Members of Diocesan Council meet via Zoom on Feb. 8. (Not all attendees are pictured.)

[The Episcopal News] Bishop John Harvey Taylor opened the Feb. 8 online meeting of Diocesan Council with a tribute to the Rev. Norman Reid Freeman Jr., a renowned musician and former rector of St. George’s Church in Laguna Hills, who died Feb. 4.

Freeman, “was a brilliant musician and vibraphonist, who travelled the world as a member of Barbra Streisand’s orchestra and also delighted and moved countless congregations around our diocese with his Jazz Vespers, which he often did in conjunction with his partner in music and life, Kathy Cash,” Taylor said.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m., Saturday, April 6, at St. John’s Cathedral. Taylor will preside at the livestreamed service. A full obituary may be found here.

Reports of ministries: Program Group on Hispanic/Latino Ministries

The Rev. Carlos Ruvalcaba, chair of the diocesan Program Group on Hispanic/Latino Ministries, described vibrant ministries at 25 congregations serving Spanish-speaking people and invited clergy and laity to the upcoming March 22 – 23 New Camino Conference, offering tools to expand outreach to primarily English-speaking Latinos.

“We must step up to a paradigm shift that is reflected by the large presence of English-dominant Latinos of second, third, and fourth generations” in our diocese, Ruvalcaba said. “Looking to the future, the Anglo congregations have the most potential and resources to engage in this new, unique model of ‘Se Habla English.’”

“I’m going to be knocking on doors … to make sure that we’re all focusing on what an important initiative New Camino is,” Bishop Taylor told the council. “It is easy to conclude that because we don’t have bilingual capacity on our parish and mission staff, we don’t have people who speak Spanish, perhaps, going to our church or whose worship experience needs to be in Spanish going to our church, that we therefore don’t have the obligation to provide culturally sensitive and competent, multicultural Hispanic ministry.

“In fact, all around us, in almost all our neighborhoods in the Central Valley and Southern California, there are second, third and fourth generation neighbors, whom we have the opportunity to minister to. New Camino helps us do that. We don’t have to speak Spanish to serve this population. It’s a metanoia, a change of attitude to realize what our responsibilities might be. It’s really of interest to virtually every church in our diocese.”

The program group also offers the Instituto de Liderazgo (Leadership Institute), and El Gran Convivio (the Great Banquet), and sponsors cultural immersion celebrations of Epiphany, Día de los Muertos, and the Dec. 12 feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Similarly, “Ahora Que Nuestro Mundo ha Cambiado (Now That Our World Has Changed) offers healthy living opportunities, and “A Su Lado” is a Spanish language version of Episcopal Communities and Services’ “By Your Side” training for volunteers to support those facing challenges or end of life.

The Instituto received a $7,500 One Body One Spirit Annual Appeal grant in 2023 to purchase computers for its students, many of whom are 60-somethings for whom “this is their first time getting and touching and working with a computer,” he said. The institute offers theology, preaching, pastoral care, and liturgy, technology and church leadership, and discernment formational opportunities for lay people.

Staying connected: The Episcopal News, Annual Appeal

Taylor renewed a call regarding “the vital necessity” of sharing parish and mission email contact lists to receive The Episcopal News, which also disseminates annual appeal information, “so your people can contribute and also learn about the appeal and apply for grants.” A subscription link is also available here, and may be included in church newsletters.

“The way we communicate about One Body and One Spirit annual appeal is through The Episcopal News,” Taylor said. The appeal has raised more than $336,112 and given 70 grants to 56 diocesan congregations and institutions. Applications for the next round of grant awards are due in May.

“The way we raise this money is by sending out to our mailing list, email addresses, and we only have barely 10,000 from this diocese of 50,000-plus, so that means only a fifth of us are getting the information,” Taylor said.

Finances: Treasurer’s report

The diocese ended 2023 with $4.4 million in Mission Share Fund (MSF) income from churches, just 3.6% below the $4.5 million budgeted, Canon Andy Tomat, treasurer of the diocese, reported to council. This allowed diocesan operations, excluding the grant-funded ministries, to close out the year on a near break-even basis, a first in recent memory. Among grant-funded ministries, the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service, or IRIS, closed out 2023 with $3 million in income and $2.8 million in expenses, resulting in a $187,489 surplus that will go into their reserve account.

