3/05/2009

A Rant from Western Kansas takes a wrong turn but still has rant power.

The Bishop of Western Kansas, Bishop James Adams has written an open letter to the church, to wit:

An Open Letter to The Presiding Bishop, House of Bishops, Executive
Council, and Deputies to General Convention,

I really do not know anymore what is coming next. How things are done
and not done are as haphazard as people's ideas; or so it seems. Now I
read that the "New" Diocese of Fort Worth passed a $632,466 dollar
budget for a part-time bishop, a little over 19 priests and 62 delegates
who represent way less than a thousand people, and $200,000 is from the
General Convention budget! First, I did not see that in the GC budget
that was passed in 2006. Where did it come from? Did the Executive
Council pass it, which we would not know since the last several
meetings' minutes have not been posted? I hate to beat a dead horse but
how can there be $200,000 to give away when budgets are being cut and
people let go? If there is $200,000 available, then why was there not
more for the Domestic Missionary Partnership to use in the poorest
dioceses of the Church? Why did money get initially cut from indigenous
ministries to pay other budget items?

This action leads me to ask the following question. If I, as a Diocesan
Bishop, left TEC (which I am not saying I am) with 10 of my churches,
could the other 21 get $200,000 to carry on? Since our entire budget for
the year was less than $400,000, it would go a long way to let this
Diocese be in a better financial position. I am compelled to ask such
things because it does not appear that anyone else is and we are about
to spend 10's of millions of dollars on another General Convention to
set a budget. Can others apply for general budget funds? I know that we
can not. So, what is the secret? Just asking,

In Christ's service,

The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams, Jr.

Bishop Adams' rant is for cause, of course. Dioceses across the church are dealing with financial issues that have very little to do with where they stand on issues of the day and very much to do with issues the church on all levels has mostly turned its back upon.

Most dioceses and the Episcopal Church as a church did no better than other denominations in signaling the greed of bankers and borrowers both, in demanding oversight of the sale of credit and the corruption that follows, or training the people of the church to greater financial wisdom on a personal, corporate, political and ecclesial level. Where were we all when the hubris of the nation was greedy for all that play money could bring?

There have been some great educational materials available on the use of money, but very little in the way of conversation about using them. The Rector of all Lewes put me on to two that have been particularly helpful in adult Christian education here in the parish in the village by the big water. Simpler Living, Compassionate Life, a Christian perspective" and "Money and Faith: the search for enough" both edited by Michael Schut and published by Morehouse Publishing, are filled with important texts, short essays, and good teaching tools. Both were important resources for a discussion group on "Cash, Crash and Christ" held the first eight weeks of the year. (It was nice to have a long Epiphany season to work with.)

So when the Diocese of Western Kansas, whose total budget appears to be some $400,000, is dealing with the same need to stretch the dollar as all our dioceses do, the question is perfectly legitimate: "Where did it (the $200,000) come from? Did the Executive Council pass it, which we would not know since the last several meetings' minutes have not been posted? I hate to beat a dead horse but how can there be $200,000 to give away when budgets are being cut and people let go?"

With the possible exception of the dead horse concerning the minutes of the two past meetings of Executive Council, the other questions need to be addressed. About the minutes: The minutes of meetings are posted, I believe, only after they are approved officially at the meeting following. If there are additional corrections, the posting possibly is delayed on that account. (On this I am only guessing.)

However, having been at the meetings of Executive Council and having read the ENS reports of proceedings most of the important matters have been reported on. Here is what ENS has to say about the funding for the continuing dioceses, (San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh and Quincy). (They are by the way not "new" Dioceses at all, but the continuing dioceses.) "
"Make available up to $700,000 of undistributed accumulated income and appreciation in calendar year 2009 from one or more of nine named trust funds established to support missionary work or mission work; provide financial assistance during 2009 in the Diocese of San Joaquin and other similarly situated dioceses for clergy salaries and other expenses; join the Presiding Bishop in recognizing the current members of the San Joaquin and Pittsburgh standing committees; commend the efforts by dioceses to exercise their pastoral and fiduciary responsibilities in regard to the ownership of properties and funds(AF075). (from HERE.) I believe the funding for Fort Worth comes from this source. The Bishop's statement, "$200,000 is from the General Convention budget!" is incorrect. It is by act of Executive Council and draws on monies not otherwise committed to use.

