Diocesan Council meets via Zoom on April 20. (Not all members and guests in attendance are pictured here.)

The ongoing work of the Daughters of the King; a new association with the ecumenical Immaculate Heart Community; and a new affordable housing structure in Riverside were among the ministries celebrated in reports to the April 20 meeting of Diocesan Council.

The council also heard about some possible financial difficulties that diocesan leaders hope to counter with diplomacy and cooperation.

Treasurer’s report: Episcopal Church review body recommends increased assessment for 2023

Canon Andy Tomat, treasurer of the diocese, reported on two challenges to the diocese’s Mission Share Fund (MSF) budget; one involving the wider Episcopal Church, and one from local congregations.

Episcopal Church canons provide for assessments on its 109 dioceses to fund the wider work of the Episcopal Church. EDLA’s 15% 2023 assessment was made based on its 2021 income, which included a $3.3 million Payroll Protection Plan loan — later converted to a grant – that the diocese received to cover payroll expenses for staff, mission congregations, schools, and institutions such as Camp Stevens.

Though a church-wide appeals committee turned down the diocese’s request to be relieved of the obligation to include the PPP money when determining its assessment, Tomat said he and Bishop John Harvey Taylor hoped that some grace may still be extended to avoid the diocese either cutting its already strained budget even further this year or recouping the additional sum from missions and parishes, which themselves are struggling with fiscal pressures.

Five parishes submit assessment letters to the bishop and Diocesan Council

Bishop Taylor had announced at Diocesan Convention that parish assessments in the Diocese of Los Angeles, which have for many years been on a voluntary basis, will, beginning in 2024, be set at a mandatory level of 12% of normal operating income (NOI). (Mission congregations are assessed at 10% of NOI and are also subject to another 5% in other assessments.)

At the council meeting, Tomat distributed letters from five parishes stating that they intend to contribute less than 12% due to their unique circumstances.

Responding to a question from a council member, who noted that congregations beyond the five discussed have not been paying at the 12% level, Tomat said, “This is sort of a dry run for the process that we’re now discerning and will be implemented next year, where … if there’s a particular situation of fiscal hardship, an appeal can be made. And we need to start to define a process by which a review will happen. Recommendations will be made to council, and then council will decide if a waiver shall be granted.”

Taylor agreed. “Our diocese has not always had the best track record when it comes to consistency and transparency, and the diligent, fiscally prudent use of the resources that we do receive,” he said. “There’s a long tradition of large sums of money coming out of the shadows into the budget from Corp Sole and the Corporation of the Diocese to solve deficits and other problems and a lack of consistency in how we enforce the rules. Some well-resourced churches have been under-paying for years without the diocese having addressed it, which is known to less-wealthy parishes and taken into account when decisions are made about how much they’re going to pay.

“We need to have a regime which is fair and transparent and open and consistent. And the diocese has not always had that. … I think we’ve got some atoning to do on the leadership side. So I’m for being as compassionate, fair, transparent, systematic and consistent as we possibly can be, as we have these conversations moving toward an era of assessments.”

Tomat noted that the finance office and diocesan leaders are exploring best practices in other dioceses and carefully considering how an appeals process for assessments can be fair, accountable and pastoral, taking into account special circumstances, but also not allowing some parishes to underpay while others contribute their full share.

2023 income and expenses report

The MSF assessment report distributed to council showed that 50 parishes are already committing at the 11-12% level or higher in 2023 which increased the average parish pledge to over 10% – a significant increase from prior years. Tomat noted.

Tomat also reported that current diocesan income and expenses are in line with the 2023 budget, although the current finance report shows a $100,000 deficit. “The big shortfall we’ve had in terms of income versus budget has been in some of our grant-related programs, specifically IRIS,” said Tomat, referring to Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service, a diocesan ministry. “Grants run on different fiscal calendars, so the timing of when we get money in is not always consistent month to month. … So the expectation is that the income will resolve itself in the next month or so.

