Bishop’s blog #3

November 15, 2006

The Widow’s Mite and the Millennium Development Goals 

Beloved, this is in reference to the Gospel for last Sunday—the one which included our Lord’s use of the widow’s offering as an illustration of what he had just taught the disciples about scribes who “devour widows’ houses”.  In the “Synthesis” commentary I found, “Here Jesus reproaches (the scribes) for their excessive behavior at the expense of compassion and justice” because they used their position in the temple to exploit those less educated than they.  The commentary also informed that “(t)he noise made as coins were thrown into the large metal receptacles would call attention to the amount being donated, as in the attention-seeking behavior of the scribes.  ‘Many rich people put in large sums’ (v.41).”  The two copper coins dropped by the widow would have made little noise in comparison. 

That began eating away at me even as I preached the sermon.  We know that through accomplishment of the millennium goals poverty can be eliminated, adequate health care can be provided, educational levels can be raised substantially—and this around God’s globe”!  I take pride in tithing and more—but my conscience pressed me to ask myself, “Is my giving, like the scribes, ‘at the expense of compassion and justice’?”  Am I giving because it’s required—and am I forming my personal budget—and are we forming the Church’s Statement of mission ‘at the expense of compassion and justice’?” 

The Diocese of Upper South Carolina, acting in convention, has requested that we as a diocese—we as separate congregations—and we as individuals commit 0.7% beyond our present giving to projects “of compassion and justice”—the Millennium Development Goals.  The Diocesan Commission on Anglican and International Concerns, which I chair, is compiling a list of such projects, and it will be made available throughout the diocese as soon as it is completed.  The list will include our ministry in Cange and others familiar to you, as well as some new suggestions which will challenge your imagination and your heart. 

“When he came to
Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom.  He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.  He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:  ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’  …Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”  (Luke 4:16-21)
 

0.7%?  Sounds like no more than a widow’s mite to me…. 

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4 Responses to “Bishop’s blog #3”


  1. Glad that you are pushing the MDGs, Bishop. Since leaving the Diocese of USC, I watch the website and am elated to see such a vibrant blog. Also glad that you are challenging the Diocese to support these goals — now to see if you do a U2charist! We plan one here in Feb.

    Smells and bells for the 21st century!
    Shalom,
    Michael Sullivan+

  2. George Gray Says:

    “We know that through accomplishment of the millennium goals poverty can be eliminated, adequate health care can be provided, educational levels can be raised substantially—and this around God’s globe!” – Bishop Henderson

    I do not agree that through the accomplishment of the millennium goals poverty can be eliminated. The idea that only .07% is the answer to global poverty is only letting the rich off cheap, and let us make no mistake about it, we are the rich! The story cited is about a poor widow giving 100% not .07%.

    Jesus says, the poor will always be in our midst and I find real poverty in the rich taking pride in the illusion that .07% is the answer. It is not!

    Michael, it is good to hear from you. God’s blessings to you, your family, and your ministry. Give 100% and you will be blessed!

  3. David Says:

    0.7% may be a small number, but I suspect we wouldn’t make any ground towards acheivement of the MDGs if we were asking for 100% as in the story of the widow’s mite! Unfortunately, we have to combat the force of human greed in order to acheive the goals.

    I can sort of relate my feelings about the 0.7% number through a story one my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, tells. She describes here faith journey as being a series of “lilly pads” – jumping from atheism and moving little by little to a final embrace of Christianity. 0.7% is that first lilly pad. In time, we’ll jump off of 0.7%, and move forward “jump by jump.” Eventually, we’ll have jumped from the lilly pad next to the shore (0.7%) out into the middle of the pond, and in more time we’ll reach the other side. (And what a marvelous sight the other side will be!) But we have to start somewhere… and 0.7% is a good place to start.

    On a more practical note, the 0.7% number itself comes out of a 1973 UN Resolution in which all of the developed countries (including the United States) pledged to give 0.7% of their gross national product (GNP) to the UN Office for Global Development. It was never done… but our giving 0.7% shows our commitment, our keeping of a promise that the larger community has left unkept. (Currently, about .4% to .5% of the US budget goes to international development work.)

    And as a final note to Fr. Sullivan+, Canterbury of Furman hosted (what we believe to be) the first U2charist in EDUSC on October 5, 2006. We got a crowd of around 115 Furman students, plus about 50 from other places around the diocese… also, not a bad place to start!

  4. Bill Carroll Says:

    I’d recommend Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs book, the End of Poverty. It is a misrepresentation to say that we will end all poverty through 0.7% giving. No one believes this. This is meant to be a FIRST step toward eliminating the deadly effects of extreme poverty. A child dies every three seconds. That’s 1200 during a one hour celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Working toward the eight millenium development goals will eventually reduce poverty more and more, if we are faithful. There will be no end to poverty without revolutionary change in our politics and in the economic order involving massive redistribution of wealth. Jesus called this non-violent revolution the Kingdom of God. The early Church practiced it when they lived from each according to his ability to each according to his need, a phrase that Marx stole from the Book of Acts. The sustainability goal alone is incompatible with global capitalism, which as the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice curriculum reminds us is the real threat to “family values.”

    The MDG’s provide a framework to reduce the deadly effects of our way of life which is killing the planet. They are easily supported from the Baptismal Covenant and from the Gospel. Indeed, Jesus does call us to give everything, just as he did. Sadly, the MDG’s represent a small fraction of this, but more than most of us are doing. The reason to focus on 0.7 % giving for international development is that it is somethign achievable which economists like Sachs have proven can have real effects.

    Many of the MDG’s are applicable domestically. They would certainly be relevant to poor communities in South Carolina or here in Appalachian Ohio.


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