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society does indeed take on domestic missionary work all the time, and the Domestic Missionary Partnerships and indigenous ministries are part of the regular ongoing budget of the DFMS. The gathering of funds to help continuing Episcopal Church dioceses was not anticipated, I believe, in the budget of the last General Convention. It rested with Executive Council to approve emergency and short term funding for these dioceses and it did so from trust funds.

Why were these funds not immediately applicable to the Domestic Mission Partnerships or indigenous ministries? Because those programs rely upon the general budget derived from the diocesan offerings and general investments. Ought there be more monies for those partnerships and ministries? Perhaps so, but that is something General Convention takes up regularly. Both these efforts are long established missionary efforts of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

We do spend a lot of money on General Convention, but the Bishop of Western Kansas is no doubt aware that passing the budget is not all General Convention does. It also approves the programs and mission priorities of this church, including how to support domestic dioceses in need of long term missionary assistance. It is perfectly legitimate to ask if General Convention is the way to do all this, given its expense and to ask if meeting in a residential campus setting might work and without the frills of various sorts. But that is unrelated to the immediate funds provided for those distressed dioceses that suddenly find themselves without episcopal leadership, funding that is not frozen or in the hands of others, and without many of the buildings in which they worshiped or worked.

The rant is real and I think from a place of considerable financial stress. Its aim is off. The Bishop will I hope bring the long term concerns for adequate funding of dioceses in long term need of support to General Convention. Need based on the rotten economy might move the GC to a change in its budget priorities. No doubt some of the continuing dioceses will also need some support over the three years covered by a GC budget as well. This is a fine convention in which to raise the domestic missionary agenda of the church and its support of dioceses in need.

Meanwhile this is no time to pick on the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (you know, the one that is part of the Episcopal Church) or San Joaquin, Pittsburgh or Quincy, or on Executive Council for supporting them.

Bishop Adams' rant missed the mark, but the voice of financial distress that will more and more be heard in the church needs to be heard now. It's not the church issues this time, it is the hubris of the nation and our acquiescence that we need to rant about.


11 comments:

  1. Bishop Adams,
    I am from the continuing Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. We have been remiss in not recognizing that without the very significant help of the National Church we would have been lost! Not just down but out. Out of the Episcopal Church. It was only through the tremendous generosity and great sacrifice of the remaining members of our great church we here in San Joaquin would have been left to drift rudderlessly until we crashed. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that through your efforts we have saved the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. There is a large number of epsicopalians that will be forever in all ya'lls debt. While we cannot repay you now please do not think that we will not in he future. We await the time when we too can pitch in and help our fellow Episcopalians.
    I close with thank you from the bottom of my heart and we give thanks for our good fortune and your generosity. For you saw the stranger and you feed us and you clothed us and you sheltered us.

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  2. To me, this rant points to something significant in our church and in the Church, in general; we are meant to be a people in the World, not of it. Yet, far from being a refuge from the money-and-acquisition-driven society, we are simply pushed along by it, like everyone else. I know that the worker deserves a wage, but, let's face it, the ministry shouldn't be a profit-making enterprise. I'm not pointing at the parish priest - though I've known some who live better than 80% of their parishioners - or even bishops, though they are sometimes overcompensated as well.

    The bishop's rant reads like a regional manager's complaint to home office, and the reason for that is, that's what it is. We worry about compensation packages, competitive pay, investment portfolios and make no effort to look at a money economy differently - as a real community or family.

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  3. Well consider the source. Adams went to the GAFCON pow-wow but skipped Lambeth. He's been playing footsie with the AAC, Duncan, Minns and the rest of them for the longest time.

    How much do ya wanna bet that Jack Jack Iker is behind this letter? I wouldn't be surprised if the letter on composed on Iker's own computer. And 815 should send Adams money? Gimme a break!

