Diocesan Council meets via Zoom on Jan. 11. (Not all those in attendance are pictured.) Photo: Screenshot

[The Episcopal News]  The Rev. Michael Bell, director of Housing and Business Development for Episcopal Communities & Services, reported to the Jan. 11 meeting of Diocesan Council that 7 congregations have either completed or are developing affordable housing on their campuses and another 13 are considering possible projects.

Bishop John Harvey Taylor has pledged to develop affordable housing on 25% of diocesan church campuses (a total of 33).

Other matters discussed during the meeting, which was held on Zoom, included a slightly improved financial report and the reelection of Samantha Wiley as council secretary. Taylor reminded the council that A Case for Love, a feature-film documentary inspired by the teachings of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and produced by Grace-Based Films, a company formed by parishioners of All Saints Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills, will be screened at theaters around the diocese (and the nation) on Jan. 23. (More information, including study guides and local screening times, is here.) An update was also given on Curry’s recovery; he has been released from the hospital following a second surgery to correct bleeding on the brain after a fall.

Taylor also renewed a longstanding request for congregations to provide their mailing lists to the diocesan Communications Office. “We’ve got about 50,000 Episcopalians, and we’re reaching maybe 20% of them with The Episcopal News right now, ever since we went all digital several years ago. The only way we can get it to you is by having your email addresses.” (Address lists may be sent to editor@ladiocese.org.)

Financial report: MSF Assessment web page, year-end MSF payments

Canon Andy Tomat, volunteer treasurer of the diocese, reported that it looks like diocesan Mission Share Fund (MSF) receipts will total $4.4 million by the end of 2023; only 3.7% below the $4.5 million budgeted, thanks to parishes that were able catch up their payments at year end. “Ending the year at $4.4M makes it less of a collective step-up to our $4.9 million budget in 2024 as we move to the mandatory 12% assessments as approved by Diocesan Convention,” he told council members. “In parallel we have set up the Assessment Review Committee (ARC) process to help those parishes for whom this step-up is a greater hardship.” He expressed “great appreciation to the many parishes who caught up on their MSF payments and got us so close to our year-end target.”

All diocesan congregations should have received their 2024 MSF Assessments and January 2024 statements electronically via an electronic signature process called DocuSign, Tomat said. Parish assessments are based on 12% of the normal operating income reported in their 2022 parochial reports (Part II, Line A). Mission congregations pay 10% of their annual plate and pledge receipts, plus 5% in other assessments. Tomat said that questions about assessments or statements may be directed to the Finance Office at finance@ladiocese.org. The new MSF Assessment information page  contains information on the assessment process, including how to apply for a waiver.

Reporting on the diocese’ three main grant funded programs, Tomat said the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service’s operating surplus increased to $90,000 through November from $62,000 the previous month, while the food justice ministry Seeds of Hope’s deficit increased to $40,000 from $27,000 the previous month, and the Center for Lay Chaplaincy/PRISM’s deficit increased slightly, to $14,000 from $10,000 reported previously.

Excluding these grant-funded programs the diocese’s operating deficit is about $129,600 through November, Tomat said. “I expect this will be slightly lower by year-end due to the strong levels of MSF at year-end, but we still have been depleting our remaining cash resources to cover the shortfall and the Corporation of the Diocese is carefully monitoring the situation.”

Michael Bell (center), director of housing and business development for Episcopal Communities and Services, is pictured at the groundbreaking for Orchard View Gardens, a senior housing facility at St. Joseph’s Church, Buena Park. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Affordable housing: Plans in motion

Reporting on the diocesan affordable housing initiative, the Rev. Michael Bell said that St. Michael’s Apartments in Riverside, with 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the campus of the St. Michael’s Ministry Center, is open and occupied. A grand opening celebration is planned for March 2024 for the Santa Angelina apartments at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Placentia, according to the Rev. Barret Van Buren, rector, who also attended the council meeting.

Other projects in various stages of development include: St. Joseph’s Church, Buena Park; St. Michael’s, Anaheim; St. Anselm’s, Garden Grove; St. Ambrose, Claremont; and St. Mark’s, Downey. St. John’s Cathedral is “trying to figure out what’s going to be constructed there … and how much of that will be housing and affordable housing,” Bell said, adding that he is in conversation with at least 13 other churches about affordable housing projects.

