Stewardship is the Main Work of the Church

      The Book of Common Prayer teaches us that The Mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ" and that "the Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members."  The unstated but clear implication of this teaching is that the main work of the Church is involving people in using all that is entrusted to them in carrying out its mission.  Said simply, stewardship is the main work of the Church.

     Thus, stewardship is more than church support; it is the use of "the gifts given us to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world."  Therefore, the way we use or do not use resources to further unity and reconciliation in our homes, our communities, and our occupations is our stewardship.  Yet, stewardship is not less than church support.  Our worshiping, working, praying, and giving within the Church provide the support that we and others need to engage in the often difficult and lonely tasks of proclaiming the good news, loving our neighbors, and striving for justice and peace.

     Stewardship is much more than a duty: it is a thankful response to God's graciousness to us. As such, it is an opportunity to praise God with our lives in thanksgiving--

     for the blessings of creation;

            for the birth, life, teaching, death and resurrection
            of Jesus Christ and our redemption;

                   for the gift of the Spirit;

                         for the Word, sacraments, and fellowship that
                         sustain and transform us as the Church.

    Stewardship is an adventure, an expedition into the kingdom where we find our lives through losing them for the sake of the Gospel.  It is an invitation to offer our gifts for the purpose for which we were created -- the only purpose that will fulfill us.  It is a challenge to refocus our lives by designing our budgets around tithing.  It offers us a way to begin breaking the bonds of consumption that involve us, often unwittingly,  in perpetuating injustice and oppression.

    All of god's people, within and without the Church, can learn that to be held accountable for our lives as stewards of God's gifts is to discover our own true great worth before God.  We believe that discovery, too, is a gift, a gift that brings unspeakable joy.  The main work of the Church is to bring its people, and through them all people, to this joyful knowledge, which will ... restore all people to the unity with God and each other in Christ.

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     The statement was written at the request of the Standing Commission by the Rev. Dr. Charles W. Taylor, Professor of Pastoral Theology at the (Episcopal) Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California.

     At the 1988 General Convention, the resolution to adopt the statement was approved in the House of Deputies by a 491 to 328 vote, a 3 to 2 ratio.  In the House of Bishops, there was a proposed amendment to strike the word "main;" this proposed amendment lost.  The Bishops then, in a voice vote, concurred with the House of Deputies, meaning that the Convention approved the statement. The resolution also called on the stewardship committees of each diocese to publish the statement with an invitation for study and discussion at diocesan and congregational levels.

    The following fall, the Diocesan Convention of Connecticut considered a resolution that I introduced to adopt the same statement.  After considerable debate, the resolution was defeated.  As in the debate at General Convention, most of those opposed either understood the word stewardship to mean only " the raising and fiduciary administration of the church's dollars" or stated that they were afraid that a vast majority of others (both inside the Church and in the world at large) understood the word stewardship in this way and would find the title sentence to be either ludicrous, despicable, or both. Oh, well!

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