The other two grant-funded ministries – Seeds of Hope, the diocesan food justice ministry, and the Center for Lay Chaplaincy/Prism, the justice system ministry – ended the year with $65,000 and $19,000 deficits, respectively, he said.

Tomat reported that as of Feb 6, 25 of 90 diocesan parishes have electronically signed their 12% assessment commitment for 2024 (which is based on their 2022 normal operating income as reported on their parochial report) and 10 have requested waivers. Initially it was 11, Tomat said, but one vestry discerned through prayer and fiscal reflection a way to get to 12%). Mission congregations are already required to pay 10% of their annual plate and pledge revenues, plus 5% in additional assessments. Tomat noted that anyone having trouble with the DocuSign electronic signatures is encouraged to contact the Finance Office at

Waiver requests are evaluated by the 12% Assessment Review Committee, Taylor said. If an appeal is granted, the bishop’s office will begin a season of strategic discernment with congregations, including possible alternative ministry models to return them to long term viability. “The two pillars of parish sustainability are being able to afford a full-time rector and cover the 12% assessment,” Taylor said. If the parish can’t do both, he added, “we’re going to … take a good long look at what’s happening at a church and try to discern what the Spirit is calling us to do. We begin with the proposition that the parish wishes to continue to be in parish ministry in its place.”

The 12% assessment requirement allows for more manageable financial planning and enables earlier support for congregations that may be struggling, “rather than (they) get to a point where they just can’t go forward, and their only alternative is to give us the keys back,” Taylor said.

“We don’t want to sell property. We want to help churches find the key to a more sustainable future. Requiring this assessment enables us to get involved at the granular level, with the management and the culture of the church. We’re trying to express love and support and bring resources to bear that will lift the sense of shame and raise everyone’s sights to a more hopeful and abundant horizon.”

Other reports

The Corporation of the Diocese also is focused upon sustainability and upon finding ways to assess diocesan-owned properties, according to the Rev. Rachel Nyback, co-chair of the 12% Assessment Review Committee and rector of St. Cross Church, Hermosa Beach.

“Our hope is to encourage everybody on their 12% journey … and thank the missions for their consistent 15%, well above what some parishes do. But hopefully this year, we will be changing that for a justice equality purpose,” she said, referring the council to her column in the February Angelus clergy newsletter.

The Corporation and the Standing Committee each approved five-month ground leases for affordable housing projects at St. Ambrose Church in Claremont and at St. Mark’s Church in Downey, “enabling them to go forth and see if they can find financing,” Taylor said.

Episcopal Church Women: Christine Budzowski, president, reported ECW is convening a wisdom circle at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, via Zoom, to help discover “what we can do to better support women’s ministries throughout the Diocese of Los Angeles and to connect one another with resources that are available,” including at the provincial and diocesan levels. All women are welcome to attend. (More information is in the Episcopal News Update for Feb. 18.)

Diocesan Convention: Parochial reports for 2023 may be filed through the diocesan convention website online portal; the filing deadline is March 1, according to Secretary of Convention Canon Steve Nishibayashi.

The Episcopal Church General Convention Office has released a web-based parish register app that allows users to track aspects of every liturgy that takes place in their congregations, and then adds that data to the church’s procured report. The link for the app will be circulated in his coming Convention Notes newsletter, he said.

St. Paul’s Commons: St. Paul’s Commons will celebrate its 30th anniversary this October, according to Canon for Common Life Bob Williams. Through such community partners as Changeist, a youth mentoring and community building project, and tenants such as the Immaculate Heart Community and the progressive synagogue Nefesh, Williams said, St. Paul’s Commons is fulfilling its commitment to youth and interfaith ministry, adding that as many as 230 people regularly attend the synagogue’s Shabbat services.

Council meets again at 4 p.m., Thursday, March 14 via Zoom.