From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PRESIDING BISHOP'S FUND FACES HURDLES IN FULFILLING ITS `
27 Jun 1996 12:20:46
TITLE:PRESIDING BISHOP'S FUND FACES HURDL
June 26, 1996
Episcopal News Service
James Solheim, Director
PRESIDING BISHOP'S FUND FACES HURDLES IN FULFILLING ITS `MINISTRY OF HOPE'
BY CHARLIE RICE
(ENS) "I was one of the people who lost everything in Hurricane
Andrew," said Jackie Rowe, a student at General Theological
Seminary from southeast Florida. "We lost everything except God, community and
hope. It is hope that the Presiding Bishop's Fund
brought to the 250,000 homeless people."
Diocesan representatives of the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World
Relief heard many such stories during their annual meeting in
Kansas City from May 30 to June 2.
"Rebuilding a fire-bombed church in Alabama, putting a bowl of rice
in the hands of a hungry child in Liberia, providing
tornado, earthquake and flood relief to dioceses throughout the Anglican
Communion; thanks to the Presiding Bishop's Fund, you are
there," reported Bishop Charlie McNutt, chief operating officer of the
Representatives heard first-hand reports from officials of the
Diocese of West Missouri, who reminded them that, although the
fund is international in its scope, much of its work is done here at home.
SERVICE AT HOME
"We tend to forget that over half of all disaster relief provided
by the fund stays in the United States," noted the Rev. Gregg
Mansfield of St. Andrew's Church in Kansas City. "In Missouri, the fund has
made a difference in thousands of lives," he added, recalling
the relief provided after the devastation of the 1993 floods. Mansfield, who
was serving as West Missouri's canon to the ordinary at the
time, reported that "within a matter of hours, the Presiding Bishop's Fund had
sent $25,000 to our diocese to help with flood relief."
He also said that, dollar for dollar, the fund provides the most
cost-effective assistance possible by having grant distribution
administered by local dioceses.
Despite the fund's accomplishments and efficiency of
still falls far short of the needs. McNutt laid out the numbers: "One year we
raise $6 million, another year maybe $4 million. That's not too
bad until you consider that we receive about $30 million in emergency
These shortfalls cause fund officials to search for reasons. Some
cite tough competition for church dollars with parish and
diocesan programs. Others point to the myriad problems facing the church.
ANSWERING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS
Meeting hard on the heels of a call by 10 conservative bishops for
Episcopalians to "direct their personal resources to those
ministries that proclaim the historic and biblical Christian faith," rather
than what the bishops see as liberal and unbiblical policies of the
national church, participants expressed concern that giving to the fund is
becoming a referendum on the personal popularity of Presiding
Bishop Edmond Browning. Others noted that, despite assurances from auditors
and church officials that none of the fund's money was
involved in the embezzlement by former treasurer Ellen Cooke, some potential
givers are anxious about the fund's safety.
"When I mention the Presiding Bishop's Fund in my diocese, people
always start talking about the national church," said Mary
Weldon, diocesan fund coordinator for Southeast Florida, and a volunteer in
mission working with AIDS victims in Miami. "`They're not
doing so well,' they say; or they bring up the Ellen Cooke thing and ask, `Is
the PB Fund money still there?' I'm so tired of hearing that."
"It is important that money not be used as a weapon," declared
Bishop William Smalley of the Diocese of Kansas, "but rather as
a tool for the healing work of Jesus Christ." He added, "People in Kansas who
had never heard of the Episcopal Church now have a feeling
of oneness with us, thanks to the work of the Presiding Bishop's Fund."
MISUNDERSTANDING THE FUND
Several representatives expressed concerns about misunderstandings
of the purpose of the fund. One diocesan coordinator had
even been asked if this was Browning's personal discretionary fund. Despite
such challenges, fund officials continued with ambitious plans
to improve communications, and to go forward with the annual appeal in
"Gifts to the annual appeal are the most important donations the
fund brings in," said Nancy Marvel, director. "These are what
we call `undesignated funds' that can be used for disasters. Planned giving
also plays an important role, as those gifts go into our trust fund
which pays all of our administrative costs except staff salaries, which are
covered through the budget of the national church."
With such support, the fund should continue its `ministry of hope'
for generations to come, participants said. That's good news to
disaster victims like Jackie Rowe who noted, "Thanks to the Presiding Bishop's
Fund, Christ was there even when FEMA (Federal
Emergency Management Administration) and the Red Cross were not."
--CHARLIE RICE IS ASSISTANT IN THE COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT OF THE DIOCESE OF
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