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Financial development in Episcopal churches

Financial development in Episcopal churches

The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond offers A Position Paper for our reflection about finances and stewardship:

…by planetary standards of living, the “poor in spirit” referred to in Jesus’ beatitudes may well be we relatively rich. We, who argue about money, speak eloquently about giving and preach our points of view on stewardship are quick to dismiss the seven-day creation in Genesis as a myth, while cleaving to the “dominion” we have been given over our planet and our money. We allow this literalism because it benefits us and the system we enjoy. Preaching stewardship works today just as preaching crusade and inquisition worked in the dark and middle ages. It is time to evolve our theology and praxis around money, ownership and fundraising.

Were we, as leaders in the church, to live with the simplicity of owning nothing more than what we need rather than grabbing for what we want, and if we truly knew we were desperately loved – even liked – by God; this conversation about fundraising in the church would go differently. Our grasp on world resources and wealth is fragile. We are not greedy people; we are scared people. Our greed is just our version of a scream. Church fundraising is a pastoral ministry.

Points to consider:

1. Responsibility: It is the moral, spiritual and managerial responsibility of the Episcopal Church to help people engaged in the church’s ministry to give their money to the work and ministry of the church and to others who help the poor and the marginalized. …

2. Vacuum: Other non-profit fundraising agencies such as the YMCA, community foundations, the United Way, Episcopal schools and universities benefit from disagreements about financial development within the leadership of The Episcopal Church which distract The Episcopal Church from raising major and planned umbrella gifts .

3. Missed Opportunity: Inconsistent and ineffective case development and financial development at the national and international level in the Episcopal Church’s leadership has left more than $2 billion to go to other non-profit agencies since our founding. …

4. Potential Co-creativity: According to the last census, 2% of the population is very wealthy and another 2% are wealthy. We know that Episcopalians tend to include more of the nation’s wealthy than many other denominations, so we can very conservatively assume that of the 2 million Episcopalians in the United States, 60,000-80,000 of them are wealthy and could leave an estate or give major gifts beyond their parish and diocese. …

5. Resistance: Too many clergy and lay leaders have not examined their own fears and resistance around money, giving and fundraising. …

6. Jargon: Philanthropy within the church may be both helped and hindered by conversations around “stewardship.” Not all congregants embrace the notion that God is distant and that we are stewards on behalf of an absent God. …

7. Donor Centricity: There will always be donors to the church who are able and would prefer to give a major gift which allows for the funding of parish, local, national and international efforts …

8. Generational Change: Beginning around 2015, Generations X and Y (people under 48 years of age) will begin to assume philanthropic and managerial responsibility for the church. For the first time in the history of the church-as-institution, leaders and congregants of our churches will not give by association (ie: my church, my denomination, my family religion, my town, my parish, etc.) Generations X and Y will be able and inclined to give to any effective non-profit around the world with a click of a button, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This will require exponentially more effective fundraising in the future.

9. A Theology of Community: Unlike many of his subsequent followers, Jesus did not become mired in the question of whether those for whom He died were worthy of the salvation-gift. Nor did Jesus express concern over the question of what we humans would do with the salvation-gift we are given. Jesus was non-attached, non-resistant and non-judgmental. …

10. Transference: It may be that some of the energy being transferred into issues surrounding sexuality are actually based in fears around money (safety, well-being, standards of living, over-work, over-stimulation, exhaustion, etc.) We under-estimate the levels of shame we carry in order to maintain the standards of living we enjoy on this planet and the costs of that lifestyle to international neighbors. …

Read it all here.

See more at his blog

The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond is the Canon for Congregational Life in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. In that position he cares for and encourages the spiritual growth and management effectiveness of the diocesan churches, most especially around stewardship, membership growth and new vocations. His Blog is found at and his tools for stewardship (financial development,) congregational development and evangelism (membership growth) can be found at under “Congregational Life” as can this position paper.


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