Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why I have not told you about my health

After a year of thinking that my cough was allergies and not getting much change using anti-allergy meds I decided to have it checked out. My primary care doctor agreed and sent me to get an x-ray. When it was compared to a previous one – it was off to the pulmonologist. In the 1990s I had a condition called B.O.O.P. / along with polymyocitis. So there was some thought that I was having a recurrence of that. But also pulmonary fibrosis runs in my family so that was another thought along with much more dire and imminently more terminal things.

The point of this essay, however, is not my medical history but my reaction to once again having something serious going on and my unwillingness to tell people. At first I did not even tell my husband that I was going to have it checked out. He is a retired doctor so had already been thinking about telling me to get it checked out so was relieved to hear that I was getting a chest x-ray when I told him I was getting it checked.

Once I got the results that said I needed more tests, I still did not want the news to go beyond him but decided that I should tell our adult children so they did not get a big surprise. They hate it when we don’t tell them what is going on with us.  Then I told my priest who is also my colleague – since we work together and she is a great support. I decided that it would be good to talk it over with my spiritual director who helps me sort out what I am feeling and how I am reacting. But beyond that – I still did not want to tell anyone.

As I wondered about my reticence, I reflected on the last time I was really sick and the reactions I encountered. So beyond wanting to stay in denial by not talking and not wanting to cause others to worry there were three reactions that I wanted to avoid.

Pity: that “look” people give you that says “oh you poor pathetic sick person” as if one’s whole identity is being sick and you have lost your essential person-ness. Maybe this is asking too much of others. It could be that others just are expressing the feelings they are having and not really putting me in the “sick person” box. It may be that in our family we tend to do grim humor instead. We use humor to get through scary stuff. We know the seriousness so really don’t need that reinforced or reflected back. As an example, I was telling a friend about trying to fix the church’s sprinkler system and being up to my elbows in water when I saw what could have been a live wire in the water. My friend replied “well that would have solved all your problems.” I laughed and laughed and continue to laugh when I remember her comment.

Avoidance: people begin to draw away. This does not always happen physically, since you do have encounters with one another, but happens a lot emotionally. For me, as an extrovert, it is sort of like being dead before one is really dead. I think it comes from the other's not wanting to think about one's own mortality. When I am around people who are really sick and it could be terminal – I do feel like fleeing. I understand the reaction but it is hard to experience from the person who is sick point of view. When I had my previous serious illness – it revealed who would hang in there with me and who would not. The church, sad to say, failed miserably in this one. Though I was a seminarian in process to get ordained and had been super active in the diocese for years, I received no calls from my bishop or clergy. Only one church friend checked in with me regularly and friends who are not Christian kept up our relationship.

Questions: wanting the gory details and endless questions about what I did to “get sick.” This is probably the hardest thing to deal with because not only do I not want to talk about it all the time but also I do not need to add guilt to the mix. Questions like: “Do you think there was too much stress in your life?” Did you have a healthy diet?” etc. There are causes for some things and illness may be the consequence of something one does (like smoking - which I never took up - dodging that bullet), but mostly things happen because we live in mortal bodies that are subject to all sorts of conditions and will eventually die from something. Hearing questions like these may give me one more layer of anxiety that I really don’t need. I think it also comes from the hope that if one has not engaged in those behaviors or habits – one will not get whatever terrible thing the other has. It is sort of like holding up a cross to keep vampires away.  The questioners are trying to discover if they are vulnerable to the same thing.

All three of these reactions often come from caring but the way they are experienced by the person with an illness is not always helpful. In the end the person feels like an object in someone else’s life drama. I would suggest that you ask what is helpful and try to understand if I react badly to any of the above actions.  I realize this is a bind for my friends – you want to reach out and I don’t want you to withdraw in fear of doing the wrong thing. The best for me is for you to stay a pal and not worry too much about doing it right.

Upon letting this “marinate” for a few days:
As I reflect on the above I think there is an undercurrent of fear and anger in myself that evokes my reaction to your reaction, anger at having to deal with possible outcomes and fear of loss of abilities. I try not to project into the future what will happen and I try to live day by day – making necessary plans but living now. I don’t say “why me” – I know we all deal with our own stuff. I also try not to compare my stuff to yours – which is worse or better. And I like to stay in denial occasionally!

