Bishop Sauls’ proposal, III: reducing overhead

In his presentation on reforming the structures of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Stacy Sauls argues that our overhead is too high. He suggests several way to reduce it, giving particular attention to the cost of the General Convention, and the various bodies that either help to govern the church or prepare resolutions when the convention is not in session. He identifies certain savings that could be realized by having fewer interim bodies, and having the convention meet less frequently.

Leaving aside the issue of whether this would diminish the ability of clergy and lay people to participate in the governance of the church for another time, let’s examine together the virtues of this and two other ways of reducing overhead, and ask which methods, or combination of methods might work best.

One fairly obvious means of reducing overhead not discussed in Bishop Sauls’ proposal, would be merging small dioceses into larger ones. This would not only reduce the size of General Convention, and, eventually, the House of Bishops, but could potentially reduce the overhead of the combined dioceses, which would no longer have to support two diocesan bishops, and two staffs.

The church could also save money by reducing the size of the staff housed at 815 Second Avenue in New York, selling the building and renting cheaper office space. $4 million a year seems like a high price to house a staff that I don’t think numbers more than 150 at most.

Each of these methods would change the nature of the church in some measure—at least in some locations. Each gores a different ox. The only oxen gored–by name–in Bishop Sauls’ proposal are the General Convention and interim bodies as currently configured. I think it is worth expanding the conversation for two reasons: 1) to arrive at the best solution, and 2) to make sure that everyone likely to be making decisions on this matter demonstrates their good intentions by putting their self-interest at risk.

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