Monday, April 2, 2012

The death of a parish...

Internal strife, an inept and absent bishop, a disillusioned laity, and deficit spending are leading Grace Episcopal Church - the largest parish in the diocese - towards dissolution. This was the parish home of the late President and Mrs. Gerald Ford.  The church also served as the venue for former President Gerald Ford's funeral on Jan. 3, 2007, and was the venue for former First Lady Betty Ford's funeral on July 14, 2011.

At the parish's annual meeting on January 12, 2012, Dr. Michael Olgren, Chair of the Finance Committee, painted a dire financial picture of the parish stating that the parish would either have to close its doors in September or revert back to mission status without a significant increase in giving. 

Grace Episcopal Church, once the strongest, largest, most successful, historically low church parish in the Diocese of Western Michigan with the highest diocesan pledge for years in a row, reduced its pledge to the diocese in 2010 prompting Bishop Robert R. Gepert to dissolve the vestry and appoint a new "leadership Team" until funds were restored. That now seems unlikely. Some parishioners believe the bishop wants the parish to collapse in order to get his hands on the nearly $2 million endowment.

All across the nation there are parishes in conflict, fighting over buildings, coveting financial assets, disputing the cause of it all, and intent upon laying blame everywhere except where it needs to be.  How sad it is that while all this is happening, the work of the kingdom is lost and people fall from faith, disillusioned and betrayed by those whom they respected and trusted.  I don't know who is to blame here.  I am sure there is enough to pass around.  But this kind of self-destruction makes it easy for the enemies of the kingdom.  And that is a shame.

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