Many momentous decisions were made at General Convention – the election of a new Presiding Bishop, the endorsement of marriage rites for trial use that bring the church to marriage equality, the ratification of some structural changes in The Episcopal church (TEC) that will provide greater clarity in the governance at the denominational level of an ever changing church.
There was also a momentous action outside the formal confines of General Convention – which literally took place outside. Between 1200 and 1500 people gathered early Sunday morning on the streets of Salt Lake City to march and pray for the purpose of reducing gun violence. We joined God at work in the neighborhood. It was an impressive commitment of solidarity and hope; a witness to the wider world.
Buried among the hundreds of resolutions, and hidden in the line items of the TEC budget was a modest amount of money set aside to promote stewardship across the church. Initially there was no money in the budget for stewardship, but at the last moment a symbolic amount was put in.
Several General Conventions ago, a statement was endorsed: “stewardship is the main work of the church.” Something to that effect was memorialized at this Convention, but it was lost among all the other things that commanded more attention.
I believe that stewardship is indeed the main work of the church. Stewardship is all we do with all we have all the time. At its heart, stewardship is paying close attention to the gifts God has given us – and being clear as to how we invest those gifts with our time, our talent and our money.
Stewardship was sidelined at this General Convention. Of all the prepared questions directed to the nominees for Presiding bishop at an open forum, none were on stewardship. There was a daily Eucharist, but at first no provision was made for an offering to be taken and brought to the altar to be blessed (as required in the Prayer Book on page 361).
Stewardship nearly got lost at General Convention. It nearly gets lost in our own lives. There are other pressing matters to attend to. Momentous decisions to be made – and mundane tasks that often crowd out everything else.
Stewardship is the main work of the church. My hope and prayer – for myself and the rest of us, is that summer can provide space and respite for us to claim the gifts given us by God – and how best to use those gifts to do God’s work. How we exercise our stewardship determines how we participate in healing the world. It takes some work. It is primary work. It takes time, and prayer. Stewardship can’t get lost; it needs to be brought from the sideline into the center of our souls and minds – so it can be the main work of our faith-driven lives.