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Stewardship: Gratitude or Obligation?

Stewardship: Gratitude or Obligation?
Bishop Mark Beckwith

The Episcopal Church Foundation invited Bishop Beckwith to expand his July 8, 2015 blog post on stewardship into a feature article, and published it as the lead article in the September/October issue of Vestry Papers.

Buried among the hundreds of resolution at the recently concluded General Convention in Salt Lake City, and hidden in the line items of the The Episcopal Church’s 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, both the House of Deputies and House of Bishops gave overwhelming support to the following statement: “stewardship is the main work of the church.” And at every General Convention since, stewardship has been highlighted as fundamental to the ministry of the church. Something to that effect was memorialized at this Convention, but it was lost among all the other resolutions and activities 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 about 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.