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Honduran bishop calls on convention to better serve participants who do not speak English

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:50pm

Members of the House of Bishops stand with Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen and he stood at the microphone to criticize what he said is convention’s lack of concern for participants who do not speak English. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen continued July 6 to call critical attention to what he said was a lack of complete access to translation and interpretation services during General Convention.

His two points of personal privilege in the House of Bishops prompted Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to appoint a small committee to identify “specifically the issues and concerns that are being raised both short-term and long-term,” and how they can be addressed and by whom.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The day before Allen told the legislative committee charged with considering changes to the Book of Common Prayer that the lack of an official translator for the hearing was symptomatic of the constant feeling he has of being unwelcome in the church. He criticized the fact that one of the resolutions the committee was considering has no yet been translated.

When the House of Bishops convened for it legislative session July 6, Allen went to a microphone to object to the fact that the proposed “Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church” had not be translated. His objection came after the bishops had discussed the document at their tables. The covenant was proposed in response to the July 4 “Liturgy of Listening.”

Many non-English-speaking participants do not understand what is happening at convention because “there are legislative bodies where no one is translating,” said Allen, who is fully bilingual.

“It’s not fair what’s going on at convention with the Province IX delegation,” he said, despite it having “gone through thick and thin to get here because we considered ourselves as part to this church.” Allen asked why provisions were not made for “proper translation,” rather than what he said have been word-for-word translations.

All legislative sessions in both houses have interpreters, as does the daily worship, joint sessions and some but not all committee meetings. The Virtual Binder, with which anyone can track legislation, is available in English and Spanish. In the Spanish version, the resolution names are in English and some but not all resolutions have been translated. Those in English say “Por ahora no hay traducción al español,” meaning translation is pending.

During the July 5 hearing, Allen threatened to leave the Episcopal Church if it “continues to change the prayer book and to play with Scripture.” During the House of Bishop’s session, Allen said that if action was not taken to correct what he called an on-going situation, “I will ask my delegation to get up and exit the convention.”

Diocese of West Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith then moved to postpone the covenant pending translation.

The House of Bishops began to debate Resolution B014 on compensating the president of the House of Deputies when Allen again came to the microphone, this time calling on his fellow Province IX bishops, his Latino brothers and the bishops of African descent to stand with him. About 20 bishops did so.

“Tabling the matter is just brushing it off again,” he said. “Something needs to be done. No more.”

Other bishops slowly began to stand and Allen then lead the house in a long prayer in English and Spanish.

After a long time of silence, Curry asked for a recess for he, Allen and a few others to “put our heads and hearts together.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

TEConversations opens with racial reconciliation

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:17pm

Members of the Diocese of Newark converse with each other July 6 during the 79th General Convention’s first TEConversation. Racial reconciliation was the topic of this joint session. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] One of the unique offerings at this triennium’s General Convention are TEConversations (The Episcopal Church Conversations), which are being held during three joint sessions of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies over the coming week. Each conversation offers multiple speakers, video presentations and engaging interludes around three priorities of this gathering: racial reconciliation, evangelism and care of creation.  Speakers represent international leaders, well-known Episcopalians, and rising voices in the Church.

The first of these, A Conversation on Racial Reconciliation, opened at 10:30 a.m. July 6.

“This day is designed for you. This day is for everyone to learn and be included. A day of listening. A morning of conversation. A day of learning. As you listen to the speakers remember that everyone matters,” said the Rev. David Crabtree of North Carolina, moderator of the July 6 conversation.

Arno Michaelis told his story of being the former leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Speakers for the first TEConversation took a deep and personal look at racial reconciliation.

A reformed, former leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization, Arno Michaelis kicked off the presentations. “Hate ruled my life,” he said. As the former leader of the largest racist skinhead nation in the world for seven years he speaks of hate and violence as an all-consuming a way of life. Meeting Pardeep Kaleka, the eldest son of Satwant Singh Kaleka – the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, who was gunned down during the attacks of Aug. 5, 2012, changed Michaelis’ life. Together they started Serve to Unite https://serve2unite.org/  in response to the August 5, 2012, attack. Through this organization they “wage peace” and invite others to join them.

Channeling peace, love and especially the “double-edge sword of forgiveness and compassion” Michaelis also works to get people out of organizations like the KKK. Through this practice of nonviolence he told the story of “saving” a father and son from that life.  The Imperial Grand Wizard of the Georgia Klan also burned his robes and left that life. “Hate and violence can be stopped by forgiveness and compassion.” He said that if he had been violent in response to their anger they would likely still be in the KKK.

Local Austin poet, Charles Dawain Stephens, aka Chucky Black, recited his poem “Black Magic.” Photo: Courtesy of Cynthia Black

The scheduled speakers were punctuated by a special guest: Local Austin poet, Charles Dawain Stephens, aka Chucky Black, recited his poem “Black Magic” about the goodness and magic he sees in his people that help him through the dark times.

The next speaker, Dr. Catherine Meeks, director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia, is committed to helping people find the best parts of themselves. She told participants from her seat on the stage that “love and acceptance are the simple message (of reconciliation) but we are always looking for something more complicated.”

She urged people, “Do not leave this place and act the same way you acted when you got here. We need to make differences in ways that are concrete and take away the constructs that divide us.”

Catherine Meeks is the director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

In a video presentation the question – What is A Beloved Community? – was answered by people representing the diversity of the Episcopal Church. Some of their responses:

  • “An ever-widening circle of God’s Grace.”
  • “We should always take care of each other, not just when there is a disaster, but always.”
  • “Has to be an absolutely intentional community, it can’t just happen.”

The Rev. Nancy Frausto, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiary priest was the morning’s final speaker. Frausto is a dreamer, “which means I entered the country illegally. I ran … and hid … to be reunited with my father.” She was 7 years old when she came to this country and a beloved community is something she desperately wants.

“Imagine working toward a beloved community. You have to work toward racial reconciliation. To get there you have to talk about truth.” It is about the entire system, according to Frausto. If we truly care about the dreamers, then we must care about the parents – the original dreamers, and the children in the camps today, and the black boys and girls in the neighborhoods, and all those who are marginalized.

The Rev. Nancy Frausto of the Diocese of Los Angeles is a native of Zacatecas, Mexico and a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiary. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Frausto closed with the story of Jesus and Lazarus when Jesus said to the people, “Unbind him. Let him go.” She went on to say, “Imagine us unbinding this country from racism. We have a lot of work to do. … We do need to love one another. As you leave General Convention make sure you do the work tell the truth and unbind this country.”

About 30 minutes of discussion that asked participants to take a deep and personal look at racial reconciliationfollowed the presentations. Deputies and bishops were asked to “explore personal and communal hopes for living as the Jesus Movement and sharing in loving, liberating, life-giving relationships with God, each other, and the earth.”

