Category : Stewardship

(ACNS) Church in Wales sets aside £10 million evangelism fund “to inspire new Welsh revival”

The Church in Wales has announced a new £10 million GBP scheme to help its six dioceses fund new evangelism projects. The Church in Wales’ first ever Evangelism Fund will be launched this weekend with the aim of engaging “Welsh society with the claims of the Christian faith in vibrant and exciting ways.” The fund will provide grants of between £250,000 and £3 million, for diocesan projects that “will focus on people rather than buildings,” the Church in Wales said.

The fund will be managed by a committee with expertise in church growth and business ventures; and is being launched on Pentecost Sunday (20 May). Pentecost is traditionally regarded as the Church’s birthday, when Christians focus on sharing their faith and growth. This year, as in 2016 and 2017, it will come at the end of Thy Kingdom Come – a 10-day global wave of prayer focused on the church’s evangelism and witness.

“We are putting our money where our mouth is,” the Archbishop of Wales John Davies said. “We have long talked about growing the church and now we want to invest in projects across the country to enable that to happen. It is a radical answer to the decline we are experiencing in many places, and £10 million is a transforming amount.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Wales, Evangelism and Church Growth, Stewardship

(ACNS) Anglican Church of Burundi helps improve rice growing techniques

The Anglican Church of Burundi has been training farmers to improve rice yields as part of efforts to combat food insecurity in the country. The two-year project has been run in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, the overseas development agency of the US-based Episcopal Church. Growing rice has been the main activity for people living along side Lake Tanganyika for many years; but the lack of improved techniques and seeds has caused low production and farmers could not expect to gain much from it.

Through the project, farmers have been trained and equipped with agricultural techniques and materials to improve rice production. “Already the farmers are seeing changes in agricultural production and consequently in their daily lives,” the province said in its newsletter.

“Our situation has improved since we no longer cultivate the rice just for consumption,” farmer Esperance Ndayishimiye, said. “I’m now able to meet easily my family’s needs. I pay school fees for my children. I have bought lands and built houses.” she said.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Burundi, Burundi, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Energy, Natural Resources, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Stewardship

(BBC) Coventry Cathedral scraps entrance fees

Coventry Cathedral which is built next to the bombed ruins of the old site has scrapped its entrance fees due to “generous donations”.

Charges including £6 adult entrance fees were introduced in 2010 because donations were “simply not enough”.

The announcement was made at the diocese’s Centenary Festival earlier.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the cathedral and the diocese were working together to “make sure the day-to-day costs are met”.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Stewardship

(Post-Gazette) Religious institutions wait to see what tax reform does to their place in people’s budgets

The conventional thinking is that most people who donate to places of worship are not primarily motivated by tax benefits.

For many, giving is a core value based on religious teachings and a sense of gratitude.

This could be the year when those assumptions are put to a test.

The new federal tax law has cut taxes for working American families, but it also could have the unintended consequence of reducing the financial incentive for many people to donate to religious and charitable organizations.

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy estimates roughly 30 million households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 will be less likely to itemize deductions on their taxes due to the new law. With less incentive to donate, researchers predict the amount those households give will decline.

“Tax incentives do affect how much people give,” said Una Osili, associate dean for research. “If it is more expensive to give, they give less.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

For those of You closely Following the Diocese of SC Supreme Court Case–TEC and the new TEC Diocese have requested another extension until May 7th

From there:

Apr 26, 2018: Motion to extend the time to file a response is granted and the time is further extended to and including May 7, 2018, for all respondents.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, Supreme Court

Tasmanian Anglican churches could be sold to fund abuse survivors redress

Tasmania’s Anglican Diocese is proposing to sell more than 120 properties, including churches, halls, houses and vacant land, to fund redress for survivors of child sexual abuse.

The church said it would need to sell just under half of its Tasmanian properties to cover an estimated $8 million of liability in additional payments to survivors.

It has been lobbying for the State Government to sign up to the National Redress Scheme for survivors, due to start on July 1 as a result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Tasmanian Diocese also agreed to increase the payment cap for its own Pastoral Support and Assistance Scheme from $75,000 to $150,000 per claim.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Australia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship

(Church Times) Diocese of Durham to give a multi-million boost to declining churches

A multi-million-pound bid to turn around churches that are in numerical decline is being prepared by the diocese of Durham.

The money will be used to turn churches in strategic locations with small congregations into “resourcing churches”. A strategic development funding bid for an estimated £2.9 million will be submitted to the Church Commissioners this month; an answer is expected in June. In total, the plan has been costed at about £4.5 million.

