Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Episcopal Church "Rescue" Announced

New York (ENS) - The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, announced today that she had negotiated a long-term "rescue package" with the administration of President Barack Obama. Under the terms of the deal, which are based on what Bishop Jefferts Schori called "a verbal handshake---a sort of telephonic 'high five'", the Church will sell its toxic assets, consisting of multiple abandoned and unused Church properties acquired over the years since women were first ordained in 1976, to the Treasury Department at a "specially negotiated price. . . This will ensure the long-term viability of the Episcopal Church, which, as you know, is facing the worst drop in revenues since the Great Depression," she went on.

In exchange for the purchase of the abandoned Church properties by the Government on what she called "very favorable terms," the Presiding Bishop said that she had agreed on behalf of the Church to purchase in return a substantial quantity of collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, specially packaged for the Church by an organization which "the President strongly endorsed," she said. "Oh, darn---I can't remember the name off the top of my head, but I know it's really, really special," she told this interviewer. 

"I have it in my notes here---oh, yes, here it is. It's called the 'Association of Community Organizers for Resurrection Now', or 'ACORN' for short. Do you get it? You see, we Episcopalians use Jesus Christ as a symbol of resurrection---not literally, of course; as I told Bishop Mathes and his people, Easter is more profoundly about meaning than mechanism. So Jesus is 'resurrected' after a fashion, in the spiritual sense, of our lifting him up, and he was a community organizer! Isn't that just brilliant, naming the organization like that? The President told me it's an offshoot of another group he's known personally for a long time. He assured me 'on his Scout's honor' that he has had it properly established by Attorney General Holder, specifically so that the Government can work with religious groups without running afoul of the First Amendment, or things like that. It's supposed to help 'resurrect' the economy---do you get it now?"

"I'm no lawyer," she added. "But my Chancellor assures me that he has looked at it, and that it represents a wonderful opportunity for the Episcopal Church to make good on its promise of reparations to the President and those others who demanded it when I was with them last October, while we also do our part to help the economy. We are still trying, as you know, to apologize for all my bigoted predecessors, including especially that Presiding Bishop I recently deposed---posthumously, mind you. (I forget his name just now, but the Press Office can tell you all about it.)"  

Asked what benefit the Church will realize from the deal, the Presiding Bishop waxed enthusiastic as she explained: "Isn't it obvious? We get all these unused properties taken off our hands for a very good price. My Chancellor says he can double our next year's lawsuit budget by giving the Church a discount based on the commissions his firm will earn on the sales alone, and then by the end of next year he hopes to have at least another dozen or more properties to sell to the Government."

"Oh, it really will be just wonderful," she burbled, growing ever more enthused as she went on. "I'm sure that our forebears---peace be upon them"--- ("Isn't that a great expression?" she interrupted herself. "I just learned it.") "As I say, I'm sure that our forebears (peace be upon them), for whom we held on to and fought for these properties as a sacred trust, would be delighted to see the uses to which they can finally be put. In a world of hope and change, this represents the best way to continue their faith and trust in us that I could ever imagine. Times have changed so much since they built those properties for the Church they so loved. And now that same Church also has to change with the times, as I'm sure they would have been the first to acknowledge."

"But the real plus is that this deal---I mean, agreement---solves a problem that was threatening to become too big for us," she continued in the same warm vein. "We trade those unproductive and toxic assets, which are a big drain on our budget, for the revenues to be earned from investing the sales proceeds in the CDOs of that inspired ACORN outfit. It, in turn, uses the money from what we purchase to buy up distressed homes that are in foreclosure, and which then secure the CDOs in some way I don't pretend to understand." Here she laughs, and putting her hand on this interviewer's arm, she adds: "But my Chancellor tells me it's all really, really secure."

"You see," she explains, "each such property that ACORN acquires, the President told me, qualifies ACORN for an extra government subsidy which it then uses to fix up the properties and rent them out for a song to certain qualified and registered voters, who have to meet some sort of test--- I think having to do with who they voted for in the last election, but I wasn't exactly clear on the details. Plus that extra subsidy, along with what rent they manage to collect, enables ACORN to pay us the interest on our CDOs. They are tax-exempt, and we are too, so it all comes straight to us as a return on our investment---much, much better than we were doing trying to rent out those abandoned properties." 

The Presiding Bishop then finished on a triumphant note: "As for ACORN, its new renters are employed by the Government to go out and sign up more voters, who then help to elect the members of Congress who authorize more subsidies, and more funds to buy more abandoned Church properties, and the whole clever cycle just goes on and on. Everyone comes out a winner---that's why it's such a wonderful deal. I just could not pass it up, once it all was explained to me."

But what does the Government plan to do with all of the abandoned churches it acquires? this interviewer asked.

