engaging God's mission

Lately there has some discussion in the partisan blogosphere as to whether one should give to Episcopal Relief and Development if one disagrees with one or more things going on the The Episcopal Church, or to Anglican Relief and Development if one doesn't, or if it's better to give to some other organization entirely.

I plan to update this post to offer links to the organizations I mention and to ones to which I refer, but I want to go on the record as saying immediately and unequivocally:

If you want to give to change the world, to relieve global poverty, than the theological bent of particular people involved in the organization doesn't matter much.

What matters much, in my reading of the life and teaching and death and resurrection of Jesus, God's Christ, is our giving is that we're engaging God's mission by doing so, and that means giving as much as possible from compassion for the poorest and most marginalized and as little as possible from our sense of what will accomplish any partisan church or civic political aims.

So yes, I support Episcopalian Relief and Development, and rejoice when others do. They do amazing work, partnering with indigenous ministries for maximum efficiency and sensitivity to local context, and spending as little as possible on overhead versus aid. I've looked into them, and I feel on solid ground in saying that their work is worth supporting, whether you're an Episcopalian or not, and whether you're a fan of any particular policy or other tendency of The Episcopal Church or not. Episcopal Relief and Development, as far as I can tell (and I would welcome any data I should take into account that might demonstrate the contrary), is doing important and urgent work that's Good News to the poor.

I have not investigated to the same degree organizations such as Anglican Relief and Development (which, as I understand the situation, was formed by groups seeking to break away from The Episcopal Church to provide aid especially from organizations and people who, for a variety of reasons, can't accept funding for or don't feel comfortable donating to anything associated with The Episcopal Church) and Five Talents. I hear good things about what they're doing, though.

What I encourage everyone to do is to INVESTIGATE. Ask questions about how much money goes to fund people in the U.S. (you'd be surprised at how many organizations claim to be about ending extreme poverty involved and that still spend most of their income right here, one white people better off than me). Ask them about their partnerships with organizations indigenous to the populations they serve. Personally, I don't chalk up anything I give to organizations that spend more than 15% of their total budget as PROGRAM budget OVERSEAS part of the 1% that organizations such as the ONE Campaign is advocating.

In other words, how much is my giving helping comfortable American citizens live comfortably while they talk about extreme poverty? Talking about extreme poverty is important, but does not necessarily relieve extreme poverty, and personally I prefer to fun initiatives -- such as Global Voices -- that give voice to people outside the U.S. and who work directly with if not being immediately among the populations most affected by extreme poverty.

And with respect to organizations abroad, how much budget goes to administration as opposed to program -- i.e., the program of relieving extreme poverty, as opposed to talking about relieving extreme poverty? What accountability measures are in place to assure that checks cashed are used by the organization for its stated mission?

Personally, I don't many organizations -- faith-based or no -- that match Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) in terms of efficiency, cultural sensitivity, and working to channel relief in directions that foster autonomy.

If you want to register your disagreement with The Episcopal Church in some way, though, I'm going to do something crazy:

I suggest, a la St. Paul's advice in his letter to the churches in Rome, that you strive to outdo ERD in collections gathered, in accountability offered, and in effectiveness in getting relief and means to economic sustainability to those in extreme poverty. Do that and I'll stand up and cheer at the top of my lungs.

Because in the end -- I have to say as some who takes seriously Matthew's report of Jesus' talking about 'sheep' and 'goats' -- I don't give a rodent's posterior about which organization sends which people which tax form.

I just want a world in which every child has a chance -- clean water, enough food to get by in reasonable health, enough health care to end childhood mortality from diseases we have for decades had cheap technologies to cure, enough education and a clean enough environment to make a living by their own hands.

We could do it -- not just because we have the resources (and we do -- because God has blessed this world with more than enough resources), but because, I think, there's critical mass in this world such that if those of us who believed this but aren't making a big deal about it decided to make a big deal about it, we could witness firsthand the changing of the tide that God is doing.

I'll write more about this soon, I'm sure -- especially given that this is Lent, and that I've got certain ideas (for which I'm deeply indebted to the prophet Isaiah, among others) about in what kinds of fasts God is engaged and honors -- but I wanted to go on the record about this much right now.

Thanks for listening.

February 6, 2008 in Churchiness, Current Affairs, Episcopal Relief and Development, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), U2charist | Permalink | Comments (0)

thought-provoking public art for Christmas

The Hopeful Amphibian (who will be missed in blogdom — happy trails, and may you find your break from blogging rejuvenating!) points to a Glasgow art student's project, which I think is provocative in the best sense: it provokes thought, and gets us questioning something that in our culture is taken for the most part as an unqualified good, and that has given rise to a massive seasonal industry:

Santa Claus.

