I started this blog just about exactly six years ago as a tool to keep people up to date on what I was hearing and seeing as a first time deputy to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I used it again in 2006 to report on my second convention. With my third convention hard upon us, it would be a shame not to go back to the same discipline of writing up my thinking and reporting on my experiences.
So – let’s do just that.
My first two conventions I was a deputy from the Diocese of Bethlehem and I used this tool as a way for people from that diocese and from my parish (Trinity Church in Bethlehem) to hear directly from me regarding the various controversies that were facing the Episcopal Church.
But there will be some differences this time around too. Following the Convention in 2006 a group of us, led by Jim Naughton, created a meta-blog site called Episcopal Cafe. The blog was partly a desire to be able to have a single place for people to find out information about the Episcopal Church from a moderate/progressive viewpoint and partly to have a vehicle to quickly respond to the various charges made against the Episcopal Church’s actions in 2003 and 2006. It’s been pretty effective at that and Jim and the rest of the news team over on the Lead are planning to continue to cover convention as best they can. (I’ll be helping out a bit on the side, but not very effectively. I’ve got enough to keep me busy on the floor of Convention.)
The second difference has been the creation of similar sort of site by Craig Uffman and some friends of mine on the moderate/conservative side of things: Covenant-Communion. I’m an occasional poster to that site, and charged with keeping my eyes open for new multimedia that might be worth sharing over there. I’ve not been as active as I might have been, but I’ve learned a great deal from the conversation that occurs on the site and I’m happy to be connected with them even if it’s slightly tenuous at the moment. That site hasn’t garnered the readership of the Cafe, and has a slightly different focus, but I think if you read it and the Cafe in conversation, you’ll have a pretty decent sense of where the fully spectrum of the Episcopal Church is found these days.
Now, what do I think is going to be the big take-away from Convention this year?
Money. Specifically the lack thereof.
Between the economic meltdown and the lack of commitment to evangelism and youth ministry, the Episcopal Church is at present a rapidly aging, increasingly cash strapped entity. From what I’ve been told, there’s a 23 million dollar gap (perhaps now 30 million) between what has been asked to be funded by Convention and what income is expected to do that funding. And since a goodly chunk of our triennial budget is spent on health care, support for missions, and missionary dioceses, we really don’t have a lot areas where we can cut without significant pain.
I’ve been in this position in a number of dioceses and parishes during my ministry. The only way out of the box is to face the problem honestly and head-on. If you do that, there’s a good chance that you can grow the budget to the point that you’ll be able to restore some of the funding. If you don’t, it’s just going to get worse, probably much worse, over the next three years.
We have a limited amount of funds and a big problem.
We as a Convention are going to have to be very wise about where we put our limited resources.
As a friend of mine said the other day, if we don’t build “capacity” and our resources, we’re not going to have the tools to do justice no matter how great the need.
I wonder if the fact that we’re going to need to realize that we’re broke is going to change the dynamic at Convention? Gosh I hope so. We can’t afford business as usual anymore. Here’s hoping that we can hear that.