The Bishop as a Corporation Sole (Corp Sole) needs to be operated with an increased level of transparency and comply with accepted accounting principles, and possibly should shift some of its holdings to a diocesan endowment fund, according to a progress report issued by Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor and a committee charged with studying Corp Sole’s operations.
Corp Sole is a California corporation, established in 1907, of which the incumbent bishop of Los Angeles is sole trustee. It holds money and properties that have been given to the bishops for the ministries of the diocese. Some of the funds are restricted to specific programs; for instance, education for seminarians and K – 12 students. Some funds are unrestricted, and may be spent at the discretion of the trustee.
In the wake of contention over the sale of the Newport Beach church property held by Corp Sole (see related story here), the 2015 Diocesan Convention passed a resolution calling for a special committee to address questions about governance and transparency of Corp Sole. As incoming trustee, Bishop Taylor continues to work closely with the committee to fulfill its mandate to make recommendations on Corp Sole’s future management.
“The committee takes the view, and I agree,” Taylor wrote, “that recent events in our diocese give us the opportunity to reorganize Corp Sole in keeping with modern governance and nonprofit principles and thereby to make it more accountable and ultimately more effective.”
The committee comprises the seven members of the original committee created by the 2015 Convention along with representatives from the Standing Committee, Diocesan Council, and Corporation of the Diocese. For full text of the statement and a list of signatories, click here.
Taylor and the committee agree on four key principles, as stated in his letter:
- “Corp Sole’s assets are held in trust for the Diocese of Los Angeles. Its activities, assets, and expenditures should be overseen by the diocesan officers and bodies currently overseeing all other aspects of our finances and operations.
- “While Corp Sole has been audited annually, its financial and other activities should be more transparent. At a level of detail similar to the Mission Share Fund budget, the bishop and treasurer will report to convention concerning Corp Sole’s activities with an objective to comply with generally accepted accounting principles.
- “Because of tax implications, title to real property will remain in Corp Sole, but all decisions concerning that property will be subject to the approval of the appropriate diocesan governing bodies — the Corporation of the Diocese and the Standing Committee, as appropriate.
- “We will take care to ensure the continuance of Corp Sole’s existing commitments to people, programs, and institutions.”
Taylor said that Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce, who has a background in banking, will take primary responsibility for overseeing the diocesan budget and finance. Echoing his consecration theme, Taylor wrote, “Our goal is a Mission Share Fund budget that feeds hungry hearts by revealing the true heart of the diocese — what we love, what we can afford, and what we can’t yet afford but seek to make possible through additional stewardship and fundraising. “A centerpiece of our contemplated reorganization is that certain liquid and other non-consecrated assets currently held by Corp Sole could form the basis of a new diocesan endowment fund, to be governed and administered using best practices in the non-profit world,” Taylor continued. “It could make annual grants for mission, ministry, and program.” Other grants, he said, could be made at the bishop’s discretion.
The committee plans to offer a resolution at this year’s Diocesan Convention that incorporates these principles, with a reorganization plan to follow by Easter (April 1) 2018 and implementation beginning by Pentecost (May 20) 2018.
“As this work is performed, I will do all I can to manage Corp Sole in the spirit of the key principles governing the reorganization,” Taylor wrote.