TO REESTABLISH HOPE AND A WORTHY FUTURE IN HAITI
On January 15th, 2010, just three days after the earthquake in Haiti, the Episcopal/ Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB) wrote this:
O povo haitiano está realmente precisando da nossa ajuda e cada um de nós precisa ajudar. Restabelecer a esperança e um futuro digno no Haiti será uma tarefa ardua, mas se cada um de nos der a sua colaboração esse desafio será superado.
This translates, roughly,
"The Haitian people are really in need of our aid and each one of us needsto help. To reestablish hope and a worthy future in Haiti will bean arduous task, but if each one of us makes our contribution, thischallenge to them will be overcome."
The Church in Brazil nailed it. The desire and end is to "reestablish hope and a worthy future in Haiti."
If there is any question why an Anglican Communion is worth the effort, here is the answer. When one church and people suffer, all suffer. When hope and a worthy future is reestablished, all delight. Three days after the calamity one church called to the other in support. Similar responses came from many places in the Communion.
THE WORK FOR RELIEF AND DEVELOPMENT.
Nations, Churches and organizations throughout the world have come to the immediate aid of the people of Haiti. It has been an astounding effort which is now moving into the crucial period in which the massive infrastructure breakdown in Haiti becomes the issue. The growing question is, how will the responses to these needs bring BOTH hope and a worthy future?
Relief and development agencies will need to be both immediate providers and accompany Haitians - from the President to the digger of ditches - in their own efforts. Mobilizing response internal to Haiti is critical, for hope and a worthy future will arise out of the people themselves accompanied by assistance from outside.
Episcopal Relief and Development has been a remarkable agent in all this, providing immediate aid and support and now working with other agencies in longer term development concerns. Its efforts are in direct support of the relief and development efforts of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. The outpouring of support by Episcopalians through ERD and other agencies has been quite amazing.
THE WORK OF REBUILDING THE CHURCH IS OUR WORK.
The Episcopal Church in Haiti is very much alive and at work, although it is physically in ruins. Many of the Churches, Schools, Hospitals and other institutions have been totally or partially destroyed. Many of those that remain have been inundated with people who have fled destroyed areas. Some institutions, hospitals in particular, may receive aid from relief and development agencies, and hopefully many programs of various church groups will receive aid, but the restoration of Church facilities is not likely to be of much immediate interest to relief and development agents, religious or secular.
That is quite appropriate, it seems to me. Terrible as it is to contemplate, the earthquake this year, like the hurricanes and floods of previous years, or the tsunami in South East Asia, will continue to happen and each will draw us to the immediate needs for aid. Indeed, Episcopal Relief and Development is also at this moment supporting relief work in South Dakota and other places of distress, and development work in some thirty-four other countries. They have been in Haiti before this earthquake and will remain there doing development work in rural areas.
The rebuilding of churches and other church related facilities, per-se, is work for the church itself - the church locally and universally. The work is local, belonging to the people of the Church in Haiti, but there are many ways for us to accompany them in this work. A primary way is to give them the financial support they need to rebuild in new and creative ways for the future of the Church and its work in Haiti and do so with a real sense that we are with them in the challenges they face.
For this reason it is important that The Episcopal Church see the rebuilding of the churches in Haiti as a particular obligation internal to the life of TEC and more widely a communion-wide opportunity to stand accompanying the Episcopal Church of Haiti.
THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL RESOLUTION
On the last afternoon of the Omaha Executive Council meeting we passed a resolution, EC007, concerning the long term rebuilding of the Diocese of Haiti. It reads as follows:
Resolved, That the Executive Council, in light of our study of the Gospel in our meeting in Omaha, Nebraska from February 19-22, 2010, challenges The Episcopal Church to raise an extra budgetary sum of at least $10,000,000 (approximately equal to a tithe of the Church’s budget for the final two years of the 2010-2012 triennium) for the long term rebuilding of the Diocese of Haiti (L’Eglise Episcopale d’Haiti) following the destruction of the earthquake of January 12, 2010; and be it furtherResolved, that the final amount of the funds and the disbursement of such be determined in partnership with the Bishop of the Diocese of Haiti; and be it further
Resolved, that the Standing Committee on Finances for Mission of the Executive Council, in cooperation with the Treasurer’s Office, bring a plan for the identification of these funds to the June 2010 meeting of the Executive Council reflecting this challenge.
