The Anglican Church of Canada is inviting corporate sponsorship of its national convention this year, selling space for brand logos on delegate documents, advertising signs in its meeting spaces and a private lunch for executives with the church's senior archbishop.
It's the first time in its 117-year history that the Canadian church made its governing synod available for a mess of pottage - to use the language of the Bible's Old Testament allusion to Esau selling his birthright for a lentil stew. For that matter, no other Canadian church is known to have sold advertising at its formal gatherings and access to its leaders.
The synod will be held June 3-11 at St. Mary's University in Halifax.
Asked about the genesis of the sponsorship idea, Vianney Carrière, the Anglicans' national director of communications and information resources, said: "The genesis is the need for money." In particular, he said, the church must find private money to pay the $10,000 cost of live-streaming the nine-day gathering, Synod on Demand, or cancel the webcast.
By most indices the Anglican Church is struggling - declining faster than any other Christian denomination in Canada, according to a recent report from its Diocese of British Columbia, closing decades-old parishes for want of money and "moved to the far margins of public life."
Sponsors will be grouped into three categories: visionary (for a $30,000 price-tag), supporter ($7,500) and friend ($2,500).
Mr. Carrière said that, ideally, the church is looking for commercial sponsorships from firms with which it does business, such as insurance companies. In general, he said, good-taste criteria would govern what sponsorships are accepted. Casino advertisements, for example, would be ruled out.
The church's corporate sponsorship announcement provides potential advertisers not only with a demographic description of synod delegates and webcast viewers, but a rundown of what will be discussed and the estimated size of the viewing audience.
"Members are predominantly over 40," the announcement says, "and while many are retired, they are quite frequently found to be not-for-profit leaders and tireless community volunteers."
The synod agenda is described as "timely, relevant and important and includes debates, resolutions and presentations on major global issues such as poverty, human sexuality, the rights of indigenous peoples and the care of the environment."
One visionary-level sponsorship will be available, giving the purchaser a private lunch with the church's national primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, and it will include the right to put company logo flags on every delegate dining table, logo displays and commercials on the webcast screen, a one-page company information spread in the synod directory distributed to all 500 delegates, a showcase booth, prominent advertisements at the convention site and a "passport" to the synod (meals included) for two company executives.
The three supporter-level sponsors will get a half-page advertisement in the synod directory, signage throughout the convention space, web-cast commercials and a "passport" for one executive.
The unspecified number of friend-level sponsors will get their company name printed in Acts of Faith, the church's gift guide.
The idea was conceived by the church's national headquarters staff.
"We hope that inviting the support of corporate sponsors for general synod will have a positive impact on the church's ability to ensure the sustainability of this gathering for years to come," Archbishop Hiltz said in a statement. "It also presents a new avenue for Canadian Anglicans, particularly those who own their own businesses, to support this event."