Los Angeles Bishop John Harvey Taylor this week announced the appointment of a new diocesan finance department team, including a director of finance, a controller and a canon for congregational support, and a joint budget committee, for holistic engagement with congregations and institutions.
The team includes the Rev. Susan Ashley Stanton as finance director, Godfrey Mubiru as controller and Canon Abigail Urquidi as canon for congregational support, plus a joint diocesan budget committee made up of members of the Corporation of the Diocese and Diocesan Council. Stanton and Mubiru will begin their new duties on June 1.
“These Eastertide tidings are of new life and direction for budget and finance in our diocese,” Taylor said in making the announcement.
Taylor said the new team will be pioneers of a reformed department that puts empowerment of ministry in all diocesan institutions first.
“From strategic planning to answering every call and email promptly, working with the bishops’ office and what we hope will be an expanded Corporation of the Diocese, Susan, Godfrey, Gail, and their departmental colleagues will take care of our diocese’s urgent needs as they come up and then go to work on ways to keep the stumbling blocks even from falling.”
Similarly, the joint budget committee “will give voice to both bodies, Convention and Corporation, which until now have acted on the budget but played little formal role in the nuts and bolts of drawing it up,” Taylor said.
Diocesan Council includes three clergy and three lay leaders elected for three-year terms by diocesan convention delegates. Additionally, each of the ten geographic deaneries that make up the diocese elects one clergy and one lay person to represent them. Council is responsible for the development, implementation, and oversight of the diocesan program and budget. Between annual diocesan conventions, the council establishes policies and programs for congregational management in the form of business policies and practices.
The Corporation of the Diocese is a diocesan governing body, consisting of nine directors. Eight are elected by diocesan convention; a ninth member is appointed by the bishop diocesan, who serves as the president of the corporation. The group, which meets monthly, oversees funds for use in supporting the needs and ministry of the diocese. Previously, directors have deliberated about real estate sales, church building programs and other property issues, considered grant requests and, more recently, have drafted policies for the capital campaign and the endowment fund.
“Each year, our roadmap to the future was usually the directions to where we’d been already,” Taylor said. “Building on the narrative budget reforms that Bishop Bruce undertook in 2018, I’ve invited our colleagues to draft a document beginning in 2022 depicting a collective, collegial, Holy Spirit-drawn vision of what all our ministers need to glorify God and care for God’s people, using the resources God has given us.”
Additionally, “Think of our diocese as a far-flung, diverse family of God, with a typical family’s universe of capacities and resources, needs and anxieties,” Taylor said. “Our new budget and finance team’s ministry is to make sure we all move forward together and thrive as God’s heart desires.”
“This is an exciting step forward in our stewardship of the financial resources entrusted to us at the diocese, program, and church level,” said Canon Andy Tomat, treasurer of the diocese. “The expansion of our financial staff with such a talented team and the participation of experienced volunteers from across the governing bodies will ensure the transparency and participatory nature of our financial decision making.”
A new finance director
Stanton, 62, ordained a priest on Sept. 11, 2020 in the Diocese of El Camino Real, has extensive financial planning experience in budgeting, reporting and administration. She has been city manager of: Greenfield, California; Lake Worth, Florida; and Largo, Florida, and served as city administrator in Berea, Kentucky. She was also for a time chief operating officer of the Santa Clara Water District in San Jose, California.
A 2020 graduate of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, she served most recently as a chaplain at the University of California Medical Center and as an assisting clergyperson at St Aidan’s Church in San Francisco.
Her new role is “a dream job,” enabling her to use her administrative, pastoral and organizational transformation skills and gifts, especially as a transgender priest, she told The Episcopal News.
“It is important – the more people like myself, who might be in positions in senior leadership in a large diocese like Los Angeles, might be able to show that people are people and the fact that someone is transgender can do the job, has the skill set, can establish relationships with people – that that’s what it’s all about.”
A new controller
Mubiru, 52, a parishioner at St. Mark’s Church in Van Nuys and at the Ugandan Community Church that meets there on Sunday afternoons, brings decades-long accounting experience in the nonprofit, entertainment, information technology, hospitals, real estate, schools and assets management fields.
