Church, presiding bishop respond to UTO resignations

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a statement Sept. 6 regarding the recent resignation of four United Thank Offering board members in response to a draft revision of UTO’s bylaws.

“The resignations of several members of the United Thank Offering board in the past few days deeply distress me. They appear to be the result of grave suspicion and the attribution of inappropriate and unhelpful motives,” the presiding bishop said.

“The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), and its elected and official leadership … have no intention of divesting the United Thank Offering of its funds or applying excessive controls to its practices. Our goal is the one that has continued from the beginning of this United Offering – to relieve suffering and help to build a series of ministries that ‘proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,’” she added.

The presiding bishop’s statement came after two of the resigning board members – Robin Sumners and Barbi Tinder – issued a public declaration on Sept. 3 saying that under the proposed new bylaws they believe “the United Thank Offering board will possibly be rendered powerless and voiceless by Episcopal Church leadership.”

“The abuse of power seems staggering. With the revision of bylaws written by DFMS leadership, anticipated to be presented to the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church in October 2013, the current United Thank Offering board, representing 125 years of service, will cease to exist,” the statement said.

The presiding bishop, in her statement, sought to clarify that the United Thank Offering is “a ministry of the whole church, and has been overseen since its beginning through members of the Episcopal Church Women and mission staff of the DFMS. It is not, and has never been, a separate corporation, and the current state of law in the United States (where the DFMS is incorporated) requires accountable connections with the corporation which holds non-profit status.  That reality prompted a clarification of relationships between the United Thank Offering and the DFMS, with work begun in Executive Council in 2008.”

That work has continued, the presiding bishop added, and the most recent conversations have centered on “bringing the operating procedures into compliance with both federal law and with DFMS policies, and developing a memorandum of understanding between the two bodies. That work is not finished, and unfortunately the recent resignation of several United Thank Offering board members purported that those conversations were closed. We anticipate continued developmental work on those agreements and procedures, and look forward to continuing these conversations with the remaining board members, and the new members, when they are named. The goal of all this long work is to the continued existence and thriving of the ministry of the United Thank Offering.  We fervently pray for a healed world, and the United Thank Offering is a very important way in which the year of the Lord’s favor must continue to be proclaimed.”

Jefferts Schori called a meeting with UTO board members and DFMS staff on July 15 at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, during which time she appointed a committee to work with Tinder, who was at the time the UTO board president, and three other board members to revise the UTO bylaws approved by Executive Council in October 2011 and adopted by General Convention in 2012.

“As we prepared for the joint meeting called by Bishop Katharine in July, we began to review all of the pertinent documents to understand the present structure by which the UTO board was operating,” said Paul Nix, legal counsel for the Episcopal Church and a member of the committee appointed by Jefferts Schori.

“The review of their bylaws raised several questions about various provisions which did not appear to reflect the actual structure of the board as it had been and was presently operating. There were also provisions we simply needed to discuss to fully understand their intent and how they were actually being applied. Thus, we placed a discussion item about the bylaws on the first meeting’s agenda. We also all anticipated that a new memorandum of understanding needed to be drafted, so that was placed on the agenda as well.”

Also serving on the committee with Nix, are Bishop Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer; Heather Melton, who has served as the UTO coordinator on the DFMS staff since June; and Steve Hutchinson, who serves as the chair of the Executive Council Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration for Mission and as chancellor of the Diocese of Utah.

In addition to Tinder and Sumners, Georgie White and Dena Lee were chosen on July 15 to represent the UTO board.

“All seemed quite willing to participate,” said Nix. “At the end of our second session in August, Robin Sumners agreed to serve as my main point of contact to work towards trying to reach a mutual agreement about the bylaws revisions and the memorandum of understanding created in time for the UTO board to approve them at their Sept. 26 meeting. This approval would then allow the Executive Council to consider the documents for possible final approval at its October meeting to be held in Chicago.

The second meeting of the committee and the designated UTO board members took place at the Church Center on Aug. 1 and was a “brainstorming session,” said Sumners, who resigned from the UTO board on Sept. 3 and who served as its communications convener, during a Sept. 6 phone interview with ENS.

