Today is the Big Day, the one we’ve all been waiting and praying for. No, not the Presiding Bishop election, though that is a big event. No, not the House of Deputies 230th Anniversary party, though that will be full of delicious vanity M&Ms. No, not the first four hour legislative session, though that’ll make your rear end fall asleep. Today is the Big Day because today is the Program, Budget & Finance (PB&F) Committee’s hearing on expenses. The day when Deputies, Bishops, and registered guests wait in line for hours to take their part in an awful theology of stewardship and scarcity.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Corinth imploring them to excel in generosity by giving out of their abundance. The Episcopal Church has abundant resources, however the vast majority of them are in the wallets of our members. Despite the inroads made by groups like TENS and the Alabama Plan, the reality is that most Episcopal priests and the congregations they serve have succumb to popular pressure and avoid talking about money like the plague. Coupled with the fact that our young leaders are members of a third generation of an un-churched, de-churched trend, this means that even those who care deeply about the Church, her ministry, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, don’t have any clue what it means to excel in generosity. They’ve got no concept that the tithe is the biblical minimum for giving to the building of the Kingdom.
This means that by the time money trickles to the top, there is less and less money to do bigger and bigger things, which leaves us standing in line to beg for the scarce resources, afraid that our favorite thing won’t get funded. A theology of scarcity is a terrible theology. It has developed, in part, due to pressures from the wider culture, but the real reason tonight’s PB&F hearing will make Jesus and not a small number of deputies cry is that we’ve gotten here because of a lack of leadership.
Paul encourages the Corinthians to give generously to the needs of others. He lays before them a vision of what it means to be a member of the body of Christ and asks them to live into it. He offers them a compelling reason to be generous. Instead of casting a vision for the Church, our leadership has, over the last, well as long as I’ve been in the Church, allowed 1,000 competing voices to create their own vision to the end that no one knows in which direction the Church is headed and instead we walk in one giant circle every three years.
The time has come for a compelling vision. The time has come for a Presiding Bishop who will confidently lead us toward that vision. The time has come for us to fund that vision boldly; to stop competing for line items, but rather to give generously to the glory of God, no matter how it impacts the bottom line of our pet project. Let’s excel in generosity this triennium, and the rest will take care of itself.