The artist has a website explaining his project. Like many students, he's given to rhetoric that's a little on the shrill side, so I'd rather let his images speak for themselves. Here's the most powerful one, I think:


I think our extended family will be trying something new this year: we're going to get a few very simple gifts for one another, but most of what we would have spent in previous years on gifts will be pooled together, and then as a family -- with participation from the little ones as much as possible -- we'll decide together what gifts from Episcopal Relief and Development's catalog of Gifts for Life, or another similar program, explaining to our elder niece (who's the only child in the family old enough to have a conversation with) what the various gifts — a flock of chickens, school tuition for a child in the developing world, and so on — mean so she can help which gifts our family's contribution will buy. I figure that if we do this every year, our nieces will grow up associating Christmas with a gift for the world rather than just for ourselves and our loved ones, and will also grow up knowing something about how different our patterns of consumption are from those of most other people in the world.

What do y'all do in your families and congregations to help facilitate 'teachable moments' for children about justice in the midst of the Christmas season's difficult-to-avoid commercial frenzy?

December 12, 2005 in Churchiness, Episcopal Relief and Development | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

a prayer for those affected by Hurricane Katrina

Erd_donatenew_wht_1I'm glad to be participating in the Blog for Relief day. Please consider donating to Episcopal Relief and Development to get relief to the areas of greatest need, and please offer your prayers as well.

Most Merciful, Most Compassionate God
Hear our prayers for your people affected by Hurricane Katrina
And let their cries come unto You.

O God, the floods have engulfed the land
The storms made a wasteland of water
How can we sing to you
when so many have died or are missing?

Strengthen those who cling to life
Keep their hope and hearts alive;
Revive the weary rescue workers and tired medical teams
Renew the resolve of those who have lost verything.

Quicken all efforts to rush resources and aid
Send our people to help;
Open our hearts to give and give again
that we may be generous bearers of healing and help.

God of the Universe
Pour out your Spirit of mercy and compassion
In Your Name we pray.  AMEN.
    -- Wilma Jakobsen

September 1, 2005 in Episcopal Relief and Development, Flood Aid, Hurricane Katrina | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

relief in Katrina's aftermath

Tomorrow -- Thursday, Sept. 1 -- has been designated as a day for bloggers to raise awareness and funds for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. If you've got a blog, please participate by blogging on the subject, providing a link for folks to donate to relief efforts, and registering your participation with Truth Laid Bear, who is keeping a database of relief bloggers.

My prayers are with all of those affected -- for those who have lost their lives or have lost loved ones, for those searching for those missing, for relief workers, for those displaced. The aftermath of the hurricane is going to last a long, long time, and disease and violence have joined the flooding itself as threats to life. Lord, have mercy!

Please consider a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) to help with relief efforts. ERD is a responsible and very effective organization; they work with local people to get maximum relief to those most in need and with a minimum of overhead.


ERD Responds to Hurricane Katrina

[Episcopal Relief and Development]

As Hurricane Katrina leaves behind devastation in Florida and Louisiana, and closes in on Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, Episcopal Relief and Development has mobilized in support of communities affected by this disaster.

After tearing through Florida on Friday, the Category 4 hurricane regained force over the Gulf of Mexico, with winds topping 145 mph.

This morning, Katrina touched down again, just east of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Hurricane–force winds caused a path of destruction 250 miles across.  A million New Orleans residents avoided harm by obeying a mandatory citywide evacuation.

Seventy percent of the coastal city is below sea level, and is protected from flooding by levees and pumps.  After pumps failed in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, filling the streets with six feet of water, dozens of people had to be rescued from the roofs of their houses.

Katrina is over Mississippi this afternoon.  Storm surges in Gulfport, Mississippi have already plunged the city under ten feet of water.  Winds tore the roofs off buildings in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Disaster officials will begin assessing the damage to Louisiana and Mississippi today.

Hurricane Katrina is one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit the US.  Experts estimate that it could cause between $10 and $25 billion worth of damage.  If the higher assessments are confirmed, Katrina will be the most expensive hurricane in US history.

On behalf of Episcopalians, ERD has sent emergency funds immediately to the Diocese of Mississippi. This emergency assistance will help vulnerable people whose homes are destroyed or severely damaged.  ERD support will help the diocese provide aid to community members through two mobile response trailers, which are equipped with supplies like chainsaws and generators to assist in the recovery.

We are waiting to hear what kind of aid is most needed in Louisiana.  We have also offered emergency assistance to dioceses likely to be affected as the storm moves inland, including Alabama and Tennessee.  Forecasters also warn of the risk of high winds, flooding, and scattered tornadoes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

We offer our prayers for the people affected by this disaster – those whose homes are under 10 feet of water, those who have lost family members, and those whose businesses have been blown down and swept away.  Please join us in praying for people affected by Hurricane Katrina.

To make a contribution to help people affected by Hurricane Katrina, please donate to the US Hurricane Fund by credit card via this page or by calling 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development, c/o US Hurricane Fund, PO Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101.

Episcopal Relief and Development, an independent 501(c) 3 organization, saves lives and builds hope in communities around the world. We provide emergency assistance in times of crisis and rebuild after disasters. We enable people to climb out of poverty by offering long-term solutions in the areas of food security and health care, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.

August 31, 2005 in Episcopal Relief and Development, Flood Aid, Hurricane Katrina | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack