General Convention Updates
By Sherri Dietrich, President of the United Thank Offering Board
Most of you have heard by now that the UTO Board made the decision not to attend the 80th General Convention and Triennial this July, even before the GC planners decided to eliminate all extra persons from attending. The original impetus for the decision came from trying to plan around the potential financial impacts of COVID-19, but further consideration of the costs and benefits of the UTO Board’s attendance made clear that the money could be much more effectively spent in other ways that would promote UTO’s mission. The Board is not saying that General Convention/Triennial is not important and useful, simply that it is not the best use of UTO’s budget to continue to be present at the event in the same way we were before the pandemic. The UTO operating budget is entirely for supporting and promoting UTO’s ministry of gratitude and granting, neither of which is best served by the Board’s costly attendance at General Convention/Triennial. The Board keeps financial accountability and best use of our funds to support our mission uppermost in all of our decisions.
Technology and sustainability issues have changed so much in the world over the past decade, and the pandemic became a real tipping point in encouraging many organizations to restructure the ways they operate, making clear that doing something simply because we have always done it that way is often not the best way to serve our mission. The UTO Board tries to be flexible, curious, and invested in our members and leaders, and we put serving and supporting our member-participants first. By decreasing our meeting times and staff travel, we’ve been able to hire consultants to create new materials and resources that many of you have been requesting for years. Last summer, we used the funds normally spent on a Board meeting to ship materials free of any cost to those who requested them. We’ve collaborated with artists, liturgists, and formation experts. We believe that these investments will continue to increase the membership of UTO and deepen practices of gratitude throughout the church—UTO’s real mission and focus.
UTO will still be present at Convention, but it’s unclear just how. We don’t yet know what the Ingathering may look like or if Blue Boxes will be allowed in the Houses of Bishops and Deputies, but we’ll keep you all updated as we find out. We are supporting the Children’s Program, and the materials generated there will be offered for congregational use for free. We also will be releasing some exciting new things during General Convention virtually and will offer all of our workshops via Zoom on July 9 and 10 and Spanish-language workshops on June 18. The schedule is included here. This transition also means that we will be able to ship Spanish-language materials free of charge to any diocese that wants them over the summer.
Finally, please note that UTO’s decision not to attend has no effect on ECW’s decision about whether or not to hold Triennial, which ECW has also decided to cancel. UTO is affiliated with ECW and there is overlap in our memberships, but UTO has no authority over Triennial and the ECW National Board made the decisions they feel are best for their membership as the UTO Board continues to make the best decisions for our member-participants and mission. We will pray for those who are gathering, for their discernment as they continue to lead the church with gratitude, grace and integrity, and we will give thanks for the hard work of the staff and leadership who have brought about Convention planning as safely as possible. We also give thanks for your support as we continue to grow and try new things.