My husband and kids are a great source of support. They know me well enough to let me come to my own decisions. I also appreciate my brother, my priest, my spiritual director and good friends who listen and wait for me to hear myself. My priest and my spiritual director are very good at asking an occasional question that makes me go deeper but not all the time. And often my friends' and family’s grim humor is a catalyst for facing the days and nights of whatever happens. These are clarifying days – that help me live in the moment which all any of us have but sometimes need reminding.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crosses of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Our church uses a variety of crosses depending on the liturgical season. We are in the process of discussing moving a window with a nondescript design that was over the altar but too small for the space. During this time we have tried out different expressions of the cross. We also have other crosses around the church. I have been challenged and gone more deeply into the subject, especially as I design each expression.

The crosses of St. Catherine's speak to me in a variety of ways.

The stick cross (currently hanging in over the altar) reminds me of the fragility of life but how we are always bound together in the bonds of baptism. It is a cross for Lent with a burlap banner behind it. It is made of red osier dogwood sticks bound together with bare copper wire.

Most of the year we have a brass cross is a Celtic cross and carries me back to our roots in the British Isles. It is also sturdy and enduring as the love of Christ. It reflects the light back to us. We use banners of the year's liturgical colors with it. It was hanging in our church when we met in a converted school building (now a strip mall). So it also holds those memories of beginnings and dreams.

The driftwood cross (used last year in Lent and this year in the narthex) evokes the place we call home and the tides and storms and calm of the Pacific Ocean. It is made of 2 piece of driftwood and is attached to a base. This year we have a purple cloth around the base and burlap hanging behind it.

The St Catherine's cross (on top of the church) connects us to the early church, spreading to the 4 corners of the earth, and the spears remind us of the suffering of those who stood up for the faith. It is a copy of a cross on
top of the bell tower of the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai located in Egypt.

The processional cross with its icons of Jesus and the Gospels reminds me of John 5:39,that I need to study but that life in Christ is in the living. This cross was commissioned for us when we built our current building.

Each one says much more as I enter into contemplation on this sign that even death is not the end.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Woman at the well

The Gospel for this Sunday is one of my favorites (I know I know - I say that about most of the Bible! but this one really is). I chose it for the Gospel for my ordination as a priest. To me it speaks of  the reality of life. How we fill our lives with "many husbands" (occupations and loves of the moment) but when we find the real thing we realize what has been missing and the depth of our thirst. Then we want to run out and tell everyone. The Eastern Church honors her with a name, Photini: bringer of light. She was one of the earliest and best evangelists. She did it by telling her story. The power of story to tell the truth about life (even it not "facts") is well known. What is your story of coming to Christ or having Christ come to you? Who was the story bearer in your life?

Here are some photos of the sculpture of the woman and Jesus - from Chester Cathedral.

And a video performance of the story here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Keeping a holy Lent

What are you doing for Lent?

When I was serving at the altar every week there were so many ways to fully immerse myself in worship. Now as I sit in my pew it is easy to drift off and go home feeling a little less than an encounter with the Holy One. So, for Lent, I am going to pay attention to the attitude of worship - with my whole self.

One day I noticed someone who prays with his hands turned palm upwards - I thought I would try that. I know from paintings of the earliest Christians they usually prayed in this way.

It was amazing the difference. Instead of juggling papers I felt involved in the prayers. I began to memorize the responses or let the congregation carry me along if I forgot the words.

So for Lent - it will be "all in" -- using the practices of the church of genuflecting, bowing to the cross, making the sign of the cross when the Trinity is invoked, kneeling for confession, and holding my hands palms up to both hold and receive prayer. I invite you to try some of these - involve your body in worship as well as your mind. And sing even if you don't think you are a very good singer.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Another good one gone...

Rise in glory, Pete Seeger.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Epiphany 2014

Epiphany is the anniversary of my ordination. Eighteen years ago the Rt Rev. William (Dub) H. Wolfrum and the clergy gathered ordained me to the priesthood. I was happy to have my ordination on that day as Epiphany is one of my favorite Holy Days.

I was supposed to be ordained by Wyoming bishop, Bob G. Jones, but as life evolved, it fell to my friend, whom I always knew as Bill, to preside. It was sort of like a full circle moment as Bill was the first person to ask me whether I had ever considered ordination. We were all driving to a meeting of Diocesan Council and I immediately broke into tears. This surprised me as I was not considering ordination.

Women had been ordained in the Episcopal Church since 1974 and I had grown up when girls and women could not even be acolytes or lay readers or members of Vestries or Deputies to General Convention. So now, riding across the long stretches of the highways of Wyoming, in my late 30s, it was not really in my mind as something to I might do. In fact, I had been sort of shocked by the first women getting ordained and wondered if it would be the end of the church! At this point in time I was a Senior Warden, Lay Reader, Lay Preacher and member of Executive Council for the Diocese, Deputy to General Convention and would become a Representative from Province VI to the National Executive Council, as well as teaching Sunday School, directing the Church Camp, and was happy doing all these ministries. So what was with the tears?

