Working for a church which is undergoing budgetary contraction, I cannot be triumphalistic about this, even though the agenda is frequently distasteful:
Recently, the church’s Office of Government Relations (OGR) announced that Washington, D.C.-based Episcopal lobbyist Maureen Shea will retire at the end of the month. Similarly, New York-based Director of Advocacy Rev. Canon Brian Grieves will retire in October. The two roles had been set to be combined into a single position, but now the search for that position has been completely suspended.
It’s tempting to celebrate the cutting of resources for the OGR. It is a group that has, in the name of Episcopalians, promoted unrestricted abortion-on-demand, backed a litany of pro-homosexuality and anti-family legislation, and enthusiastically supported high taxes and big government.
That being acknowledged, the OGR has also been an advocate for combating human trafficking. It supported the creation of the Commission on International Religious Freedom when the National Council of Churches vocally opposed it. Importantly, OGR staff worked on behalf of persecuted Anglicans in the Sudan long before Darfur entered the vocabulary of Hollywood celebrities. Shea herself joined with Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen in authoring General Convention’s balanced resolution on the political crisis in that Central American nation.
Setting aside TEC’s non-starter of an “evangelism” agenda, what’s bothersome to reappraiser and reasserter alike is the fact that TEC continues to set aside US$4,000,000 for litigation costs in an attempt to hold on to property. If you’re going to cut a budget, it makes sense that everything is on the table and that no effort can lay claim to “unlimited” resources.
I’ve commented about this but there’s one more point I’d like to make: the Presiding Bishop’s obsession with litigation as a way of “holding the church together” reflects a childlike faith in the innate goodness of the law. Her idea–and it’s one thats endemic in American culture–is that, if you win a lawsuit, you’re proven “beautiful and good,” to use the Greek term (that was applied, BTW, to the kinds of activities that are now the enforced core of TEC’s life.)
But anyone who has been involved in litigation knows that it’s a long, expensive and brutal process that whose frequent end result is only to prove who has the deepest pockets and can stick the process out. That’s not moral vindication. What TEC will end up with is no cash, empty churches and no strategy or program to fill them up again. And that’s not victory.