Last week, before I left on retreat (Beautiful Authority Conference, which was amazing) I received in the mail a book from the President of the House of Deputies.
Tag Archives: I think what?
I have now returned from Hawaii, and I understand now why everyone’s nuts about tropical islands. (I had never been to one before. I had been to San Matteo in Belize, but that’s an island largely constructed like Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach, plus gated resorts, and desperate poverty mixed in. The ambiance is odd, is what I’m saying.)
But seriously! Tropical islands! Quite amazing!
But all was not going to the beach, drinking boba tea, and quoting ‘Arrested Development’.
Each year, Prov conference is a powerful experience for me. Each year, when we do our closing group discussion, at least a couple students say something along the lines of “This is the first time I’ve been in church with people my own age.” “This is the first time I can talk to people my own age about my faith.” “Campus ministry is the first time I’ve felt welcomed and accepted by the church.” Every. Year.
This year, however, it took on a different cast. Because this year, we also had to talk about what we were facing as the province west of the Rockies.
So there was the possibility that this would be the last Prov conference, as it is incarnated currently. We’ve promised ourselves that this won’t be the case, but we’ve already lost all of our provincial funding, due to budget cuts there. (And remember folks, this is the local level that’s supposed to be picking up the slack of the church wide budget cuts.) And for ministry budgets already strained to the breaking point, more-expensive conferences are going to be difficult to swallow.
But we will make it happen. Because that’s what we do.
So after a fairly heartening weekend of earnest, dedicated college students, worshipping, learning, and planning together, I was less than thrilled to receive this memo from the heads of PB&F regarding the draft budget.
On the one hand, hooray, this is much of what Susan Snook+ has been saying for the past few weeks, and now someone with budgetary power has admitted it.
On the other hand….
Look, Executive Council, I understand that this was a new process, but can we all now get around the fact that this process failed? This is not a process that we can trust. Because the end result of said process is a budget that contains such grievous errors that it doesn’t balance in several places and accidentally defunded almost the entirety of Christian formation across the Episcopal Church.
Aside from my basic questions (did no one have a calculator!?) which, I realize, are not the helpful at this point, what strikes me is the assertion in the memo that the de-funding was a mistake, but no one remembers quite how much they wanted to put there, and besides, to re-fund Formation would take equal cuts elsewhere.
So while this appears to be an accident, it still amounts to de-funding Christian Formation. Unless PB&F can magically produce the money.
Some of the questions that constantly get asked of me, and others in ministry with young adults, are “What do young adults want from the church? How can we do more/better young adult ministry? How do we get young adults in church?” It happened in Hawaii as well. The dean of the cathedral in Honolulu asked that we hold the Dean’s Forum on this very topic.
There are many ways to answer this question. Many different visions.
I can tell you where to start though.
YOU SHOULD FUND. IT.
It is a powerful kind of disheartening when you attempt to do ministry, and over and over again, you are told it is the most important ministry in the church, and yet….the budget gets slashed again and again.
And here, it’s worse. The budget (evidently) didn’t get slashed because they agonized over it, faced a revenue shortfall, and triaged what mission items were most important. They slashed our budget because no one was paying close enough attention. It wasn’t a low priority; it wasn’t even on the radar. They passed a budget that, for whatever reason, hadn’t been checked.
So, here we go, Church. Here’s what I need, as a certified Young Person. (I’m 28 years old–I count, despite being a priest.)
Here is what I need from you, My Church. Here’s the answer to that question you keep asking me.
You need to say that you are sorry, that you realize this budget thing didn’t go well this year. You need to say you’re sorry that you overlooked the crucial part of administration that is budgeting. Part of the leadership you were elected to is owning up when things fall apart, and they just did. You need to admit it.
And then, you need to Fix It.
Write a letter to PB&F (which looks like it’s happening), outline a better budget that takes into account the actual mission priorities this Church has espoused, and FIX. IT.
And, look, I’ll help you. I will sit in meetings, I will voice my opinion, I will help write budgets, I will help pass them. I will even explain the point of Twitter for the ten thousandth time. I will pull my own weight and then some. I will help you come up with a better way to make budgets, since this one fell flat. I fell in love with this church when I was a kid, and I’m not going anywhere. We’ll work together; it will be great.
But you need to fix this.
Because the secret to getting young people in the church (or anyone into church) is that you actually have to care about them. Not in a lip-service way, or in a non-committal way, but in a dedicated, flesh in the game, asking what they think and feel, sort of way. You actually have to honestly care about them. (Jesus said something along these lines, I do believe. Smart guy, that Jesus.)
So help me believe that the Church actually cares enough about young people to give us money, and not just lots of anxiety. Help me convince my students that the Church wants them for their voices and opinions, and not just their life expectancy and wallets.
