Assessment Review Committee chair Rachel Nyback (lower left) reports on the group’s recommendations to Diocesan Council at its May 9 meeting. (Not all participants in the meeting are pictured.) Photo: Screenshot

[The Episcopal News – May 15, 2024] Diocesan Council, at a May 9 online meeting, unanimously approved the Assessment Review Committee’s (ARC) recommendations to allow eight parishes temporary relief from mandatory 12% Mission Share Fund assessments for 2024.

The council also heard reports from the Bishop’s Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Care; of an improved financial picture; and about diocesan representation in the upcoming 81st General Convention of The Episcopal Church, to be held June 23-28, 2924, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy chaired the meeting on behalf of Bishop John Harvey Taylor, who was visiting the diocese’s Desert Journeys retreat center in Twentynine Palms for its Ascension Day celebration.

ARC recommends temporary assessment relief

Under the new process announced previously, the ARC received and reviewed 12 applications for assessment waivers. Two were later rescinded (after further discernment) and two were solved in-house (through clarifications and calculations). Seven were recommended for assessment waivers in 2024, and one was recommended to enter a season of discernment (and also granted a waiver for 2024). The committee agreed to require a minimum of 10% for any parish with more than one clergy person on staff. The recommended waivers reduced the eight churches’ 2024 assessments to between 6.4% and 10% of NOI with a commitment to reaching the 12% mandated level in 2025, according to the Rev. Rachel Nyback, ARC chair. After discussion, the Diocesan Council unanimously approved a motion to accept the ARC’s recommendations.

Bishop John Harvey Taylor established the ARC to help congregations achieve the mandatory assessment level, as approved at the 1996 special diocesan convention and reaffirmed at the annual convention in 2011.

The MSF is the primary funding source for diocesan programs, staff, ministries and provides grants to 26 mission congregations. At $5.8 million, MSF represents about half the $11 million total diocesan 2024 budget, including $4.95 million from parish and mission assessments. The 2024 budget approved by diocesan convention included a mandatory assessment of 12%, with 15% encouraged, of their 2022 normal operating income as reflected in their parochial reports. All mission congregations contribute 10% of plate and pledge income, along with 5% in additional assessments, and all have complied, according to Canon Andy Tomat, diocesan treasurer.

The season of discernment process, to which one congregation was referred, is inspired by “Requiem or Renaissance,” an 18-month discernment and skills-building program created by the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, McCarthy said.

The focus of the program is to help aided parishes “discern God’s call to them, to a “requiem,’ a holy ending of this congregation’s ministry in this location at this time, or a ‘renaissance,’ a church re-plant with a new vision,” according to the Missouri diocese’s website. “As they are discerning, they will build skills to live out the call they articulate.”

In addition to the waiver requests, Tomat reported that 56 of 90 parishes have confirmed their 12% assessments amounts. The Finance Department is following up with another 34 churches that have not yet responded. Failure to respond eventually could lead to a parish losing voice and vote at annual diocesan conventions, Nyback said – a decision Diocesan Council will consider in upcoming months.


Tomat reported a total of $463,625 in MSF assessments received in March, “which is higher than budgeted and further reduced our year-to-date MSF income shortfall by another $51,000, to $113,180.” Overall, the diocese ended the quarter with a $114,948 surplus, largely due to such grant-funded ministries as the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service (IRIS).

“IRIS’s reimbursements year-to-date grants came in at $916,471, while expenses totaled $812,262, for a $102,204 surplus,” he said. “Even excluding IRIS and the other grant funded programs the diocese ran a slight $36,685 surplus through the first quarter,” he added. “We appreciate churches continuing to send in their assessment payments on a timely basis to maintain this positive momentum into the typically leaner summer months.”

Reports of Mission

Bishop’s Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Care
Diocesan Canon for Common Life Bob Williams reported that the Bishop’s Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Care continues its mental health, alternatives to incarceration and community policing advocacy. He praised the efforts of commission member the Rev. Brian Tucker, who leads Mental Health First Aid trainings to assist congregations in responding to those experiencing mental health crises.

The commission also is engaging community issues and the candidates for L.A. County District Attorney, incumbent George Gascon and challenger Nathan Hochman, Williams said.

Standing Committee
The Rev. Kate Cress, St. James’ in-the-City rector, reported that at its April 24 meeting the Standing Committee consented to the election of West Texas Bishop Suffragan Jennifer Brooke-Davidson and unanimously approved the June 8 diaconal ordinations of Karen James, Margaret Stivers, and Michael Mischler at 10 a.m. at St. John’s Cathedral.

Another ordinand, the Rev. Hart Roussel, has already been ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church and will be received into The Episcopal Church at that service, McCarthy said.

Episcopal Church Women
Christine Budzowski reported the L.A. diocese will be represented at the ECW Triennial, held concurrently with the June 23 – 28 General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

The group is also advocating for a vote in the Province VIII Synod meetings, she said. “I have submitted a resolution to allow Episcopal Church Women a vote at Province VIII Synod meetings. We have traditionally had seat and voice but no vote … even though we participate fully at the provincial level. And so we are asking to have a voice.”

The resolution, if approved, would encompass all the dioceses in Province VIII, including, in addition to Los Angeles, Alaska, Arizona, California, Eastern Oregon, El Camino Real, Hawaii, Idaho, Micronesia, Navajoland, Nevada, Northern California, Olympia, San Diego, San Joaquin, Spokane, Taiwan, Utah and Western Oregon.

Program Group on Mission Congregations
The Program Group on Mission Congregations voted unanimously to approve the application of St. Andrew’s Church to move from mission to parish status, the Very Rev. Gary Hall reported. Delegates to the Nov. 8 – 9 Diocesan Convention will be asked to approve the change in status.

Bishop’s Commission on Climate Change
The Rev. Tim Hartley reported that the Bishop’s Commission on Climate Change is seeking to identify representatives from each diocesan congregation as a point of contact and is exploring a grant that they hope will fund church and school resilience centers in Riverside.

Convention reports
Thomas Diaz reported that L.A. deputies are fulfilling their required antiracism training before the upcoming General Convention. He offered resources for updates about legislative committee meetings, scheduling and other aspects of the every-three-years gathering of dioceses from across the church.

Secretary of Convention Canon Steve Nishibayashi reported that Diaz will moderate a June 21 live-streamed conversation with the five candidates for Presiding Bishop. Additionally, the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, vice president, has announced her intention to challenge incumbent President Julia Ayala Harris, he said.

The deadline for submitting parochial reports to The Episcopal Church has been extended. The reports may be submitted directly to Convention Coordinator Samantha Wiley.

Plans for the Nov. 8-9 annual meeting of the diocese include a screening of “The Philadelphia 11,” a popular documentary film about the ordination of the first women priests in The Episcopal Church, and welcoming as keynote speaker the Rev. Carter Heyward, one of the Philadelphia 11, Nishibayashi said. He also encouraged participation in running for diocesan offices.

The council meets again via Zoom at 4 p.m., Thursday, June 13.