The Rt. Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill (1890-1980) founded the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) in 1949 at a time when the Church, much like the country, was growing in numbers and developing centralized, corporate models of governance and administration. A product of his times, yet a visionary and Christ-centered role model, Sherrill was passionate about the mission of the church and a committed leader of the ecumenical movement at both the national and international levels.
Upon his election as Presiding Bishop, Sherrill sought creative ways to access resources to support the mission of the wider church and founded ECF. With the exception of the Presiding Bishop, the Board of Directors was composed of lay persons of national prominence in the church, business and state. To this day, ECF maintains this tradition as it lives into its commitment to the ministry of all the baptized and promoting effective lay – clergy partnerships.
Initially, the resources from ECF were used both to build up the Episcopal Church’s infrastructure and extend its work across the nation and around the world. ECF established a revolving loan fund that assisted with the construction of hundreds of Episcopal churches in the United States and abroad. In addition, through its Fellowship Program, ECF supported students in doctoral programs who planned to teach in seminaries of the Episcopal Church. ECF also funded multiple local outreach ministries in all parts of the country. For close to four decades Sherrill’s original vision for ECF would inform and motivate new levels of giving resulting in significant financial resources for important programs of the Episcopal Church that would otherwise have gone unfunded.
In the late 1980’s ECF changed its method of operations inherited from Sherrill to a more programmatic portfolio. ECF turned over its responsibilities for church building loans to the Episcopal Church Building Fund and focused on new areas of work, including clergy health and wholeness which later became the CREDO program now administered and funded by the Church Pension Group (CPG). ECF launched and spun off other initiatives that built a network of individuals, congregations and dioceses, all dedicated to the support and advance of healthy and strong leadership throughout the Church.
In 1995, ECF inherited primary responsibility for planned giving throughout the Episcopal Church and began a new commitment to stewardship and philanthropy which now also includes consultation and support for endowment management and general fundraising. At the same time ECF developed educational and training events, published Vestry Papers, conducted Church-wide research and enhanced its growing role in the broad area of leadership development. As the new century emerged and ECF approached its 60th anniversary, it articulated and implemented a renewed mission of helping Episcopal faith communities engage in visioning and planning, develop leadership, and raise financial resources for ministry. The original fellows’ grants became the Fellowship Partners Program, Vestry Papers was incorporated in ECF Vital Practices and the organization began its role as a major resource center for the Episcopal Church.
The fact that ECF has not been saddled with the old but rather has lived creatively into the newness of these times is consistent with Bishop Sherrill’s leadership style and original vision for his beloved organization. Looking back over 70 years, ECF now moves forward into the future filled with hope and promise of the same Gospel that motivated its founder.
(Adapted from The Times and Timeliness of Henry Knox Sherrill by Ian T. Douglas)
ECF has been responding to the changing needs of the Episcopal Church since 1949. As in the past, we continue to meet new challenges, evolve, and adapt.
In addition to our wide array of leadership and financial resource development programs, products, and services, ECF has been involved with the following initiatives since its founding:
- Established the Revolving (Church Building) Loan Fund
- Helped establish the Alban Institute
- Provided support for the creation of the Church Deployment Office
- Sponsored the Pusey Report on Theological Education
- Started the Doctoral Fellows Program (now the Fellowship Partners Program)
- Seeded Listening Hearts and Journey to Adulthood, two major formation programs for adults and children
- Supported and nurtured Godly Play, a program that enhances the spiritual life of children
- Involved in strengthening campus ministries through Ministry on the Frontier and CampuSource
- Helped establish a new bishop search process
- Created the Cornerstone Project to explore issues of clergy and congregational health, wholeness and holiness
- Helped create the College for Bishops
- Helped sponsor the Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS)
- Helped support the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP)
- Sponsored and managed the Fresh Start Program
- Provided assistance in the development of the CREDO wellness program
- Sponsored the Zacchaeus Project on Episcopal identity and vocation
- Began the Emmaus Project to explore new patterns of Episcopal leadership
- Sponsored The Search for Coherence
- Helped develop the Clergy Leadership Project which transitioned to Trinity Parish (Wall Street)
- Served as Secretariat for the Global Anglicanism Project (GAP)