by The Rev Nathaniel Pierce
The perceived high cost of the Church Center at 815 Second Avenue in New York City generates many comments. Why? Let’s begin with a basic job description. The purpose and function of the Church Center is to:
1) Carry out the basic functions of any international organization:
- support the Presiding Bishop and other elected officers
- manage trust funds and other monies
- support the elected national bodies (Executive Council; Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards [CCABs], etc.)
- manage the building or facilities
- make arrangements and pay for the cost General Convention
2) Support programs that no diocese or group of dioceses could ever do on their own (as authorized by General Convention), including:
- resettling refugees
- maintaining a transitions office for clergy and laity
- supporting 75 missionaries in the field
- supporting “Jubilee” centers of ministry
- supporting historically black Episcopal colleges (used to be three, now down to two—hello?)
3) Support all dioceses (domestic and foreign) and covenant partners in their ministries:
- provide financial support for dioceses in need (Navajoland, South Dakota, etc.)
- honor promises made in covenant partnerships
- support networking initiatives (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship [TENS] programs, etc.)
4) Be a communications link and collegial participant with the Anglican Communion, ecumenical partners, and international agencies
- develop a collegial relationship with Anglican provinces and dioceses
- support international agencies (e.g., the Anglican UN office in New York City)
I found it helpful to examine this job description because I now understand why there is so much criticism of the financial cost of this work. Look at this list again: are any of the four in public view? In a parish you get to see your rector and experience your church building at least once a week. If you are lucky, the bishop (or a bishop) visits your parish once a year. But almost all of the functions listed above are offstage, definitely not in public view. Thus, the Church Center will always, and again I say, always feel as though it costs too much money. Why? Because almost all of this work is outside our field of vision.
In the interest of streamlining things, which one of the four would you delete? What responsibility would you add to the list of four?
The Rev. Nathaniel W. Pierce, serves St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Quantico, Maryland (Diocese of Easton), and serves on Executive Council from Province III.