Dec. 17—Summary of the Special Meeting of the Convention


Dear Friends,

Last Saturday morning (December 9), we gathered online as a diocese for a Special Meeting of the Convention to consider and pass the budget for 2024. When we gathered for the 239th Diocesan Convention back in March, Bishop Stokes observed that, with an upcoming transition in the episcopate, it did not make sense to pass a preliminary budget at that time. This was the right decision and I am grateful for his wisdom in naming it. Over the past few months, it has become increasingly clear to me and others that the budget for 2024 will be very different from the current year’s budget, and from what would have been proposed (and likely passed) nine months ago.

Saturday’s Special Meeting of the Convention went well. We began with Morning Prayer, including my Address to Convention (watch and read here), and continued with the business section of the meeting. The preliminary budget passed with a clear and strong majority (316 in favor, 10 opposed) and we have a mandate to go forward with a budget that anticipates decreased expenditures of more than $600,000 relative to the current (2023) figures. To get to this level of spending reduction, we’ve taken some significant steps as a diocese:

    • Staffing is being restructured in ways that both increase staff support for our congregations, clergy, and lay leaders, and reduce costs by more than $50,000.
    • The Board of Missions funding for mission congregations is being reduced by almost $100,000 from the 2023 figure. The decrease comes primarily from eliminating funding for several congregations that were using the monies to engage full-time clergy to support very tiny congregations (for example, a full-time priest for fewer than 20 people). In these instances, we were able to arrange for new or additional employment to be offered to those clergy whose positions were impacted by these decreases in funding. At the same time, our staff restructuring will increase our capacity to walk alongside these congregations as we discern together how God may be calling them forward. As well, we maintained our commitment to support our congregations of color and to invest in growth in mission and ministry.
    • We are requesting relief from the Episcopal Church. Each year, the national church asks us to pay an assessment based on our income as a diocese, and there is a process in place for relief of this obligation when it represents a significant financial hardship. We are requesting $300,000 of relief of our annual assessment (50%), with plans to return to normal rates of giving over the next few years. While this is not a step we undertake lightly, our current financial realities require that we take serious steps to diminish the overdraw on our reserves and endowments and this is an appropriate request at this time.

We recognize that it is not enough simply to decrease our spending for a short time. Over the next year, we will be beginning to take steps to increase our reserves and our income, to enhance our stability as a diocese and equip us for mission. There is a lot to be hopeful about here. As a diocese, we have many strengths, and I am confident that we are moving in a good and faithful direction.

I am grateful for all those whose work enabled our Special Meeting of the Convention to go so smoothly. In particular, I thank our staff, especially John Conte, Chris Briegs, Steve Welch, Mirelle White, and Canon Phyllis Jones, our Treasurer, Mr. Jonathan Gloster and the Finance and Budget Committee of the diocese, our Chancellor and Secretary of Convention, Canon Paul Ambos, esq., the Board of Missions, especially the Rev. Bruce Montgomery (chair) and Canon Paul Wolfgang (Diocesan Council liaison), Diocesan Council and the Standing Committee, and all those who prepared reports and joined in behind the scenes. Finally, I give thanks to God for each of you, for the clergy and convention deputies from each congregation who participated in Saturday’s Special Convention, and for our lay leaders and members who continue to support God’s work here in the Diocese of New Jersey. God bless you all.

Faithfully yours,

Bishop Sally French

The Right Reverend Sally French
Bishop of New Jersey