On September 2, 2013, four members of the 2012-2015 United Thank Offering Board resigned from the Board, and from their leadership positions, in protest against a process begun by the Episcopal Church Officers at the Church Center at 815 2nd Avenue to develop documents of governance for the United Thank Offering Board. Three of these members had been part of a working group created by the Presiding Bishop to develop these documents jointly. There were four members of the United Thank Offering Board, and three members of the staff at 815 and a representative of the Executive Council. (Three lawyers, and ultimately three priest; see how that adds up to four—or five!)
When the drafts of these documents were received, based on the content and the message which accompanied them, the working group of UTO had an immediate and visceral reaction. The conversations undertaken regarding the process and the critical points identified by the United Thank Offering group were not represented in the documents; the four items stated by the UTO representatives as critical were eliminated completely, and the structure of UTO changed dramatically. The message transmitting these documents said:
Attached is our revisions to the MOU and Bylaws for the UTO Board’s review. We have given this project significant time and thought and believe that these revisions best embrace the reality of the UTO Board being an integral and very important part of DFMS and a CCAB of The Episcopal Church. We also believe that these revisions will work to maximum the viability of the UTO Board for many years to come.
Per my conversation with Robin yesterday, we can convene upon my return to the office to discuss these revisions at a time suitable to all of us.
This did not to appear to invite restorations to the revisions of the critical points defined by the UTO working group of the items defined in the earlier discussions. The telephone call between the legal counsel of DFMS and the UTO communication convener did not invite the option of discussing significant changes; the statement was made, "We have removed the treasurer position on your board, as the finance of UTO will now be completely handled by DFMS." The staff at DFMS, including the Presiding Bishop has repeatedly told the UTO Board that UTO has no money; all the money belongs to DFMS. Although almost all of the women of the church know absolutely there is money that belongs to UTO.
When the elected members of the board, those immediately affected by the changes, were given the draft documents to read, all but one of the elected members were shocked and devastated by the structure the documents established; those on the working group, and a board member who had been part of the internal conversations concluded that the evidence put forth by the DFMS office was not created in good faith, would not be revised in good faith, and resigned in protest of the new direction forced upon the United Thank Offering by these documents. The UTO Four, as they are being called, doubted that, based on their experience with DFMS during the entire last year, that there would be little integrity in any process.
Other elected board members decided to stay to try to change the minds of the DFMS leadership. One continued to insist that there was nothing wrong with this process at all.
All of the documents made public from both UTO and DFMS regarding this sad and traumatic situation are available here. The list of pages is found to the right; we who resigned have made our joint and our individual statements. We have each done this in order to do our best to protect the integrity of the of the United Thank Offering within the Episcopal Church.
Robin Sumners, UTO Four