During that time people first sat in pairs, and then in groups. These were generally made up of one or two diocese’s bishops and deputies. An Episcopal Church staff member noted that some groups included their alternates in the discussion, although rules about who can be on the floor at a given time made this tricky.

In an email following the TEConversation, Deputy Stewart Lucas of Maryland shared a comment he had made as part of their discussion. “We must just be ourselves, especially when we are in a minority. All we can do is share our story and our pain and our journey. Relationships change opinions and deeply held values. Those of us in a majority who are privileged in many ways have a baptismal responsibility to find and listen to the story of the ‘other,’ ”

As the deputies and bishops left the floor of the House of Deputies they shared their reactions from the first TEConversation.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry opens the 79th General Convention’s first TEConversation July 6, this one on racial reconciliation. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Deputy Krisita Jackson of Central Florida said, “Conversations need to be continued. Reconciliation is tough work and requires a lot of looking into oneself, finding the truth and speaking the truth.”

Bishop Greg Brewer, also of Central Florida, was energized by the session. “I welcome it. These conversations are absolutely necessary if we are going to go from racial enclaves to reflecting the multi-racial Jesus Movement that the presiding bishop envisions.” He added that he appreciated the diversity of the presentation, “from hip-hop to Dr. Meeks sitting down and talking to us.” And, he said that he looks forward to the next conversation.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Jackson also commented that the presenters were relevant and that she appreciated hearing views from a cross-section of the Church. “It wasn’t a narrow focus. It’s a problem about all people.”

Each TEConversation will be available live so people can participate concurrently with deputies and bishops. Each will also be available online, with support materials, for local use in churches at a later date. Participants can also text 51555 to share resources, ask questions, and continue the conversation. On social media #belovedcommunity and #jesusmovement and #gc79 can be used to share thoughts and ideas.

The next TEConversation is on Evangelism. It will be 2:30-4 p.m. CDT on July 7.

– Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer and a member of the ENS General Convention reporting team.

Cuba committee to hold hearing July 7 on new resolutions

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:06pm

Western North Carolina Bishop Jose McLoughlin addresses the Episcopal Church of Cuba Committee during its July 6 afternoon session while New Jersey Bishop William “Chip” Stokes, co-chair of the committee, looks on. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Turns out there is no mechanism for the Episcopal Church to admit an existing diocese into its structure without making a change to its constitution: a change that requires approval by two successive conventions.

The 79th General Convention is underway at the Austin Convention Center and runs through July 13. The 80th General Convention will convene in 2021.

The Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee spent two sessions July 6 deliberating the language of two new resolutions, A209, Reunification with the Episcopal Church of Cuba, and Resolution A214, which addresses the necessary constitutional and canonical changes. It will hold an open hearing on the two resolutions beginning at 7:30 a.m. on July 7 in the Hilton Austin Grand Ballroom K.

“The first one, A209, expresses regret over the history that brought us to this place … and our strong desire for reunification,” said Becky Snow, who co-chairs the committee along with New Jersey Bishop William “Chip” Stokes.

Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio listens as the Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee deliberates the second of two new resolutions on July 7. Photo: Lynette Wilson

Resolution A029 calls on General Convention to express its joy at the Episcopal Church of Cuba’s request to rejoin the Episcopal Church; lament the House of Bishops’ action in 1966 that split the two churches; note that the two churches “seek to employ God’s justice to confront our shared brokenness, and to equip and empower our efforts toward healing, wholeness and reconciliation for generations to come”; desire complete reunification; express deep regret that structural and constitutional issues prevent the realization of fullest expression of reunification at the 79th General Convention; and expresses the Episcopal Church’s eagerness “to share a future” with the Cuban Episcopal Church.

To prepare for the admission of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, the committee drafted Resolution A214, which commends the church for meeting the actions proposed by the Task Force on Cuba, which General Convention created in 2015 to facilitate the reunification of the two churches.

“We recognized that there needed to be a resolution that was not our resolution that went to Governance and Structure about necessary canonical changes, which they are working on to help not merely with Cuba, but in the event that a request like this should come again we have something in place according to our Constitution and Canons,” Stokes told Episcopal News Service. He added that the notion that a diocese already established as an Anglican Communion province wasn’t foreseen.

The constitutional change to accept a diocese outside the Episcopal Church’s structure and the canonical change necessary to accept a bishop elected, or in this case appointed, in another Anglican province didn’t present themselves until the committee began its deliberations.

Resolution A214 expresses the 79th General Convention’s desire for an immediate reunification, though recognizing that the Episcopal Church “has yet to attend to the structural and canonical requirements necessary and pledges to complete the following actions to welcome” the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese to the 80th General Convention.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Further, it calls for the necessary constitutional and canonical changes to name Cuba a diocese; it calls for the bishop of Cuba’s participation in the House of Bishops; the continued establishment of diocesan and congregational companion relationships; and $400,00 for support of the Cuban church’s ongoing mission and ministry. It also sets the Cuban clergy’s eligibility to participate in the International Clergy Pension Plan administered by the Church Pension Fund at the close of convention.

When the relationship between the two churches ended, so did clergy pensions.

“It’s been difficult for the Diocese of Cuba and we certainly recognize the pain and strain of that,” said Stokes. “But we also believe that this will create permanent changes that should anything like this happen in the future we’re much more able to deal with it in a way that’s fair and treating others the same rather than just making things up as we go.”

Finally, A214 calls for an interim body to accompany the two churches through their transition to re-unification and $50,000 to fund that work.

During its July 4 open hearing the committee formed four subcommittees to study a covenant committee, constitutional and canonical issues with reunification, pension and Resolution A052. While the committee held its July 4 hearing, a second resolution, D060, to establish a covenant with the Diocese of Cuba was filed. Later, the committee decided to strike the covenant language.

The House of Bishops took its action in 1966 in response to the effects of the Cuban Revolution and the United States’ response. The Cuban Revolution, led by Castro, began in 1953 and lasted until President Fulgencio Batista was forced from power in 1959. Batista’s anti-communist, authoritarian government was replaced with a socialist state, which in 1965 aligned itself with the communist party.

Formerly a missionary district, the Episcopal Church of Cuba is an autonomous diocese of the Anglican Communion under the authority of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba. The council is chaired by the primates of the Anglican churches of Canada, the West Indies and the Episcopal Church. The council has overseen the church in Cuba since it separated from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church in 1967.

Prior to that time, in 1961, Episcopal schools in Cuba had been closed and appropriated, and many clergy and their families were displaced. Some remained in Cuba; some either returned or immigrated to the United States. Some clergy who remained in Cuba were imprisoned, executed, or disappeared. Church buildings were closed and left to deteriorate. The church was polarized politically, and its clergy and lay leaders suffered. But the Church continued, in the living rooms of the grandmothers, who held prayer services and Bible studies in their homes. Through them is transmitted a story of pain, and of faith.