In 1991, as I turned 50, I went to seminary (the spaghetti sauce epiphany). And in 1996 was ordained a priest. It has been the best "job" ever. I reflect on the reasons I loved it (and still love it though retired) at Episcopal Café.

All this is sort of a long way into reflecting on Hieronymus Bosch's painting of the Magi visiting the Christ Child.

I love this painting for all the weird details. See here for more info on the details. The whole sense of the absurd and the terrible going on during this most holy of encounters reminds me of how it is with God and life. God shows up in all sorts of settings, sort of like the game of tag "ready or not, here I come." Armies are at war, people are making fun of religion, others are just join on about their daily lives. But here in the center the three who have been seeking their true hearts' desire, bring their gifts and kneel in awe.

It is a reminder to me of the Jesus I follow - who is here no matter what the circumstance. Pray that we will be wise enough or foolish enough to see as we follow our stars.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Of whales and stewardship campaigns

Yonder is the great and wide sea
with its living things too many to number, *
creatures both small and great.

There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan, *
which you have made for the sport of it.
Psalm 104:26-27 (BCP)

Saturday, driving from Nehalem to Cannon Beach, I stopped at Neahkahnie Mountain to look for whales. It was one of those blue sky days where it looks like you can see the curvature of the earth. Since we moved from Wyoming to the Oregon Coast I stop to look for the whales in the spring and fall when they are migrating but no luck. This time - there they were - leaping and blowing great spouts of water. I could see them with my own eyes but I also had my binoculars with me so I could see them even more clearly.

A couple from Europe was standing there - I asked, "Can you see the whales?" They said they had been looking all during their trip but could not. I pointed them toward the whales. The whales are not as far out in the ocean as people sometimes think. The couple was delighted. I let them use my binoculars as their's were low power.

A few weeks ago a young man wrote that his grandmother always said, "don't give ... share."

I have been thinking about the difference - giving and sharing. Saturday I had an example - sharing has the sense of delight. Giving feels more like something I should do. Sharing is something I want to do.

When I offer money or my time or share something that I know how to do - it is all the better when there is a sense of delight and joy. I am richer for sharing. The couple and I shared mutual delight - their joy increased mine on the day of seeing whales.

There is a passage in the Bible that says if you can't get to the temple with your offering - give a party for your friends and neighbors. When we talk about stewardship as we often do at this time of year I want to have this sense of sharing and delight in whatever I offer.

First published at Episcopal Café

Monday, November 11, 2013

The woman with 7 husbands

Reading is here.

Until this week I have read this lesson as being about Jesus debating with the Sadducees when they were trying to catch him out in some theological point. Of course the Sadducees don't believe in afterlife so they can make fun of that belief with their story. Or even if they did think about afterlife - given their cultural context the story of the brothers and the widow would be worrying.

In Jesus day, women were property - transferred from father to husband to first born son. They never had possession of themselves. Hence the question of where she belonged. Never having a child (meaning son) would leave her in confusion in their minds.

As I was reading the story this week and also reading Suzanne Guthrie's Edge of Enclosure reflections - I had a whole different idea about it.

When Jesus says "marry and are given in marriage" he means men (the ones who marry) and women (the ones who are given in marriage) - totally different categories of people. So when he says in the afterlife there is none of this - I can almost hear the women in the crowd gasping. "What, we are going to be our own persons? We will have decision making powers about our own lives?" Breathtaking and no wonder the Sadducees are silent - Jesus has opened up something bigger than they had imagined with their debating point.

Jesus breaks something that seemed unbreakable. From the first naming of things (to show possession) of the Genesis story to this moment - man has been doing the naming and all else (including women) are objects.

A friend noted that she believed the first sin was the naming - the objectifying of others. When we name things we are saying we own them. Think of your pets - do you know their real name? Or mountains?

T.S. Eliot puts it like this
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter—
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover—
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

What Jesus is doing in this passage it giving ownership of self back to women. It is really quite shocking - and I didn't see it at first - being caught up in the debate and thinking it is about after life. But we know that Jesus prays that earth will be like heaven (Lord's prayer "on earth as in heaven") so he is not caught up in a debate but telling us a deeper truth about what God is wanting for us.