During the Aug. 1 meeting, Sumners said, the UTO board members stressed the importance of autonomy and UTO maintaining control of its communications, grant making and oversight of funds.

On Aug. 29, Sumners received a draft of the revised bylaws from Nix. She shared them with the rest of the UTO board.

The draft revised bylaws would put the “United Thank Offering Board entirely under the control of the Chief Operating Officer of DFMS and removes all autonomous functioning from the board,” she said, adding that they would remove the board’s oversight of funds, its responsibility for communications, and would dissolve the relationship between UTO and the Episcopal Church Women.

Sumners felt betrayed, she said, when she received the draft revised bylaws and for that reason she and the others resigned in protest.

The other two resigning board members are Georgie White, who served as the convener of the continuing review committee and who represented Asia and Pacific, and Secretary Renee Haney, representing Province 7, Sumners confirmed.

(The UTO board consists of one member from each of the nine provinces in the Episcopal Church plus three additional appointed members.)

A more detailed explanation of events is included in a supporting document prepared by church center staff and released Sept. 6 along with the presiding bishop’s statement.

The document explains that there “is not now, nor has there ever been, an attempt to ‘take over’ the United Thank Offering or to sever its ties with the Episcopal Church Women.” The document underscores that the UTO is a ministry of vital importance, squashes any rumors that there has been a misappropriation of funds, and that “100% of the annual gifts of the people of the church will continue to be used for making grants … None of these funds were ever entrusted to the UTO board or the committee that preceded it. DFMS is charged with the fiduciary oversight of those funds for the benefit of the United Thank Offering, not its board, and is legally obligated to use those funds for no other purpose. It has not, and it will not.”

And finally, the document said, “it is necessary that certain obligations be fulfilled by the DFMS rather than the board because the board is not a corporation and cannot assume any legal responsibility or liability. That is borne entirely by DFMS, its officers, and its board, the Executive Council. These obligations include personnel management and the fiduciary responsibilities for the appropriate use of trust funds, as already mentioned.  New bylaws and a Memorandum of Understanding were being considered by the board and DFMS to recognize and implement these legal responsibilities.”

UTO is considered a board included in the church’s Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards (CCABs). 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 suggests that people should daily pray and give 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 the diocesan in-gathering. The UTO believes that thankful giving spiritually unites the givers with the people who benefit from their gifts.

Since the Sept. 3 resignations, senior church leadership – including President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, General Convention Executive Officer Canon Michael Barlowe, and Sauls – have been reaching out to the UTO board through its new president, Barbara Shafer, and to the Episcopal Church Women through its president, Nancy Crawford, to consult on the resignations and other matters of concern about the board’s functioning, at least under its previous leadership, according to a supporting document prepared by DMFS staff released with Jefferts Schori’s Sept. 6 statement.

Discussion dates back to 2008

A study group was formed in October 2008 to conduct a “serious and extensive” study of the UTO. The council’s request resulted from a series of conversations that began in January 2008 and centered on the need to clarify the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s legal relationship with UTO. (The DFMS is the church’s corporate legal entity.)

The Executive Council, at its October 2011 meeting, welcomed a report from the UTO study group saying that the group and the UTO have developed a much closer working relationship and have resolved many of the concerns that prompted the study.

Mark Harris, who chaired the study group and was a member of Executive Council, said at the time: “We discovered that, in the process of doing this work, we rebuilt confidence between the two organizations.” Harris adding that a new set of bylaws passed by the UTO board in September 2011 “straightened out most of the issues that had to do with structure in ways that both satisfied the UTO and satisfied the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.”

That work was the result of a two-year effort to clarify the organization’s relationship to the church, explore ways to increase giving to the UTO, ways to make UTO better known to others in the church and ways to expand the organization’s approach to funding mission activities.

Comments

  1. The Reverend Wayne Ray says:

    As I read through these documents, I see that the members of the board represent provinces of the Episcopal Church. But no where that I saw were the specific provincial reps identified. Is there a reason for that? Why were they not identified? Why is it that we need to “lawyer up” before we can talk in the church these day? This is very sad to me.