The Episcopal Church of Cuba traces its origins back to an Anglican presence beginning in 1901. Today there are some 46 congregations and missions serving 10,000 members and the wider communities. During the 1960s, Fidel Castro’s government began cracking down on religion, jailing religious leaders and believers, and it wasn’t until Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Cuba, the first ever visit by a Roman Catholic pope to the island, that the government began a move back toward tolerance of religion.

– Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

Israel-Palestine resolutions spark impassioned testimony under expedited process for review

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:06pm

Tarek Abuata of the pro-Palestinian Friends of Sabeel North America testifies July 6 at a hearing on General Convention resolutions related to Israel and Palestine. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Dozens of people representing a broad range of interreligious voices testified July 6 at a joint hearing on resolutions related to Episcopal Church policy toward Israel and Palestine, a contentious issue at past General Conventions that this year was discussed openly and, for the most part, cordially.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Some read their prepared statements by scrolling their smartphones or shuffling through notes on paper. Others gave testimony from memory or off the cuff, and many of the nearly 50 people who addressed the committees shared grim examples of life and death in the region, from Gaza to the West Bank.

“I’ve heard stories of hope and stories of pain, from both Israelis and Palestinians. We need to listen to both,” said retired Bishop Ed Little, previously of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, who spoke from his experiences during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Social Justice and International Policy Committee and the Stewardship and Socially Responsible Investing Committee of the 79th General Convention met jointly with the goal of getting the resolutions to the House of Deputies by July 8, part of an expedited process outlined by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president.

That process was recommended by a task force formed by Curry and Jennings after the 2015 General Convention to look at ways to ensure a full, open and productive debate on such thorny issues as whether to divest church funds from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

So far, the reaction to those changes has been positive, and the openness of the debate was readily evident to the more than 100 people who attended the 2.5-hour hearing in a ballroom at the JW Marriott hotel just west of the Austin Convention Center.

Several pro-Palestinian organizations mobilized individual representatives and groups of people to testify, helping to tilt the balance of views in favor of approving resolutions calling for a tougher stance against Israel and greater promotion of peace. A small but forceful minority spoke in defense of Israel – or to assert that this decades-old conflict defies easy assignment of blame.

“It’s a family fight, and like a family fight, there are two sides,” Katy Dickinson, a deputy from the Diocese of El Camino Real in California, said in her testimony supporting Resolution D027, seeking justice in Gaza. “It’s mostly Israel’s problem,” she said, but Hamas also is firing missiles and needs to be part of the solution.

But if this conflict is a family fight, Tarek Abuata, a Palestinian Christian from Houston, Texas, sought to undercut the analogy with a variation of his own.

“It is not a fight. It is not a family fight when my father has been abusing my mother and raping her for 70 years,” Abuata testified. He is executive director of Friends of Sabeel North America, a Christian group that supports the Palestinian cause and that was represented at the hearing by several members.

The two committees have been assigned 15 total resolutions on issues related to Middle East peace, including the civil rights of Palestinian children, the status of Jerusalem, supporting Palestinian-owned businesses and preserving the right to boycott as a form of protest against the occupation.

The various resolutions often generated passionate testimony from deputies and other Episcopalians, as well as members of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Jewish, Muslim, Mennonite and Quaker faiths.

They spoke of Palestinians’ homes being bulldozed, of Palestinian children being ripped from their families and jailed, of the “racist extremism” that had turned Palestinians into second-class citizens in their own homeland. Their testimony described the Palestinian territories, particularly Gaza, as a “nightmare,” “concentration camp,” “prison camp” and the equivalent of the Jim Crow era of segregation in the United States or the former system of apartheid in South Africa.

More than 100 people attended the joint hearing of the international policy and the socially responsible investing committees on July 6, and nearly 50 people testified. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Comparisons to apartheid was underscored, though not explicitly, by a joint statement issued July 3 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican leader who was a pivotal figure in the fight to end apartheid, with former House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and Patti Browning, widow of former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning.

“We recognize that as the convention considers these resolutions, we must continue the journey of reconciliation with our Jewish sisters and brothers for the centuries of oppressive and anti-Semitic behavior which culminated in our complicity in the Holocaust,” the letter says.  “At the same time, we must not let those horrific injustices blind us to the injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people.”

The letter goes on to single out the “cruel and illegal Israeli-led siege” of Gaza and says the Episcopal Church will be complicit in the occupation as long as its investments are tied to infrastructure work there.

The issue of divestment generated the most divergent opinions at the hearing, from agreement that the church must end its complicity in an oppressive system to opposition, either from those who side more with Israel or those who worry that divestment might inadvertently cause more harm than good for the Palestinian cause.

The Rev. Jason Poling, vicar of St. Hilda’s Episcopal Church in Maryland, said much of the prevailing rhetoric gives the impression of Israel as a unilaterally vicious occupying power, ignoring Palestinian extremism that has included rocket fire, suicide bombings and kidnappings while serving as a roadblock to progress on peace negotiations.

“Our Israeli friends have a reason to be defensive, because they have a lot to defend against,” Polling told the committee in testifying against Resolution C017.

Alma Bell, a deputy from Maryland, also opposed divestment, because it could lessen the Episcopal Church’s economic leverage in the region and might jeopardize the work of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem under Archbishop Suheil Dawani, who is in Austin this week but did not attend the hearing.

Resolution B016 would model the Episcopal Church’s investment policy after one adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which created something called a human rights screen for Israeli and Palestinian investments.

“There are many Lutherans who are thrilled today that our closest communion partner has chosen to take up this same resolution,” said Dale Loepp, a Lutheran who worked on the ELCA measure.

Another resolution, B019, would call for the church to pursue investments that support “a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” but even that measure drew a mix of praise, reservations and opposition, particularly from those who don’t see such investments as doing anything to end the occupation.

“Palestinians don’t need pity. Palestinians need solidarity,” said Kareem El-Hosseiny of American Muslims for Palestine.

And the Rev. Gary Commins, priest-in-charge at Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Jersey City, New Jersey, cast doubt on whether reconciliation is possible with such an imbalance of power between the Israelis and Palestinians. He urged the committees not to support Resolution B018 for that reason.

“There’s almost nothing in the resolution that hasn’t been said in previous conventions,” Commins testified. “This resolution is just something to make us feel better. … It is an opioid.”

Later in the day, the international policy committee met and voted to discharge B018, essentially agreeing that it covered ground already trod by previous General Conventions. The committee also combined two resolutions on treatment of Palestinian children and two resolutions on the status of Jerusalem before voting to send them to the full House of Deputies. The committee ended the night by recommending the rest of its resolutions to the House as well. The status of the investment-related resolutions assigned to the second committee wasn’t immediately available.