Canon David Tomlinson, who was appointed Senior Resourcing Church Leader this month, said last week that the funding would enable a “radical” approach to growth, “stepping outside of the norm in the Anglican Church of having a survival mentality”.

The first phase of the strategy entails church-plants in five areas: Bishop Auckland, Darlington, Durham, Gateshead, and Washington. In Stockton, missional communities of about 40 people will be developed. In the second phase, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Easington, and Jarrow will be added to the resource church network.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Parish Ministry, Stewardship

(Yorkshire Post) Sir Tony Robinson: Why York Minster and Britain’s other great cathedrals are right to charge an entrance fee

These days, cathedrals like York Minster are both a tourist attraction and a place of worship. More than 690,000 people visited in 2017 and, while it’s their entrance fees which keep the place running, finding the balance between commercial and spiritual demands is not always easy.

“I think York gets it right. These places are money pits and without the income they receive from visitors they would begin to crumble. I know that there are some people who would like them to be free to enter, but we do have to be realistic. We no longer live in the 19th century when wages were so low these great big cathedrals could easily afford to have 100 workers on-site without worrying about how they were going to pay the wage bills.

“However, what I particularly loved about York Minster was how every so often the general bustle of the day would stop and within a second it would revert to a place of stillness and a place of prayer.”

England is home to 44 cathedrals and given they have witnessed Henry VIII’s Reformation and Second World War bombing raids as well as the ravages of time, it is a minor miracle that the likes of York Minster have remained standing at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Stewardship

(AP) Churches that survived 9/11 give in, install metal detectors

The two stone churches near the foot of Broadway, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, have seen fire and calamity and the sweep of American history, and through it all have kept their doors wide open.

But in a sign of the times, Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel both installed metal detectors this month. Visitors on their way to see Alexander Hamilton’s tomb in Trinity’s historic graveyard, or who want to sit in the pews at St. Paul’s where George Washington prayed and dust-covered rescue workers rested after 9/11 attacks, now have to pass through airport-style security checkpoints.

The metal detectors, installed March 1, will be there “until this world becomes a safer place,” said Trinity’s vicar, the Rev. Phillip Jackson.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

FT talks with the steward of the Church of England’s investment portfolio, Loretta Minghella, on god, guns, gender and her brother’s death

In the months since her arrival at Church House next door to Westminster Abbey, Ms Minghella has added to Sir Andreas’s legacy. Observers say she is hard-nosed when it comes to numbers, has a low tolerance for bad corporate behaviour and is uncompromising on issues such as gender diversity.

“We are looking for companies to have 30 per cent gender diversity on their boards. If they haven’t, we will be looking at chairs of nominations committees and actually not approving one or two of them,” she says.

“It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do when it comes to investments.”

Our meeting takes place as the debate rages about investments in gun companies after the Florida school shooting.

Unsurprisingly, the fund already screens out “sin” stocks — arms, gambling, pornography, alcohol, tobacco — and it is taking a much tougher line on mining and energy companies.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Stock Market

(BBC) Wales’ burial space running out, warns Church

Wales could soon run out of space to bury its dead, the Church in Wales has warned.

A number of cemeteries have run out of plots, with some closed to new burials, while others have just years left until they are full.

Alex Glanville, from the Church in Wales, said people could no longer take for granted that they would be buried in their communities.

On Thursday, Cardiff council’s cabinet agreed to spend £3m on a new cemetery.

Councillors approved plans for a new 12.5 acre cemetery about 650 metres from the existing Thornhill Cemetery.

The authority said it would provide burial space for the next 35-40 years.

Read it all.

Posted in --Wales, Church of Wales, Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Church Times) Standing down the ghosts of the past–why the spectre of paternalism still haunts mission

A reminder of the stark inequality between the dominant voices of the Western Churches and the hugely under-represented younger Churches can be found by looking at the first World Missionary Conference, held in Edinburgh in 2010. Among more than 1200 Western delegates were just 17 Asians, and even these were registered as representing British and American organisations, ignoring the fact that some of them, such as V. S. Azariah — consecrated the first Indian Anglican bishop just two years later — could have represented their own Churches or missionary societies.

That Asians were consulted at all was at the insistence of the YMCA’s John R. Mott, in the face of strong opposition. It was he who, knowing what he was letting the conference in for, encouraged the initially hesitant Azariah to speak freely and frankly on the sensitive issue of failures in the relationships between foreign and indigenous workers. So, “the first shot in the campaign against missionary imperialism”. as it came to be known, was fired

Taking heart, Azariah told the assembled conference: “We shall learn to walk only by walking — perchance only by falling and learning from our mistakes, but never by being kept in leading strings until we arrive at maturity.”

