Two days into the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The blogs are humming, Episcopal News Service is putting out the word that everything is rainbows and unicorns as a talking point counter offensive to the six-month-old rumor that the triennium might look more like a game of Risk than Candyland.
One thing is certain, budgets will be cut.
It is a bit surprising that The Episcopal Church was as behind the curve in foreseeing this as the rest of the country. First, there should have been no idealogical investment in capitalism at the corporate, cancerous stage. This is against everything Christianity and nearly every other religion stand for. But even if The Episcopal Church was trying to brand itself as a better appointed club to join on Sunday mornings, the graffiti on the wall about the collapse of the economic world was sprayed there within the first year of the new millennium. The legal fees brought about by the off-brand of The Episcopal Church (The AMIA/CANA is like RC Cola to TEC’s Coke) ought to have resulted in some measure of prudence. Those junkets to Hawaii and The Rainbow Room for the pension fund should have stopped years ago.
But that was then, and now that the floodgates have opened, the sandbags are getting loaded off the trucks.
In the past year, there has been an ugly trend in dioceses and parishes. This Episcopalian has hopes that it will come to an end in Anaheim during budget deliberations at General Convention. The trend is to make expendable the staff members and programs that connect directly with faith formation and education.
Is this not at the heart of what The Episcopal Church can offer ? Dovetailed with healthy, integrated, and responsive worship it is the sole niche of The Church. Nowhere else is this found in the general culture. Yet the first staff members to be cut are those working in education. And no one is picking up the slack – the embrace of the formation of faith in all generations is not addressed by sermons alone.
This is an astonishingly devoted part of the church population. These are our working theologians who make more of a difference in history than any primate. They don’t deserve this. One wonders that because they have been willing to work for less than musicians, clergy, even secretaries that diocesan and parish leadership are willing to gamble on their dedication.
Could these cuts be so cynical in their origin? Cut the salaries – they’ll keep coming back and we’ll get free programs.
For those who are reading this while at General Convention, check out the NAECED booth and Discovery Center. Meet only some of the people who are keeping The Episcopal Church alive and doing it on a shoestring, with little recognition, gently doing the work of prophetic nurturers year after year. The leadership has the door closed, but still the faithful keep knocking. They do it although they are rarely recognized publicly, provide materials from their own homes, rarely get funds for development and education unless they are wearing collars. They do it out of love and a deep knowledge that this is the only thing that matters.
These are the people who persist despite rigid rectors’ worries about practices that are “popular”, or who should be “catered to” first.
This is a spiritual issue. An issue addressed in Holy Scripture: Sow in faith, not in fear. The Episcopal Church can survive without organs, capital campaigns, even an ample supply of clergy. But it will not survive unless it provides a solid home for faith for all generations.