At the morning hearing, everyone who wanted to testify was given that opportunity, though committee chairs asked them to keep their remarks to two minutes or less.

People who have followed these issues over multiple General Conventions said the openness was a welcome change, in contrast to what they felt were more strict limitations on discussion.

Another key change is that the House of Deputies was chosen as the house of initial action for all resolutions on Israel and Palestine. At General Convention in 2015, a resolution calling on the church to divest from companies engaged in certain business with Israel failed in a vote of the House of Bishops, which meant it never made it to the House of Deputies for consideration.

And the House of Deputies and House of Bishops are expected to take up the resolutions through a “special order of business” which gives the resolutions greater weight and ensures debate isn’t sidelined by procedural barriers. The special order in the House of Deputies is scheduled for the afternoon of July 8.

“There seems to be a process this time that allows for discussion and debate,” the Very Rev. Will Mebane of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo, New York, told Episcopal News Service during a short break in the hearing on July 6. “There was a recognition at the highest levels of the church that 2015 didn’t work.”

Mebane said he traveled to the Holy Land several years ago, and the experience affected him deeply. The difference between life on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side is like day and night.

“Not one person in this room would tolerate for one day the conditions that exist in Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine,” Mebane told the committees while speaking in favor of Resolution D041, one of the resolutions about protecting Jerusalem as the holy city of the three Abrahamic faiths.

The Rev. Sunny Hallanan, a deputy from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, testifies in favor of Resolution D041.

The Rev. Sunny Hallanan, a deputy from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, also spoke in favor of D041, saying people in Europe are puzzled by the U.S. policy toward Jerusalem.

“Why are we turning from the values we have stood for?” Hallanan said, her voice wavering for a moment. “We, the church, must take a faithful, prophetic stand.”

Some of the most poignant testimony addressed the plight of Palestinian children, as addressed by Resolution C035 and Resolution C038. Several witnesses told stories of children being taken from their families and detained for long periods of time, often suspected only of throwing rocks.

“I know you share my moral outrage,” Jennifer Bing of the American Friends Service Committee said. “You know that military detention is no way to treat a child.”

Haithem El-Zabri, a Muslim and leader in the Austin’s Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights, shared a personal story – of his Palestinian parents, who moved to the United States in the 1960s as refugees. Now he longs for the opportunity to visit to his ancestral homeland. But he can’t, due to restrictions imposed by Israel.

“All we are asking for is our right to live in peace and dignity in our homeland in equality with all who inhabit it,” El-Zabri said in voicing support for Resolution D018, recognizing both Israelis’ and Palestinians’ rights to self-determination.

Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori leads a closing prayer at the end of the hearing on Israel-Palestine resolutions.

When the testimony was over, the committee chairs asked former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a member of the international policy committee, to lead a closing prayer.

“Open our ears,” she prayed, “that we may hear the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the land of the holy one, that we may respond with your justice, your compassion, and we pray that we may be willing to enter sacrificially into the lives of all your people.

“May we be people of justice, of shalom, of salam. May we help to repair the breach in our own hearts, in our world, among all your people. In the name of the God of Abraham, we pray. Amen.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

General Convention approves compensation for deputies’ president

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 7:39pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The House of Bishops on July 6 agreed to a plan to pay the president of the House of Deputies for the work of the office.

The bishops approved Resolution B014 on a voice vote with some voting no. There is no dollar figure attached to the resolution, which would pay the president director’s and officer’s fees “for specific services rendered in order to fulfill duties required by the church’s Constitution and Canons.”

The resolution, which the House of Deputies overwhelmingly approved July 5, is a compromise move. It was the fourth time over two decades that deputies had attempted to earn compensation for their president and the first time bishops agreed.

Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe proposed B014 just before the start of convention as “a way forward,” he told his colleagues. Many bishops worried that paying the president of the House of Deputies could somehow change the polity of the church, especially in relation to the role of the presiding bishop. Rowe said he and a small group of bishops, assembled at the request of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, consulted experts in canon and secular law.

Rowe asked his colleague to “do your best to separate any objection you may have about the way that the current incumbent or any particular incumbent of the position has approached or is approaching the role or whether the job is too big, these are separate issues form the pay matter.”

The president’s role has been changing since 1964, when the convention gave the position a three-year term instead of simply being elected to preside during convention. In addition to chairing the House of Deputies during convention, the president also is canonically required to serve as vice chair of Executive Council and vice president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, or DFMS, the nonprofit corporate entity through which the Episcopal Church owns property and does business. He or she has a wide swath of appointment powers. The president also travels around the church, speaking at conferences and other gatherings and meeting with deputies and other Episcopalians.

The position, which is filled by election during each meeting of convention, has a travel budget and a paid assistant. Each president is limited to three consecutive three-year terms.

The group of bishops shared their proposed resolution with current president the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and her leadership team “as a matter of courtesy and consultation,” he said, adding that the bishops “engaged in significant diplomacy on this matter and we have achieved results.”

Many deputies “had to swallow hard to make this happen” but it is “going to set the stage for a different kind of relationship” between the two houses.

Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Tom Briedenthal agreed with Rowe. He said he and Diocese of Western New York Bishop Bill Franklin were happy to give the required endorsement of B014. They felt they were doing “our part to improve the relationship of trust that is so important to the proper functioning of these two houses.”

Any risk that his colleagues might feel about “becoming vulnerable to an erosion of our own particular ministry and role as bishops is worth taking because it is a signal to the other house that we are walking alongside them and will give them a chance to trust us more and therefore help us to know better what they see us as when they look upon us as their bishops,” he said.

Some bishops worried about the lack of a specific dollar amount in the resolution. The Task Force to Study Church Leadership and Compensation, called for by the 78th General Convention, concluded in its report to this meeting of convention that the work of the House of Deputies president amounts to a full-time job. Its Resolution A028 calls for a salary but does not set an amount.

The task force asked Executive Council to include a proposed salary in the draft 2019-2021 budget, which it gave to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) in January. The task force did not suggest an amount, but council included $900,000 for a full-time salary and benefits for the three years in the draft budget (line 557 here).

Bishop Steven Miller of Milwaukee cited that amount and asked for a “clear accounting” once Executive Council sets the fees, as required in the resolution. He said the $900,000 “could be used for mission, it could be used for reconciliation.”

Voting yes on the resolution without an amount, Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris said, feels like “we are writing a blank check.”

Rowe said both bishops and deputies vote all the time on resolutions that ask for specified or unspecified amounts of money. It is then up to PB&F to sort out all the requests. Maine Bishop Steve Lane, PB&F vice chair, said council put the amount into its draft budget “not knowing how this General Convention would move” and would revisit that amount when convention’s wishes were clear.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

Committee considers social justice theology proposal

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 6:58pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] How does social justice fit into the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church? This the question a proposed resolution presented during the 79thGeneral Convention would seek to understand.