He called to mind the quality of the relationships that Christ had established with his disciples, and made the impassioned plea: “Give us friends!” It was the clarion call for a radically new relationship, based on equality, mutual respect, and mutual support.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Missions, Stewardship, Theology

(Belfast Telegraph) Church of England investment arm steeled for weaker returns in 2017

The head of the Church of England’s investment arm has flagged that its £7.9 billion fund will fail to match the stellar returns logged in 2016, but said ethical policies were not to blame.

While the fund managed to rake in a bumper 17.1% return on the back of a strong performance in equities in 2016, it sold down its stock holdings by around 17% or £500 million to help re-balance the portfolio during the same year, meaning a smaller boost from a further rise in stock prices is expected from 2017.

Andrew Brown, secretary and chief executive of the Church Commissioners, said: “Like all investors we were faced in 2017 with a number of headwinds and we’ve seen it with sterling, we’ve seen it with inflation and global markets have slowed.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Stock Market

Samuel Wells’ sermon from last Sunday–Investing in the Kingdom

Now the Church of England was largely established, and for many centuries run, on the benefactor model. Some decades ago the sums ceased to add up – not because of a decline in congregation size, but because of sociological changes like what constitutes reasonable provision for people in their retirement, how long retired clergy live, whether the noblesse feel as obliged as they used to, and the shift of the majority of the population to cities, where relationships of unspoken obligation are different from the abiding practice of the country. And so in the last two or three generations a church that depended on squirearchy has morphed into a church that rests on congregationalism. By congregationalism I mean the assumption that the basic unit of Christianity is the local church, that each local church should seek to be self-sufficient as regards the provision of its stipendiary ministry, building upkeep and administrative costs and liturgical requirements, and that such expenditure should be met almost entirely through the voluntary stewardship of members of its congregation. Congregationalism can be inspiring with the sense of a team achieving great things together, but it has two drawbacks: it shrinks the understanding of church to simply the regular attendees; and it tends to obscure the vision of mission almost altogether.

And so to chapter five, in which this all comes home to roost. At St Martin-in-the-Fields we worked on the benefactor model longer than most urban churches. In the 1980s we awakened to the fact that the sums didn’t add up. The costs of the building and the extensive outreach ministry far exceeded the potential of congregational stewardship. The answer was to create a commercial enterprise. Over the last 31 years we’ve steered a course between two poles. The first pole is to try to make the commercial enterprise the complete embodiment of all our aspirations for what it means to be a world-facing church. That sounds like a great idea, but it largely removes the profit that pays our bills, and leaves us back with external benefaction and congregational stewardship together facing an unassailable annual target. The alternative pole is to try to ensure the commercial enterprise makes so much profit that congregational stewardship becomes unnecessary. That sounds attractive, but it’s not the answer: if we succeeded it would end up so professionalising our life that it would eradicate the central role that voluntary discipleship plays in what it means for us to be a church.

The answer is to combine the four activities that make up our life. First, we strive to be a real church, where people find and grow in faith, care and receive care, participate in and lead worship, meet Christ in the stranger and the disadvantaged, seek to proclaim and advance God’s kingdom, and become one body. That’s what our congregational giving pays for. Second, we seek to be a place where we offer food, music, event spaces and commodities that people come here to find and are glad to pay for. That’s what our commercial business does, and in addition it offers good employment and pays for day-to-day maintenance costs. Third, we ask strangers to join with our longstanding mission to homeless people in London and around the UK. That’s what the Charity and the Connection do. Fourth, we invite wealthier people and foundations to invest in us as an institution and look to the long-term well-being of our fabric because they believe in where we’re going. That’s what the Trust does. Take stewardship away and we stop being a church, take business away and we lose our building, take homeless work away and we’ve lost our mission, take the Trust away and we’ve got no future. All four are vital, indispensable, and wonderful.