"Oh, that's the most ingenious part of all," the Presiding Bishop responded. "We were afraid that it might sell them, and that certain unsavory competitors, who shall not be named, might buy them at a good price. So David (that's my Chancellor) negotiated a special rider on the deal that prohibits the government from doing any such thing with the properties. And we were fine when President Obama told us that he wanted to be able to use part of the space, and some of the smaller churches, to open up more abortion--- er, I mean, health clinics. I've offered Dean Ragsdale of Episcopal Divinity School and RCRC as the coordinator to work with President Obama on staffing them. But it really was no problem, because President Obama explained that he had a very different idea in mind for the larger properties, and for the rest of the space not used for clinics."

And what was that? we asked.

"Well, to really understand what he plans, I'll have to show you the pictures he showed me," she said. "You see, the Government can't be in the business of renting the properties out for sectarian religious purposes. But he said his Attorney General had cleared the Government's ability to use them for secular meetings, for which they are especially well suited. Here---you'll understand better after I show you the pictures he showed me---they still have his captions on them."

With the permission of the Presiding Bishop, those pictures are reproduced below. They do, on this first day of April, indeed explain it all.

Where I got my idea.

One of my Temples, after remodeling

A "Temple toga" design just for me 


  1. Too funny, and painfully too true as well.


  2. You are a bad, bad man. :)

    Humor like this should be... well... ILLEGAL!

  3. With regard to the linked presentation of the "worst drop in revenues since the Great Depression" it is apparent that their mastery of arithmetic and mathematics is roughly as good as their mastery of the language (not to mention their theological education).

    The fourth bullet on the fifth slide of the "Presentation" states that the draw on the endowment income will be increased by "approximately 20%" and quotes the change as "from 5 percent to 5.5 percent."

    When I learned mathematics, albeit quite a few decades ago the following facts were well known:

    • The change in an amount is equal to the new value minus the old value, with a positive remainder signaling an increase and a negative remainder signaling a decrease. Therefore the change (5.5 minus 5 = 0.5) is +0.5%, the plus sign indicating an increase.

    • The percentage change is equal to the difference divided by the old amount, multiplied by 100. Therefore it would be (0.5 divided by 5) multiplied by 100 = 0.1 and 0.1 times 100 = 10%.

    Therefore, it is immediately apparent that they are in error by one binary order of magnitude (i.e., by a doubling).

    Of course, the possibility exists that the 20% figure quoted in that bullet refers to the percentage of the endowment income rather than the percentage change. But that would imply that whoever prepared the slide, not to forget whoever reviewed it, is illiterate rather than innumerate (possibly both?).

    Which, I suppose, brings me back to my original questioning of their effective level of education in core subjects.

    Blessings and regards,
    Keith Toepfer

  4. Martial Artist, you have often been helpful here in correcting inaccuracies that escaped my notice; maybe I can return the favor.

    The bullet to which you refer reads:

    "Requires increasing the draw on endowment income – approximately 20% of revenue – from 5 percent to 5.5 percent"

    I read this as saying two separate things: (1) that the Church's income from endowment sources has historically been 20% of all of its revenues; and (2) that to maintain that level of contribution to the budget (because of the drop in the value of endowment principal, presumably), they will have to draw out 5.5% of their endowment, whereas previously it had required a draw of only 5%.

    To take a numerical example: Say endowment was (prior to the market drop) $100M, and generated income of $5M, which made up 20% of ECUSA's budget of $25M (these are arbitrary numbers, obviously). As a result of the market drop, the value of the endowment falls to $90M, and 5% of it now equals just $4.5M. But they need (and budgeted on) a full $5M from endowment, so they draw out an extra $.45M, or $450,000, from endowment principal to make up the bulk of the shortfall. So the draw on the endowment has now increased from 5% to 5.5%, since $4.95M is 5.5% of $90M. Their budget drops only slightly, to $24.5M, and the contribution from the endowment still remains at around 20% (actually slightly more, in my example, because 20% of $24.5M would be $4.9M).

    You could fine tune the numbers to be more precise, but that's my reading of what they are saying. In terms any Midwesterner could understand: "Just like the Government is now doing, they are eating their seed corn."

  5. Dear Mr. Haley,

    Thank you for the explanation. Nevertheless, as one who was taught by my experience as a Naval Officer, as well as in college, to communicate unambiguously, the bullet point in question is not worded as clearly as one would wish.

    If this was intended to be used solely as a visual aid in a live presentation, I would certainly withdraw my criticism. But if it is meant to serve as a stand alone document, I think it could have been clearer.

    Nevertheless, I am grateful for your clarification and presume that you are quite correct.

    Blessings and regards,
    Keith Toepfer

  6. Oh my, you had me going at the very beginning, but perhaps it's because truth is stranger than fiction, and with the Obamacon, it's not hard to imagine him doing just such a thing.