A Time for Thankfulness
Each of us, known as the UTO Four, has dropped many coins into our blue boxes since Labor Day weekend. We have experienced daily the opportunity for being grateful, and we would like to thank the many voices who understood our difficult decision to protest the process we had been part of and who supported our cry for help for the protection of the powerful movement that is United Thank Offering.
We thank the many faithful people, men and women, who love the Episcopal Church as we do, who used every media at their fingertips to spread the word that attention was needed to examine a serious problem challenging the whole Church; we thank the bloggers, the tweeters, the users of forums and chatrooms, and for website owners, for being in touch with each other and us, to keep the issue alive over an extended period of time, until the October Executive Council meeting. This was never a "campaign of misinformation," but rather a cry for making all information available through as many avenues as available. This process worked with a power we had not imagined, but for which we will always be profoundly thankful.
We thank the multitude of dedicated Episcopal Church Women in every diocese who asked questions, sought information, and shared their concerns, their perspectives and their prayers—and who faithfully continue to fill their Blue Boxes with prayer and coins of thanksgiving.
We thank the many strong, vital women's organizations throughout the Church for supporting the need for maintaining a role for the lay ministry of the United Thank Offering—embracing the remarkable fact of its history, the generations of women who have served, and their faithful contribution to the real work of mission through out the world. The long history of the women of The Episcopal Church who have lived and worked tirelessly to support the striving and the belief that women are called to ministry both lay and ordained is profoundly reflected by this support. We are thankful for the petitions, the emails, the postings, the statements and the communications from so many organizations.
And in no small measure, we thank Executive Council for offering the forum for discussion and discernment regarding the issues placed on the table. We realize the work of Executive Council is vast and demanding; time in each meeting is always limited for the discussion of any issue facing the Church as a whole. We are grateful that time was made available on the agenda to present the issues and to open pathways of discussion that may bring about reconciliation. We celebrate and fully support this process; this was our hope and our prayer.
We would like to restate the issues that prompted our protest. The draft proposed documents that we received from the DFMS legal council in August specifically excluded from the responsibility of the United Thank Offering Board four things that we had stated in our face-to-face meetings were critical. These were:
The relationship with the Episcopal Church Women through whom the representatives of the Board are elected, including participation as delegates to the Triennial Meeting of the Women of the Church.
The fiduciary responsibility for the oversight of the trust funds given to the women of the church for the use of the women of the church through the United Thank Offering; these funds are held in trust by the Episcopal Church and are restricted to the use of the women by the intent of the givers.
The complete oversight of the United Thank Offering granting process from development of the focus and criteria, to the specific time line of the process each season, to the decisions made regarding grant awards. (An aside; granting decisions are made thoughtfully and prayerfully and if they are to be reviewed, these decisions are worthy of more than a “rubber stamp.”
The responsibility of the communication of the history, the purpose, the process and the stories that publically present the United Thank Offering and its relationship to the Church and the World.
The relationship between the United Thank Offering and the Episcopal Church Women was eliminated in the draft bylaws; the three committees that manage finance, granting and communications were also eliminated as Board
Responsibilities. It was this that prompted our protest. Again, we are grateful to those who have urged conversation at many levels of the church.
The Four of us, each day, and sometimes often each day, drop a coin in the Blue Box at our side with a prayer for this process of reconciliation, and for throughout the church, a new understanding and respect for the concept of the United Thank Offering and the responsibilities of the Board that does its work. The UTO movement has served the Episcopal Church as a lay ministry for 125 years with this quiet work of daily thanksgiving—with a practice toward the church that has always been, "Ask us for what you need, we will do our best to provide it for you."
We remain faithful servants in loving service of the Living Christ.
Barbi Tinder Renee Haney Robin Sumners Georgie White