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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Money, money, money

Hands down, the winner in the category "The most stunning thing to have happened at GC" is the Budget.

Thirty seven positions (of 180, including 7 retirements that won't be filled), evaporated in front of our very eyes, leaving no support staff and no program development at the national level for mission, evangelism, stewardship, education, anti-racism training, etc., etc., etc.

Additionally, the face-to-face meetings of the CCAB's has been reduced to one per year, and the PHOD's expenses have been sharply reduced. (I was shocked to see how many deputies were shocked to discover that the PHOD is not a paid, salaried position.)

At least there was consistency between the message of the budget and the message of the rest of our resolutions.

Not only is the budget a descriptive statement of our (painful economic) reality, General Convention put things like discernment of vocation to the episcopacy and the 'design" of liturgical rites for marriage equality right along side mission, evangelism, stewardship, education, anti-racism training, etc., in the very same place: directly at the responsibility of the local level.

It will now be the challenge of churches, dioceses and, hopefully, provinces, to work collaboratively on those things which we previously had depended on national staff.

We will have to take the resources already developed by competent national staff and tailor them for our own uses. It will be a difficult challenge in many places, but one that I trust we will prove we are capable of meeting.

We will become, more and more, 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic church' that works best at the local level. Besides, the best evangelism I know is mission. And, as the old adage goes, "Money follows mission." I have never seen that to fail.

There was, however, a shocking inconsistency between the resolutions and the budget.

While many of the resolutions revealed a church which is focused on the prophetic nature of the Body of Christ, the budget revealed a decidedly different image: We are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a hierarchical institutional church.

Last November, as I sat with the budget committee and my staff to develop the 2009 budget, we were anticipating the worst from the financial crisis. We were all very concerned about the fact that, before the program year was out, someone might lose their job.

So, we crunched some numbers and came to a community decision as a staff to voluntarily freeze our salaries for 6 months, and reevaluate our situation once the pledges were all in and counted and we had a better handle on the financial forecast of our global economy. Three of us who were able offered to cut our salaries, if need be, so that everyone could keep their full or part time jobs.

Thankfully, none of that was necessary, but we did it as an exercise and demonstration of our theological understanding of the gospel imperatives of doing ministry together in community, in the Name of Jesus.

As deeply saddened as I am about all of the lost jobs at 815, I am even more distressed that the very ones who have called "the least of these" to "stand in a crucified place for a season" could not have exemplified the same standard for themselves.

We will survive. The next few years will be lean (and probably even mean), but we will survive. And, I suspect, thrive. When the currency of the world fails us (as it often does), Jesus gives us the currency of heaven: our intellect and our religious imagination.

The truly good news is that we are blessed with an abundance of both. Already, I am told that one deputy figured out that if each deputation gave $1,000 each (8 deputies = $125 each, or responsible for raising that amount from 'back home') we would have more than enough to restore a few line items (read: positions) to the budget.

Imagine what we'll be able to imagine when we're not sleep deprived and have actually had a few days of good nutrition to sustain and fuel the gray matter of our brains!

At times like these, I remember Parker Palmer's sermon on the Feeding of the Five Thousand - the only miracle story told in all four gospels. He said that gospel story was the first recorded evidence of community organizing.

Jesus actually got people to sit down - Palmer imagined in small circles - and got people to begin talking to one another. Jesus said to his disciples, who were anxious to know how they were going to get enough money to even go the local White Castle and get a 'Bag of Burgers' to feed everyone, "What do you have? Go and see."

The disciples pooled their resources and came up with five loaves and two fish. At that, Palmer imagines, seeing the leadership of the disciples, people began to open their travel bags. And then, wonder of wonder and miracles of miracles, Jesus blessed them and they began to share what little they had brought so that, not only was there enough for everyone, there were leftovers in abundance.

We need a time to lament and grieve the loss of so many wonderful talented people who have meant so very much to so many of us in the church.

We also would do well to hear the ancient words of Jesus to those of us who are his modern day disciples: "What do you have? Go and see."


kitty said...

I appreciate how hurtful this is to not only those who lost their jobs but those who voted on the budget that severed those workers.

