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.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lost and Found

Thoughts on Sunday's Gospel, Luke 15:1-10: Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees and the scribes about his practice of eating with tax collector and sinners. He tells them 3 stories - one about a lost sheep, another about a lost coin, and a third about a lost son. Sunday's reading focusses on the first two.

In our Bible study this week I was surprised to hear in one version of the Bible that Jesus left the 99 sheep in the open country. The versions I have always heard and all the Sunday School Bible art shows them in the wilderness. In my imagination, "wilderness" evokes a very different image than "open place." So I began to think about the initial encounter between Jesus and his challengers.

Pharisees, of course, were good religious people, trying to keep the faith in a time when it would be very easy to lose it. The Romans had conquered them and had a very different religion from the Judaism. It would be easier to go along and forget about God or just be private about one's faith. But the Pharisees chose a harder path - very public about their faith with many ritual practices to remind them of who they were. Scribes were the ones who helped keep everyone true to the religious laws. So they are shocked that Jesus would hang out with the tax collectors who worked for the Romans and with sinners - the ones were not observant or who showed no sign of being faithful. They may or may not have been living in sin as we interpret it - but for sure they were not faithful to God.

So back to the story:
As we read this translation - where it says the shepherd left them in an open place. I began to wonder if where they pasture sheep may be different from our thinking about wilderness or even that painting from Sunday School where the shepherd finds the lost one on a craggy cliff.

I wonder if Jesus is saying - yes you are following God but it is from relative safety-- you have homes, family, privilege (even though the Romans are in power). But God loves even those lost in unbelief, the unclean, the one's who never follow the outward signs of faith -- etc.

Then a friend, Robert Morrison, the interim rector of St. Alban's in Albany, OR, sent me his sermon with a link to an action by Pope Francis and his willingness to talk and listen to people who are doubting and who don't believe. Morrison writes:

Francis wrote a personal letter to a renowned journalist and nonbeliever. Back in early July and again in early August, Eugenio Scalfari, wrote essays, “musing about questions he'd like to ask Pope Francis if he ever had the chance.” 
Surprisingly, the Pope wrote a letter that was “splashed across the front page of La Repubblica, the country's most widely read daily. 
“In the letter, Francis makes three points that have all been said before, including by popes, but rarely with such clarity or in this kind of venue:
• God has never abandoned the covenant with the Jewish people, and the church ‘can never be grateful enough’ to the Jews for preserving their faith despite the horrors of history, especially the Shoah, the Hebrew word for the Holocaust.• God's mercy ‘does not have limits’ and therefore it reaches nonbelievers, too, for whom sin would not be the lack of faith in God, but rather, failure to obey one's conscience.• Truth is not ‘variable or subjective,’ but Francis says he avoids calling it ‘absolute’ -- truth possesses us, he said, not the other way around, and it's always expressed according to someone's ‘history and culture, the situation in which they live, etc.’ …
“This is apparently the first time, however, that a pope has personally responded to questions put to him in two newspaper editorials. Eugenio Scalfari, one of the founders of La Repubblica, penned the essays in early July and again in early August, musing about questions he'd like to ask Pope Francis if he ever had the chance.” 
Scalfari had referred to a recent papal encyclical “Lumen fidei, which said that ‘to the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find,’ nonbelievers ‘are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith.’ … 
“In his response to Scalfari, Francis wrote that he believes dialogue between the church and non-believers is important for two reasons. 
“The first, the pope wrote, is the historical breach between the church and the culture inspired by the Enlightenment. 
“‘The time has come … for an open dialogue, without preconceptions, which reopens the doors for a serious and fruitful encounter,’ Francis writes. 
“Second, Francis says, from the point of view of the believer, dialogue with others is not a ‘secondary accessory’ but rather something ‘intimate and indispensable.’" 
Francis knew that Scalfari wasn’t the least bit shy about expressing his criticism of the Roman Church in particular and Christianity and other religious belief systems in general. Yet Francis set out, using one of the riskier methods – opening himself up to criticism and ridicule by responding to the newspaper in which the journalist was in control.

And I am reminded of the Hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" 

More to ponder -- what do you think?

Friday, September 13, 2013

UTO: my thoughts

A question was asked in another place - why doesn't United Thank Offering just get its own 501c3 number instead of using the Episcopal Church's tax i.d.? Episcopal Relief and Development took this direction a few years ago - why not UTO?

Remembering the ER-D switch to its own 501c3 instead of the church's tax i.d. -- 3 reasons were given - one to protect assets from lawsuits against the church, two -to keep it less political - it could stay out of issues accruing to the National Church, and three - to allow it to go after grants from corporations that would not give to "a church" (like the partnership with Nets for Life and the NBA).