Who knew?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

UTO restored

Hopefully the final chapter of the UTO controversy: Executive Council has expressed its regrets about how it all went down. Episcopal News Service reports:
[Episcopal News Service – Chicago, Illinois] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council formally moved Oct. 17 to try to heal the wounds incurred during the recent controversy over the functioning of the United Thank Offering.
Council’s efforts included two resolutions and many statements of support for the future of UTO and its relationship with the wider church.
In addition, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told council that she and UTO board president Barbara Schafer, from the Diocese of Nevada, were working on a joint statement to later release to the church.
Steve Hutchinson, chair of council’s Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration for Mission (GAM), told his colleagues that his committee’s Oct. 15 discussions with four UTO representatives were “substantive, frank and productive.”
He characterized the attitude as one of “very strong support and high hopes to move forward – not to dwell on the past – but to move forward cooperatively.”
In one of council’s two UTO-related resolutions, passed on the final day of its Oct. 15-17 meeting here, members “acknowledged with deep regret the breakdown of communication and relationship between the board of the United Thank Offering and leadership of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.”
They “committed to a season of reconciliation and renewal of all involved in a thoughtful and faithful engagement and conversation to resolve matters of governance and administration, while honoring the UTO’s historic promotion of a theology of thankfulness, so that the mission of the UTO can be strengthened.”
At the same time the members committed themselves to “continuing support of the UTO by offering gifts of thankfulness on a regular basis through the ‘little blue box’ or [to] direct gifts to the spring and fall Ingatherings,” and invited the whole Episcopal Church to join them.
“We give thanks for the years of inspirational and prophetic service to the wider Church that the United Thank Offering and generations of women leaders have made, and look forward to celebrating the 125th anniversary of this important work as we seek renewal of this mission for generations to come,” Resolution GAM011 concluded.
Council’s Joint Standing Committee on World Mission also brought forward a resolution Oct. 17 expressing thanksgiving for the ministry of the UTO and support of its work going forward. Resolution WM015 affirmed the UTO board’s 2014 United Thank Offering Grant Focus and Criteria (to be posted Nov. 1 on UTO’s website). Finally, the resolution also encouraged every Episcopalian to get and use daily a UTO Blue Box.
Council’s discussions were prompted by the resignation in early September of four UTO board members over what became for some a controversial effort to draft a memorandum of understanding between the UTO and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and new bylaws for the historic organization which Jefferts Schori said were meant to bring the operating procedures “into compliance with both federal law and with DFMS policies.”
Hutchinson said during a mid-day news conference Oct. 17 that the most recent controversy was “a bit of a boiling over of a broken relationship, frankly, some of which probably goes back for decades, some of which is more recent.”
He also noted that “notwithstanding 125 years of wonderful ministry in the church, United Thank Offering as an organization has never been formally defined as an entity in the Episcopal Church, and that has promoted a great deal of confusion at different times in its history and in some way has probably contributed to some of the erratic functioning in the relationship with other parts of the church.
Now however, Hutchinson told the council, there is hope for “a new identity, a new season of collegiality and cooperation.”
He told council that a working group of UTO board members and GAM members would soon be organized to continue the efforts to move forward.
Hutchinson, who had been involved earlier this year in the work on the bylaws revision and memo of understanding, had convened a closed GAM meeting on Oct. 15 with UTO board president Schafer; the Rev. Sarah Carver, appointed UTO board member from the Diocese of Eastern Michigan; the Rev. John Tampa, appointed UTO board member from Diocese of North Carolina and Margaret (Peg) Cooper, UTO Grants Committee chair, Diocese of Missouri. The four had been invited to the first day of council’s meeting.
Hutchinson told the council Oct. 15 that he would asked for the closed session because “this is about creating … a safe place for very open conversation.”
Those present, besides GAM members and the invited members of the UTO board, were Jefferts Schori; the Rev. Gay Jennings, House of Deputies president; the Rev. Heather Melton, UTO missioner; Bishop Stacy Sauls, the church center’s chief operating officer; Paul Nix, church center legal counsel, and Sally Johnson, Jennings’ chancellor.
Hutchinson had said he wanted to create “a safe place for very open conversation” that would be “quite brutally honest where necessary, compassionate, hospitable.”
UTO was established in 1889 as the United Offering by the Women’s Auxiliary to the Board of Missions and primarily supported the work of women missionaries. UTO later broadened its emphasis to include all areas of the church’s work.
UTO grants are funded in large part with the money that Episcopalians deposit in “Blue Boxes,” which they keep in their homes and offices. Over the last 124 years UTO has granted $131,789,046.70, according to a report here.
UTO suggests that people should daily pray and give – by putting some coins in their Blue Box – in recognition of their daily thanks for what God has given them. Oftentimes, the people whom the UTO calls “thankful givers” supplement their daily contributions before sending the money to UTO either individually or through a process known as diocesan in-gatherings. The UTO believes that thankful giving unites the givers spiritually with the people who benefit from their gifts.
During the group’s Sept. 25-Oct. 1 board meeting, Melton said said that giving to UTO has declined over the last 10 years.
In 2007, the UTO made 91 grants totaling $2,401,906.70. In 2009, it granted close to $2.1 million in 63 grants. For 2013, UTO awarded 48 grants for a total of $1,517,280.91. The complete list of grants is here.
Executive Council called in 2008 for a UTO study group to clarify the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s legal relationship with UTO. (The DFMS is the church’s corporate legal entity.)
Sandra McPhee, the first chair of the group, noted at the time that there was nothing in writing that spells out the UTO’s relationship to the DFMS, despite the fact that UTO was using the tax-exempt number assigned to the DFMS by the Internal Revenue Service, which expected the DFMS to “control” the UTO.
The council committee that proposed the study group also noted the UTO’s declining revenue and wondered if UTO’s fundraising model and grant-making methods needed updating.
The 2008 study group reported to council and General Convention in 2012. Councilapproved the group’s report in 2011, including a new set of by-laws and called for a memo of understanding between UTO and the DFMS. Convention also adopted the report and the by-laws.
Jefferts Schori called a meeting with UTO board members and DFMS staff this past July. During that meeting she appointed a committee to work with some UTO board members to draft a memorandum of understanding and to revise the group’s bylaws to bring about the compliance with federal laws and DFMS policies that the presiding bishop sought. It was that work that eventually led to the UTO board member resignations.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The UTO 4 have written a response to the 815 staff "Talking Points".  The Talking Points were distributed to the bishops at their last meeting. Executive Council meets this week - hope they can sort this out, move everyone back to the bylaws passed by Executive Council and agreed to by General Convention, UTO, and all involved. Then perhaps a civilized discussion of what else needs to be addressed regarding this ministry of gratitude so it can continue in the 21st century.