Most recently, he served as director of finance and accounting for Joni and Friends, “a faith-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to support those affected by disabilities around the world,” he told The News recently. Included among the 40-year-old nonprofit’s many ministries is “Wheels for the World,” providing wheelchairs to those who need them around the world.
Mubiru has also served as a consultant, providing chief financial officer services to such entities as the California State University, Charles Drew University, and both the Cedars Sinai Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, regarding policy planning and accounting.
As diocesan controller, his primary function will be accounting, according to Mubiru, a self-described mission-driven “number cruncher who is also kind and warm-hearted.”
The father of four says he is looking forward to “working as a team, making sure that communication from the diocesan office to churches is established and well-oiled.”
Canon for congregational support
Most Southland Episcopalians know Canon Abigail “Gail” Urquidi as the bishops’ executive assistant. In her new position as canon for congregational support she will extend her administrative expertise to assist the diocese’s churches.
Urquidi began working for the diocese 30 years ago at St. Athanasius Church when Bishop J. Jon Bruno was rector of the church and later provost of the Cathedral Center (now known as St. Paul’s Commons). “I was his secretary for about four years until I left in 1995 to go work for Hillsides, an institution of the diocese,” she told The News recently.
After a dozen years at Hillsides, she returned in 2006 as executive assistant to Bruno and Canon David Tumilty until their 2017 retirement. “I was also the executive assistant and diocesan program coordinator for Bishop Taylor from 2017 to January 2021,” she said.
Since the January 2021 departure of the Rev. Michele Racusin as diocesan finance director, Urquidi has been serving as interim administrator for finance, fielding financial questions and addressing congregational needs.
In her new role, she will “be the first go-to person for congregations, oversee the diocesan database and work with the bishops and the canon to the ordinary on special projects,” she said. “Because I will be the congregational support, the finance department pieces I am doing will continue.”
“My vision is to support the bishop’s office in their ministries, assist the finance department and to help congregations any way I can,” Urquidi said. “My vision is simple and clear: my ministry is to be a resource person for congregations to guide them regarding any congregation financial matters and be of help figuring it out. I look forward to connecting with the people of God.”
A native Angeleno, she is married to Pedro Urquidi Jr., and comes “from a long line of law enforcement family. My late father was a police officer and retired from the LAPD after 40 years. My grandfather and great-grandfather were chiefs of police from Baguio City, Philippines; my brother is a sheriff’s deputy sergeant from Altadena, and I am hopeful that my son Jacob will follow their footsteps one day,” said Urquidi, 49.
“I can say that growing up with a parent and a sibling as a police officer has taught me the value of loyalty, commitment and dedication to always help and serve others.”
Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy said the team brings a skill set “we were looking for, and some bonus skills. Godfrey’s extensive experience with Blackbaud, the software we use for a variety of things, including fundraising and finance, is going to be a game-changer.
“Susan just has such great experience in the world of municipalities … which is immediately applicable to diocesan life,” McCarthy said. “It is a perfect blending of her prior career with her new vocation. They’re going to be able to continue to build on the wonderful work Michele did, in ways that will ultimately serve the diocese well – in ways we could never have asked for or imagined.”
Stanton and Mubiru will report directly to the bishops’ office, and Urquidi will have responsibilities in both the Finance Office and the Bishops’ Office, working directly with McCarthy.
Joint budget committee members include: Canon Andy Tomat, diocesan volunteer treasurer and convener, and diocesan council members Nancy Doss, a parishioner at Trinity, Redlands; and Dan Valdez, financial services professional and a parishioner at All Saints/Todos Los Santos, Highland Park. Members appointed from the Corporation of the Diocese include: Charlotte Borst, a St. John’s Cathedral parishioner; the Rev. Michael Corrigan, assistant priest at Trinity, Santa Barbara; and the Rev. Antonio Gallardo, vicar of St. Luke’s, La Crescenta.
Bishop Suffragan Diane M. Jardine Bruce, a former banker, said “the steps taken to move us to this future where we can spread the love of God in Christ to all, begins with this talented line-up of dedicated people. Walking the way of love, we walk towards a bright future.”