I’ve got no particular insight or perspective into this story, except as a loyal Episcopal priest who has overseen UTO ingatherings in two parishes, and has been proud to be able to say that almost every penny goes to mission. But when my wife read my post, she pointed out the historical perspective. The UTO is one of those institutions that developed because women were locked out of power and mission in American Protestant Christianity in the 19th century and that its independence was fiercely guarded in part because of that history. She also pointed out that one of the first targets when the fundamentalists took over the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s was the Women’s Missionary Union, which like the UTO was largely independent of other Baptist structures.
The Presiding Bishop is attempting to calm the waters.
But some folks are not having any of it. Elizabeth Kaeton and Ann Fontaine have both provided personal stories related to the UTO and their concerns about these recent events.
From Ann Fontaine:
Overall it moves total control to the Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church with a small advisory role for the “Board,” where is the participation by UTO in the granting process? in communications? in any oversight of monies given to UTO?
It removes references to the main goal of heightening awareness of gratitude in our lives, it no longer has any relationship to the Episcopal Church Women (primary supporters of this ministry),
It removes the UTO role in development of materials and training local UTO coordinators, though the report to General Convention encouraged a continuing autonomy for UTO with interdependence – this removes all autonomy.
From Elizabeth Kaeton:
Many questions remain, these two among them:
1. How does the Memorandum of Understanding between DFMS and EWC/UTO embody the “creative tension” between the “increasing regulatory” function of DFMS and the “visionary, autonomous grassroots” function of UTO/ECW and be both/and: “autonomous but interdependent”? (INC-055 Ad-Hoc Committee on the Study of the United Thank Offering, GC 2012. If you haven’t read it, please do.)
2. What is contained in that Memorandum which caused 4 women – intelligent, educated women who are passionate about and dedicated to the mission of the Gospel – to resign because they believed that they needed to follow the high calling of being “whistle blowers”?
I agree that speculation holds with it the potential to be non-productive and dangerous. The primary danger, of course, is to those who benefit by not providing evidence.
I am still chilled by the knowledge that the conversations concerning the historic, autonomous, missionary leadership of women (UTO/ECW) becoming more a part of the “increasingly regulatory” body of DFMS had to be had with a group of 4 representatives from DFMS (3 of whom were men) under a signed agreement of confidentiality. And yet, the words “accountability” and “transparency” are being bandied about as somehow meaningful.
I understand. That may be “business as usual,” but when you are talking about the historic autonomy of women (which came about because women were excluded from leadership in existing church structures), and removing direct decision making and control over the money they raise, well, it just doesn’t bode well – especially in the church.
On this one, I’m with Ann and Elizabeth.
Ms. Kaeton has put her finger on the core issue: the proposed changes have the effect of “removing direct decision making and control over the money they raise.” Apparently, there is quite a lot of it, and the overall Church budget is very tight. So it’s really about control over what’s mine and what’s yours! How often we hear this, even in church where there is supposed to be a much more genuine effort at community. An organization that was perfectly reasonable in the past does not necessarily deserve to be preserved indefinitely when its reason for existing disappears.
Bruce: I suspect we’re only getting part of the story, but yes, it seems to be another painful example of conflict generated over money.