Read their response here.

Talking points are here.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Letter from Finance Officer of UTO

My name is Patricia (Patty) Tourangeau, and I write to offer my perspective and experience to this conversation. That perspective and experience comes from having served for six years (2003-09) as Finance Officer on the UTO Board. Previous to that I had served as Treasurer for the ECW Board for six years, from 1997-2003.

During those twelve years of service and ministry I spent substantial amounts of time working with the finance department/staff at the Church Center in New York City, keeping accurate and open financial records for both organizations. Beginning in October of 2007, however, It became harder and harder for me to do this. Indeed, after Joanne Chapman retired from her Church Center staff position as UTO Coordinator and liaison with the UTO Board in 2007 it became harder for all members of the Board to do what we had been elected to do. Beginning in December 2007 I experienced numerous insinuations that I was “authorizing expenditures of the UTO fund inappropriately”, coming from Church Center leadership: the new UTO Coordinator and her supervisors (not the behind-the-scenes clerical staff).

In December 2007 the Executive Committee of the UTO Board was informed, by the new UTO Coordinator, that she (and staff that she and Church Center staff would hire) would be more knowledgeable and better informed to administer UTO funds and approve the "right kind” of grants (implying that the UTO Board were NOT so qualified and WERE “out of step” with Church Center priorities). This new Coordinator informed me that she was now the person who would develop the budget and administer income from the Trust Funds. These Trust Funds were given and specifically designated to provide operation funds by which the UTO Board could perform its ministry throughout the Church.

December 2007 marks the first “official” indication that there was an administrative intention to eliminate the UTO Board from their historic role of stewardship of Trust Fund income and the decision-making process regarding the distribution of that income, as well as from their role in the Ingathering granting process. I must add, however, that I had heard this hinted at in June of 2007 while on a trip to the Philippines (representing the UTO President), to represent the UTO Board at the final meeting of the Joint Committee on the Philippine Covenant (JCPC).

Early in 2008 I had a conversation with Judy Gillespie, who had served as the UTO Coordinator in 1985. During our conversation Judy told me that when the Memorial and Gift Trust Fund was established it was set up for the use of the UTO Board and was not intended to pay any “salaries” for Church Center staff, even the UTO Coordinator. Judy was very surprised that UTO was providing 20% (around $35,000.00) of the Coordinator’s salary and benefits (2007). My understanding is that now the UTO contributes approximately $100.000 toward this salary & benefits. Judy also mentioned she had worked on the wording for the Memorial & Gift Trust Fund, and the money was to be used solely for the travel and expenses of the UTO Board members to do the work they were elected to do.

