What’s in a Name?
So, what is a Presiding Bishop? And, what is The Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief?
I was attending my first conference after being selected as President of what was then the organization with that unwieldy name. Those attending were heads of over 150 major international relief and development organizations based in the United States: Save the Children, The American Red Cross, Heifer International, Lutheran World Relief and so forth.
Unfortunately, the name of our organization, The Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief, was printed in tiny letters in order to fit on my nametag. No one could read it. No one could tell that we were connected with The Episcopal Church. No one knew we were also involved in sustainable development work.
Although I had been on staff for only a few months, right away I recognized that we needed a different name. Yes, the Fund, as it was fondly known, was a venerable 60 years old, but we needed a new name that gave us instant identification with The Episcopal Church and better reflected our mission and mandate.
Delving deeper, I realized that too many people believed that the Fund was under the control of the Presiding Bishop, for him (then, Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold) to do with as he chose.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. The Fund belonged to all Episcopalians. It was their donations that financed it. It was Episcopalians ‐ clergy or lay ‐ in areas of need or disaster that helped the Fund direct its money. It was Episcopalians who sat on the Board of Directors. Although the Presiding Bishop was Honorary Chair of the Fund, the actual work was managed by these Directors who were elected from across the country. Directors met twice a year to award development grants in response to applications received from Dioceses here and all across the Anglican Communion. The small staff carried out the actual programming.
We was quick to provided funds for relief after natural or man‐made disasters, using contributions provided by individuals and Episcopal churches. We began to realize that while immediate relief ‐ water and shelter ‐ were vital, long term recovery after disaster was equally important. Furthermore, effective economic and social development programs could actually mitigate the extent of damage from a subsequent disaster.
Therefore, a program focused solely on “Relief” was actually limiting its effectiveness unless it understood the need for integrated community development programs as well. While some development work had been done, the Fund needed to be more active in this area, and educate donors and friends about the need for this programmatic shift.
And so, staff and the Board of Directors fully embraced changing the name to reflect these realities.
We pondered. We brainstormed. We looked at names of similar organizations. We searched thesauruses. We consulted. We dreamed…
In the end, we decided to simply call it what it was: Episcopal Relief & Development. Episcopal to share and connect our identity with the Church. Relief because we still planned to respond to meet these needs. And Development because we recognized that incredible opportunities were ours to make a lasting impact on people’s lives, given our being part of the world-wide Anglican Communion.
We announced the name change at the 73rd General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 2000.
Sandra Swan served as President of Episcopal Relief & Development from 1998-2005.
Images: Top, The original logo for The Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief. Middle, Rebuilding a shelter in the Philippines. Bottom, Women in Zambia participating in our agriculture programs.
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