In 2018, the Anglican Church of Canada experienced a fall in revenues due to declining contributions from dioceses, poor market performance and a decrease in giving, General Synod heard Monday, July 15.
The national church’s audited financial statements for the year show that overall revenue was $11.1 million, down by $800,000—7%—from 2017, Fraser Lawton, bishop of the diocese of Athabasca and a member of the financial management committee, told General Synod.
The decline in revenue was due chiefly to a decrease in proportional gifts from the dioceses—the money they forward to the national church every year, which makes up 83% of the church’s revenue. In 2018, proportional gifts sank to $7,898,264 from $8,416,738 the previous year—a total decline of $519,000, the audited financial statement for 2018 shows.
It was the largest decrease in proportional gifts the national church had suffered in a single year since 1994, Lawton said.
“This was a cause for some discussion, and certainly catches our attention,” he said. “Seven dioceses decreased their contributions to General Synod, and the evidence is that dioceses are struggling to meet their proportional giving commitments.” Although there is a set rate at which dioceses are asked to give to the national church, their contributions are entirely voluntary; some give less than the rate stipulates because they’re not able to give the total amount every year.
“Contributions from dioceses are a key driver for revenues,” Hanna Goschy, treasurer and chief financial officer for the church, told the Journal in an interview after General Synod. “When diocesan revenue decreases, the contributions to General Synod decrease. Some dioceses are struggling to meet their commitments, [so] they decreased over the prior year. Resources for Mission also decreased by $180,000, and there was an investment loss of almost $300,000.”
Goschy said the investment loss was due to stock market losses in 2018 and that the market had recovered in 2019.
Expenses in 2018 were $11.8 million—$400,000 more than the prior year, Lawton said in his presentation, citing rounded figures from the statements. Goschy told the Journal that this increase was anticipated and budgeted for. “There was a planned deficit on core operations of $522,000. The actual deficit was $442,000, which meant we did better than budget on core operations.”
The deficiency of revenues over expenses for the year, Lawton said, was $735,322 before transfers from internally designated funds in reserve. “There are reserves set up for major initiatives that are large and don’t happen every year,” Goschy said. “Two examples are the meeting of General Synod and the meeting of Sacred Circle. They’re both triennial events.”
Efforts to develop a strategy related to revenue losses also emerged at General Synod.
Lawton noted that General Synod had passed, on July 14, a resolution directing the Council of General Synod (CoGS) to address questions about what kind of work the national church should focus on given the financial difficulties faced by the dioceses, which support it. Similarly, a second resolution passed on the same day asks CoGS to undertake a strategic planning process to consider its own mission and ministry.
With reporting from Matthew Townsend.
Editorial Note: This story was updated on August 2, 2019, to include an interview with Hanna Goschy, chief financial officer, who clarified that the deficit experienced by the church in 2018 was anticipated in the budgeting process.