  2. Fr. Gaylord Hitchcock says:

    What appears to be a power struggle (or, better, an autonomy struggle) is very damaging. I doubt that too many Episcopalians care much about who holds legal title to unexpended UTO monies. I think that many, if not most, active Episcopalians care a great deal for the capacity of the UTO leadership to identify and fund opportunities for Mission and Ministry that, for one reason or another, might not make it through the cheese cloth at the Episcopal Church Center. Valuing the UTO as I do, as a priest of many years’ standing, I think it would be tragic for its Board to be placed entirely under the control of the Chief Operating Officer of the DFMS (read “Presiding Bishop,,” whoever he or she may be.) This “tidying up” of the By-Laws risks the very future of the UTO, the Women of the Church, and an important source of needed funds for mission and ministry.

  3. Mari-Lou Triebenbach says:

    As a former member of the National UTO Board I am very upset with the responses to the resignations. The Executive Council and the General Convention, 2012, approved the new bylaws for the UTO. The UTO Board also approved them. Now the group of 5 at 815 is presenting new revisions? As I understand it the Episcopal Church Women are removed from any part of UTO. The ECW in the 9 provinces elects the members to the UTO Board. While I was on the Board,we complied with every regulation of DFMS. So why all the “new directions” from 815? The Memorial & Gift Trust Fund of the UTO, consists of gifts and memorials to be used for the operating expenses of the UTO Board. These monies have accumulated over many years and to my knowledge have never been misused. The resignation of Dr. Sumners is a great lost to the UTO Board.

  4. horace henry meday says:

    TO THE WHOLE CHURCH: STARTING NOW, LET US DEVOTE OURSELVES TO CONDUCTING OUR DISCOURSE AND MAKING ARRANGEMENTS TO THE INCLUSION OF LOVE. FOREGO OR FORGET THE LAW. WE HAVE ALWAYS LOVED EACH OTHER. THE UNITED THANK OFFERING BEGINS AS A THANKSGIVING, IT DOESN’T DESERVE ANY DISSENSION.

  5. Milton Finch says:

    So, as Title Four placed all the power in the hands of a few and they can use it any way they wish, because it is a circle, so this puts 14 and a half million dollars in the hands of a few and no questions asked because it is the UTO and it begins with thanksgiving?

  6. Sue Triebenbach says:

    As a woman who has been active in the Church on the local level, and the National level as well as at the Provincial level, I have found Ellen Sumners to be a knowledgeable person. She is a great leader and is very hospitable. If she found the document one sided and felt devastated and betrayed, something is wrong with the document. If Bylaws were accepted in 2011, why are new bylaws needed now? In reading the Presiding Bishop’s statement saying she is distressed and that the resignations of the women “appear to be the result of grave suspicion and the attribution of inappropriate and unhelpful motives,” I wonder if she has even seen or read the proposed drastic changes to the Bylaws that (in part) caused 3 strong leaders in the church to resign. I have seen and heard Stacy Sauls speak, and I have concerns about him, what he has said and his motives. Please remember that the: “INC-055 AdHoc committee report said: We believe that the United Thank Offering must continue to be autonomous but interdependent as regards the corporate entity that constitutes The Episcopal Church.”

  7. Ian Montgomery says:

    In disputes involving the PB and her leadership I am inclined to trust the other party. I see an ever increasing desire for control and the elimination of independent decision-making that might be at odds with her agenda. Dissent is not tolerated. Those who do so are usually especially vilified. It was Bishop Charles Jenkins (Lousiana, retired) who commented some years ago about the Episcopal Church becoming a “monobloc that does not tolerate dissent” – sadly this has become true and it seems that the UTO is the victim of another take over. Kudos to those who have stood up and said “NO.”