Episcopal News Service covered the unfolding of this resolution in a news story that went through one corrective revision. It can be viewed HERE.
The development of this resolution evolved from the table conversation in morning bible study, in the context of morning prayer. We were reading the passage from Matthew 25:31-46 concerning “the least of these.” Our discussion drew out the desire for a response to the church in Haiti that did not grow out of our abundance or our largess, but out of our knowing that we are bound together and find Christ in one another. As we talking about the passage and our concerns for Haiti it became clear that our response ought not be seen as a matter of giving only but sharing of ourselves. I said to the group that I thought this needed to be brought to the whole.
The morning proceeded as planned, and when we got to the matter of the budget, I rose to speak on a matter of personal privilege and introduced the challenge that we give for the rebuilding of L’Eglise Episcopale d’Haiti in a way that made it clear that our commitment was from the core of who we are. I suggested a sum equal to a tithe of The Episcopal Church’s income for the remainder of this Triennium, roughly $10 million.
After lunch, The Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas proposed a resolution to that effect, and after some revision the perfected resolution was passed.
Several thoughts on the process and the proposal:
(i) When Executive Council meets we have daily prayers and bible study. While it may appear in reports that all we do is grind our way thorough legislation and committee reports the reality is that all we do takes place in the context of the encounter with God in Scripture and Worship, in reflection and the shared sacred meal. We always meet in the shadow of the Cross and in the hope of the Resurrection. It is no accident that we reported from this meeting that, “Meeting in the beginning of Lent we were constantly reminded of the Power of God in Jesus Christ to redeem and save, in the moment and for all time.” Bible study and prayer are not pro-forma in our gatherings, they are central. Those who believe Executive Council to be bereft of Christian faith and witness need to think again.
(ii) The proposal for a sum of at least $10,000,000 was based on a rough sense of what the total asking from all dioceses at the full support of 21% would look like, tithed, when combined with a tithe of TEC's investment income. The proposal, however, was not based on exact calculations but on the primary sense that TEC needs to commit itself to the rebuilding of the church in Haiti in a way that draws not on its abundance, but on its core. What we promise can be replaced, but what we promise needs to be clearly before us.
(iii) The Executive Council proposal asks the "Standing Committee on Finances for Mission of the Executive Council, in cooperation with the Treasurer’s Office, bring a plan for the identification of these funds to the June 2010 meeting of the Executive Council reflecting this challenge." These are good creative people and I look forward to their plans.
The amount - $10 million - is one that can be found. It is within reach. There are over 7,000 parishes in the Episcopal Church. Somehow it seems easier for me to think of raising this if I think of what we are asking as something that ultimately comes from the offering of people in worship. If every parish pledged $1500 over two years, that would do it. To think of every parish in The Episcopal Church pulling for the same effort all at once is no fantesy. We do it all the time in praying for one another and the world. But wouldn't it be wonderful to see it expressed in such a way!
(iv) I have heard from several people that this amount is much too small, from others that it is isolated from the needs of other missionary areas or areas where disaster has struck. All true. There is so much to be done, and we need to support so much.
But this is a beginning place for the particular need to rebuild the Church. Perhaps if we do this thing, and do it with the risk that it comes from our core, our flesh and bone, then we will be one with the church in Haiti and in every other place of distress in the body in ways that will raise us all up new.
I think the renewal and rebuilding of the Church in Haiti is also our own rebuilding and renewal as well. Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin wrote, in his Lenten reflection,
"....this situation delivers us into faith. I look at this as a baptism. We who are still alive have had the blessing of survival, but in many ways we have died to the ways of the past. We have the opportunity to riseup and start anew. In this moment of grief and mourning, life must continue...
We are looking forward to a celebration of Easter; familiarity ofreligious practices sustains us. We give glory to God. We sing within the church of the world. We celebrate life with the same spirit we were given it. In the middle of all the deaths, there is a God of love and of life, and we must shout Alleluia with the living."
Amen for all of us.