What’s happening with UTO?

Mark Harris notes at his blog today that 4 board members have resigned in protest (see letter below):


UPDATED: From The Leadership

Office of Public Affairs

Providing Clarity

Recently a statement by former members of the board of the United Thank Offering has been circulating. The following is offered in the hope of providing some clarity.

The United Thank Offering is a central part of the life and mission of The Episcopal Church. The United Thank Offering is all of us who offer our coins in thanksgiving for the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. As our Episcopal Church leadership has frequently expressed, the Church needs a healthy and vibrant United Thank Offering. Its important work is not threatened, and United Thank Offering programs and grants will continue.

As part of the support of this important work, drafts of new bylaws and a Memorandum of Understanding were put forward by Episcopal Church leadership as part of a process agreed to by the United Thank Offering board. Leadership’s proposal would establish standard business and fiduciary practices, including for accountability and transparency, expected in the life of the Church and as is expected of all CCABs.

It is Leadership’s hope that respectful and reasoned dialogue, as was anticipated by the agreed-upon process, will continue around these proposals, with all stakeholders sharing their points of view to enable life-giving creativity and health to the United Thank Offering in the 21st century.

Please keep The Episcopal Church and its United Thank Offering in your prayers as we move forward.

Neva Rae Fox

Public Affairs Officer

September 4, 2013

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/episcopalian

Twitter: www.twitter.com/iamepiscopalian

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/EpiscopalChurchYT

# # # #

For more info contact:

Neva Rae Fox

Public Affairs Officer

The Episcopal Church

publicaffairs@episcopalchurch.org

212-716-6080 Mobile: 917-478-5659

Mark Harris notes at his blog today that 4 board members have resigned in protest (see letters and comments below):

President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings writes at Facebook on the Episcopal Women’s Caucus page:

Hello everyone. I’m not aware of any proposals to take UTO’s money, and I would strenuously oppose such a proposal. I also haven’t heard anyone talk about making the board obsolete. We all know that UTO is a valuable ministry of The Episcopal Church. Revising the group’s bylaws, updating its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with DFMS and putting standard business practices in place are necessary steps in ensuring its ability to continue its invaluable mission for years to come. The work we are involved in now builds on the work of a task force created by Executive Council in 2008 to strengthen the UTO for ministry in the 21st century (INC-055 Ad-Hoc Committee). It’s important to note that the proposed bylaw changes, which are only in draft form, seek to have UTO observe the same reporting, transparency and governance standards as other Episcopal Church committees and commissions. Constable Fund grants and Jubilee Grants, for example, are all approved by Executive Council.

Four people are working cooperatively with the UTO Board to do this work and hope to present a proposal at the October Executive Council meeting. Those people are Steve Hutchinson (chair of GAM of Executive Council and chancellor of the Diocese of Utah), Paul Nix (legal counsel for DFMS), Bishop Stacy Sauls (COO) and the Rev. Heather Melton (coordinator of the United Thank Offering).

Obviously, having a few members of the existing UTO board resign while the project is in process has made matters more complicated, but I’m told that collaboration with the remaining board members will continue and Executive Council will review the results next month.

Let me know if you have other questions.

The Executive Council will have this on their agenda in October 2013.

For release September 3, 2013

A Statement from the Former Communications Convener of the United Thank Offering Board:

With the stroke of a pen, the United Thank Offering Board (UTO) will possibly be rendered powerless and voiceless by Episcopal Church leadership. This is a complete reversal of a three- year study process that resulted in the General Convention ratifying the report of a Study Committee (INC-055 AdHoc) in 2012. The report praised the UTO Board’s work and declared:

“We believe that the United Thank Offering must continue to be autonomous but interdependent as regards the corporate entity that constitutes The Episcopal Church.”

The abuse of power seems staggering. With the revision of bylaws written by DFMS leadership, anticipated to be presented to The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church in October 2013, the current United Thank Offering Board, representing 125 years of service, will cease to exist.

The revised bylaws document eviscerates the United Thank Offering. It is monstrous and the worst set of revisions ever seen by one longtime bylaws expert. Several Board members described initial reactions to the document as “Horror.” The Board President said the word “eviscerate” occurred to her as well.

In protest, 4 persons including the board president, Barbi Tinder, and most of the officers have resigned from the board. The group resigning includes 3 of the 4 persons appointed by the Presiding Bishop to be part of a working group to revise the “old” bylaws that were approved by Executive Council just two years ago. One person said she felt betrayed. It appears that none of the input from the UTO members of the group was integrated into the proposed document.

In the proposed draft revision, the current board is superseded by a new election process that totally removes the United Thank Offering from its historic relationship with Episcopal Church Women.

Any decision making from board is removed; it will be only an advisory body. It appears The United Thank Offering Board will no longer be responsible for its granting process, budget and approval of expenditures, communications, meeting planning, education and training events, and public appearances. The Chief Operating Officer of The Episcopal Church, also known as DFMS (the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society), becomes fully responsible for the administration and management of the United Thank Offering.

The earned interest from millions of dollars of UTO trust funds and annual UTO offerings come totally into DFMS control. The Chief Operating Officer has said, “We, DFMS, are the United Thank Offering and the United Thank Offering is DFMS.”

For further information contact:

Robin Sumners: rwc@prismnet.com

Former Communication Convener

Barbi Tinder: uto prov1@gmail.com

Former President

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Category : The Lead

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15 Comments
  1. Bruce Garner

    Gay Jennings explains all of this very well. This process began while I was still on Executive Council. This isn’t a “control issue.” It is an issue of bringing all of the ministries that are part of DFMS into compliance with the various financial and legal requirements that govern non-profit groups. Before getting all out of sorts about the new by-laws, it might help to see how much of them were actually necessary to be in compliance with those that already govern the church. Without having read the suggestions from the UTO folks, it could well be that what they were suggesting would not be in compliance with the rules that govern us financially.