  8. It’s sad to see such mis-understanding and possibly a “rush to judgment” by some of the UTO Board members … from a layperosn’s perspective, I can only say how appreciated UTO funds are in countries like CUBA, where a passenger mini-bus was purchased w/ such funds for the Sacred Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Havanna. That bus took several of us then-EPF-ers (Episcopal Peace Felowship) in 2000 to outlying mission-fields around Havanna so the then Dean of the Cathedral could minister to the poor peasants, children and farmers there. It also transported us to the awesome work done at the State-run-Mental Hospital in Havanna where ballet & baseball therapy, as well as a full orchestra and theatre group help bring healing to residents. Thanks Be to God for UTO! I hope its work continues and its structure supports its mission.

  9. Ron Caldwell says:

    Thanks ENS staff for this article. The more information we get on this subject the better. Unfortunately, the atmosphere between the anti and pro Episcopal Church parties has become so poisoned that any and every act of the Presiding Bishop is automatically seen as malevolent by her detractors. It is rather like the Republicans and President Obama. Virtually everything he is for, they are against in advance. Of course they are now in a quandary because the people who were aggressive militarists under Dubya and had no problem with a “preemptive” (aggressive) war have to choose between their past attitudes and supporting Obama on Syria. Apparently most cannot get beyond their hate for the President. Even in the state where I live, and in the nearby states, governors and legislatures are deliberately cutting off millions of desperately poor people from Medicaid because they can’t stand Obamacare; and it’s the “Obama” part of that they won’t accept. Have we become so polarized in this country, are we so divided in our church that we are resolved to demonize in advance the other side? If so, it would be a suicidal betrayal of both democracy and Christianity.

    • Doug Desper says:

      Ron – I’m 100% pro-Episcopal. I chose very intentionally to be in my church and I serve devotedly. I do not, however, have to agree with heavy-handed and graceless tactics as a loyalty test. Your comment is fairly dismissive to people of good conscience who do not deserve the “anti–” label.

    • Joseph F Foster says:

      You have a point about the polarization and automatic, sometimes unthinking, opposition. However, it seems to me that you in your various comments tend strongly to automatically support and be an apololgist for anything the National Headquarters wants to do and the means they try to do it with.

  10. Mary Roehrich says:

    Are we lawyers or servants of Christ? What is 815? This is an old, old argument. Read all about it in Mary Sudman Donovan’s A DIFFERENT CALL. Perhaps the UTO should be incorporated separately from TEC, then the legal niceties will be followed and the independence of the UTO Board will be honored. We are on the same team but as Robert Frost pointed out “good fences make good neighbors.” This is not supposed to be a church organized along the lines of the Roman army but a fellowship, not an outgrowth of the American Bar Association but a spiritual family that honors the views and independence of both its members and its neighbors. I have seen little of either out of 815.

  11. Ken Brannon says:

    Healthy organizations have clear and accountable systems. Aligning an organization’s functioning with the rules that undergird it can actually be an act of love. I am tired of the “law vs. love” argument; those who study the scriptures know that love and law are interdependent. I imagine that two things may be happening here: 1) Entrenched interests are being disturbed causing fear and discomfort; 2) TEC leadership is moving too quickly and analytically for the flesh and blood human beings involved in the process. What to do now? 1) Fear not and 2) slow down.

    • Marc Kivel says:

      The term “entrenched interests” is perhaps not the best way to characterize the UTO Board?

      • Ken Brannon says:

        Thanks, Marc. The phrase “entrenched interests” is meant to refer to an organization’s natural resistance to change, not the character or integrity of members of the board.

        • I offer the thought, Mike, that many of us dislike change and many of us only choose change when change cannot be avoided – I find that goes for organizations as well as myself. I do not believe I know enough to speak for or against the proposed changes other than to note the UTO Board appears to have done very worthy service for TEC for many years without the current proposed changes. Of more concern to me is how we work with others in the midst of change: it is an opportunity to walk our Christ talk, to let the world “see how much they love one another.”

