ENS reports today on the capital campaign to raise $15 million to endow the College of Bishops amd the largely negative comments it has drawn since it was reported on Tuesday here at the Cafe, at The Episcopal Cafe Facebook page and elsewhere.
The defense that seems to be presented is that the College of Bishops is a highly valuable contribution to the common good, but that contributions to the campaign would not have otherwise found their way into a general fund for the common good of the church to be dispersed for the highest good.
The “Endowing a Sustainable Future” campaign is chaired by the Bishop Clayton Matthews, the Episcopal Church’s bishop for pastoral development and managing director of the College for Bishops. He is joined by a group of about 30 other bishops from throughout the United States, the release said.
The campaign is not a “churchwide” fundraiser, Matthews clarified in a May 4 telephone call with ENS. “This initiative will be directed to specific donors through the bishop’s personal networks….
It is never a good time to begin a fundraiser, said Matthews, acknowledging the still crippled U.S. economy, dwindling Episcopal Church and diocesan budgets, and multiple other campaigns, including the church’s Fund for Haiti, but that like other 501(c) 3 organizations in the Episcopal Church — Episcopal Church Foundation, the National Association of Episcopal Schools and Episcopal Relief & Development – the College for Bishops, which is owned by the House of Bishops, has a responsibility to work toward self-sustainability.
The article says one source of funding for the college is ending: “CREDO provides financial and administrative assistance to the college. CREDO funding is scheduled to sunset in 2012, Matthews said during the telephone call.” [As Jim Naughton says in the comments below, “[Let’s] clear up any mistaken impressions that might be generated by that quote…. It’s [t]rue, but the funding that CREDO provides to the College of Bishops (like much of the rest of CREDO’s funding) comes from the Church Pension fund. So the decision to end the college’s funding–whatever one thinks of it–was made not by CREDO, but by the trustees of the pension fund.”]
That’s a statement of fact, but what’s the explanation? As Jim Naughton states:
This initiative was made necessary because the Church Pension trustees decided that they would no longer fund the College of Bishops. I have no opinion about the wisdom of this decision. But I am aware that the Church Pension fund is sitting on top of an enormous surplus collected from congregations to finance the clergy’s 18 percent defined benefit pension program.
And, later in the comments,
I want to bring us back around to the Church Pension Fund. It is sitting on a significant surplus–donated by the laity. Can we justify pulling that kind of money entirely out of the system at this particular time? I don’t know the answer, but I think the question is ripe for public discussion.
Mark Harris has weighed in.