Please, Fix It.
First, a story.
Last week, a retired priest came into the office I share with several other people. He had come out of a meeting, and upon seeing me, typing at my computer, he guestured broadly, and declared, “And here sits Megan, a future priest of the church!”
Without thinking, I responded, “Well, I’m here now.”
Silence fell in the office. He was flustered, and tried to cover.
“Ah, of course you are! A future and PRESENT priest of the church!”
The proposed budget for 2013-2016 for DFMS* was released March 1. It will be voted on at General Convention in July, so nothing is official yet. And you can download it here.
Some preliminaries: staffing was increased by $1.4million dollars, over the next 3 years.
Funding for Hispanic/Latino ministries was cut, as was funding to dioceses with large Native populations and ministries. Funding was also cut to historic African-American colleges (yes! We have several Historic Black Episcopal colleges. Which now have less funding.)
Seminarian grants were zeroed out entirely, as was the line item funding the General Ordination Exams. (Which will conceivably run into some canonical issues. We aren’t Free Will Baptists, folks. We have rules.)
And funding for all Formation: youth, adult, young adult, and college ministry went from over $3 million to about $286,000 over three years. That’s a 90% cut in funding for the young people. (Good numbers breakdown here, for those of us who are scared of spreadsheets.)
No more Episcopal Youth Event, no more Youth Presence at General Convention, no more Young Adult Festival at General Convention, no more funding help for provincial conferences for youth and young adults, no more PLSE program to encourage young people to consider ordained ministry, nope nada.
The given rationale is that this sort of ministry is best done by local dioceses and parishes.
And I would be peachy-keen with said rationale, if I had widespread experience of that actually occurring.
Instead, in my experience, the dioceses, not to mention parishes, are not really any more flush with cash than DFMS is. And my experience is that while they mean well, when push comes to shove, and they face a tight budget, they do precisely what the Executive Committee just did, and they slash funding for anyone under 45.
Dioceses can, when they have their act together, come up with some good ministry for teh youthes. So can parishes.
But, and this is important, so pay attention. THEY CANNOT DO IT ALONE.
COD is right; you cannot dump an unfunded mandate on unprepared and unfunded people and expect them to do it. That is both unfair and, actually, unChristian. It is a setup to fail. It is, for lack of a better word, tea-partying in the Church.
You actually want to empower the grassroots, to devolve ministry to locals who are in touch with their context? Then you have to empower them for real. Educate them, make sure they have the funding. Put them in touch with a network of resources to help them succeed. Put them in a community to support them.
Because youth work, young adult work, work with college students is too important to fail. It gets said all the time, but these people aren’t the future of the church, they are its present, and its hope. To fail so spectacularly to invest in them is to fail at the sure and certain hope to which God calls us.
I feel like I have been saying this at least twice a week since my ordination, but here it is again.
When programs like this are cut, you lose the next generation of leaders, both ordained and lay. We are beginning to see this now, as the Boomers begin to retire. The second-career clergy are many, and they are wonderful, but we are losing the clergy who are able to put in 30-40 years of continuous experience into the church. We lost them once because of massive cuts to funding like this in the 1960s, and now we’re doing it again.
When I was a teenager, I left the church because there was no youth program (among other reasons). But I am a priest now, because of college ministry. I am a priest because the church made an effort to help me discern and decided I was important, and invested in me.
If this church wants young people, like the constant refrain says, then step up.
*DFMS: the official registered name for The Episcopal Church’s non-profit– Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. It keeps me from writing TEC all the time, and is less jingoistic than saying “National Church”, when we include several other countries (Haiti, Ecuador, etc) and much of Western Europe.
On Wednesdays, my plucky Canterburians join with the Lutherans for a joint evening of discussion, fellowship, and food. This semester, we’re discussing ‘Modern Saints:” people who have applied their Christian faith in very tangible ways in the not-so distant past (Archbp. Oscar Romero and the martyrs of El Salvador, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Edith Stein, the Berrigans, Archbp. Desmond Tutu and the leaders of South Africa, etc.)
Arizona has been a state for 100 years this month. And it seems that the state legislature is attempting to set some sort of record in their centennial year.
Two weeks ago, I got an email from our campus Roman Catholic ministry inviting me to their weekly speaker series. This week, they were hosting a speaker from San Diego, a woman who had started her own affiliate of the National Organization for Marriage. She would be speaking on “Re-defining Marriage: How Same-Sex Marriage threatens Religious Liberty for all of us.” *
As an elected deputy to General Convention 2012, I get to partake in an interesting exercise in in-box management known as the HoB/D listserv. It’s an email listserv open to all deputies, bishops, and diocesan and Church Center staff (I think).