by George Werner
I come from another century. I started seminary 55 years ago and have had a broad, deep and unusual journey through our Church. These reflections are mine alone and in no way represent the Church Pension Fund or my wonderful successors, Bonnie & Gay, as President of the House of Deputies. These reflections come from my experiences both inside and outside our Church.
During the 1970’s, Presiding Bishop John Allin challenged us to raise at least $100 million for Venture in Mission. Our first response was disbelief, yet VIM eventually surpassed that goal by more than $40 million additional dollars. In the four decades since, there have been attempts to do something similar. None have come to fruition.
For fifteen years I was a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of UPMC Health System. We grew from a couple of hospitals to a world renowned, cutting edge, health system worth $12 billion.
When asked what that was like, I sometimes said, “Like watching sausage being made. It was not very pretty, but worth it at the end.” During that period, I had another saying drilled into me, “If you can’t measure it, you cannot manage it.” I experienced what it was like to drill down deep into a massive operation so we could measure & manage it with excellence & efficiency. I realized how important that knowledge was to making the choices.
We have finite resources. They include money and time. We have had a multitude of programs, processes, systems & workshops. They have each addressed a specific need or challenge or served a helpful vision. They have almost all been positive. But the question in “finite resources” is not how wonderful such endeavors are or were, but how many can we afford? How many can we staff? What is the best combination of this variety of “good things” for our Church? This also asks which efforts should be deferred or ended. Real reform means tough decisions.
I mentioned that time is also a finite resource. I love the Commissions, Committees, Boards & Agencies of our Church. I appointed many lay and clergy members to these. I made it a point to spend 24 hours with most of them, to better understand their work and to see how my appointees were doing. My personal judgment of those years was of excellent and diligent efforts. Go back and read some of the Blue Book reports and you’ll understand. Yet, too few of the excellent ideas produced actually became part of our life in the Church.
My seminary friend, the late Bob Anderson, told me that when he became Bishop of Minnesota, he had committed himself to intense visitation of the parishes & people. He discovered that he was ex officio on more boards than there were days of the month & chaired seven. Our Bishops, our Lay Leaders, our Deacons & Priests all have too much on their plates. We honor their ministries and gifts when we take seriously the value of their time.
Finally, when we consider reform, we must always remember that real change impacts real lives. My tagline on E-mail comes from Frederick Buechner. “To sacrifice something is to make it holy by giving it away for love.” I come from a generation shaped by the depression and WWII. It may be part of our DNA that to lead in times like these means to offer to give something up for love, to sacrifice personally for our Savior and our Episcopal Church. During the healthcare “storm” of the 1990’s, the outstanding CEO of St. Margaret’s Memorial Hospital told us, “Being CEO of St. Margaret’s has been my life’s dream, but I realize that for St. Margaret’s to have the best chance for its future, I must step aside.” That to me is sacrifice, love & holiness.
I am deeply grateful to the members of TREC, and the many, many others who are seriously wrestling with the future of our branch of the One, Holy and Catholic Church. M ay the Holy Spirit bless us all on the journey to find our best way to serve.
George Werner is the Dean Emeritus of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA. Ordained in 1962, he served parishes in Connecticut & New Hampshire. Among his positions in our wider Church, he continues as a Trustee of the Church Pension Fund and was the 31st President of the House of Deputies. He and Audrey have been married for 54 years and are the proud parents of four children and fourteen grandchildren.