Bishop’s Pastoral Letter
Easton Episcopal Fund (est. March 31, 2010)
My beloved sisters and brothers:
Greetings and God’s blessing in this Season of National Pandemic!
As we are all acutely aware, COVID-19 is causing unimaginable and lethal effects on the lives of everyone. The magnitude and scale of this tragedy is something which we have not experienced in our lifetimes. Daily, each of us has had to embrace creative and imaginative ways in how we organize and live out our lives. Personal and organizational vigilance has taken on a new level of attentiveness and adaptability. Thank God the Diocese of Easton, and our parishes continue to rise admirably to this new reality with grace and fortitude, love and support for each other embodying the fundamental tenets of Jesus’ command to “…love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10: 27).
Easton Episcopal Fund (EEF)
On March 7, 2020, our diocese went into our 152nd Diocesan Convention with approximately twenty-eight million dollars ($28,000,000) worth of assets in the Easton Episcopal Fund (EEF) Portfolio. To be clear, the EEF contains investment accounts from both the diocese as a whole and from individual congregations who have chosen to participate in this program. Within days of our Convention ending, as all of us were becoming more aware of the size and scope of the COVID-19 Pandemic, negative financial impacts were being felt in national and global stock markets around the world. A ‘dark cloud’ of fear and uncertainty had settled on the global investment stage. This was an enormous blow to the EEF portfolio, which lost approximately seven million dollars ($7,000,000) within a short period of time. The Board of Managers (BoM), the organization in our diocese which is responsible for the EEF, was extremely nervous and justifiably concerned because the loss amounted to twenty-five percent (25%) of our diocesan investments. The BoM and I carried the burden of this loss heavily in our hearts, knowing full well how much the shareholders (diocese and parishes) depend on these investments to stabilize their operational budgets, especially our small churches.
The BoM did not panic although understandably concerned and uncertain of the eventual outcome. BoM increased its vigilance by meeting weekly, every Monday at 4:00 p.m., to review the portfolio. It did this and continues to do so throughout this pandemic. Weekly reports were sent out from the BoM to the wider diocese because the board recognized how important it was to negate any degree of justifiable concern and potential anxiety among shareholders. Out of a sense of wisdom and caring for the entire diocese, the BoM chose to speak with a calming and pastoral sensibility, despite their own personal fears and concerns.
For the past five months, I have been blessed to walk with and work beside the dedicated and talented volunteers of the BoM. Sharing council together we have navigated this financial storm together in a sense of community and prayer. While we know that this pandemic and the resulting financial crisis isn’t over, we are committed to continue working together on behalf of the entire diocese and being good stewards of the resources, that God has entrusted to our care.
On behalf of the BoM, I wish to share some good news and invite the diocese to join us in our celebration and thanksgiving. The dedicated and sustained work of the BoM has resulted in a recovery of our investment funds. As of now our investment funds have returned to approximately twenty-nine million dollars ($29,000,000). This means that our congregations who have invested with the EEF can continue to count on the income from their investments to assist them with carrying out their mission of love in the world. I also want to take this opportunity to offer thanks to God for this enormous blessing.
Personally, I have been very impressed and inspired by the dedication, commitment, wisdom, and devotion of this group of Jesus’ disciples and servants of his church. As I witnessed the work of the BoM over the past months, I have developed a much healthier respect and admiration for their knowledge and versatility in the reading the variables and institutional smarts that inform investing in the stock market. And what’s even more admirable is that the members of the BoM, without any personal reward, offer their expertise to the diocese, and our shareholding parishes, in the form of a gift of their time and talents.
While so much of this credit rightfully goes to every member of the BoM, they will be the first to point to the benefits of Chris Maxwell’s presence and leadership. Chris’ informed diligence, study and knowledge in tracking vital and crucial trends in the investment market have contributed enormously to the reversal in the EEF that we are all celebrating and thanking God for. As a personal confession, I haven’t a clue about what a ‘base point average’ or an ‘index margin’ is all about, however I am thankful to be able to lean on Chris and BoM’s wisdom and expertise in these matters. We are all blessed to have such devoted and committed servants working on our behalf.
EEF New Leadership
Al Smith, Vice-Chair, acting under the authority of the bishop as chair, and in concurrence with BoM, has for the past ten (10) years given yeoman, dedicated and insightful leadership to the EEF. He gave a report at the July 27th Diocesan Council meeting indicating the challenges and expectations facing the EEF. On August 10th, Al retired from serving as Vice-Chair, a position established by Bishop Shand and continued by Bishop Parsley. After discussion and by unanimous consensus the BoM submitted a motion to Diocesan Council, the governing body of this diocese, to approve the appointment of Chris Maxwell as Ad Hoc Vice-Chair. Because this is an Ad Hoc appointment, and because he has not been elected to the BoM by Convention, Chris has not been granted voting privileges. However, the diocese will continue to benefit from his experience, expertise and leadership during these challenging financial times.
And there is even further good news, Al Smith has agreed to remain on the BoM as Vice-Chair Emeritus, which is an appointment by the bishop. This honorary title is in acknowledgement of his years of service and has been approved by Diocesan Council. He will sit as a non-voting member. In addition, the board believes that it would be well served by the continuation of his wisdom and institutional memory. Challenging times as we are living in require the wisest and most knowledgeable hands on the ‘steering wheel.’
Between them, the membership of BoM possesses over 200 years of investment knowledge, expertise, and wisdom, two of the current members (Chris Maxwell and Bill Shettle) own investment companies managing hundreds of millions of dollars in assets belonging to many shareholders. I am convinced that the EEF has the most qualified, knowledgeable, and versatile investors on the Eastern Shore. And the good news is they are members of our episcopal family. Alleluia! Thanks be to God! Amen.
I would like to take this opportunity to urge parishes that are withholding investing with the EEF to do so expeditiously. I promise you will not regret your decision. The cost to manage your fund would be far less than it currently may be costing you with other investment companies. Also, shareholders portfolios are kept in the strictest confidence. By investing in EEF you will be doing so as good stewards of your diocese and in solidarity with and in support of the work your diocese does in its fiduciary service to the people of God in this church. Call your diocesan office for information on the BoM (410-822-1919).
The members of the Board of Managers are:
The Right Rev. Santosh K. Marray – Bishop & Chair
Chris Maxwell, Ad Hoc Vice-Chair (Non-Voting)
Fred Welsh, Voting member
Ray Munsch, Voting Member and Portfolio Manager
Deb Dragone, Voting Member and Fund Administrator
Tom Mendenhall, Voting Member
Ron Geesey, Voting Member
Bill Shettle, Voting Member
Myron Richardson, Chair, Diocesan Finance Committee (Non-Voting)
Charlie Bohn, Diocesan Treasurer (Non-Voting)
Nancy Robson, Recording Secretary (Non-Voting)
Al Smith, Vice-Chair Emeritus (Non-Voting)
Together in Christ’s service,