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  4. $200,000 for Fort Worth. $500,000 for San Joaquin (in accounting chicanery, San Joaquin sent all the collected money to the lawyers and the national church is picking up all the local expenses so the money could be designated as "domestic mission" instead of legal expenses). How much to Pittsburgh and Quincy because the alloted funds are already spent. I saw that there was a Lenten lecture series in Fort Worth with Father Jake and other visitors which must of cost a pretty penny. Who paid for these?

    Is it worth it? The precious MDG's go unfunded. All so there is a local presence to carry out 815's lawsuits. Utterly shameful. The remnant dioceses could be folded into the neighboring dioceses who, I imagine, would love to have them.

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  5. The remnant dioceses could be folded into the neighboring dioceses who, I imagine, would love to have them.

    And ultimately RobRoy, that may be what occurs. But these folks have a right to make that decision for themselves, not have it shoved down their throats. So until then, it will have a price for them to heal and come to their own decisions, something many of them feel they have not been allowed for some while.

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  6. Mark,

    What a truly lonely job you must have. To have to endure and then criticize the people who just keep pressing for truth-telling, consistency, sense, and transparency.
    The more you comment on your blog the more apparent it becomes that you are neither tolerant nor capable of being in the same Church as the majority of its members. You are truly best suited to be on some golden fringe someplace far apace and downwind of the ever-growing ranks of disgusted TEC members.

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  7. Allen...what an amazingly unkind and wretched comment.

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  8. Allen,
    Your insensitivity is only surpassed by your arrogance.

    Robroy,
    Did you think that we would simply allow your conealoneialists to steal our property? Oh, based on the Chapman memo I guess you did. Sorry to disappoint you all.

    To TEC, we really do appreciate your faith in those of us stranded in the middle of the valley- real and metaphorical.

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  9. When was Allen ever anything but wretched and unkind?

    Those qualities, after all, are the true signs and marks of the so-called "orthodox."

    They have not charity.

    Whenever I see the two loudest and most bitter of them here, I think to myself, "there's the sounding brass and the tinkling cymbal."

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  10. Hello. I am a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, so can answer some of the allegations posted in the bishop's letter and in the comments of this blog pertaining to Fort Worth. First of all, the comment that was in regard to the speaker series was a good point, but ill-informed. All of the speakers are funded by the contributions of individuals within the diocese, NOT by the budget of the diocese itself. The bishop has it wrong when he says there are ..."a little over 19 priests and 62 delegates
    who represent way less than a thousand people." This is wrong information. Yes, there are 19 priests, most of them retired. There are well over 5,000 known laity remaining in The Episcopal Church here in the diocese of Fort Worth. Of the 3 spanish speaking missions in the diocese, there are remaining parishoners but no remaining clergy. Of the 5,000-8,000 laity, there are only about 10-15 available clergy resident to serve 18 congregations (three of these congregaitions have over 1,000 members) weekly in a 23 county (about 450 square mile) area. If you have not been to Texas before, it's BIG. Travel expenses for non-resident clergy are starting to accumulate. My own church has a priest serving every week who is 88 years old! Yes we have our own money. No, we don't have enough permanent non-retired clergy to serve in our area (and some of the split congregations have financial problems due to being locked out of their buildings as well.) To date since the convention last November, I know of ZERO congregations asking for assistance from the diocese to help with operating expenses. As far as I know, all of the congregations (although some are struggling to afford rented space) are operating without assistance from the diocese. They have the will to survive.I don't know where the Episcopal Church's money will be spent. There is talk of hiring a hispanic missioner but I do not know what funds would be used for that purpose. Knowing several members of the current diocesan leadership, I would expect that if the funds given by the national church are not used they would be returned to The Episcopal Church. The bishop must have been talking to Jack Iker when he assumed there were less than 1,000 members in the Episcopal diocese of Fort Worth. 450 came to the diocesan convention alone. I suspect more would have come if it had not been standing room only pre-ticketed seating. I hope that clarifies things for you all.
    -Sarah

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  11. If I, as a Diocesan Bishop, left TEC (which I am not saying I am) with 10 of my churches

    What an underwhelming statement of fidelity to the Episcopal Church! [And FYI, Bishop Adams, you could only ATTEMPT to leave with *cough STEAL cough* any of TEC's churches]

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