The diocese of Ontario's Synod Council has “suspended” four programs, including the diocesan newspaper, Dialogue, to balance its 2012 budget.
On Nov. 29, the Synod Council of the Anglican diocese of Ontario “suspended” four of its programs and ministries to create a “credible, balanced budget” for 2012. Cuts include the diocesan newspaper, Dialogue, as well as the diocese’s summer residential youth program, Camp Hyanto.
The decision is meant to “relieve the financial load on the diocese,” said the bishop of the diocese, Michael Oulton, in a letter issued to parishes Dec. 3.
Before the cuts, the diocesan budget for 2012 had a projected deficit of $186,000. The budget now has a projected surplus of $108,000, which will be used to repay the diocese’s deferred fourth-quarter 2011 proportional payment to General Synod. It will also be used to adopt a “diocesan communication strategy” and to provide seed funding for “new initiatives.” The diocese will pay the rest of the deferred commitment in 2013.
The other two ministries put on hold include the children and youth ministry coordinator’s position and new grants to parishes and ministries.
In order to balance the budget, the Council also removed the following: the bishop's discretionary fund grant, the travel reimbursement for the territorial archdeacon and regional dean, and the social action and evangelism allocation. Salaries for diocesan staff and clergy in 2012 were held at current level.
Bishop Oulton said that he and the Council are “keenly aware” that the changes would be “challenging” for members of the diocese as they are to the decision-makers. “Let me be clear that the decision to move programs to a suspended state in now way reflects on the volunteers and staff and their faithful stewardship of these ministries,” he said.
Francie Healy, editor of the Dialogue, said she was shocked by the decision to suspend publication of the newspaper. “My first reaction was great sadness at the thought of losing the paper, even temporarily,” Healy said in an email to the Anglican Journal. “My second thought was to see it as a challenge and an opportunity to try something new.” However, Healy said she is still hoping that the suspension is temporary. “There will be people who are hurt by this when they don’t receive their printed Dialogue each month.” While the publication is online and can be printed, it still won’t be accessible to people who don’t have computers, she said. “It’s as if we’re caught in the middle of two eras, and it’s tough.”
According to the General Synod Archives, the Dialogue first published under the name Ontario Churchman in 1960. It became known as The Dialogue in 1991 and has been published 10 times a year in partnership with the Anglican Journal. It had a circulation of 5,897.
For the last 64 years, Camp Hyanto operated a Christian residential camp in Lyndhurst, Ont., which offered leadership training, specialized programs, and daily chapel.
Bishop Oulton said the budget decisions came as result of “prayerful reflection, consultation and focused engagement by many in the life of the diocese.” He recalled that after the 2010 diocesan synod, a series of archdeaconry conferences were held, where lay and clergy leaders identified the “priorities and challenges of ministry” in parishes and the diocese. The consultations led to the creation of a Task Force on Resourcing Ministry, which conducted more consultations and provided recommendations. One of the recommendations was the establishment of a finance committee, which prepared the strategy for addressing the projected 2011 budget deficit and for crafting a draft 2012 budget.
Bishop Oulton said the diocese would discern its next steps in moving forward. “We now need to focus our efforts on the revitalization process that will bring us together in determining how best to fulfill the ministries that God is placing before us,” he said.
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