I had hoped this was all settled with the agreements between Executive Council and the UTO Board, and the vote of General Convention in 2012. I am, however sadly, not surprised that authorities at the Church Center continue a program of neutralizing and disregarding the elected members of the UTO Board.

The Women’s Auxiliary was established almost 125 ago and has been doing mission in Jesus’ name and under the banner of The Episcopal Church throughout the world and the Anglican Communion for those 125 years. People outside the USA might not know of The Episcopal Church, but they certainly do know of the United Thank Offering!! This is all thanks to Women in the Pew, giving thanks for God’s daily blessing and incarnating that Thanksgiving through their offerings of time, talent, treasure and self.

I have heard over and over again the frustration of UTO Board members and others who ask in one way or another, “Why are the funds gathered through the UTO Ingathering decreasing?” Certainly, for a time, the church-wide response to one natural disaster or another (e.g. Hurricane Katrina) and our recent economic circumstances account for a portion of that decline. In some quarters there may even be significant doubt about the direction of this Church. But the major reason, I believe, is because of the efforts since 2007, on the part of individuals at the Church Center in New York to neutralize and dismiss the UTO Board and any voice the Women in the Pew have in the mission of the Church by their prayers and coins dropped in their Blue Boxes and then gathered in and granted through the United Thank Offering Grants each year. Indeed, there are men who are very active in this mission work and who daily give thanks and put coins in the Blue Boxes; men have even served on the UTO Board many years ago (!), and so it should be noted that the decision taken to neutralize and dismiss this “Women’s” ministry in fact reaches beyond gender to all who support the UTO effort from their pew at each service held in an Episcopal Church in all nine provinces of this Church.

My husband, a priest of this Church and sometimes less diplomatic than I, has his own perspective on what is going on. Having lived with me throughout these years, read letters and listened to telephone conversations and been trailing spouse to more than one Board meeting (tacked on to a family vacation), driven me to Chicago to get my passport renewed at the last minute, and supported my ministry in numerous ways, has likened this entire turn of events to an “ecclesiastical purse snatching”.

But that’s my husband. For myself, I pray that the newly proposed By Laws are not accepted, and that a respectful and gracious way is found the UTO Board to continue to serve and be served by the Women in the Pew as Board members as well as prayerful and thankful givers. That said, at this point I believe it would be better for the UTO Board to be its own 501(c) 3 corporation. I continue to pray for the UTO Board until this is settled once and for all!
God’s Blessing,
Patty Tourangeau
(UTO Finance Office 2003-2009)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

UTO: a way forward

An analysis of the documents and the proposed bylaws by Will Westerfield who is an accredited parliamentarian - an expert in this field. The first part is a cover letter followed by an analysis of the draft bylaws.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings,President of the House of DeputiesThe Episcopal Church
The Right Rev. Wendell GibbsBishop, Diocese of MichiganProvince V Representative
Dear President Jennings and Bishop Gibbs,
Like many in The Episcopal Church the public conflict between members of the United Thank Offering Board and the Presiding Bishop’s senior staff has caught my attention.
I have been an Episcopalian all my adult life and have had the opportunity, which I enjoyed greatly, attending General Convention in 06 as a volunteer for Integrity USA. I have also had the opportunity, through professional engagements and volunteer work to interact with many people throughout the Church.
Parliamentary procedure has been an interest of mine since high school and I have been a member of the National Associations of Parliamentarians for over fifteen years. I hold the designation of Professional Registered Parliamentarian from that body as well.
I have spent several hours reading the existing bylaws of the UTO and the proposed changes and attached is my detailed analysis of the impact of those proposed changes. Yet I realize that bylaws don’t exist in a vacuum.
I understand that the UTO operates under the 501(c)(3) Determination Ruling held by the DFMS. Therefore ultimate accountability of the UTO resides with those with fiduciary responsibility of DFMS.
I also understand that the UTO is without peer in The Episcopal Church. There are over $60 million in assets under the primary umbrella of the UTO. There are no Boards within the current CCAB structure of which its members are not elected by legislatively action of General Convention.
I also understand these are draft bylaws and are not approved. Perhaps circulation at this juncture wasn’t intended.  However there are some blatant structural errors in the section regarding the duties of the Officers that I wouldn’t expect in any drafts. I also question why UTO Board members resigned in the face of proposed bylaws.
I realize that the proposed bylaws, and the reaction to them, are emblematic of the bigger problem that obviously a breakdown in communication between the executive staff at 815 and the existing UTO Board Members has occurred.
I have also read two versions of the publicly discussed Memorandum of Understanding. One version was clearly written by the UTO Board and the other was equally clearly written by the executive staff at 815. It is as if the two sides represented in each of the draft documents are talking at each other instead of with each other.
Parliamentary procedure is meant to be one tool in an entire suite of tools meant to promote healthy organizational development and functioning. It is not clear to me that the currently proposed bylaws fulfill this role. There are also obvious issues with the bylaws the UTO is currently operating under as well.
The UTO has made significant contributions to the life the Church throughout the world. I believe everyone who has followed the public spat agrees that the UTO can continue to do so for future generations.
One of the realities is that perhaps action should have been taken in Indianapolis so that UTO was named a formal Board and required to function as every other Board. The fact that it didn’t is a problem that also presents itself clearly in the draft bylaws. The extraordinary way in which the members of the UTO Board are elected is an example of the magnification of this problem.
I would hope that before any formal action is taken at the next Executive Council meeting in October, select members of the UTO Board, Executive Council and executive staff from 815 could sit down together, perhaps with an outside facilitator to restart talking with each other.
I realize that a number of people are speaking out regarding this issue. I hope that by writing this, I contribute positively in encouraging solutions to this problem.
I know that the House of Bishops is meeting later this week. As it is whenever HOB meets, that body will be in my intentional prayers. The same is the case of the Executive Council.
Deus Meus et Omnia,
C. William Westerfieldwill@gridservicesgroup.com989-492-0201Eastern Michigan

