A Few Comments on “Stewardship” in The Episcopal Church
Towards the beginning of August, I blogged about three faithful acts for Episcopalians who believe the Gospel to accomplish within our faithless organization. One of those acts, I’ll quote below:
1) Once you have recognized, and visualized in your mind’s eye, just what is happening to The Episcopal Church—complete destruction before our very eyes—and once you have accepted that reality, then the obvious practical hope for all of us is summed up in two words: “Faster, please.”
That is why I look forward to General Conventions so much—they give us all a chance to educate ever more aghast and horrified parishioners about the nature of the leaders currently in charge of TEC, which then allows these same parishioners to become a part of the consequences of repeated bad actions by our leadership.
Every three years, those in charge of the national structures of TEC back up slowly and laboriously, gather up a good head of steam, and take another run at the iceberg. They did that in spades in 2012, and they will do so again in 2015, and 2018, and 2021, and 2024. The people in charge of the TECtanic are unable to stop themselves—they’re pathological.
The very best that we can hope for as Christians in regards to the national structures of TEC—that visible edifice that grinds ever downward—is that it increase its pace of collapse and complete the destruction in a timely manner. The visible edifice—made up of the various corrupt national structures, committees, commissions, councils and processes—is not the thing that I love—and it is not the thing that you love either. I’ll always love The Episcopal Church—but its current leadership has taken over the structural aspects of the national entity, and those aspects will be ground into a fine powder.
This doesn’t mean that everything about what we have loved gets destroyed—although it will certainly be a rocky and uncomfortable ride downward. Sometimes, though, the fever just has to burn through, while the patient survives, greatly weakened, and greatly humbled.
Once one realizes that the natural consequences of the actions of our current leaders are devastating and pulverizing—we need to hope for the application of those consequences in spades. For the application of consequences leads to as fast a pulverization of the structures held by the current leadership as possible—as opposed to the destruction of The Church, which is a very different thing, even when it resides within an organization like the current manifestation of TEC. All of that is a good thing.
A part of the “Faster Please” philosophy of furthering the natural consequences of the actions of our current leaders is giving less money to the machine that is National TEC. As one can see from an older but still relevant analysis of the Presiding Bishop’s budget, much of the revisionist activists’ goals for the church require that dioceses give a certain amount of money to that national machine which promotes beliefs and actions so antithetical to the Gospel.
What traditional Episcopalians want, then, is for diocesan commitments of actual dollars to the National Church to go steadily down, and if that percentage of giving remains high, then for the diocesan income to go down.
Those are the only two options. Either diocesan income declines, due to less giving from parishes to said diocese, or the diocese simply reduces its percentage of giving to the national church.
So, when one looks at this chart here, for instance, one sees that in the Diocese of Alabama, diocesan income is projected to move a little higher, but the percentage of income projected to give to the national church is slated to decline—the end result being that the national church in theory gets less money in 2012 than it did in 2011. This is a very good thing. Even better, the Diocese of Bethlehem’s income is projected to decline, and its percentage of giving to the national church is projected to decline—a fantastic thing. This is the ideal for all the revisionist dioceses in TEC [the vast majority of them] and with that kind of progress, we can hope for even more caterwauling and picking over the carcase in the General Convention of 2015.
None of this is particularly new or striking—I simply want to call these facts to everyone’s attention.
With the above being stated, it puts into better context this interesting “Fundraising Position Paper” that the “Canon for Congregational Life” has written for the Diocese of New Hampshire. Other than obliquely referring to the tragedy of private property ownership [extra points to the readers who can find and quote the passage that does this] and the longing for that to change, we can learn something from perusing this little missive.
In passing, one notes that the high water mark from the last decade for ASA for the Diocese of New Hampshire was in 2001 when ASA appears to have been around 5200. The 2010 mark is somewhere a touch above 4000 ASA—a stunning and significant decline.
Note a few of the writer’s points:
Other non-profit fundraising agencies such as the YMCA, community foundations, the United Way, Episcopal schools and universities benefit from disagreements about financial development within the leadership of The Episcopal Church which distract The Episcopal Church from raising major and planned umbrella gifts.
Other non-profit fundraising agencies also benefit from *other* disagreements within TEC, but let’s pass on by that for now.
