Julie Eades

Theuner's economic justice encompassed faith and finance

By Julie Eades

 

In honor of Bishop Douglas Theuner (11/15/38–11/8/13)

Doug Theuner was a giant among men.

Sure, it's a cliche, and he was a tall guy, but he used his stature as Bishop of New Hampshire's Episcopal Church for nearly two decades to emphasize the importance of being conscientious stewards of our resources, including our natural environment and our invested wealth.

Doug's powerful moral voice and influence urged Episcopalians to find many ways to act on their faith. One way he challenged them, as people and as congregations, was to think of their savings and endowments as instruments of their faith, and to invest them to help create jobs and affordable housing in their local communities.

The Right Rev. Douglas Theuner at our 25th anniversary celebration

When we discovered one another in the mid 1980s, he immediately recognized that the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund was a place where Episcopalians could accomplish those goals.

This was the story he told at our 25th anniversary celebration five years ago:

"My wife has always said to me, 'You're a great preacher, you're good at getting people fired up, but you're not very good at telling them how to do anything with the enthusiasm you've created.' That's the story of my life.

"Then I found the Community Loan Fund. And the partnership between a group of people who had the will to do something good, but not the infrastructure or the knowledge or the expertise to do it, and the Community Loan Fund together has been a wonderful thing for the Episcopal Diocese and other churches also, and I'm eternally grateful for that."

At that same celebration, he brought down the house when he described traveling with me to a meeting of potential investors by saying. "She wanted a little ecclesiastical arm candy."

The best complement he ever gave us was when he said that his approach was to go where God was already at work, and that he saw God's work in what the Community Loan Fund did in helping people and businesses become more self-reliant and aspirational.

Doug stood with us in good economic times and tough recessions. He was always realistic and optimistic about what regular people could accomplish if you stood with them. The knowledge that access to capital puts opportunity within the reach of people with low incomes and small businesses was an integral part of how he lived his faith. So was the recognition that the Community Loan Fund offered a practical way for those of faith to invest some of their resources to make opportunity possible, while still earning a financial return.

We'll miss Doug's enthusiasm and tenacity in working for justice and opportunity for all. We have and will continue to honor his faith in us by being highly productive and putting those Episcopalian assets to work over and over again with people right here in New Hampshire.

Juliana Eades is President of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.