          I believe, perhaps wrongly, we as a faith community have acquired some bad habits from our surroundings – we seem to be forgetting the injunction to be in the world but not of it. While I deeply appreciate the need for compliance with secular laws as a disestablished church in a democratic republic, it seems we expend a great deal of time, talent, and treasure in secular legal matters rather than in serving Christ – I only ask, is there not an alternative? Might we as a church consider learning from our brethren in the Peace Churches ways of resolving issues in the leading of the Holy Spirit without first recourse to civil law? I do not dispute our need to comply with relevant local, state, and federal laws – I ask only, among ourselves, if that secular law should be our bond one to the other as Christians?

  12. Marc Kivel says:

    Having read the article, and the referenced document with addenda, I’m left with the impression, possibly mistaken, that the Church executives at 815 need to step away from their corporate mentality and consider that we Episcopalians are a part of the body of Christ; consequently, the folks in the executive offices are called (and compensated) to be the servants of the body, not the governors. While Church Executives are undoubtedly trying to do the right things from a legal and business standpoint, it appears they have forgotten the pastoral and political obligations that attend their work….

    I would hope that this causes the Committee re-visioning TEC for this century to investigate this event and draw lessons relevant to their charge.

    I do believe Mary Roehrich offers one thoughtful way forward – have UTO incorporate itself and have DFMS transfer all funds to UTO’s direct oversight and care. Perhaps the DFMS might be given one seat ex-officio on the Board to be a contact with the Church. I should think the release of the liability, staffing, and oversight functions to a stand alone UTO would improve the DFMS balance sheet and also signal the recognition that subsidiarity AND alliances are a hallmark of our Church in the 21st Century.

    • I don’t get the issue at hand. The UTO is an Episcopcal Church entity to me. When I give annually to the UTO it’s for the use of the Episcopal Church. so what is the issue that has raised feathers ? is it that the PB is looking to govern and have some additional TEC governance ?

      • Marc Kivel says:

        John, there are significant good-faith differences of opinion among loyal Episcopalians as to the proper roles, relationships, and responsibilities of the Executive Committee corporately and of its ex officio members to the Church as a whole as represented in General Convention. I offer my personal opinion that the concerns by former and current members of the UTO Board expressed in this matter are more a symptom of a pattern of pastoral and political tone-deafness on the part of the Executive Committee and its staff resulting in a push back which triggers defensiveness on the Executive Committee’s (and their staff’s) part. While I can appreciate and applaud reviewing and bringing the Church organization into conformance with common corporate law principles and practice, HOW one goes about it, particularly given the voluntary and long-term history of the UTO in loyal support of TEC, is at least, if not more, important.

  13. Doug Desper says:

    I recall that not so long ago 8 bishops (retired and active) requested a full and plain accounting for all of the litigation costs to date associated with dissenting/departing clergy, parishes and dioceses. To my knowledge we are still waiting on that. Perhaps this accounts for some of the suspicion regarding the seismic shift in UTO authority and accountability.

    • This is not related to the topic at hand

      • Joseph F Foster says:

        John Neir writes in response to a comment on the request for a full accounting of costs of litigation that “This is not related to the topic at hand.”

        Don’t be naïve. It is if the General Headquarters of the Episcopal Church are desperate for money. Remember St. Paul (in I Corinthians, I believe) told us to be as innocent as babes but as wise as serpents.

        • Does your post help, Joseph? Do you have a legitimate basis for your claims? And are you an Episcopalian or merely someone who wishes to stir up trouble?

  14. griselda delgado says:

    Esperamos en que los corazones de quienes trabjan y sirven en la UTO, sean guiados por la fuerza del Espiritu Santo. Y cada corazon vele por los que necesitan grandemente un apoyo. Damos gracias a Dios por su apoyo solidario a la Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba a traves de los anios. Con las diferentes contribuciones de la UTO, nuestra Iglesia pudo levantar las construcciones de edificios, reparar antiguos templos, obtener vehiculos para el trabajo diocesano. De esta manera se hace viva la Palabra del Evangelio de Jesus. Dios en su gracia, guie el trabajo de la UTO para los proximos tiempos. +Griselda

  15. Elizabeth l. Phillips says:

    Let us all pray for the protection of this beautiful program that enables we people in the pews to feel an intimate part in the missionary arm , thus taking the WORD to where it is need while we strengthen our personal prayer lives.

