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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Budget Cuts in TEC and the Ministry of Women

The fallout of the drastic budget cuts made at General Convention in Anaheim, CA included the elimination of the Women's Desk at 815 - the National Church Center.

Our Ecumentical partners in Women's Ministry are also concerned.

I rejoice in this "Open Letter" to the Episcopal Church and pray that the Executive Council will address the concerns stated in this letter and make every effort to restore this important and vital presence at the national and international levels.

If you wish to join this effort, please write a letter to the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies at the addresses below.

An Open Letter to the Episcopal Church

August 2009

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church
c/o Miguel Angel Escobar
Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Bonnie Anderson, D.D.
President, House of Deputies
c/o Marian Conboy
Executive Office of the General Convention
Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Ministry:

As leaders of denominational and ecumenical women’s ministries, we noted with great sadness that the budget presented and approved by both houses at the general convention in Anaheim eliminated several program areas at the national level,including women’s ministries.

We recognize that in these difficult financial times tough decisions are being made, many programs are being cut and good people are losing positions in many national church offices.

But we are concerned that the elimination of national leadership related to women’s ministries will be a significant loss to the Episcopal Church and to the whole ecumenical movement.

Although women constitute more that 50% of the membership of all of our churches, women’s gifts and talents are often undervalued.

While the Episcopal Church and other denominations are working very hard to be inclusive and diverse, elimination of this particular office seems to indicate that these gifts and talents are not deemed necessary at the highest programmatic levels. This raises concerns for us as leaders and ecumenical counterparts.

As many of our denominations seek to become more consultative, women’s skills and experience are particularly relevant. The leadership development provided through
denominational offices for women’s ministries is not only important to the women of the church but also to the denomination as a whole.

The participation of women beyond the congregation (in which they are often the core of the ministry workforce) provides women with a chance to grow spiritually. These opportunities for providing nurture to women are generated by the denominational office in a way that area staff or congregational ministries cannot.

We applaud the commitment the Episcopal Church has made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and we agree that the goals provide an image, an icon or
a lens for how we can build the reign of God in our own day.

We, along with other national and international leaders, also believe that these goals are not achievable without addressing gender violence and gender justice in our church and world. A commitment to overcoming poverty must seriously address the feminization of poverty on a global level. National program leadership is essential in holding up these truths.

The leadership and opportunities that the national women’s ministry office of the Episcopal Church have provided in the ecumenical family and with Ecumenical Women at the UN is just one important example of what is being lost with these budget decisions.

Beijing Circles, Gender Budgeting, and worship resources such as Lifting Women’s Voices – Prayers to Change the World are just a few of the gifts women’s ministries have provided not only to the Episcopal Church but to all of us in the USA and globally.

For over a century women’s mission and ministry has provided the opportunity for women to gather around issues of particular importance to women and children. It is hard to see how this identification of women with their sisters around the world and the potential of women to affect the world for good would continue without centralized leadership.
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it,
if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
1 Cor. 12:26.

Although we recognize the difficult budget decisions that faced the Episcopal Church, we believe eliminating the national office for women’s ministries was counter productive to the realization of ministry goals of greater inclusivity and diversity, spiritual and leadership development, as well your communion’s leadership in engaging global issues.

We pray that as the Episcopal Church continues to evaluate the national ministry priorities in these challenging and changing economic times that restoration of this vital ministry will be sought.

As part of the body of Christ, we continue to hold you and your communion in our prayers.


Leaders of Denominational and Ecumenical Women’s Ministries:

Deborah Bailey
Minister for Women’s Concerns
Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team
Local Church Ministries
United Church of Christ

Adonna R. Bowman
Executive Director
Office of Disciples Women
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Ann Ferguson
Presbyterian Women
Program Coordinator

Ruth Y. Hill
Executive Minister, Women Ministries of the ECC
Evangelical Covenant Church

Virginia Holmstrom
Executive Director
American Baptist Women’s Ministries
American Baptist Churches, USA

Rhoda Keener
Executive Director
Mennonite Women
Mennonite Church, USA

Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary
Women’s Division
General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Pam Phillips-Burk
Director of Women’s Ministries
Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Linda Post Bushkofsky
Executive Director
Women of the ELCA
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Mary J. Streufert, Ph.D,
Director of Justice for Women in Church and Society
Church in Society Program Unit
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Ann Tiemeyer
Program Director for Women’s Ministries
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

cc: Rev. Margaret Rose, Center Director, Mission Leadership Center, Episcopal Church
Anne Rudig, Communications Director, Episcopal Church
Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, National Council of Churches, USA


Bill said...

“While the Episcopal Church and other denominations are working very hard to be inclusive and diverse, elimination of this particular office seems to indicate that these gifts and talents are not deemed necessary at the highest programmatic levels. This raises concerns for us as leaders and ecumenical counterparts.”

Let me go out on a limb here and ask the question, isn’t the existence of groups like this, counter-productive to true equality. I know that in any movement it is necessary to have this type of focus group in order to get the ball rolling and capture recognition for certain issues, but in the long run I believe these specialty groups only reinforce the differences between themselves and the mainstream.

It’s hard to let go. These groups were begun with a lot of pain and sacrifice but in the end, do they really want to equate themselves with the D.A.R., an interesting foot-note in American History but does it serve any real purpose.

Everything has a useful life span. When that life span passes the point of maturity and begins to decline it is time to rethink your priorities. I believe that splinter groups do exactly that, they begin to splinter and marginalize exactly those whom they sought to serve.

Do we keep groups like this alive simply because it’s nice to have a place to go where everybody agrees with us. I’m gay and when I first came out, I wanted to be involved in everything Gay. I went to gay clubs and gay resorts because I could be around everybody who was either into my life style or agreed with it. Then I came to realize that I had sequestered myself in a “Gay Ghetto”. I want to be part of the whole world, not isolated in some little corner of the garden prancing through the tulips.

Only my thoughts of course but some interesting questions and no easy answers.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bill, you wrote: Let me go out on a limb here and ask the question, isn’t the existence of groups like this, counter-productive to true equality.

And, as President of the Episcopal Women's Caucus, I'd have to say that in my experience, the answer is a resounding "no". Sexism and misogyny are, unfortunately, alive and well - especially in the church.

Once we have achieved "true equality", your theoretical question may be theoretically appropriate to ask.

Sadly, that won't happen in my life time. Until then, a luta continua - the struggle continues - and so will groups like the EWC.

Kay & Sarah said...

Elizabeth, I agree. When "true equality" occurs there won't be a need for an Episcopal Women's Caucus. What many people do not realize is that the male institutions are so embedded in the Episcopal church that we do not recognize them as such.

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Even if (and this is a giant, economy, party-pack if) there is no need for special support in the post-racist, post-sexist, Utopian TEC, I think it's worth considering the work to be done in mission/international partnerships. Would anyone suggest that that there is no further work to be done in developing countries? In my travels I am always meeting small groups of women in other countries who are looking to form partnerships with higher-visibility organizations in the industrialized world. We miss out on so many levels when we have no way to preserve networks and processes that have helped others.

I'd also say that we're not so quick to get rid of many groups whose original identity is now obscure but who nevertheless provide networking opportunities. said...

perhaps negotiated settlements in property disputes would not only restore the (at least) $4 million currently budgeted for legal action to mission and ministry. but, the price of the liquidated properties could also be directed to mission and ministry.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Gee, Woodfamily, why do I suspect a "hidden agenda" to your comment?