Resolution A056 asks that the General Convention direct the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church to appoint a Task Force on the Theology of Social Justice Advocacy as Christian Justice. If approved and implemented, over the next triennium, the task force would consider scripture, approved liturgical resources, other theological texts and previous actions of General Convention to summarize ways the church understands social justice as an essential mission and ministry.

The resolution also calls for the task force to study how the church currently fosters the theological understanding of social justice and asks it to recommend ways to foster conversations on social justice across the church.

The convention’s Ministry Committee on July 6 heard three speakers in favor of the resolution.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The Rev. Kenneth Brannon, Idaho deputy and member of the Ministry Committee, questioned the need for a establishing a task force when churches are already involved in addressing social justice issues. “Social justice is front and center to what we do in the Episcopal Church,” he said.

Responding to his question, theRev. Tracie Middleton, Fort Worth deputy and a board member of the Association of Episcopal Deacons, said that a theology of social justice could eventually lead to more resources on how congregations might tackle social justice issues. “There is an urgent demand for how we do it,” she said.

In an interview after the hearing, Middleton said clergy might be aware of only a few of the social justice issues that parishioners are passionate about. The ability to have a resource to network across the country to share ideas and knowledge would be beneficial to bring priests and deacons up to speed on the myriad of social justice issues that their parishioners care most about.

The resolution asks that the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider budgeting $15,000 to implement the resolution.

The resolution was proposed by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. In its Blue Book Report,  the committee concluded that while the church is “doing many different types of work, social justice work is not robust across the Church.”

Most especially, the committee discovered that the understanding of “social justice” varies broadly and that activities across the church tend to fall more “into the realm of alleviation of suffering and the work of charity than the work of justice.”

The task force said this distinction caused “anxiety” for some who completed a survey, “both in terms of trying to define charity work as ‘justice’ and from some who do not believe the church should be doing justice work.” Some survey respondents replied that the church should “remove itself from politics and get on the work of social justice.”

“We heard concerns that social justice is ‘only about politics,’ ” the task force reported.

The task force also heard about “a sense of being disconnected from the words of the wider church and General Convention on the theology of social justice.”  It said “some felt that social justice preaching should not advocate a particular view on reform or that the emphasis should be on ‘outreach ministry’ but not social justice.”

Respondents to a survey conducted for the committee were eager for resources, suggestions and people to reach for help and “almost all who responded acknowledged a need for this work and many a desire to do it.  They wanted to connect with others doing this work but did not know how to find them.”

To clarify misunderstandings, the committee defined social justice work as “acts to address and heal the root cause of the injustice which prompted our need for charity in the first place.”

“In our churchwide discussions,” the task force report stated, “we talk about justice in terms of promoting social change and responding to long-term needs in combination with work to alleviate the suffering before us.”

– Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

Global ecumenical body repeats call for release of Aleppo archbishops

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 5:43pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, a global ecumenical body which includes most Anglican provinces, has expressed its concern at the “alarming and rapidly deteriorating situation of Christians in the Middle East.” At its meeting at the end of last month, the Central Committee repeated its call for the release of two Syrian archbishops who were kidnapped near Aleppo in Syria: Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi. The pair were taken by gunmen in April 2013.

“The Central Committee recalls with heavy hearts the abduction five years ago of the archbishops of Aleppo, Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi,” the WCC said in a statement. “We continue to pray for their safe return to their churches, their communities and their families, as a sign of hope for all the Christians of Syria and the region.”

The statement also affirms that “a new social pact is needed throughout the Middle East region – a common narrative that is developed and shared by all communities of the countries of the region based on an inclusive understanding of citizenship and human rights, constitutionally guaranteed, and under which all churches and faith communities, with their diverse ethnic, religious and cultural identities, can live and prosper in the love and grace given to all by God.”

Negotiations begin for ‘amicable separation’ following same-sex relationships vote

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 5:41pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Talks have begun to try to reach an amicable separation between members of four conservative evangelical churches and the Diocese of Christchurch. The congregations of the four churches voted by large majorities to disaffiliate following the decision in May by the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to permit churches in New Zealand to bless same sex marriages. Archbishop Philip Richardson, one of the Primates of the ANZP, has now met with senior diocesan staff and archdeacons and the vicars and wardens of the four parishes to discuss how their members could disaffiliate “in a respectful manner while maintaining good communication and leaving doors open.”

Full article here.

Issues of impairment and bishop elections find common ground on Chuchwide Leadership

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 5:30pm

The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development, testifies at General Convention before the Committee on Churchwide Leadership on Resolution A147.

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The Committee on Churchwide Leadership is grappling with a host of resolutions, all of which are related in some way to the discernment, election and consecration of bishops, as well as issues surrounding leadership impairment due to alcohol and substance misuse and behavioral addictions. In the life of the church, these two topics go hand in hand.

“We cannot look at these issues in isolation they are so connected,” said the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development.

The Commission on Impairment and Leadership, which refers to intervention, evaluation and possible re-entry or action needed related to various forms of leadership impairment, has submitted D057, D058 and D059. Additional resolutions ask for canonical amendments. This commission of Executive Council also published the Report of the Commission on Impairment and Leadership in 2017.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The Task Force on the Episcopacy, which reviewed the existing process and made recommendations to improve the path to the episcopacy, increase diversity in the House of Bishops, and offer support to the Office of Pastoral Development in its work with dioceses, advanced 34 resolutions. Those pertaining to the discernment of and evaluation for the episcopacy are A145, A146, A147 and A148. The task force’s Blue Book report begins on page 678.

Where the two groups intersect is in the areas of physical and mental health, and substance abuse and addiction. Impairment and Leadership considered this from the perspective of awareness training and crisis intervention, and Task Force on Episcopacy through screening, privacy and reporting.

How to help the church elect bishops who will have successful episcopates was part of the task force’s work, Katie Sherrod of Fort Worth explained, noting that former Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook’s “shadow obviously loomed large over the resolution that put us into existence.” Cook killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo in December 2014 as she was driving and texting while drunk. She had been previously arrested in 2010 on an impaired-driving charge. Cook disclosed the arrest to diocesan leaders during the bishop suffragan search process, according to a diocesan statement released after the Dec. 27 accident, but the entire convention that elected Cook on May 2, 2014, was not told about it.

Deputy Scott Slater of Maryland testified on July 5 before the Committee on Churchwide Leadership in support of Resolution A147, to create a Pilot Board for Episcopal Transitions. From Slater’s experience as someone who has a history of addiction, the church lacks procedures for vetting someone thoroughly. This was the case in Maryland, and he experienced it again as a recent candidate for bishop elsewhere.

