system will be used to determine residency, he said.

The Rev. Israel Anchan, rector of Christ the King Church in Santa Barbara, reported evangelism efforts, and that nearly 90 children have been registered from the church’s local community for a Christmas party.

The council will meet next at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11. Advance notice will be given if the meeting will be held online or in person.