But I might remind you how many people very day face this same thing -- gainfully employed one minute and unemployed the next. 815 is probably no different than the business down the street that has to downsize. Those left behind have a sense of survivor guilt while still mourning the loss of co-workers and friends. The separated feel hurt and angry (to some extent or other) that their talents have seemingly been declared invalid when compared to the bottom line. All need prayers -- but so do the hundreds of thousands who have been faced with the "We hate to inform you but..." and "X is no longer employed by this company" memos and emails. Pray for all workers in this uncertain and frightening time. Thank you.

Mary said...

Thanks for bringing up this issue. As someone who worked for 20 years in corporate America, then 10 years in a University tied to the military/industrial complex and in those 30 years has witnessed and been affected by many layoffs, cuts, and reductions in force -- I am watching all this and praying. Because this is where we all have to get out our bullspit detectors and spend time with them turned to Self. Being laid off, rightsized, downsized, Reduction In Forced is a major kick in the teeth, and I have heard many anti-capitalists within my own church fulminate against the evils of Corporate America. But from where I sit (and I closely accompanied the dis-employment very Godly and wonderful person who'd dedicated his career to mission), so far I haven't seen our high-minded church treat people very well when they're sent out of the vineyard due to lack of denarii. Right now the biggest test of my faith is the behavior of the church hierarchy; for a long time I have believed that the church, even with its flaws, is still the best place for me to serve God and, through God, my brothers and sisters. The church doesn't have to offer the hymns I like or the prayers that make me feel comfortable or the sermons that help me feel good about myself. It does, however, have to live up to its own creeds and abide by the example of Christ in the Gospels. I will watch closely how those released from paid employment are treated. The treatment of those who have lost jobs will have a direct effect on where in the future I choose to give of my time and treasure.

motheramelia said...

Like Kitty and Mary, I feel sad that so many people have lost or or loosing their jobs. We would like to think that the church will do a better job of it when people have to be let go, but that's not necessarily so. Agreeing to cuts in salary so others don't have to be cut is one way of approaching things as is the idea of delegations chipping in so much each. Making decisions when people are tired isn't the best idea, and creative decisions rarely happen when there is fear and anxiety.

Kirk Petersen said...

PHOD... Personal Hygiene Officer of the Day?

Marcia King said...

The feeding of the 5000 is not a story of Jesus convincing the people there to share what was in their "travel bags." It is the story of a miracle. Jesus changed 5 loaves and 2 fishes into enough food to feed 5000 men plus the women and children. We serve a God of abundance.

The financial crush of TEC is telling and indicative of the direction of the leadership. Priorities are sadly misplaced. Evangelism completely cut yet $4 million to litigation? What is wrong with this picture?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Marcia, there are miracles and then there are miracles. I think what Palmer was describing is no less a miracle than what you are describing.

Evangelism happens at the local level. I've never understood some of the logic to 'national' positions. I think the way this was handled, from all reports, was unprofessional and unChristian.

The litigation expense are a sad unfortunate reality of our present life together. It will continue to be so for at least the next decade.

Thank you, "orthodox Evangelicals" who not only want a spiritual jihad, the want total control of the property, all assets and endowments.

We need that money to defend ourselves from these religious terrorists.

Marcia King said...

No, Elizabeth, I respectfully disagree. Sharing is not a miracle. Making lunch for 5000 out of a few loaves and fishes is. As you mentioned in your original post, this is one of the few narratives in all four of the Gospels; I doubt sharing would have made that much of an impact.

Re the orthodox "terrorists", again, I respectfully disagree and draw your attention to 1 Cor 6:1-5. I'm quite certain there are Christian mediators who would be happy to work with 815 and the churches/Dioceses toward an amicable solution out of court. The witness we show the world through these lawsuits is untenable.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marcia - I won't call you wrong if you'll stop calling me wrong - respectfully or not.

In many, many diocese, we've gone waaayyy past the point of mediated arbitration. Some of these folks will not be stopped. See also: The Chapman Memo.

Marcia King said...

The world seems to be divided into 2 camps: those who believe in true miracles and those who do not. We apparently are in separate camps. Since we are both Episcopal priests who influence congregations, that makes me sad.

Re the Chapman memo, that was written about 5-6 years ago by a single priest articulating his POV on a proposed strategy. Right or wrong, it does not negate 1 Cor 6. We have a responsibility to act as Christians toward one another in this disagreement. Our goal must continue to be to bring the world to Christ, not to fight with each other. I wish we could keep the main thing the main thing.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I know human nature. So do most of the intelligent members of my congregation. They know that, given human nature, to get people of any age, culture and time who are strangers to share food is a REAL miracle, much more amazing than to make food magically appear.