“I was asked a series of 22 questions and any ‘yes’ answer causes the search or standing committee of the diocese to dig deeper. I’m not sure of the resources available to Transition Consultants when faced with a ‘yes’ answer to one of the 22 questions. In my recent experience, they did not seem to have adequate resources and standards in vetting,” Slater said. “I found myself having to educate the standing committee who was vetting me on how to vet me because of that ‘yes’ answer.”

Slater sees both training transition consultants and making public the resources they use to aid dioceses throughout the transition process important steps to improving the bishop election process.

Describing the process of the 22 questions on the Behavioral Study Questionnaire, a clinical interview of a candidate for bishop, Ousley said, “Answers are part of a ‘decision tree’ where answers can lead to other questions in the clinical assessment. The assessment has a medical and a psychiatric component. This process is specific to potential bishops.” He added that some dioceses use this or a similar process for clergy as well.

After the assessment, the Office of Pastoral Development receives the report from the medical doctor and a certificate from the psychiatrist. If there are no yellow or red flags, then the respective certificates – not the reports – are shared with the presiding bishop and the diocese’s Standing Committee president. The certificates state that there is nothing in the assessment to prevent the person from functioning as bishop. If something is flagged in either report, then the information is shared with the presiding bishop and the president of the Standing Committee of the diocese.

It is highly recommended by the OPD that dioceses have the medical and psychological evaluations done before the candidate is put on the slate. The office began recommending that practice in July 2017. The common practice had been to do these evaluations post-election.

Awareness. Intervention. Consistency. Training. Transparency. Leadership. Separately, they are important to the work of the church. Brought together, the work of the church has a much broader impact.

– Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer and a member of the ENS General Convention reporting team.

Líderes de la Iglesia sientan la pauta de la Convención General en entusiasta bienvenida a obispos y diputados

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 5:27pm

El obispo primado Michael Curry se dirige a la sesión conjunta de apertura de la 79ª. Convención General en Austin, Texas, el 4 de julio de 2018. Foto de Sharon Tillman/ENS.

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Los principales dirigentes de la Iglesia Episcopal expresaron una entusiasta bienvenida a los centenares de obispos y diputados que se han reunido en la capital de Texas esta semana para la 79ª. Convención General.

La completa cobertura de 79ª. reunión de la Convención General puede encontrarse aquí.

Los discursos del obispo primado Michael Curry y de la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, duraron unos 20 minutos cada uno y sentaron la pauta para  los 10 días de actividad en el Centro de Convenciones de Austin y en los hoteles vecinos. Los comités empezaron a celebrar sus audiencias en las primeras horas del día sobre algunas resoluciones, aunque las sesiones legislativas no comienzan oficialmente hasta el 5 de julio.

Las intervenciones de Curry y Jennings resaltaron la labor de la Iglesia en los últimos tres años al tiempo que se refirieron directamente  a acontecimientos actuales que han suscitado la respuesta de la Iglesia y que se discutirán en la Convención General, en particular la inmigración y la llamada política de “tolerancia cero” del gobierno de Trump sobre la seguridad fronteriza.

“He visto a los episcopales apoyar a otros a los que nadie más apoyaba”, dijo Curry. “He visto a los episcopales apoyar a los inmigrantes. Nos hemos visto apoyando a los refugiados. Nos hemos visto defendiendo la justicia, no en nombre de valores seculares, sino en el nombre de Jesucristo, en nombre del amor”.

Jennings instó a los episcopales reunidos en el gran salón de convenciones a no permitirse permanecer cómodos en sus puestos de relativo privilegio cuando otros sufren. Ella marcó el rumbo con una lectura del Deuteronomio: Dios “muestra su amor por el extranjero, proveyéndole ropa y alimentos. Así mismo debes tú mostrar amor por los extranjeros, porque también tú fuiste extranjero en Egipto”.

“En este día, cuando algunos de nosotros acaso nos inclinamos a sentirnos en casa en Estados Unidos, la Biblia nos dice que no nos sintamos tan cómodos”, dijo Jennings. “Una vez fuimos extranjeros. Es posible que podamos ser de nuevo extranjeros algún día”.

El discurso de apertura de Jennings puede encontrarse en su totalidad aquí.

El énfasis en la inmigración y en la acogida a los refugiados coincide con planes de obispos y diputados de trasladarse el 8 de julio, después del culto dominical, a un centro de detención de inmigración a unos 40 minutos de Austin para celebrar allí un oficio de oración. La Convención General ha remitido hasta ahora 10 resoluciones a sus comités sobre el tema de la inmigración, y más podrían añadirse antes de la fecha límite de presentación el 6 de julio.

La Resolución A178 demanda específicamente el fin de las políticas federales que separan a los niños migrantes de sus padres. El presidente Donald Trump, después de enfrentar una intensa presión por las separaciones de familias, firmó un decreto ejecutivo en junio para mantener a las familias migrantes juntas en centros de detención, aunque quedan interrogantes sobre cómo este cambio de política se va a llevar a cabo y cómo se reunirán las familias separadas.

En la reunión de bienvenida, el 4 de julio, a la 79ª. Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal, la Rda. Gay Clark Jennings, presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, y el obispo primado Michael Curry se dirigieron a los obispos y diputados. Foto de Sharon Tillman/ENS.

“No podemos perder de vista a los padres y los niños en la frontera que han sido separados por nuestro gobierno”, dijo Jennings al instar a los obispos y diputados a tomar en serio las resoluciones sobre inmigración. “Debemos estar lo suficientemente incómodos para recordar que estos son problemas de vida o muerte”.

El tema de la inmigración también tuvo gran importancia en una conferencia de prensa que habían tenido antes ese día Curry, Jennings y el Rdo. Michael Barlowe, director ejecutivo de la Iglesia y secretario de la Convención General.

Jennings esperaba que la Convención General ofrecería una “alternativa a una interpretación perversa y vengativa de lo que significa ser cristiano”. La referencia de Curry al [libro de] Génesis subraya que la Iglesia está basando su defensa social en la Escritura.

“Partimos de la premisa que … todas las personas son creadas a imagen y semejanza de Dios”, dijo Curry. “Debemos estructurar nuestros acuerdos y estructurar nuestras vidas de tal manera que respetemos la dignidad de todo ser humano”.

A Curry le preguntaron también sobre su sermón en la boda real en mayo y qué efecto duradero podría tener en el éxito de la Iglesia en la evangelización.

“Lo que realmente hice fue orar… en primer lugar, no quería hacer un estropicio. Esa era una congregación bastante grande”, dijo él. “Pero en segundo lugar, que pudiera realmente decir algo que representara las buenas nuevas de Jesucristo. En nuestra cultura, hay versiones y representaciones que no se parecen para nada a Jesús”.