  2. Elizabeth Kaeton

    When I lived in Maine, the conventional wisdom was, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Given the history of the UTO and ECW, I don’t understand this action. Given the heavy-handed style of the present administration and previous attempts at “restructuring,” this just doesn’t smell right.

  3. I don’t understand what’s happening here, and I hope someone will clarify.

    I treasure the ministry of the UTO every day when I drop coins into my “little blue box” on my dresser.

  4. Nicholas Beasley

    “The Leadership.” What a strange, Orwellian collective self-reference.

  5. I don’t understand what’s happening here, and I hope someone will clarify.

    I treasure the ministry of the UTO every day when I drop coins into my “little blue box” on my dresser.

  6. JRG

    Three men and a female priest are now assigned to decide what will happen to a special fund created 125 years ago by lay women as a way to give LAY WOMEN an autonomous voice in mission funding. The UTO was created specifically so that women (who were already turning over large sums of money to an entirely male Board of Missions) could have an independent voice in choosing where mission dollars they raised would go. This is not about good financial practices. This is about dismantling women’s ministries. Some donor should sue the DFMS for subverting the purpose of these funds.

  7. Susan Howland

    A good starting point to understanding the restructure of the United Thank Offering is by reading the INC-055 Ad-Hoc Committee on the Study of the United Thank Offering, which was printed in the “Blue Book” at the last General Convention. It can be found here: http://province1episcopalchurchwomen.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/triennial-meeting-information/inc-055-uto-report-2012/

    Apparently 4 UTO board members and 4 Church staff people: Steve Hutchinson (chair of GAM of Executive Council and chancellor of the Diocese of Utah), Paul Nix (legal counsel for DFMS), Bishop Stacy Sauls (COO) and the Rev. Heather Melton (coordinator of the United Thank Offering), are charged with Revising the group’s bylaws, updating its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with DFMS and putting standard business practices in place. Somewhere the process went awry. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the UTO.

  8. Father Ward

    Can anyone post a link to the proposed changes?

  9. Elizabeth Kaeton

    I would also highly recommend everyone – but especially everyone at 815 and Executive Council – read Chapter 9 of Pam Darling’s book, “New Wine”.

    Context. Context. Context.

    Process. Process. Process.

    Or, as one bishop advised me, early in my priestly formation, “I’d rather have it said of me, ‘Bad decision’, than ‘Bad process’.”

  10. Ann Fontaine

    More from Mark Harris at his blog

  11. Dylan

    Two quotes from the INC-055 Ad-Hoc Committee report stand out to me:

    “The Ad-Hoc Committee believes that the tension between United Thank Offering as a prayerful ingathering source for mission THAT USES ITS RESOURCES AS IT DECIDES (within the bounds of DFMS and General Convention regulations) and the program offices of The Episcopal Church, is a creative one.”

    “The Ad-Hoc Committee believes that there is good reason to believe that the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society/ The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church has become an increasingly regulatory corporation in its almost 100-year history. That is, it has moved from being a source of missionary vision to being a source of regulation of vision articulated elsewhere.”

    Not all the facts of this matter are clear at present, and I look forward to hearing and reading all of the relevant information and perspectives on all sides.

    The way things appear with the information offered so far, though, raises the question for me of why “Leadership” of the DFMS would move to more centralization of what has historically been an extraordinarily effective grassroots network — the very sort of thing we’re trying to do more of via restructuring.

    Last triennium, I served on Council’s World Mission standing committee, and listened at each meeting for three years to Ian Douglas’s and then Mark Harris’s reports on the progress of the Ad Hoc Committee. It seemed as though there was tremendous and consistent, if occasionally bumpy, progress to increase mutual trust and support. That relationships could deteriorate so far so quickly from what I was hearing in 2012 comes as a huge and sad surprise.

    I’m praying for all involved in discernment surround this, and I’m waiting to hear and see the specifics of the matter.

    Blessings,

    Sarah Dylan Breuer

  12. I suppose by now I shouldn’t be surprised by the ineptitude and tone-deafness of “the Leadership.” Still, this one seems to take the cake. I’ll grant that the UTO’s bylaws, governance, policies and procedures, needed to be examined and revised. But to do it in such a way that the outcome is the resignation of four board members is spectacularly incompetent. And to do it without any explanation to the wider church, and especially to all of those people who have given so much to the UTO over the years, is breathtakingly arrogant.

    From out here in the heartland, it really does look like nothing more than a power and money grab.

    Jonathan Grieser

  13. tgflux

    Oh dear: prayers for all involved. Let’s remember to see *Christ* in each everybody, ‘kay?

    JC Fisher

    [And seeing AS Christ does, which, by definition, means w/o ego or territoriality.]

  14. David Allen

    I’m sure that all of the facts are not in and some here are making leaping assumptions and conclusions and stating ugly things about folks.

    As a Mexican Anglican outsider looking in, it appears you lot are about to shoot yourselves in the foot. Again.

    Bro David

  15. The UTO is not a separate entity because it is not a separate 501c3 Corporation. If it was intended to be separate, that was the route that should have been taken.

    Rather, it is a ministry of The Episcopal Church, thus, the ultimate fiduciary and legal control is not UTO or ECW but is the fiduciary and legal body of The Episcopal Church.

    A “grass roots” ministry being created that believes it is autonomous, while relying upon the tacit support and functioning of the actual fiduciary is nothing new Happens in parishes all the time, where the elected Vestry is the fiduciary, no matter who raises the money for a project, it is the Vestry who has the responsibility for ensuring the funds are properly disbursed. Having that “grass roots body” get very angry when an attempt to restore appropriate order is began is also, unfortunately, nothing new.

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