5/04/2011

Focus, damit, focus....

The Office of Public Affairs of the Episcopal Church yesterday posted this announcement, "College For Bishops announces endowment campaign to insure future health, wellness, education of Episcopal bishops."


The following Press Release was just received from The Office of Public Affairs. Was anyone else under the impression that this is the most pressing need in the church? While Deputies have to seek outside funding to get their work done? Is this the new way we fund programs? What other questions does this raise for you? The well-being of bishops is important but $15 million? There was anxiety among the bishops at General Convention when cuts to their budget were discussed along with all the other cuts that had to be made. Is this the response? What about Mission, Communication, Youth and Young Adults - the other priorities of the budget? What about debt of seminarians and their well being? See below for Budget Priorities from 2009 General Convention."

At five in the morning, sitting in the Philadelphia Airport on my way to Haiti for a seven day visit to an old friend and a church in dire need, it seems odd indeed that this endowment project is being advanced in the midst of an effort to support the Church in Haiti in its recovery. 

No doubt the Church can do several things at once: we chew gum and walk all the time. But when the challenge was first made that the church raise an initial fund of 10 million  dollars for the rebuilding of the Church in Haiti there was a great bit of muttering about not wanting to put a dollar amount on the asking and not pushing the funding to a specific goal.  So the focus became the support of rebuilding the Church in Haiti with all the resources we could bring to that effort.

Keeping the focus on that effort is difficult. Other disasters call to us, new efforts to support churches and peoples in the world arise. Still, the fund effort continues and hopefully with a clarity of focus the Haiti appeal will be heard.

Now the monies being raised for Haiti are for rebuilding and sustaining the work there. The investment will be in property and programs that take place on those properties. When the effort is over there will be no endowment in accounts drawing interest, but endowment in facilities in which programs will take place. It is not "money in the bank," it is money in use for the ministry of the church.

So along comes this new endowment fund effort. Perhaps this will draw on money that could not or would not go for buildings, could not or would not go to specific diocesan programs. Endowment funding is a special sort of effort. Perhaps there are special givers out there for this end.

Good.

Still, an endowment of 15 million dollars will produce at, say, 5%, $750,000 a year.  Now the College of Bishops started as an effort by the Presiding Bishop's office to provide Pastoral Development for bishops. It has evolved into a separate non-profit agency in 2010.  It has moved, in other words, from being a program of the church, through the office of the Presiding Bishop, to a program for the church.

At some point (now is about right) we need to ask several questions: (i) How are we to understand the work of the College of Bishops?  Is it integral to the program work of the Church and therefore supervised by or under the authority of General Convention?  (ii) Who determines what sort of education and support is offered?  Are the formation goals of these programs at all understood by the wider church to be about the formation of bishops as we (a wider body than bishops) understand their formation? (iii) Is separate endowment appropriate for work generally understood as part of the programmatic or pastoral work of the offices of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society or the canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop?  (iv) At the very least should such an endowment be specifically for a separate institution or for the church, to be used for a specific purpose?

But most importantly, is this campaign a distraction from the immediate needs for rebuilding the Church in Haiti, an effort to which we are pledged as a church, committed in practice and honor bound to support because the Church in Haiti IS a part of our body that is hurting?

What is going on here? 

16 comments:

  1. In my experience of the church there are quite a few people around who would be very glad to pass their expertise, advice, even direction and guidance onto bishops for free :)

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  2. "No doubt the Church can do several things at once: we chew gum and walk all the time."

    Given the last few years, what led you to this conclusion?

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  3. I'd like an explanation of why the endowment is a good thing at this moment in time. At best, it's extremely poor PR. Please!

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  4. Mark--thank you for raising these important questions. I was stunned when I read the statement. In addition to Haiti, we've got people in our parish who have lost their jobs/homes/health insurance, or who are having trouble paying their bills. We aren't out of the economic crisis by a long-shot, and they want to spend $15 million on a handful of bishops who already have access to all the basic resources they need?!

    Some days I weep for the church...

    Doxy

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  5. Mark,
    Check out Off-Topic Allowed. Thanks for the idea.

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  6. Does 815 give any thought to those who were laid off in order to slash the budget? How do the powers that be think that makes those people feel, at least one of whom has not found another job yet, thank you very much. I suppose i shouldn't be taking out my anger at the institution in public. This makes me mad.

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  7. I can't help but think of Fr Jake (Terry Martin) laid off because the evangelism program was eliminated - Fr Jake with his zeal for spreading the Good News, a true evangelist if ever there was one.

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  8. "...to insure future health, wellness, education of Episcopal bishops."

    Harumpf. How about a fund to insure the future health and wellness of those priests and laypeople emotionally / spiritually abused by bishops ? We could sure use this in our diocese :P

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  9. I also wonder about rural dioceses that have locally ordained clergy. Couldn't we use that $15 million to help educate those hard workers who serve the most remote congregations? It's vital that the Episcopal Church reclaim a missionary heritage where all parts of the country and world deserve to hear the Good News in Christ.

    The church isn't built on miters and cathedrals...

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  10. The church isn't built on miters and cathedrals...

    Ain't that the truth? Thank you Karl Juliian.

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  11. So the Narcissists want more? This while the clergy and lay employees learn to do with less? I didn't realize we had so many teabaggers in the episcopate.

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  12. The bishops need $750,000 a year for what? How about making it a seminarian endowment or any of the other suggestions made here and elsewhere?

    This was an orientation program that has now become a spa program. The HoB should be outraged that it was even floated as an idea. But apparently they will tap funders they know for this. As a member of our Standing Committee I will raise this as an issue. We have capital needs here, we have agreed to support the Haiti initiative so IMHO there is no space left for a boondoggle for Club Mitre"

    Mike Russell

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  13. Greed. In the worst economy of our lives, churches folding right and left, 10 percent (or more) unemployed, priests struggling to make a living and pay off seminary loans, Haiti rebuilding, and our Presiding Bishop endorses this greedy money grab to provide retreats for our bishops... Shame!

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  14. tec bishops are already highly paid with very generous pensions.... given declining sunday attendance, money should be going into mission... and they should all take pay cuts to the same level as ordinary vicars to help support that mission.... if the vicars can live on $x, theny why can't they?

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  15. Feels like "trickle down ecclesiology" to me.

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  16. What a bunch of whiners. This effort takes not one penny from any of your favorite programs. It simply asks folks who think this may be important for the general welfare of the church, to think about donating some money to the cause. We can all think of better ways for the Church to spend ITS money. Who gives you the right to tell me how to spend mine?
    Al

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