“But I also want to point out — and this is something we discuss at the corporation level — that our remaining unrestricted cash and savings … is down to only a little over a million dollars. While this may seem like a lot, we would normally want to have six months of payroll in cash and savings to cover the usual seasonality of income and expenses without impacting operations or staff. And right now, it is it down to just 11 weeks. So hence the need to quickly address any budget shortfalls, since we have no flexibility.”

Ministry reports

Reporting for the Daughters of the King, a religious order for lay and ordained women, most of them Episcopalians, diocesan President Kimberly Cortner said that the organization’s Spring Assembly will be held on May 6 via Zoom. Titled “Time for Mary/Martha,” the program will include installation of the DOK’s new chaplain, the Rev. Linda Wert, who also will speak about Celtic spiritual practices. Prism/CFLC, the diocese’s prison and lay chaplaincy ministries, and IRIS will also be on hand. (Register here or email daughtersladiocese@gmail.com.)

Discerning the Call, a preparation course for those interested in joining DOK, will be held online on June 17. Cortner noted that in response to interest at the provincial and churchwide DOK level she and Christine Budzowski may give a presentation about the course at the Triennial meeting of the ECW (Episcopal Church Women), taking place in conjunction with General Convention in 2024.

DOK-LA also will present two $1,500 scholarships from the Bishop Gooden Fund to seminarians from the Diocese of Los Angeles in 2023. Cortner showed a video from the Rev. Andrea Arsene, a former scholarship recipient now serving a church in Indianapolis.

A new website for the L.A. DOK has been established, Cortner added.

The Rev. Rachel Nyback, rector of St. Cross Church, Hermosa Beach, reported that at its most recent meeting the Corporation of the Diocese discussed at length the enforcement of mandatory 12% assessments and how that may be carried out in a non-punitive, supportive and pastoral manner. The corporation also approved two property transfers and several lease arrangements between congregations and outside groups.

The Rev. Lester Mackenzie, rector of St. Mary’s Church, Laguna Beach, told council that the Standing Committee, meeting March 28, approved revised bylines for St. Paul’s Church, Santa Paula. At its next meeting, on April 25, the committee will consider whether to give consent to the election of the Rev. Charles Holt as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Central Florida – an election that has been contested on the grounds of improper procedures and concerns about the bishop-elect’s willingness to follow Episcopal Church doctrine and canons.

ECW President Christine Budzowski reported that the Province VIII ECW will hold its annual meeting June 23 – 25 in Salt Lake City. Attending from the Diocese of Los Angeles will be Budzowski and Cortner, with Tammy Smecker-Hane, diocesan coordinator and co-chair of the provincial UTO (United Thank Offering), and Canon Martha Estes, a past president of the diocese’s ECW and current president on the provincial level. Budzowski also reported that the ECW will supply new lapel pins with the Feeding Hungry Hearts logo, representing the theme Taylor chose for his episcopate before his 2017 consecration.

Thomas Diaz of All Saints, Pasadena, a lay deputy to General Convention, said that the deputation recently met via Zoom, and has elected the Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy as chair. The deputies plan to meet regularly in advance of the next General Convention, to be held June June 23 – 28, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. Deputation members, elected at Diocesan Convention in 2022, are:

Clergy deputies:
The Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy
The Rev. Antonio Gallardo
The Rev. Fennie Hsin-Fen Chang
The Rev. Rachel Nyback

Clergy alternates:
The Rev. Kelli Grace Kurtz
The Rev. Dominique Piper
The Rev. Guy Leemhuis
The Rev. Canon Ian Davies

Lay deputies:
Kathryn Nishibayashi
Canon Andy Tomat
Thomas Diaz
Canon Julie Dean Larsen

Lay alternates:
Ivan Gutierrez
Alan Herendich
Cameron Johnson

Canon Steven Nishibayashi, secretary of convention, reminded congregations to submit the names and contact information for their delegates to Diocesan Convention, and deanery deans and presidents to select and send contact information for youth delegates so that they may be kept informed in the months leading up to the next meeting, to be held at the Riverside Convention Center on Nov. 10 – 11, 2023.

