11/02/2018

The First “Annual Appeal”, passing the plate for a second offering.

In the mail yesterday I received a “Dear Friends” letter from the Presiding Bishop introducing the first Episcopal Church Annual Appeal. I suspect you did too. With it came a one page double sided summary of the ministries that the Appeal would support. It came on All Saints Day. 

The Presiding Bishop is a wonderful source for enthusiasm in The Episcopal Church and I am usually ready to take his lead in working to motivate the Church to action in the world. But I was strangely unmoved by this letter and the materials that accompanied it. Why?  Well, as I returned again and again to the appeal materials several things stood out.

(1) There was a disconnect between the content of the summary page and the photo of the Presiding Bishop and a group of young people.  It’s a great picture. There is no note as to what the picture is about, except the delight of the PB with young people. That is, of course, worthy of sending around. But there is no link between that image and any of the ministries described.

(2) The undated letter gives several other examples of ministries that would benefit from the Appeal... including the Office of Government Relations, Armed Forces and Federal Ministries programs, and Evangelism Ministries. Of these only the Evangelism ministry is mentioned in the accompanying one-page double-sided info piece.  In the letter, the PB asks, “Why do I make this appeal now?”  The answer is, “The dioceses of our Church are generous in their giving to support churchwide ministry, and income from endowments is steady: however, the work before us requires more.”  

(3) The three ministries mentioned in the letter are churchwide ministries with budget line items as part of the General Convention budget. Now a great deal of energy goes into producing the General Convention Budget and the askings from the dioceses to support that budget. As dioceses we have already given for the budget of churchwide offices, and through General Convention, we prioritized the work and the funding. We have already given at the office. By extension I have already given to this budget through the offerings I make in my parish.  So this is an “above and beyond” sort of asking. The letter does not suggest new programs or activities above and beyond those envisioned in the general budget. Rather the suggestion is that what we already have agreed to do “requires more.”

This seems to mean that the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, Executive Council and staff have determined that the limits of funding imposed by the Church’s budgeting process need to be overturned.  This seems to me to require more explanation than the statement that “the work before us requires more.” Is this additional funding going to result in a larger staff? Or the greater use of contract-workers? How will these new funds be folded into the existing budget and the priorities of the General Convention?  If there is new money for Creation-care work, how is that reflected in the existing Episcopal Church efforts? 

(3) The list of ministries/programs in the double-sided one-page piece that accompanies the letter are all efforts in which “more” might be very useful. The brochure or booklet that gives more stories and information about these ministries can be found online, but the letter refers to it as if it were available with the mailing. “Please prayerfully read the stories in this booklet about these ministries...” The booklet is not part of the mailing.

(4) The letter also says, “you can make your gift here online.”  Well, “here” is the letter, which may be on the internet, but was sent to me (and you) by land mail, and the editors forgot to include the online address.  It is found, rather, on the accompanying two-sided sheet. It is www.episcopalchurch/give/annual-appeal.  You can go there and give your money, but if you want the brochure/booklet you have to go elsewhere, namely to https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/documents/annual_appeal_booklett_web.pdf 
The site refers to it as a brochure. The title of the document calls it a booklet. Oh well.

All in all the appeal is troubling. It is confusingly presented, with little more than a restatement of programs already part of the budgeted life of the Episcopal Church as its justification. There is no real effort to present compelling reasons for passing the plate a second time. These are not special programs or unique and unpredicted opportunities. 

We should hope for better than this.

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