I am currently attending CREDO, a week long gift to the clergy of our church, and now laity too, in which the focus is on our lives, the balance, or as we heard last night the “blend” which we all desire in our lives. One of those areas is financial, and others are spiritual, vocational, and health, ending in, hopefully, a new “rule of life” to live by. Of course, the issue of the financial part of our personal lives is always difficult to discuss, perhaps the most difficult area. We, in the church, will boldly and bluntly talk about lots of things, but when it comes to money, shut down. This topic may be the one big unifying factor in the Church today! No matter where we are on the various “spectrums” we seem to all agree on the silence on this one.
The answer often comes to this, we need to talk about it more. That is certainly something I have said, over and over. As a leader in the church, I believe it is up to me to model it as well, to get the discussion going. We give money and finances way too much power by our silence around it. We make assumptions, and even accusations, without any facts or knowledge, mostly because we are just too fearful to enter into the discussion. My way of doing this has been to as clearly as I can, “give up” my money story each year, to anyone who wants to see and hear it.
I was blessed this, just past, Thanksgiving Eve to be asked a question which helped me do this for this year. The letter I sent out is below. Many have asked that I send this out via the blog and so I do. Here it is. For us, as Christians, Thanksgiving is every day. So, this should still be timely. Blessings to you all, +Greg
On this Thanksgiving I relay two interesting conversations, and then something I want you to know. My first conversation is actually one that I have had in many different ways, with many different people. It goes something like this, and the answer can come from someone that gives nothing, to the one who gives a lot to other things in the world, but not so much to the church, and the questions eventually comes up, why they don’t give more? The answer is, basically, I am never sure where the money goes, I don’t have any control over it, and if one is really bold enough to say it, words that eventually amount to, the use of the money seems so frivolous, reckless maybe.
We live in a world where we are taught the virtue of controlling our money and that is not all bad, but it difficult to call it a gift, while we still hold on to, and “manage” every part of it. On days like this I always think, and am so thankful for, just how frivolous and reckless, some would even say wasteful, God’s love is for us in sending Jesus Christ into this world and for binding us together in that One Body. When we are washed in baptism we signify that adoption, really ours more than God’s, into this family we call Christian. It is not perfect. It remains and always will be a human endeavor, which makes it quite fallible.
I write every year to you in some way, shape, or form, to tell you, openly and honestly, why I choose to give to the church, and to other things as well, but more importantly why I choose to give period. I do it, with joy, in “Thanksgiving” for all that has been done for me. Through all our work, this coming year, and thanks to the governing bodies of this diocese for granting me a raise this past year, my family stands to bring in more money than I ever thought I would make. With other benefits I get by being your bishop one could say I make even more, so I try to calculate that into the mix. Even though this is not cash, I benefit from it. We plan to give $28,440 (15.8 percent) of our income away to various things in which we believe and want to be part. Of that, $17,600 will go directly to the Diocese of Olympia through each church I visit and other ministries here (11.3 percent of our income). For the fifth year, we have also decided to follow the .7-percent plan to help the world reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations and commended by our Presiding Bishop and General Convention as something toward which we should all strive. My family and I have signed on and will give .7 percent or more of our income toward world poverty reduction. So, the additional amount goes to the MDGs and other charities we support.
Our son, Austin, follows the same program. He learned when he was old enough to know what money was, to give 10 percent of it back, save 10 percent and live on the rest. Austin is earning more than when I have reported to you in the past, and so his giving has gone up! He gets paychecks now, and always gives 10% off the top. He and I talk about this a lot, especially when he asks for a raise! Though the difference in his income and mine seems huge to the two of us, we talk often about the fact that still, he and I are among the wealthiest people in the world. My family and I give this joyfully, because we realize these small percentages will never match the total, 100% given by Jesus. So, we work, along with you, challenged and loved by you, to give of the rest of our lives, 100% as we live intentionally the Christian way.
Which brings me to that second conversation, a person who I correspond with regularly who asked me in the last 24 hours, does feeling that “giving thanks” is also a blessing, to me, seem crazy?” I had to answer NO WAY. In fact, that is just it. The ability, the awareness, the feeling which makes one give thanks, is the blessing. Which brings me to the thing I want to say to you. THANKS. I am so grateful for you in this diocese today. You, all of you, who are “the diocese” are a blessing in my life. You help form and nurture my response to the call from our Lord to walk this Way. For all the joys, sorrows, challenges, and triumphs in that, I give thanks, this day, for you.
Blessings on this day, more than anything may you find and know Love this day, and be blessed by receiving, and giving, blessing.