He also reported that about 26% of the diocese’s congregations have not yet filed their parochial reports, and emphasized the importance of sending in that information, which was due March 1.

Reports from the bishop and canon to the ordinary

McCarthy, canon to the ordinary, reported that the repainting of St. Paul’s Commons is proceeding, and that staff from the Immaculate Heart Community, an ecumenical order, has moved into several offices that they have leased from the diocese.

She said that diocesan staff members in the Formation and Transitions Ministry office are working toward the upcoming clergy conference, which will be May 1 – 3 at the Mission Inn in Riverside. A diocesan confirmation service will be held at St. John’s Cathedral on Saturday, May 6.

Taylor said that he was away from the diocese for much of March, between a House of Bishops meeting at Camp McDowell, Alabama and a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. “Twenty-three Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles pilgrims and Kathy and I were in Israel and Palestine during a time of momentous demonstration in the streets of Tel Aviv especially, but also Jerusalem,” he said, “as Israeli citizens rose up in opposition to proposals by the right-wing government to essentially put the judiciary under the thumb of the Knesset.” He called for continued prayers for peace with justice in Israel and Palestine, and especially for the Diocese of Jerusalem, which for the past two decades has maintained a companion relationship with the Diocese of Los Angeles.

In his visits to congregations of the diocese, Taylor said, he is stressing his initiative to build affordable housing on 25% of its mission and parish campuses. He said plans were afoot to hire a housing czar to help congregations envision, plan, and implement housing projects. “If 25% of our institutions do this, 4000-5000 of our neighbors will have places to lay their heads,” Taylor said.

Taylor said that Canon McCarthy has been leading an effort to form a system of hubs that will allow smaller congregations to share resources, particularly clergy, and make it easier for them to continue their ministries and share in the life of the diocese.

He said that Bishop Lennon Chang of the Diocese of Taiwan – part of The Episcopal Church – has invited him to Taiwan next September to help mark its 70th anniversary. Taylor said he also has invited Chang to visit the Diocese of Los Angeles in 2025.

Nishibayashi, who is co-chair of The Episcopal Church’s committee for nomination of the next presiding bishop, reported that the diocese is well-represented on the committee, with the Rev. Antonio Gallardo of St. Luke’s, Long Beach, and Thomas Diaz also serving as members. Nishibayashi referred to a set of three essays “describing the process and the history of the presiding bishop, those canonical things that describe and proscribe how that election takes place,” he said. The committee is forming a profile that will be released in coming weeks, to be followed by an invitation to submit names for consideration.

Diane Askren of Deanery 7 reported that there soon will be “a big old party” to celebrate the recent opening of new supportive housing at St. Michael’s Ministry Center in Riverside, shepherded to completion by the Rev. Canon Mary Crist.

Canon Bob Williams, canon for common life, reported that he has been working closely with the Immaculate Heart Community, which has recently leased office space within St. Paul’s Commons in Echo Park. The ministries of IHC — which owns and operates Immaculate Hearth High School and the Casa de Maria retreat house in Santa Barbara – and its new collaboration with the diocese will be highlighted in an Episcopal News article early next month. Williams also reminded council members that all congregations should provide their email lists to The Episcopal News so members can receive the Update. Lists may be sent to editor@ladiocese.org.

Williams also noted several funerals; those of late council member Nancy Doss; former ECW president, General Convention deputy and lay leader Canon Jenny Ladefoged; and former staff member and Chicana activist Canon Lydia Lopez, whose ashes were placed in the columbarium at St. Paul’s Commons on April 21.

Williams concluded his report by inviting all to the 40th annual scholarship benefit event for Neighborhood Youth Association, a diocesan institution serving at-risk youth, on May 13 at St. Matthew’s Church, Pacific Palisades.

CC Schroeder of the Redlands consortium of churches invited all to Trinity Camp, an institution since 1912, which will take place in Big Bear June 11 – 17. Cost is $500 per camper; some scholarships are available. Information is here.

Council will meet next on Thursday, May 11 via Zoom.