  16. Alda Morgan says:

    I’m glad that Mary Roehrich has reminded us of Mary Donovan’s book, “A Different Call” which recovered to memory the remarkable ministries of women that took place long before we sanctioned the ordination of women. It’s been a while since I’ve consulted it, but I do remember that according to “A Different Call”, the UTO was developed specifically to give the women of the church, through its organizations, the autonomy needed to spend some of the funds raised for the church by the women. Until that time it was the Mission Board, which was the DFMS Council, composed exclusively of men, who determined how those funds were to be given. It may well be true that legal developments since then mean that the relationship between the TEC and the UTO needs to be reconsidered. I find this all confusing reading, to be honest. But, at the very least, there appears to have been a serious breakdown in communication. And I must say that from my perspective, it looks like organization legalities have taken precedence over tradition and respect for the UTO’s remarkable ministry. Yes, there is a sense that the UTO has “always” been a ministry of the entire church in that the UTO offers this program on behalf of the church. But I wonder about whether the cause of legal and organizational tidiness need trample the competent, devoted work shown by the UTO board and staff and the thousands of women whose blue boxes have funded its ministries. As a professional lay woman church worker, I received the only program funds I had to work with from the UTO. The monies came with the personal interest of the woman at 815 who administered it and to whom it was a great pleasure to write reports about the progress of the ministry in which I was engaged. It wasn’t only the money; it was the personal interest and support shown. I’d hate for that to be lost.

  17. George Bergoglio says:

    Seize the assets, silence dissent and centralize authority. That’s the way to run a church.

    • Are your comments helpful, George?

      • Ted Peykoff says:

        Yes, George has made his point a bit crudely, but right down to the quick of things. Why emulate the Romans? Why are parishes, priests, and bishops leaving the National Episcopal Church?

        • All valid questions, Ted. I do not believe there is any one particular reason for TEC members’ emigration; I note that it is not solely seen in TEC, either. You ask, “Why emulate the Romans?” Yet some of those leaving TEC over the issue of local vs. national control of property, scriptural hermeneutics, and hierarchical authority are advocating a Presbyterian or Congregationalist governance form (and an extremely evangelical understanding of religion) which should raise a few questions as well.

          Speaking solely for myself, I find myself wondering if our 400 year Anglican swing between Catholic and Evangelical poles might benefit by being infused with Eastern Orthodox willingness to acknowledge the creations and thoughts of fallible men may not have the definitive Truth – that’s God’s bailiwick, or require a formal immediate decision absent consensus?

          There is also the Celtic church from before Augustine of Canterbury and the Synod of Whitby – perhaps there are places where regular diocesan and parish organization is no longer helpful and a neo-monastic missional community would be a more faithful witness of TEC and Our Lord? We are a very large country and the cost of centralized administration and the huge variances of needs, socioeconomic conditions, and pastoral concerns might benefit from fewer dioceses and more small missional communities overseen by missionary bishops without cathedrals ….

          And finally, perhaps we also need to look to the Mother faith – Judaism, for some lessons on daily individual living into our baptismal covenant? Perhaps we need to ask, “How do we create and encourage distinctive Episcopalian living in our homes and not only our churches?”

          TEC has much to offer, but perhaps we need be less concerned about those leaving and more concerned for strengthening the loyal remnant?

  18. Rev. James Wilson says:

    As a priest of the church and long-time supporter of the UTO, I find it interesting and
    distasteful that the “power structure” of the church should engage the UTO board in the way
    it has. Surely the P. B. and the Executive Council and others responsible for this situation should
    sit down and try to work out a solution that gives the Church Women control and oversight
    of the UTO. Its legal or tax status should be set up to satisfy the ECW and legal requirements
    regarding tax status. Where is the Christian leadership and Christ like compassion for all
    concerned?

    • My only question, Father James: do the Constitution and Canons of TEC allow the Executive to undertake your thoughtful proposed actions without prior approval by the General Convention?