I am sad that there are clergy in The Episcopal Church who still teach the gospel accounts as "Jesus' Amazing Magic Show" - robbing the people of God of their ability to engage the gift of their God-given religious imagination.

Re: Chapman Memo: Everything I see coming from Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Pittsburgh tells me that the Chapman Memo has been raised to the level of doctrine.

Now, THAT makes the heart sad.

Marcia King said...

So miracles are "magic"? Would be interested in the explanation of Jesus walking on water, healing the sick and the resurrection but I suspect I can find the answers in Bishop Spong's books.

For the record, orthodox believers are NOT "religious terrorists" engaged in a "spiritual jihad." There is a genuine disagreement about the authority and interpretation of Scripture. It is not a war. It is not an attack. It is Christian brothers and sisters who disagree.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

This is getting tedious, don't you think, Marcia.

No, miracles are not 'magic' but we cheapen the miracle by making them some sort of mystical magic show, without grounding them in some possibility of human participation with the divine.

And, yes, you're right - not all orthodox are spiritual jihadist, but many are. Of that, there is undeniable evidence. To wit - Bob Duncan's latest missive about "Two Cities" which builds on his "Chose the Day" video.

Don't get me started on Martin Minns, David Anderson, or Bishops Orambi or Akinola. You really don't want to go there.

Marcia King said...

Sharing the Gospel is never tedious. It's what we are called to do. But it is obvious we are poles apart and I regret that. Maybe one day we will meet and can discuss the topic of miracles. I look forward to that day.

And no, I admire Bp Duncan et al. They speak the truth. Again, we disagree.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sharing the gospel? Is that what you think you were doing? When I share the gospel, I always feel inspired. Not so with this exchange, Marcia. Not so at all.

As re: admiring Bishop Duncan. I am reminded of what H.L. Mencken said about opera. "It is," he said, "its own reward." (I love opera, BTW, which is why I can laugh at this. It's true.)

Marcia King said...

Elizabeth: I suspect we will not agree about much except the obvious fact that we don't agree. I am heterosexual, pro-life, and an orthodox believer in the authority of Scripture and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The people in the congregation I serve are quite intelligent and believe in miracles, Christ crucified, risen from the dead and living today.

What caught my eye in the original post was the idea of sharing vs the miracle of abundance. Jesus is not a magician. He is Lord of all and calls us into relationship with him. That's good news!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marcia, I am not a medical category of sexuality. I am a child of God who has been in a partnered relationship with another child of God for 33 years with whom I share 6 children, 5 grandchildren and two dogs.

I am pro-life because I value and treasure all life - including the intelligent life of the pregnant woman. I think abortion should be rare, safe and legal and the way to minimize the number of abortions is to deal with the reasons women have abortions.

I am an orthodox believer in Jesus Christ which makes me a radical progressive person, as He was in his day and time.

I don't put as much belief in Scripture as I put the whole belief of my heart, mind and soul in the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I serve an intelligent congregation which, like me, believes in miracles, too, but not in the way you would define them. That does not diminish either your or my understanding of miracles nor does it diminish the power of the miracles of God. The members of my congregation, like me, also believe in the power of the Resurrected, Living Christ.

See? Not so different. Except that my experience is that those who claim to be 'orthodox' insist that it is so. Makes you feel 'better', I suppose - 'better' than me, that is.

If that's what makes you happy, Marcia. It's not very Christ-like, but if it makes you happy, then who am I to judge?

I just see you as another child of God who loves Jesus. Another sinner, like me, of Christ's own redemption. Another piece of God's truth. I don't own the truth and neither to you. The Whole Truth will be revealed to us when we meet Jesus face to face, but no one human can lay claim to having the truth here on this side of Paradise.

Not you. Not me. Not the Pope. Not the ABC. Not Bob Duncan. Not Gene Robinson. Not nobody. Not no how.

I wish you peace.

Marcia King said...

Never once have I been unkind or strident or hurtful, Elizabeth. There is no point in that. It is unChristian (and unacceptable behavior for a Southern lady! Please smile) Even though I object to the characterization of orthodox believers as "religious terrorists" and "spiritual jihad" remarks, never have I painted you as something less than you are. I have been persistent yet respectful.

