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INDIANAPOLIS, IN: Bonnie Anderson Tells Episcopalians to Stop Whining at GC2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN: Bonnie Anderson Tells Episcopalians to Stop Whining at GC2012

By Michael Heidt in Indianapolis
Special Correspondent
July 5, 2012

In her opening address to the Episcopal Church's (TEC) 77th General Convention, the outgoing President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, delivered a stinging rebuke to church members, telling them to "stop whining."

In a thinly veiled blast against the House of Bishops and the ruling elite of the Episcopal Church, Anderson stated, "In recent months, it's even become fashionable in some circles to celebrate the exclusive nature of the church in the name of efficiency-to treat our governance as a lifeboat in which there is precious little room for laypeople and clergy, to question the value of our shared authority to the future of The Episcopal Church, to assert that the diversity of voices in our governance is just much, too loud, too messy, too expensive, and way too big."

The President of the House of Deputies went on to say that TEC is "wandering in a wilderness of declining membership and budget reductions." This, she believes, is a stage on the Episcopal Church's "journey to the Promised Land", but like the Israelites, church members are making their way "kicking and screaming."

Bonnie Anderson then leveled her criticism at TEC as a whole, not just Bishops and chief decision makers, telling Episcopalians to stop whining and being distrustful, as well as idolatrous and greedy. "We whine, we don't trust each other, and we try to hoard what we have been given even though it won't keep. Even though when we take more than we need, it breeds worms and becomes foul. And I'm pretty sure that we can all name some golden calves that we've been worshipping. We need to cut it out. All of us."

If this does not happen, Bonnie Anderson feels that TEC's ability to take "prophetic actions on issues of justice and peace" will be threatened, along with attempts to build mission relationships with other member churches of the Anglican Communion.

Anderson's comments highlight concerns and conflict over TEC's triennial budget, as well as the denomination's need to streamline its structure in the face of steady numeric decline and ongoing expense.

Members of TEC's Executive Council have felt sidelined over a lack of consultation on the budget, with Bishop Stacey Sauls, TEC's "Chief Operating Officer" (COO) and Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, each releasing budgets separately from the Council.

According to one member of the Executive Council, Katie Sherrod, this has produced a toxic atmosphere of distrust and criticism. On her blog, Desert's Child, (http://wildernessgarden.blogspot.com/) Sherrod wrote:

"But its very existence raises challenging questions that go far beyond any concerns one member of the Executive Council might have.

"What does this do to trust levels when the leader of a group very publicly undermines the work of that group before the whole Church?

"Why didn't the presiding bishop and the COO speak up more forcefully in the Council meetings if they thought Council was going off track? Both the presiding bishop and COO Sauls are very persuasive speakers."

Despite criticism, TEC's Program Budget and Finance Committee (PB&F) have announced that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's proposed budget will be used as a "template."

Although the budget has yet to be finalized, figures from the template suggest that $2 million be earmarked for church planting with another $15 million to cover the cost of litigation.

If fiscal expenditure represents priority, Bonnie Anderson's TEC looks set to wander in the wilderness for some time to come -- calls to stop whining and act like liberated children of God notwithstanding.

The Rev. Michael Heidt is a priest in the Diocese of Ft. Worth. He is the editor of Forward in Christ magazine

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