Article I

It is not clear why in this “Name” section the mission of the Board is initially detailed. There are major two issues here. In traditional non-profit organizational development theory, the vision of an organization is the why it exists. The mission of an organization is how it exists. Aside from the fact that most of the items listed in this section are actually things traditionally associated with the vision of an organization, there are two items (Nos. 5 & 6) that essentially mirror the Purposes set forth in Section 2.

Article II

The revisions in this section clearly change the fundamental operation of the UTO by focusing on the advisory duties it would perform under these proposed revisions.  In her public letter, dated September 12th, The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, the President of the House of Deputies states that she believes

“that the original intent of this work was not to take authority or
grant making decisions away from the UTO board, but rather to ensure
that the United Thank Offering will continue its invaluable mission
for years to come.”

Even a generous reading of the text “evaluate existing policies, priorities and grant criteria as approved by the Chief Operating Officer of DFMS, or his/her designate, and to evaluate solicited grants based on said approved criteria and to recommend dispersal of said grants to the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church through the Finance and Mission Departments…” could not allow for any interpretation but that of a change from the UTO taking action itself to recommending how DFMS takes actions in the name of the UTO, especially in light of the fact that in 2013, the UTO made two grants
to the aforementioned Department of Mission (IDTEC1, IDTEC2) totaling $80,000.

Article III, Section 1 (Deleted and Substituted sections)

The deletion and substitution of this article makes it clear that final accountability of the UTO rests with the DFMS, General Convention and The Executive Council. Ultimately because the UTO currently operates under the 501(c)(3) designation held by DFMS, this is accurate and required by law. Even if the UTO were to obtain its own recognition of exemption by the IRS (and even if it were its own legal entity), there would be questions regarding the true state of complete independence unless there was no oversight by General Convention, The Executive Council or staff from 815.

Article III, Section 2

This simply states that the UTO will act within compliance of DFMS policies. Just as in that parish bylaws cannot conflict with diocesan bylaws that cannot conflict with General Convention, a Board of the Church cannot be in conflict with it either.
Article III, Section 3

Previously the members of the Board of the UTO were solely elected during the Triennial meeting of the ECW without any form of approval or consent from General Convention or the Executive Council. It should be noted here that no other Board of The Episcopal Church is elected in such a manner. Every other Board has its members elected by way of General Convention. Thus by letting a body outside GC elect members to a Board who are then are sent to Executive Council for its approval, the UTO is singularly unique. Strictly speaking for the sake of uniformity, this section could have specified the members of the UTO Board are to be elected by legislative action of General Convention. A problem created by this revision is that there are no publicly available criteria that the members of the Executive Council would use in determining whether or not to approve the aforementioned elections held in the ECW Triennial.

Article III, Section 4

The fact that the UTO Board will develop and recommend the “strategic plans, policies and criteria for the granting process to the COO of DFMS…” fundamentally changes the functioning of the Board from action-orientated to advisory oriented. This is further clarified by the elimination of several support duties later designated to be conducted by DFMS staff and finally by adding that the Board will “make recommendations to the Executive Council of TEC regarding UTO grant awards.” The duty to publicize Annual Reports of the Board “granting activities” is problematic because as specified earlier in the present Article and Section as well as Article I, Sections 1 and 2, it is clear that the UTO Board is making no granting activities in the traditional sense that it is making the grants. Clearly the Executive Council is the body now making the granting activities under these proposed bylaws.