Unas 10.000 personas se espera que estén en Austin en algún momento de esta y la próxima semana para la Convención General, ya sean obispos, diputados, empleados de la Iglesia, voluntarios, expositores u otros interesados en participar de alguna manera en las conversaciones que se tienen lugar. El punto central de las dos semanas será una reunión de avivamiento el 7 de julio en el Centro de Actividades Palmer, en el cual Curry predicará, seguido por una parrillada ofrecida por la Diócesis de Texas.

El entusiasmo que despierta esta Convención General parte de muchas fuentes, desde la reputación de Curry como el carismático “director general de evangelización” de la Iglesia hasta el acalorado debate sobre asuntos que van desde la actualización del libro de oración hasta la política hacia Israel y Palestina. Se ha hablado mucho también acerca del modo en que la Iglesia debe responder a preocupaciones provocadas por el movimiento #MeToo sobre el acoso y el abuso sexuales en la sociedad y en la Iglesia, y la Cámara de Obispos celebra una sesión de escucha sobre esos temas en la noche del 4 de julio.

“Sobreabunda la energía al tiempo de comenzar la Convención General, y hay una atmósfera de esperanza”, dijo Jennings en la conferencia de prensa de la mañana.

Esa energía colmaba el salón de la Convención en la tarde mientras Curry tronaba en su “presentación” de bienvenida —“esto no es un sermón”[afirmó] ante algunas risas cómplices— y los ascensos y descensos de su voz resonaban en las paredes. Los obispos y diputados con sus diputaciones estaban sentados junto a los postes con los nombres de sus diócesis, semejante a la convención de un partido político.

Obispos y diputados reunidos el 4 de julio con sus diputaciones diocesanas para los discursos de apertura en el salón de la Convención en Austin, Texas,  Foto de Sharon Tillman/ENS.

Curry comenzó con una extensa metáfora en torno a Starbucks, sugiriendo que una Iglesia Episcopal que olvida sus raíces es como si una cadena de cafeterías se olvidara de que lo suyo es el café, no los quesos u otros productos alimentarios. “Mis hermanos y hermanas, no estamos en el negocio de hacer quesos, estamos en el negocio del café, y el nombre de ese café es Jesús de Nazaret”.

Pero fue su referencia a la fiesta del Día de la Independencia y a los orígenes del “Himno de batalla de la República”  lo que proporciono un motivo más profundo para expresar la manera en que la Iglesia Episcopal avanza en el servicio del Señor.

“He visto el Movimiento de Jesús entre nosotros en la Iglesia”, afirmó Curry, citando los empeños de socorro de los episcopales después que los huracanes azotaran Puerto Rico, las Islas Vírgenes, Florida y Texas. Dijo que él vio cómo los episcopales estuvieron junto con otros cristianos contra los grupos de odio que desfilaron en Charlottesville, Virginia. Dijo verlo en los episcopales que se concentraron detrás de los sioux de Roca Enhiesta [Standing Rock] cuando buscaban proteger su agua potable [del paso] de un oleoducto.

“La verdad de Dios, este movimiento, está en marcha”, afirmó él.

Jennings inició sus palabras aludiendo a la popularidad de los sermones de Curry y bromeando de que ella ocupara “lo que es ampliamente reconocido como una de las tribunas menos codiciadas de toda la cristiandad, la de la persona que viene después de Michael Curry”.

Jennings, también, le habló convincentemente al público de su deber de seguir el camino de Jesús.

“Estamos emprendiendo una ardua y santa tarea en los próximos 10 días. Vamos a hablar de algunos de los problemas más cercanos a nuestro corazón”, dijo ella. Hagamos nuestra labor como extranjeros y forasteros que se dirigen al reino de Dios”.

Entre los otros oradores en el acto de bienvenida estaban Lisa Towle, presidente nacional de las Mujeres Episcopales, y Mary Kate Wold, presidente del Grupo de Pensiones de la Iglesia. Barlowe fungió de maestro de ceremonias.

“Estamos encantados de estar en la Diócesis de Texas”, dijo Barlowe, una opinión que, con ligeras variaciones, él ha repetido con frecuencia esta semana. “Ustedes nos han recibido con la legendaria hospitalidad de Texas”.

Barlowe presentó a C. Andrew Doyle, obispo de la Diócesis de Texas, quien dijo que los episcopales de Texas se sienten orgullosos de apoyar a la Iglesia en los temas fronterizos y contra la epidemia de violencia armada en el país. Y Doyle mencionó que Houston, Texas, fue la sede de la Convención General en 1970, cuando a las mujeres se les permitió por primera vez que sirvieran como diputadas.

Doyle también  le dio a la Convención una muestra de cómo Texas define su pertenencia al Movimiento de Jesús.

“Texas es grande, y sobre cualquier cosa que ustedes tengan que contarnos, vamos a oírlos cortésmente y luego les diremos que hay otra más grande, más ancha, más fuerte, más extraña, más rara o curiosa que cualquiera que ustedes tengan”, afirmó él. A los texanos les encanta concebir ideas enloquecidas y grandes como el Movimiento de Jesús, y nos alegra ser parte de la grandísima Iglesia Episcopal”

– David Paulsen es editor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él en at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.


Speakers support scholarships for those seeking to serve small congregations

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 1:00pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] More than a half-dozen speakers appeared before the Ministry Committee on July 6 to voice their support for a resolution that would eventually lead to scholarship funding for individuals pursuing the ministry in order to serve small congregations as clergy and deacons.

“We found that those who are called to serve small congregations find very little funding available to them,” said the Rev. Susanna Singer, chair of the Task Force on Clergy Leadership Formation in Small Congregations and associate professor of ministry development at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

The task force submitted Resolution A027, which would direct Executive Council to establish a panel to “develop and implement a plan to provide need-based central scholarship funding to individuals” pursuing a theological education to serve as priests or deacons in small congregations.

Singer suggested the funding could provide individuals financial support for tuition, travel, child care, computers “or whatever the applicant needed” to pursue a theological education, primarily outside traditional residential seminary programs.

According to the task force, 69 percent of Episcopal congregations have an average Sunday attendance of less than 100, placing them in the category of “small congregation.”  To take this even further, bishops surveyed by the task force reported that a “substantial minority” of their congregations number less than 20 on an average Sunday.

Recognizing their unique needs and issues, the 78th General Convention three years ago set up the task force to “develop a plan for quality formation for clergy in small congregations that is affordable, theologically reflective and innovative.”

Speakers agreed with the task force’s assessment that many individuals interested in serving small congregations, often located in rural or poor urban areas, are unable to afford the cost of a seminary education.

The Rev. Andrew Hybl, dean of students at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, told the committee that “individuals are being asked to make personal and financial sacrifices that are impossible” to obtain a theological education and enter the ministry.

A Ministry subcommittee planned to consider the testimony and return with its recommendations.

— Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.

