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quick reflections on Executive Council

I'm in the hotel restaurant in Omaha for a quick brunch before I get on a plane to come home from the Executive Council meeting, so I thought I'd dash off some quick notes for the Episco-curious.

The most important thing by far that happened at the meeting, I think, is the pledge Council made unanimously on behalf of The Episcopal Church to give AT LEAST an ADDITIONAL $10 million for the rebuilding of our sisters' and brothers' communities in Haiti. These funds are extrabudgetary -- i.e., on top of any funds in the church's 2010 budget for Haiti -- and are on top of the excellent and extensive work Episcopal Relief and Development is doing there. $10 million is essentially a tithe of the church's entire budget.

Mark Harris, you are as much a genius as you are a rascal, and that's saying something. (Mark is the initial proposer of such a tithe.)

And, by the way, as the resolution inspired by Mark's suggestion was first being proposed by Ian Douglas (soon to be the Bishop of Connecticut), it was our Presiding Bishop who suggested a making the resolution pledge AT LEAST $10 million rather than just saying $10 million. Bishop Katharine, that was truly inspired.

Folks, I know times are tough here in the continental U.S. for a lot of people. I'm unemployed myself. But you know, the wages of my wonderful and supportive high-school-teacher spouse still put us as a household in the top 1% of wage earners worldwide, according to the Global Rich List. We have a roof over our heads, clean water to drink, and something to eat other than boiled dirt, which is what a lot of people in Haiti are eating now. We're not in any danger of getting cholera.

In my view, this situation is essentially a medical emergency in the Body of Christ and the family of all humanity. When I had a gallstone a while back, we quite rightly went to the hospital first and figured out how to pay for it later. Karen (my partner) has suggested that we should do the same with donating to help rebuild Haiti, and she's absolutely right.

Please consider the same -- for yourself, for your worshipping community, for your company or club, or pub trivia crowd, or wherever you are and gather. 

On other matters people have asked about:

Church Center employment: I am and Council as a whole is deeply concerned about the cleaning staff recently laid off. There are nuances to the story that are important, and that were missed or distorted, in the New York Post's story about it. The employees let go were not employees of the church, but of a company the church contracted with for cleaning services -- the Church Center didn't fire a bunch of people, but switched cleaning companies after a process that, Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt reported to us, was open to non-union companies as a way of being able to solicit bids from more women- and minority-owned businesses.

I appreciate that report, but it does not dispel my ongoing concern for workers' rights and human decency, nor does it ameliorate, in my opinion, that communication about the situation was (to say the least) very poorly handled. I expressed that view, as did others, and I and others will be continuing to monitor the situation and strive to support workers' rights. I want to thank those people who hold my and others' feet to the fire about this. Keep it up! This is important stuff.

It's also not the only Church Center employment matter about which I and others are concerned. The layoffs of 2009 continue to hurt. There are faces of people that still, when I look around at meetings, I'm subconsciously expecting to see. There's expertise and passion missing from people who used to work for the Church Center and don't. And I still think about and pray for employees and their families. Remaining staff are doing a heroic job striving to cover the territory, and are working together in truly creative ways.

But I'm not going to pretend that the reduced budget -- especially the personnel lost and reduced support for dioceses of Province IX in Central and South America -- isn't really painful. I and wiser heads than mine on Council are continuing to wrestle with figures, pray, and keep eyes, ears, and hearts open to count the human (and environmental) cost of our decisions even or especially when those decisions are difficult.

Which makes me all the more pleasantly flummoxed that the proposal to come up with $10 million more for Haiti swept with such immediacy and awe to take the room when it was offered. That for me is evidence -- as if I needed still more evidence -- that God really does show up where people gather seeking to ride the wave of what God's mission, of what God is doing in the world.

And with that, I think it's time to catch the shuttle to the airport.

Oh, just one more note: I was going to start listing the specific people I was particularly glad and grateful to see and hang out with, but the list got so long as to be silly. So I'll reduce it to just one for now, since it's someone for whom this was the last meeting of Council and whom I will sorely miss there:

The soon-to-be Rt. Reverend (and therefore still the Not Quite Right Reverend) Ian Douglas. I'm only drinking iced tea, but I'll still raise the glass to you. Thank you. I'm glad you're going to be in the House of Bishops, much as I'll miss you at Council and in Boston.

February 23, 2010 in Churchiness, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), Religion | Permalink


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For those of us here in Pittsburgh there was especially great news in the election of good friend Jim Simons to fill the rest of Ian Douglas's term. Thank you!

Posted by: Bruce Robison | Feb 23, 2010 1:32:45 PM

Dylan, it's good to see you still have your voice. I am blessed to know you, even from afar. God's blessings to you and Karen.

Posted by: Joel | Mar 12, 2010 8:29:32 AM

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