  19. The Rev. Vicki T. Burgess says:

    I understand the need to make by-laws, canons, written procedures and such reflect legal realities and the proper structure under which a body can operate well, transparently and acknowledging accurate accountability. My parish has done it as has my diocese; we attempt it at General Convention. There’s that undisputable goal… and then there’s the reality of gathering all the players to begin to accomplish that task together. Church work is ALL about the process and whatever goal is at the end is, at best, accomplished in a way that fosters love and growth of the individuals involved. It can be a long process as there are always stories to be heard and assumptions that must be explored and expectations voiced about what everyone is “up to” and wants to happen in the task. It typically takes a long time to air all that and to reach the true place of beginning what some may think is a cut-and-dried task of re-writing the rules. Whatever happened with the resigning UTO board members dropping out of that process is regrettable and leaves me wondering where that process broke down, was it truly the end of what should have been a collaborative effort to reach some agreed-upon goals, and how can the process begin again in a way that does not leave it looking like the Executive Council has shut down collaboration?

  20. First I would like to know who stirred up this mess and why? I think we have given those ordained way to much power over the secular affairs of the church. Another thing which bothers me throughout this mess is the adage, “If it works why fix it? ” The Women have been doing a very good job for the past 125 years or so. The United Thank Offering should be autonomous from the corporate entity that constitutes The Episcopal Church. But the bottom line for me is quite simply Jesus, whom I love never gave a blessing to a corporate Christ. And nowhere did the apostles do so. I wonder what would have happened if Constantine was told hands off the church and state merger? I truly think we are incorporating ourselves out of existence. We have been going through the same nonsense in Cincinnati. Until we can say to a bishop you may not do this without going through a democratic process with open debate and limit the power which some bishops have taken upon themselves to rule with impunity we will just sink deeper into the mindset of the corporate Christ. And to misuse scripture to justify that which should never be justified i.e. St. Paul (in I Corinthians, I believe) told us to be as innocent as babes but as wise as serpents”, that’s shameful. We need to go back into our history and see what the founding mothers and fathers of the Episcopal Church had in mind. I don’t think it was to sit on a corporate board or that the ordained had any privelege that was not given to them by the people, for the people, the un-ordained.

    In closing, you and me and the Presiding Bishop and all the clergy and all the un-ordained are family. What do family do but fight, and lie, and cheat and steal and hate and love. We are human. But we don’t walk away. I love you and I know Jesus loves you and I know that even those I may aggravate love me to. “All you need is love.” John Lennon-smart man.

  21. Susan Mills says:

    I’ve served the church for a very long time, first as a layperson, as a deacon, then as a priest, for thirty-six years (and still serving). The UTO has been an important part of my life in the Episcopal Church. I support this ministry whole-heartedly.
    My question is why? Why the need to change further the changes made in 2012? What is so broken that it needs such drastic “fixing?”
    Yes, I believe the church must be an organism where transparency and clarity are the norm. However, even after the PB’s statement, the linked documents, the letter of resignation of UTO Board Members, the comments of faithful Episcopalians, I fail to see clearly the reasons for further change.

  22. Chris Harwood says:

    Some of the documents released imply that the DFMS has already been refusing to give grant money to those the UTO board chooses. If true, I think it bodes very poorly for the future if these bylaws are passed and the UTO board become nothing more than advisors. TEC will do whatever it wants with the money with nobody able to stop them.

  23. Canon Ngijoe Joseph of Cameroon says:

    We need UTO independence to continue to assist the poorest women of African churches in Jesus name.

  24. George Waite says:

    This is yet another reason why religion is shrinking; you can be sure that the Red Cross doesn’t have to deal with this level of pettiness. Anyone trying to do half of this nonsense, and then dress it up in terms of “caring”, would be shown the door by the end of the working day.

  25. Allison Duvall says:
  26. Patricia Tourangeau says:

    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)

  27. Cynthia Freels says:

    Patty, Thank you for sharing…….you have made this issue much clearer and into a prospective I now can understand. I will keep wisdom and guidence in my prayers.
    Cynthia Freels

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