It was well over a year ago that we began to play with a tagline “Feels like Family” for our parish. Of course, I see the advantages of this phrase. It takes one away from a view of Church as an “institution” or a “social club” and this is important. There is a sharing dimension to family.
I also see the challenges in this depiction. Families are that into which we are born (usually) but in our contemporary cultures, more people end up choosing the church family where they worship – and they may change that choice more than once in their lives.
Family should be a place of safety as well as nourishment. It is also a place where one’s faults are always well known but one receives forgiveness when it is sought. Family is a place for conversation (which often brings disagreement) and emotions (which can at times overrule clear thinking).
Church as a “family” is a good notion. Having Christ as the Head of this family and knowing He nurtures us lets that notion make sense even as it challenges us.
For the last several weeks, I have taken “time off” from personal reflections and elevated this spot for some teaching about the workings of the Episcopal Church in light of its legislative General Convention that took place in late June. Teaching time is over; life moves on.
September breathes new life into parish structures and rhythms. Summer has been a time to rest – to be reborn and to anticipate the coming months. College age parishioners are moving on (or back) to university life. New people are stepping into parish leadership and teaching roles. We hope and pray for new persons to join us as a parish. We know of one beautiful little lady (Christina) who will be baptized in November.
Finances are improving but we’re a long way from the (20)17 by which we will be strong! This year will bring a new group of teenagers who will be asked to reaffirm who they are as baptized Christians. A new music director lies just beyond the horizon of winter. This year I hope to bring more speakers to the parish (yes: people who owe me favors and I always collect!) This should be another busy and spiritually uplifting year.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6:21)
I thought that for this week I would share with you some of the financial priorities of the Episcopal Church for the next three years – as determined by General Convention. (You want to see what a person believes or holds dear, watch where he or she spends money.) Here is a brief snapshot of some church expenses.
- The Total Budget for the Episcopal Church, USA for 2016-2019 will be $125,083,185.
- $750,000 for digital evangelism added to communications ministry
- $1,100,000 to fund the remaining two Standing Commissions and their work
- $1,200,000 to be contributed to the Anglican Communion Office
- $300,000 for training in the new disciplinary process for clergy (mis)behavior
- $1,500,000 for block grants to the Dioceses of Alaska, Navajoland, North Dakota and South Dakota to enhance ministry to Native Peoples
- $2,000,000 initiative on racial justice and reconciliation
- $6,500,000 to be directed to Latino-Hispanic initiatives and church planting
- Don’t forget that the salary of the Presiding Bishop and Staff of the National Church Office is all funded from this budget. What is now on the table for discussion is the possibility of funding a salaried position for the President of the House of Deputies. Up until this time (1789-2015), this has been a priest or lay person who has had much responsibility that is similar to that of a Presiding Bishop (in terms of membership on Councils and power of Appointments). This has never been a salaried position. The downside of that is no one can take on all the travel commitments and time required unless he or she is both retired and wealthy. So your pool of qualified persons is very limited. This is now under study for the next General Convention.
General Convention 2015
Some Structural Changes to the Episcopal Church
OK – this report will probably reflect one of the less “sexy” reflections of what took place at General Convention. As most of you know, our bishops elected and the House of Deputies confirmed the election of the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry (Bishop of North Carolina) to be the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Curry will begin this new ministry on November 1.
The number of Standing Commissions that study issues and make recommendations for the life of this church has been reduced from 14 to 2. From now on, “ad hoc” task forces (made up of experts in the field) will be appointed to deal with most issues. Only Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music as well as Constitution and Canons remain as Standing Commissions.
Just as each parish has a mandatory assessment (a.k.a. – a “tax”) which we pay to the Diocese four times a year to support its work and staff, so the Episcopal Church nationally is supported by a Diocesan Assessment whereby every diocese is supposed to meet a certain level of giving to the National Church. Starting in 2016, these Diocesan assessments will now become mandatory (and many of us were unaware that they were not already). Every Diocese from now on must meet its assessment or it will lose the ability to receive any grants or loans from the National Church.
–more to come—