Inconsistent and ineffective case development and financial development at the national and international level in the Episcopal Church’s leadership has left more than $2 billion to go to other non-profit agencies since our founding. Since 1799, the Presbyterian Church has raised $2 billion at the global level. Since about that same time, the Episcopal Church has raised $200 million in major gifts at the national and international levels – most from one professionally directed campaign in the 1970’s which raised $170 million on a $100 million goal. This is just one example of missed opportunities for the Episcopal Church as a whole. Opportunities of the 1980’s and 1990’s have passed us by.
There’s actually a good reason for this “inconsistent” fundraising work at the “national and international level” in TEC. As the national brand has suffered such serious decline, parishes and dioceses are more and more loath to offer the *connections and contacts* that such fundraising feeds on. In my own diocese, when a previous bishop attempted to launch a “diocesan capital campaign” there were few clergy—either revisionist or traditional—who wished to share the connections with high-net-worth parishioners, because in large part, the parishes themselves did not want those troves tapped by the larger entity.
Over in the Diocese of Georgia, Bishop Benhase is engaging in an attempt—desperate it seems to some outside observers—to develop a large capital campaign for the needs of the diocese. Bishop Benhase, I suspect, rightly observes that parishes are sinking and won’t be a great source of funds for his plans for “mission and ministry”—so he’s going *around* those parishes and attempting to raise the money directly from parishioners. I personally doubt that this attempt will achieve much, but who knows? Perhaps parishioners are inspired by his leadership and willing to donate to the diocese rather than their own parishes. We’ll see.
But the point is . . . for the national level of The Episcopal Church to pursue financial development through a “professionally directed campaign” will mean that that money will flow *out* from potential diocesan and parish use to the national church’s use.
A Theology of Community: Unlike many of his subsequent followers, Jesus did not become mired in the question of whether those for whom He died were worthy of the salvation-gift. Nor did Jesus express concern over the question of what we humans would do with the salvation-gift we are given. Jesus was non-attached, non-resistant and non-judgmental. We could act likewise if we choose. Our resistance to financial development in the church boils down to conflict and suspicion. As with so many other church issues, God may be more interested in how we discuss this question than how we resolve it.
This is an amusing section, essentially pondering why—again obliquely and slyly—traditional Episcopalians can’t just give to leaders of an organization whose values, gospel, and foundational worldview they don’t share. But if we are to use Jesus as our example, perhaps we can refer to His treatment of the money changers in the Temple, rather than carry on about his “non-attached, non-resistant and non-judgmental” compliance.
According to the last census, 2% of the population is very wealthy and another 2% are wealthy. We know that Episcopalians tend to include more of the nation’s wealthy than many other denominations, so we can very conservatively assume that of the 2 million Episcopalians in the United States, 60,000-80,000 of them are wealthy and could leave an estate or give major gifts beyond their parish and diocese. Major-gift development could, in the next 10-30 years, raise even as much as two billion dollars. Two billion dollars is a substantial return on the investment of funds invested in a development office over 10-30 years ($12-45 million), not to mention the spiritual and relational benefits to the donors and the recipients of this philanthropy. A development office may generally expect to spend 8% of funds-raised after start-up, yielding a staggering return on the initial investment.
I’ve already pointed out what I think will be the practical problem with circumventing diocese and parish connections and appealing directly to individual rich parishioners.
But, this underscores why it’s so important for Episcopalians to share with other like-minded Episcopalians what a poor investment it is to bequeath a major gift or estate to the current buffoonish leadership of The Episcopal Church. Certainly there will be Episcopalians who share the same values, gospel, and foundational worldview as our current leaders—but many do not. Part of our task as conservatives in TEC is to share the information we have about the incompetent, corrupt, and heretical leaders at the national level and at the diocesan level so that those who make bequests and major gifts can do so to organizations with leaders who share the same values, goals, and foundational worldview—and for right now, that’s simply not The Episcopal Church.
Furthermore, bequests and major gifts to local parishes—however faithful—is a poor investment, since the national church lays claim to such assets anyway.
Good stewardship by Episcopalians who believe the Gospel means, unfortunately, not giving to The Episcopal Church. Don’t doubt, then, the importance of your conversations and emails to other parishioners about the actions of our church’s leadership. When it comes time to make out a will or major gift, your calm, factual words can make a big difference in other people’s decisions, even if they don’t otherwise make any notable decisions to resist. All around this country, Baby Boomers are facing their mortality, and thoughtfully assessing where their bequests should go. This will only increase in the coming decades. Make certain they are well-informed about the actions of our church’s leadership at the highest levels.
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