Thursday, March 14, 2013

As we sat in the Policy Administrative Meeting (PAM), we learned that our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers had elected a new Pope.  Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the 266th pontiff and took the name Pope Francis.  The global Roman Catholic family had recognized the strength of the Roman Catholic Church outside Europe.  The first Pope from South America emerges.

As the cosmic impact of that event was reverberating around the world, PAM turned its attention to the issue of next year's budget.  2008 continues to be with us and, along with the federal government, many universities and seminaries, the budget is tricky.  We are perceived as a Seminary with 'more money than God'.  And it is true we do have a million dollar library; we do subsidize the Butterfly House by a quarter of a million dollars; we do spend over a quarter of a million on the Second Three Years; the AAEC and free alumni nights cost the Seminary over $50,000; Spiritual Direction is over $25,000; and so the list goes on.  But in yesterday's meeting we realized that we cannot afford to carry on providing this high quality, heavily subsidized experience and at the same time absorb a 16% increase in health insurance premiums.

Many members of PAM thought we should look at reducing the Second Three Year program or charging for Spiritual Direction or eliminating the two free nights for alumni/ae.  A better way - a more Christian way - would be for those who enjoy these services or those who have in the past enjoyed these services or those friends of the Seminary who benefit from these services through out well formed congregational leadership to give to the Seminary through our Annual Fund.  If transition into ministry through our Second Three Year program makes a difference to congregations around the country, then please support this program through the Annual Fund; if your child has enjoyed the Butterfly House, then please support the subsidy through the Annual Fund; if you believe that connections across the Communion matter, then please support CACS through the Annual Fund.

You don't give to Virginia Theological Seminary because we need your money to survive, you give to Virginia Theological Seminary to enable the Episcopal Church to survive.  When money is tight, you give a small amount to participate in the Annual Fund; when you are more able, you give more to ensure that our program that makes a difference can continue.

The Very Rev Ian Markham
Dean and President