Article III, Section 5

This is seemingly in conflict with the previous provisions. Is the Executive Council the body actually making the grants or is it the Executive Council together with the UTO Board actually making the grants?

Article III, Section 7

The deletion of this section further strips away job functions previously performed by UTO officers.

Article III, Sections 8, 9 & 10

The re-wording of these sections is simply a matter of compliance and clarity.

Article III, Sections 11 & 12

These were merged into other sections.
Article III, Section 13

The elimination of this article is most likely to bring the bylaws in compliance with DFMS policies.

Article IV, Sections 1,2 & 3

Modifications here are for the sake of clarity.

Article IV, Section 4

While most modifications in this section are for clarity sake, there is one change that is of particular note. The change requiring the margin of majority votes in favor of new business being considered at Special Meetings is a substantive one. This change may simple be one that brings the UTO Board operations in line with other Boards of General Convention. Traditionally business at Special Meetings have been tightly limited to that which was already on the agenda when the notice of the Special Meeting was transmitted to Board Members. Lowering the majority threshold on the passage of changing the agenda of a special meeting from 75% to a mere majority can fundamentally change not only the course but also tone deliberations in Special Meetings.

Article IV, Section 5

While the addition of the consultation by the Board President with the General Convention Office may be also bringing the operations of the UTO Board in line with other CCABs, the addition of the necessary consultation with the Mission Department as well fundamentally changes the relationship between the UTO Board and what was one of its former grant recipients.

Article IV, Section 6

This section deleted the ability for proxy votes to be transmitted during Board meetings. This is a reasonable provision alteration considering that participation by “telephone or similar communication equipment” is allowed for.

Article V, Section 1

The only addition is clarity of what larger the body “Executive Council” is a part of.
Article V, Section 2

The change in the wording from “confirmed members” to “adult communicants in good standing” is meant to bring the bylaws into conformance with other similar membership requirements.

Article V, Section 3

Of particular note is the removal of the vote/consent of the President of the UTO Board with respect to the two (2) appointed members added formerly jointly with the President and Vice President of the Executive Council. This change further highlights what some UTO Board members may view as a substantive loss in the autonomous nature they previously had with DFMS.

Article V, Section 4

This section further clarifies that the terms of office for Board members are in line officially with General Convention rather than the ECW Triennial.

Article V, Section 7 (Existing)

One reading of the elimination of the original section may be that non-UTO members may become Board members.

Article V, Section 7 (Proposed)

The discipline as outlines in this section is bringing the bylaws into compliance with GC standards.

Article VI, Section 1

The elimination of the Finance Officer is of note here. However given that the UTO utilizes the 501(c)(3) determination ruling held by the DFMS, this is likely required for compliance.

Article VI, Section 2

The revisions here bring the UTO Board elections to coincide with General Convention.

Article VI, Section 4

The elimination of the title “CEO” is in compliance with provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that required the elimination of otherwise honorific corporate business titles being given to members of an organization.

Article VI, Section 7

The elimination of this article highlights the lessened autonomy that the UTO would function under given these new bylaws.

Article VI, Section 8

The first sentence clarifies that the UTO Board President shall meet with DFMS officials.

The entire numbering & lettering sequence of Article VI from Section 4 and beyond need to be fixed for consistency sake. The presidential duties constitute Sections 4 through 8. It would make more sense to contain “presidential duties” within a single Section 4 with numbered paragraphs. Then the sentence in Section 8 regarding Vice Presidential duties would be logically Section 5 and the paragraph (c) detailing the duties of the Secretary would then be Section 6. This of course affects the remaining two numbered sections of Article VI, which would then become Sections 7 and 8. There are also other basic numbering errors throughout the document as a result of combined and deleted sections. Consistency is important for understanding a document.

Article VII

The elimination and restructuring of the committees in this article is a re-organization and fundamentally changes the duties of the entire UTO Board. Some of these changes help streamline the process by which UTO operates. However it would be almost impossible to argue that the nature of what UTO is accomplishing (“advising” versus “doing”) hasn’t changed.

Article VIII

The fact that the bylaws of the UTO are now subject to Executive Council approval further demonstrates the change in the nature of the UTO.

Article IX

The assertion that Trademarks are intellectual property of DFMS further magnifies that UTO is part of the DFMS entity.