Interview: The Pragmatic, Practical Work of Episcopal Relief

IMG_7541SALT LAKE CITY – In its 75th year, Episcopal Relief and Development still sees itself as an agency primarily supported by Episcopalians, although the agency does get significant outside support.

“We’ve been able to attract donors outside the church,” said Radtke in an interview at the 78th General Convention. “We have a loyal donor base who understands our mission.”

The agency, established in 1940 as the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief, does not typically take government money, though it has worked on specific malaria and water sanitation programs through the United States Agency for Development. For its programs, it has about 80 percent of its resources in development work and the other 20 helping with disasters.

While Episcopal Relief works closely with Episcopal and Anglican churches wherever it operates, it is a separately incorporated non-profit, and does not pick its goals because of interest by the church. Instead, it selects projects where it has local support and a likelihood of success.

The increasing persecution of Christians and refugees in the Middle East has had the attention of Episcopal Relief. It does not have the resources to run large mission camps. Instead, for instance, it can partner with the Diocese of Jerusalem to assist the handicapped including deaf refugees who have fled to Jordan, an area where it can meet an unmet need and offer expertise.

Dealing with the persecution of Christians is a challenge for the agency. Radtke said that often, it is not those in Anglican churches who have suffered the most; in many cases the Anglicans have had the means to flee. In terms of his own staff, there are many places where they are simply not allowed to work because of the danger.

With its donations, Episcopal Relief uses the money gathered annually for programs, though it does have some endowed gifts.

Ensuring that the money given is actually used for is a critical part of its process. While development projects can be slow and filled with surprises, thorough memorandums of understanding help to keep projects from going awry, and allowing for a look at the underlying issues.

“We’ve counted the houses we’ve paid for,” said Radtke.

Episcopal Relief uses the same strategy as The Episcopal Church’s Jubilee programs, which aim to work with communities to “identify their own assets”. Sometimes, it’s able to simply put two people together.

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Below, a video of Malaika Kumanawire of Episcopal Relief and Bethany Karbowski of Equal Exchange, a partner of Episcopal Relief.

Episcopal Relief Fair Trade Goods from Episcopal Florida on Vimeo.

Director of Communications at Diocese of Southwest Florida
Garland Pollard is Director of Communications of the Diocese of Southwest Florida.