In addition to “building capacity in the long-term for everyone at risk of homelessness all the way to wage-earning people whose wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of housing,” Bell reported he has been contacted by developers from across the country, as well as providers focusing on more short-term urgent housing needs.

Resources will be created to streamline the development process for congregations, which he hopes will include a strategic portfolio analysis of all church real estate.

“In cases where 100% affordable housing development is not really going to work on a property, we still have interest in helping congregations find people who would want to use part of their properties aligned with their mission that would help generate supplemental operating income,” he said.

Strategic considerations include whether a ground lease is the best option for a property, and how to allocate the bounty and benefits of the shared diocesan and parochial ministry, he said.

Other reports

The Rev. Dr. Rachel Nyback, rector of St. Cross, Hermosa Beach, reported that the Corporation of the Diocese, has approved a two-year lease for classroom space at Iglesia de la Magdalena in Glendale; a loan repayment agreement with Immanuel Church in El Monte; and a power purchase agreement at St. John’s in Rancho Santa Margarita.

The Rev. Lester Mackenzie said that, in addition to approving the Magdalena lease and the Immanuel Church repayment agreement, the Standing Committee at its December 29 meeting ensured that proposed bylaws and articles of incorporation for St. James, Newport Beach, were current and up to date, and also consented to the December 2, 2023, election of Diocese of California Bishop-Elect Austin K. Rios.

Standing Committee members elected Mackenzie president, and Rose Hayden Smith will serve as secretary, Mackenzie said. The committee welcomed new members, the Rev. Kate Cress, rector of St. James in the City, Los Angeles, and Terry Knowles, a member of All Saints, Pasadena. The Standing Committee meets again Jan. 24.

Christine Budzowski, president of the diocesan Episcopal Church Women, reported that United Thank Offering starter packets were sent to congregations throughout the diocese and she will be reaching out to deaneries to invite representatives to an ECW Wisdom Circle that is forming. Information will be made available via The Episcopal News.

Beginning Feb. 17, the Daughters of the King will offer a membership study course via Zoom to women in the diocese and in Province 8, both for prospective new members and as a refresher for existing Daughters. Spanish language materials are being developed for the course, she added.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall reported that the Program Group on Mission Congregations will begin considering MSF grant requests in March and hopes to have completed the revision of the Theology of Mission manual by year-end. PGMC members plan to schedule visits to mission congregations to deepen relationships with them.

Hall said the diocesan convention resolution mandating minimum salary standards for clergy in charge of congregations has placed a greater claim on PGMC resources. “The kind of policy question percolating in the group is, to what extent do these grants exist solely to underwrite a vicar’s compensation package? And to what extent are they there to fund creative innovative ministries?”

Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy reported that General Convention deputies are planning to meet, and that Mackenzie has again been chosen as chaplain to the House of Deputies for the upcoming 81st General Convention of The Episcopal Church, slated for June 23 – 28 in Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor said he has been reappointed vice chair of the International Policy and Social Justice legislative committee.

“Our work is generally to vet legislation proposed by others, but there are a few of us who are hopeful that out of the unspeakable horror of October 7, and the assault on Gaza, might come renewed energy for advocacy by the Episcopal Church in a way that could by God’s grace make a difference,” Taylor said.

Samantha Wylie, who was reelected council secretary during the meeting, reported on behalf of Secretary of Convention Canon Steve Nishibayashi, who was attending a meeting of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop.

“There are 309 days until diocesan convention, and Steve also wanted me to let you know that there are 167 days until the election of the next Presiding Bishop, since he’s hard at work at that right now,” she said. Nishibayashi is co-chair of the nominating committee.

The portal on the diocesan website is open for completion of parochial reports by the March 1 deadline, Wylie said.

McCarthy reported that she met briefly with the Jan. 13 ordinands: Joshua Wong; Mel Soriano; and Jonathan Stoner; and was preparing for an official visitation to St. Francis’, Rancho Palos Verdes.

Taylor reported moderating a Jan. 6 immigration justice panel of experts at the Church of the Epiphany in Los Angeles. “We were taking Epiphany back … from the white Christian nationalist expressions that attempted to steal it from us on the sixth of January 2021.”

During a weekend celebration, the historic church – a center of the antiwar, Chicano and farmworker rights movements in the 1960s and 1970s – also announced the formation of the Canon Lydia Lopez Center for Community Empowerment.

The next meeting of Diocesan Council is scheduled for 4 p.m., Feb. 8 via Zoom.