I just started my 3rd stint in the past 30 years on the Parish Council of my parish. I have always been a strong advocate in support of the Total Commitment program of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOAA). Most of our parishioners, while reluctantly approving annual budgets that include this support for the Holy Archdiocese, are critical of the amount of money that our parish appropriates for this purpose, and my advocacy for this line item. I feel I understand the financial needs of the greater church, the Archdiocese, its ministries, and our Holy Metropolis. Our parish has been a stand out in our support for the Archdiocese, though, thankfully in recent years, our Metropolis has brought many of the parishes up to an acceptable level of support.
I offered this lead in as a perspective, because this year, for the first time in my involvement in parish administration, I am incensed at the assessment that our Metropolis has assigned to our parish. In this year that America continues to experience the worst recession in over 60 years, our Metropolis is asking for financial support which is 30.3% higher than the 2009 amount. While there is an appeal process which we will participate in, I've found that the Metropolis has been assessed a commitment of $200,000.00 more than 2009. Therefore, I can't understand how our appeal will be granted to any reasonable, affordable amount. Frankly, given the amount of the incease assessed to our Holy Metropolis, I can understand why they are assigning such an increase to our parish.
Therefore, I have looked at what the Archdiocese publishes on its website for the National Ministires Total Commitment revenue. It seems the last Clergy-Laity Congress approved a $685,000.00 (+10.4%) increase in Total Commitment revenue compared with 2009! The fact that it is approved by the Clergy-Laity Congress does not move me, frankly, because the Congresses are so slated in favor of the archdiocesan leadership. Yet, how can they reasonably expect a parish with a history of giving over $50,000.00 of our $650,000.00 annual budget to National Ministries; to add over $30,000.00 in one year is beyond my reasonable comprehension, especially in light of the economic atmosphere. By the may, our parish is in an area of general economic decline, without prospects for improvement. While all parishes experience financial issues, as an example of why this increase is such a strain for my parish, we have a deteriorating Portico, the main entrance to our church, that needs at least $60,000.00 to repair; ($200,000.00 to replace), which we have not done, for the 5 years this repair has been needed, due to lack of funds. (We keep yellow construction tape around it to minimize access.)
A few of the parishes in our area are going to meet within the next month or so to plot a strategy to address the ridiculous assessments. I hope we can attract Archdiocesan Council members to this meeting. I can't understand what is causing this massive increase. Could it be the expense of the Ecumenical Patriarch's visit? These visits are typically covered by donations from dedicated wealthy contributors. Is it the clergy sexual abuse settlements? Archbishop Demetrios, in an interview in "The National Herald," claimed they were being paid by dedicated wealthy contributors.
In light of the status of the economy, I would expect the Archdiocesan Council to exercise its interim administrative authority, and reduce the Archdiocesan budget. I would also expect the Holy Eparchial Synod of Bishops, to likewise recommend a budget reduction for 2010. If need be, services will have to be reduced. Perhaps staff lay offs would, unfortunately, be necessary.
I am wondering what other GOAA parishes are experiencing in regard to the 2010 National Ministries Assessment.