Money looms in Episcopalians rift with Anglicans

The New York Times has begun to examine the devastation that would be wreaked upon the Anglican Communion and its poorest provinces if Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, allows a conservative faction led by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Bishop Martyn Minns of Northern Virginia to drive the Episcopal Church out of the Communion.

Laurie Goodstein and Neela Banerjee write:

“The truth is, the Episcopal Church bankrolls much of the Communion’s operations. And a cutoff of that money, while unlikely at this time, could deal the Communion a devastating blow.

The Episcopal Church’s 2.3 million members make up a small fraction of the 77 million members in the Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest affiliation of Christian churches. Nevertheless, the Episcopal Church finances at least a third of the Communion’s annual operations.

Episcopalians give tens of millions more each year to support aid and development programs in the Communion’s poorer provinces in Africa, Asia and Latin America. At least $18 million annually flows from Episcopal Church headquarters in New York, and millions more are sent directly from American dioceses and parishes that support Anglican churches, schools, clinics and missionaries abroad.”

Goodstein and Banerjee allow the Rev. Bill Atwood to secrete his usual bile:

“The Rev. Bill Atwood, the general secretary of the Ekklesia Society, a theologically conservative aid organization in Texas, accused the Episcopal Church of using its money to buy off opponents in poor countries. ‘It’s a pretty lousy thing to do: to try and use money to weaken the philosophical position of people overseas,’ Dr. Atwood said. ”

But then they nail him on it:

“Ekklesia also disburses grants overseas and has helped to finance strategy meetings between conservative Episcopalians and their foreign Anglican counterparts, but Dr. Atwood would not divulge any financial information and it is not publicly available. ‘

Which raises the question: why isn’t that information publicly available? The Ekklesia Society is not a church. The most charitable way to describe it would be as a development agency. But most of the church-related development agencies I am aware of either funnel their money through a church (This is how the Anglican Relief and Development agency mentioned in this story operates.) or seek tax-exempt status under provision 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue code.

But tax-exempt charities must make their records public, and Atwood doesn’t do that. So why is he allowed to keep his fundraising activities a secret? And perhaps more to the point, why is secrecy necessary?

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