Yesterday was a big first step toward wholesale changes in the way The Episcopal Church does business. It is important to remember that when it comes to high level machinations, most local congregations won’t notice that anything is different, but eventually systemic changes affect the whole organization.
The first step toward fundamental change came when the House of Deputies voted to sell The Episcopal Church Center office building at 815 2nd Ave., Manhattan. Our budgetary cycle is three years, so these numbers seem inflated, but it is how we do business: debt service for 815 is $8.7 million for 2012-2015, and maintenance is $6.1 million for the same time frame. Even with a modest rental income, 815 costs the church more than $11 million to operate. That’s just to open the doors. My friend Evan Garner has a good post this morning on the symbolism of this vote.
“For many, the Episcopal Center has come to represent the bureaucracy of our church. Often, when someone wants to talk about our church’s administration, they say, “815” to encapsulate it. Using the street address for the building is insider slang for the whole organization. Selling the headquarters, therefore, has less to do with saving money than it does with redefining how we do church.”
The second step toward fundamental change happened when a resolution requesting $200k+ to develop online networks and resource databases was tabled by the House of Deputies pending future resolutions on structure. This is seen, by my deputation at least, as a harbinger of things to come. The House is looking for wholesale changes so that congregations, dioceses, provinces, and The Episcopal Church as a whole can more effectively, efficiently, and with greater stewardship of resources preach the Good News of God in Christ.
We are willing to wait. Of course, we can’t wait forever.
All of this talk of change comes from the fact that the way things have been done before can’t be the way they get done in the future. Much of it has to do with money, but some of it has to do with worldviews and ideologies. As one Deputy from Pittsburgh said yesterday regarding 815, “Constantine has left the building. Unfortunately, Constantine has left us with the building.” Many see the death of Christendom as a bad thing – a weakness, but this morning, thanks to Paul’s crazy words to the Church in Corinth that will get read tomorrow, “[God’s] grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
Let’s embrace our newly realized weak state (that has actually existed for 40+ years). Let’s give thanks that God is leading us to new and exciting ways to preach the Gospel. Let’s allow the Spirit to make us perfect in our weakness. Let’s be the Church. Let’s be the Body of Christ. Today and forever more.