St Martin-in-the-Fields is a delicate balance between many things that occasionally seem very different and on the odd day can feel in tension. But most of the time it’s a miracle of divine initiative and human response, ordinary effort and sublime gifts, simple goodness and astonishing grace, and we all feel privileged to be a part of it. As a congregation we know it’s not all about us: we humbly recognise that lots of good things happen here, which we enjoy, participate in, and encourage; at the same time it’s not all down to us: we gratefully welcome others whose work, custom and kindness pay the majority of the bills. But if the careful ecology of St Martin’s is to continue to flourish, we as a congregation need to play our part, with our time and energy, absolutely; but also, crucially, with our money.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Stewardship

Historic South Carolina Diocese files a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the US Supreme Court

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Friday, February 9 the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes took the historic step of filing a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  The requested review of the adverse ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court focuses on addressing the key constitutional questions in that case.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that church property disputes may be settled by applying “neutral principles of law”.  The South Carolina Supreme Court has interpreted that precedent as meaning that some religious institutions (such as TEC) are subject to standards of trust and ownership that would never be recognized under state law for anyone else. As Justice Kittredge in his opinion aptly stated, under truly neutral principles of law, “the suggestion that any of the thirty-six local churches created a trust in favor of the national church would be laughable.”

Our Petition addresses as the central issue in our litigation the following question:  Whether the “neutral principles of law” approach to resolving church property disputes requires courts to recognize a trust on church property even if the alleged trust does not comply with the State’s ordinary trust and property law.” (Petition, p. i)

As the Petition goes on to argue, the original intention of the neutral principles approach is to rely “exclusively on objective, well established concepts of trust and property law familiar to lawyers and judges.” and “embodied in some legally cognizable form.” Jones v. Wolf (1979).  Strict application of this principle would mean that it could not be determined that parish property is held in trust for the national church unless such a trust satisfied ordinary state law requirements for the creation of trusts.  The petition makes the point that the Jones majority expressly ruled out “compulsory deference” to national denominations, in its affirmation of neutral principles.

The plurality position in the South Carolina court unquestionably did not take this “neutral” approach.  Those justices believed that requiring a national church to comply with ordinary State trust and property law would “impose a constitutionally impermissible burden on the national Church and violate the first amendment.”  Courts and commentators call this the “hybrid approach” because it rejects application of ordinary state law in favor of deference to the national church’s unilateral rule and canons (i.e. the “Dennis Canon”).  It is compulsory deference in effect if not in name.

The State Supreme Court’s earlier All Saints (2009) ruling clearly upheld the neutral principles approach and was the basis around which the Diocese and its parishes ordered their common life and governing documents.  As former Chief Justice Toal noted in her dissenting opinion on the South Carolina court, its August ruling is a “distinct departure from well-established South Carolina law and legal precedents… appears to be driven by a sole purpose: reaching a desired result in this case.”  All Saints, embraced in name but not result, illustrates the concern raised in our petition.  “The vacillation of the Supreme Court of South Carolina from the strict approach in All Saints to the hybrid approach in this case makes clear that title to local church property is no more secure than the composition of a state’s high court.”  (Petition, p. 38)

The U.S. Supreme Court is asked to take this case, because it represents “a deep, acknowledged and fully matured split both among and within the Nation’s courts over the meaning of Jones and its “neutral principles of law” approach.” (Petition, p. 18)   The high courts of at least seven states, plus the Eighth Circuit have required the application of normal trust principles as Jones suggests.  The high courts of at least eight other States, however, now including South Carolina, have adopted the less than neutral interpretation that “courts must recognize trusts announced in church canons, even if those alleged trusts do not satisfy the requirements of state law.” (Petition, p. 18)

It is our assertion that this approach violates both the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The former prevents states from burdening the free exercise of religion.  The “hybrid” approach clearly does this by conditioning congregations’ free exercise of differing religious beliefs on their willingness to surrender their property to TEC who has neither owned nor contributed to its purchase.   Similarly, the Establishment clause forbids the government from favoring one religion over another.  The “hybrid” approach irrefutably does that as well, “allowing national churches – and no one else – to skirt ordinary state trust and property law…  The law cannot then place a thumb on the scale in favor of a national church in its property dispute with a disassociating congregation…” (Petition, p. 19)   As observed by Justice Rehnquist in an earlier opinion, “If the civil courts are to be bound by any sheet of parchment bearing the ecclesiastical seal and purporting to be a decree of a church court, they can easily be converted into handmaidens of arbitrary lawlessness.” Serbian, (1976).

It is anticipated that today’s Petition will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months and the decision whether to grant review or not will be made before the end of the current session in June.   If review is granted, a hearing would be late this year or in the Spring of 2019. In the meantime, we should remain prayerfully confident as a Diocese that God is working His purposes out in all these things and will redeem them for the greater blessing of the Church and the spread of the Kingdom.  To those ends I encourage your continued prayers.

–The Rev. Jim Lewis is Canon to the Ordinary to the Bishop of South Carolina
(if necessary you may find a link for the original letter on the web there).

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Supreme Court, Theology