Christian Action and Money
Last Saturday afternoon in Ottawa, before the closing banquet where he was honored, Father Thomas Hopko finished his series of reflections on stewardship by speaking about Christian action. But action requires money. There is little that can be done to significantly spread the Gospel, plant churches, train and support church workers and do acts of mercy without money. Jesus was not shy about speaking of money and we shouldn’t be either. “It is sad that we inspire people to church service but then don’t have the money to support them, especially women.”
Father Tom drew on his experience over many years raising funds for projects at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. While everyone is to be involved in stewardship, the fact is that throughout church history it has been people of means who have been most responsible for opening their treasuries and giving the large amounts needed to build and support major projects. “80% of the budget will come from 20% of the donors. And you will need to identify who those people are and give them an opportunity to share. There’s no way around this.” Indeed, Father Tom emphasized that it is by giving away their money sacrificially that the wealthy enter the kingdom of God. But there are so many good projects competing for funding that the Church must be prepared not only to ask for money, but also to have well thought-out projects that a person of means can support enthusiastically and be satisfied that he or she is being a good steward of what God has given.
But it’s more than just having a good project. “People give money to people whom they respect, to successful workers with a track record who can make a case. They want to know what you have already done.”
Although the love of money is the most treacherous of all temptations, said Father Tom, he testified that he had met wealthy people who were not idolatrous, but shared their wealth sacrificially and were grateful for the opportunity.
From Ottawa to Syosset
Sunday was the end of the Canadian Assembly in Ottawa, with a primatial Divine Liturgy celebrated by Metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop Irénée and Bishop Alexander (Antiochian). This years marks Bishop Irénée’s 35th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. In recognition of this and of Bishop Irénée’s oversight of the Archdiocese in difficult times His Beatitude gave him the silver Saint Innocent Award.
In the midst of all this, one of the highlights of the week was seeing Matthew, a severely mentally and physically disabled boy, hugging Father Tom in the middle of the church as the people were going to communion and the choir sang. As someone said, it put everything in perspective.
Metropolitan Tikhon and most of the delegates left Sunday afternoon. I stayed in Ottawa on Monday morning for something completely different. I still have a few responsibilities left at Saint Paul University and took part as a jury member in a doctoral defense in the Faculty of Theology. The subject of the dissertation was Clark Pinnock (+2010), a well-known and controversial Canadian evangelical theologian. He remained a Baptist his whole life but sympathetically explored other traditions as well, including Eastern Orthodoxy. It was good to be part of this conversation (the student passed) and reconnect briefly with old colleagues.
Denise and I got back to Long Island late last night after a slow drive in thunderstorms through the Pocono mountains.