The UTO has not wanted nor needed that separation for any of those reasons. UTO and 815 needed to be clear about roles and tax status -- that was being worked on and agreed to by all. The sticking point is the movement from UTO doing the majority of the work of reviewing and granting within the structure --- to --- the COO and UTO coordinator doing this with a small advisory role for UTO.

It is not clear why this change was being made and there has been no explanation (except in the PBs letter where she says "official leadership (the President of the House of Deputies, the Chief Operating Officer, the Executive Officer of General Convention, the Treasurer, and I) have no intention of divesting the United Thank Offering of its funds or applying excessive controls to its practices."

But the bylaws proposed by the COO do not bear our this statement. Comparing the former bylaws (approved by GC and Executive Council in 2012 - has that much changed in tax law and why wasn't it questionedthen?) you can see the shift of control.

Now we find out that the PHoD (see previous post) did not see any of the documents that were released by the PB and COO.
I am not saying anyone set out with bad intent -- but it has played out in ways that make one wonder.
Prayers that the Executive Council will hear from all - including those who have resigned - and offer some reconciliation. UTO is to great a program to lose.

See previous blog items and Episcopal Café for more on this.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

President of House of Deputies responds on UTO

The President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Jennings has written to Deputies to General Convention regarding the UTO revelations. Read her letter here to see links:
September 12, 2013

Dear Deputies:

In the last several days, many people in the church have expressed interest and concern about the United Thank Offering (UTO). I wanted to write directly to you to give you my perspective and ask for your thoughts.

First, some background as I understand it: Beginning this summer, a group of UTO board members and four people representing the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), including a member of Executive Council, have been working to update UTO’s bylaws and memorandum of understanding (MOU) with DFMS and put standard business practices in place. This work builds on the work of a task force created by Executive Council in 2008 to strengthen the UTO for ministry in the 21st century (INC-055 Ad-Hoc Committee).

Like many of you, I was surprised and saddened to learn last week that four members of the existing UTO board have resigned their positions, at least in part because they were unhappy with the current version of the draft bylaws and MOU. It is clear from the statements and documents that have subsequently been released by both sides in the conflict that the situation is badly in need of reconciliation.

I believe that the original intent of this work was not to take authority or grantmaking decisions away from the UTO board, but rather to ensure that the United Thank Offering will continue its invaluable mission for years to come. Reasonable people can debate exactly how the balance of control over UTO funds should be shared between the volunteer UTO board, the Executive Council and the staff of the DFMS, but we all agree that UTO funds should be used only for their intended purpose: to make grants for mission work. However, as an officer of the DFMS who bears fiduciary responsibility for these funds, I believe that it is important to put some better business practices in place and delineate more clearly what powers both the UTO board and the DFMS possess and how they can best work together for the mission of the UTO.

Last Friday afternoon, Bishop Katharine released a statement about the ongoing conversations with the UTO, and I commend her statement to you. I agree with her assessment of the situation, and especially her reminder that, “The goal of all of this long work is to the continued existence and thriving of the ministry of the United Thank Offering.” I continue to be grateful for the strong working relationship that the Presiding Bishop and I have built, both on this issue and many others.

Unfortunately, both an unattributed summary of the situation and private correspondence between UTO board members and DFMS employees were also released on Friday. I had no prior knowledge of the planned release of these documents and I received them at the same time as the rest of the church. Had I been consulted, I would have voiced strenuous objection both to the tone and content of the unattributed summary and to the release of private correspondence without the consent of everyone involved. I am dismayed to be associated with this action by virtue of being mentioned in the unattributed summary.

What now? Some of the remaining members of the UTO board and those representing DFMS have resumed working on the draft bylaws and MOU, and it appears to be a positive engagement. Next month at Executive Council, the elected leaders of the church will be briefed, and depending on the status of these discussions, Council may need to consider additional ways forward to foster healing and reconciliation and to ensure that UTO is strengthened for the next 125 years of service. At that meeting, I will advocate for reconciliation and for a respectful, transparent outcome that is shaped and supported by the UTO board and Executive Council to ensure the continued vitality of the United Thank Offering.

I am also making a personal gift to the United Thank Offering today in gratitude for its 125 years of ministry and for the unstinting service of the laywomen who founded it and continue to lead it today. I invite you to join me by mailing your check to:

United Thank Offering
DFMS – Protestant Episcopal Church US
P.O. Box 958983
St. Louis, MO 63195-8983

Please also encourage congregations in your diocese to order United Thank Offering Blue Boxes online and hold ingatherings this fall and next spring.

Most of all, please pray for everyone struggling to discern the right path in this situation. As Episcopal Church Women President Nancy Crawford wrote last week, “I ask your prayers for those who administer to the needs of our church, and most especially for all the women of our church who strive daily to do the work God calls us to do in mission and ministry in the world, that we may shine forth the joy and wonder we share in God’s holy name.”

I hope that you will stay in touch with me as this situation unfolds and join me in praying for reconciliation and healing.


Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church