It's not an issue of ever feeling "better" than you, or anyone else, for that matter. My goodness, we all sin. That's why Christ came.

Yet we DO have profound and significant disagreements. To minimize those is unrealistic.

May God grant you peace as well.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You know what Marcia? You've worked very hard to have the last word, so, being the good Northern woman that I am, I will let you have it.

Marcia King said...

Good night Gracie

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Good night.

JCF said...

It beggars belief, Marcia, that you would think that you were being persuasive to anyone not ALREADY within the ACNA fold.

Elizabeth posted about PAINFUL budget cuts, and then you showed up to cry crocodile tears about litigation? Please. You know the old "Patricide/Orphan" joke? You're like the person who killed their parents, then took the State to task for spending money to prosecute said crime!

This isn't about miracles, or sharing (I believe in BOTH, thank you very much). This is about grasping at straws of theological difference (and ANY two Christians will believe differently!) because you think the way TEC lives the Gospel is ICKY. Period.

We (in TEC) believe---from Scripture, Tradition and Reason---that God made some people gay, and wants them to LOVE gay, too. That gives YOU the vapors, EVERYTHING follows from there.

Ex nihilo loaves&fishes, or shared ones?

Soooo not the point.

Your god is too small, Marcia. THAT is.

Marcia King said...

Hi JCF: I am in TEC, haven't left. Elizabeth's original post was fairly long and involved. My comments were directed to the portion which included a quote regarding the Feeding of the 5000. There is a geniune theological difference here. This narrative is recounted in all four Gospels. After the miracle the people were so impressed they wanted to make Jesus king! I thought that indicated a more impressive display of Jesus' poweres that convincing them to share. Elizabeth disagrees. The Gospels tell us he drew away to a quiet place (and then walked on water, another miracle.)

Since Elizabeth had also posted about the cuts, I offered another opinion about priorities regarding evangelism vs ligation, again quoting the Bible (1 Cor 6). She had a good point that evangelism is local in nature but I do think the National Church should put some leadership and effort into it as well. And, I agree with her that the cuts should have been handled in a much more professional manner.

I happen to believe the Bible has priority over tradition and reason and that our reason is clouded by sin (all sin) (That 3 legged stool thing was never endorsed by Hooker) This was never a debate about sexuality. Episcopalians seeem to be the only ones around who have actually made discussions about sexuality boring, Just not interested and we won't chnaged each others POV.

You sound pretty angry, JCF. I'm not. Why would you be? God is not small nor in a box. God is awesome, mighty and mysterious yet can be known. That, in fact, was my point. Thanks for giving me a chance to elaborate.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay, Marcia I wasn't going to say anything but two things:

1. The three-legged stool? Never 'endorsed' by Hooker? Wherever do you get your information? Or, are you simply repeating something you've been told?

2. It's really, really important to you to set yourself apart and above the progressives, isn't it? to underscore and make distinct the difference in our theology. To be the 'calm' person - not angry person - in control person - by pointing out how angry/out of control the other person is. Wonder why that is for you?

I'm not looking for answers or self defense. Just a few questions for you to consider so before you open your mouth again, you consider what it is you are saying.

Have a great day.

Marcia King said...

Hi Elizabeth: I don't enter into discussions about GLBT issues on blogs with those with whom I disagree. It seems non-productive and hurtful. From what I've observed, none of the discussions change anyone's mind or POV. Generally there seems to be anger, on both sides. (Note: please know that I'm not saying you or anyone else shouldn't, just that I don't.)

So, on this exchange, I have discussed some differences in theological issues (miracles) and political ones (litigation) always trying to remember 1 Peter 3:15, unfortunately not always successfully. It's not a question of control but gentleness and respect. I'm no better than anyone else and never wish to pretend to be. If it has seemed so, I am geniunely sorry. Not my intent at all.

Re Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity never references a "three legged stool" per se. That image came from his interpreters. But in reading Hooker's work, it seems that Scripture is the priority with tradition and reason following. Reason is not as we think of it with 21st century eyes. Although we are made in the image of God, our reason is clouded by the Fall.

This is your blog and always, you have complete control over what you wish to post or not post. It is obvious a lot of work and thought go into your original posts and responses. Thank you for taking the time to consider about what I'm thinking about too.

Hope you have a great day too. I see the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken. It will probably take all of us some time to figure out what he has said. He is often more complicated to read than Hooker!