July 6 dispatches from 79th General Convention in Austin

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 12:54pm

Joshua Farrier and Lyn Crawford are legislative aides to the Social Justice and International Policy Committee and also classically trained singers. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Much happens each day during General Convention. In addition to Episcopal News Service’s primary coverage, here are some additional news items from July 6.

Legislative aides find connection in opera singing backgrounds

Joshua Farrier and Lyn Crawford knew they had one thing in common going into the 79th General Convention. They both would serve as legislative aides to the Social Justice and International Policy Committee. But when the committee met this week for introductions to get organized, Farrier and Crawford discovered something else they shared: professional training in opera signing.

Crawford, a deputy from Virginia, studied classical singing at Northwestern University, and Farrier has a doctorate in music from the University of Kansas. He now is performing Wagner in Germany, which is why he is a deputy from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.

“The Episcopal Church is known for its music,” Crawford told Episcopal News Service on July 6 after assisting with a 2.5 hour hearing on Israel-Palestine resolutions. “We’ve got the best music, let’s just face it.”

She is a lifelong Episcopalian, while Farrier joined the church after working as a soloist at an Episcopal congregation. His professor in college advised him not to waste his time with church music. “Except for the Episcopal Church,” the professor told him. “Their music is really good.”

Despite finding a connection through music, Crawford noted one point of disagreement. While Farrier has gravitated toward Wagner, she’s more of a Puccini person.

— David Paulsen

Committee adopts plan for further study of full communion with United Methodists

Bishop Gregory Palmer of the United Methodist Church speaks about Resolution A041 during discussion in the Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations Committee on July 6. Photo: Melodie Woerman/Episcopal News Service

On July 6, the Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations Committee passed Resolution A041, which calls for additional study of a proposal for full communion between the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church, entitled “A Gift to the World, Co-Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness.”

Full communion would provide for exchange of clergy between the two churches but is not a merger of the two denominations.

Plans call for the United Methodist Church to vote on the proposal during its General Conference in 2020. It then would come to the Episcopal Church’s 80th General Convention in 2021.

— Melodie Woerman

News conference outside Convention Center (isn’t about the convention)

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs has scheduled news conferences each day of the 79th General Convention for the reporters who are covering the convention through July 13, but the church had nothing to do with another news conference that popped up late morning just outside the Austin Convention Center.

Capital Metro chief executive Randy Clarke and Police Chief Brian Manley hold a news conference on transit safety outside the Austin Conference Center on July 6. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Local TV news cameras set up on the sidewalk on the north end of the convention center as Capital Metro chief executive officer Randy Clarke welcomed them as he said a few words about public transit safety. He was joined by Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, who was sworn in as head of the department just last month.

And for this news conference, the cameras were pointed away from the convention center, toward Clarke and Manley standing in front of their chosen backdrop – a MetroRail train waiting for passengers at the downtown Austin station.

– David Paulsen

Changes to parochial report draw concerns

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 11:17am

Maine Deputy Elizabeth Hall listens to questions during a joint hearing of the Evangelism and Church Planting and Congregational and Diocesan Vitality committees. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] A proposed resolution to increase the amount of data required on parochial reports faced skeptical legislative committee members on July 5 who expressed concerns that the changes might place too much of an added burden on congregations.Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Requiring the assembling of even more data would be especially difficult for small churches that often rely on lay volunteers to compile financial information and annual statistics, said Bishop Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island.

When he served as priest at a small church, Knisely said “we struggled” to get the report completed. “We’re adding to the burdens for churches that don’t have staff,” he said.

Knisely is chair of the Evangelism and Church Planting committee, which participated in a joint hearing with the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality committee to glean testimony in response to similar and sometimes overlapping issues.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

Questions over the parochial report arose from Resolution A053. This proposes that a new parochial report be developed that is “appropriate to the current context of the Episcopal Church including but not exclusive to multicultural congregations; aging populations; outposts of ministry in challenging economic contexts; and creative use of space and local engagement…”

A related resolution, A058, encourages the 79thGeneral Convention to challenge all churches to complete their profile on the Episcopal Asset Map. The asset map is a free, online service showing the location and array of ministries offered by Episcopal congregations, schools and institutions throughout the United States in dioceses that are participating in the project.

Both resolutions were proposed by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church, which is charged with setting the form of the parochial report with final approval of the Executive Council.

“We decide what we measure and what we measure tends to form what we value,” the Rev. Winnie S. Varghese, the Diocese of New York deputy who chaired the Committee on the State of the Church, has told the Episcopal News Service in an email.

“For the sake of data, it is good to measure a few vital things consistently for a long time, but the sake of our formation, and our self-understanding of what makes a great congregation, the (State of the Church) committee believes it is important for the church to revisit the entire form to align with what we say today are the characteristics that we value in a church, and make it fully and more robustly electronic, synced with the ways we would record such data, and appropriately shareable through the asset map or a resource like it that helps us to identify and develop networks of mutual support,” she added.

In addition to being skeptical about the collection of more data, several committee members questioned how the data would be used by the church and even its value.  In meetings to discuss the resolutions, for example, “we’ve shared the frustrations about the data we’re collecting and not collecting,” said Washington Bishop Mariann Budde, chair of the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality committee.

The Rev. Elizabeth Yale of Northwestern Pennsylvania expressed her concern about the difficulty some have in understanding how to complete the reports. “I feel part of our issue is user interface,” she said.

The committees did appear sympathetic to requiring dioceses to include the status of parish and congregation safe church audits on their parochial reports as proposed in Resolution A051. Safe Church Self-Audits are required by the Model Policies for the Protection of Children and Youth and the Model Policies for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults.

“If you add it to the parochial report, it gives some measure of accountability for your vestry to look at,” said Maine Deputy Elizabeth Hall, who testified in favor of the resolution.

The Rev. Canon Gregory Jacobs, a deputy from Newark and committee chair, said working groups from his committee are reviewing these resolutions and will make recommendations to the full body at a later time.

– Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.



Hearing on church planting fosters wide-ranging discussion on evangelism’s cutting edge

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:29am

The Rev. Kevin Johnson, a priest from Arlington, Texas, speaks July 5 at a hearing on church planting. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] An evening hearing July 5 on church planting, while primarily centered around a General Convention resolution with a multimillion-dollar price tag, addressed financials only in passing while generating more discussion on aspirations for evangelism and the future of the church.

Church planters and ministry developers offered examples from their experiences, and church leaders pressed them for more details on how the Episcopal Church can support such efforts.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

“I come to you a living witness of the direct effect of investment in a parish,” the Rev. Kevin Johnson, a deputy from the Diocese of Fort Worth, said at the joint hearing of the Evangelism and Church Planting Committee and the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality Committee.

Johnson, though not a recipient of a church planting grant, was able to start a new church with an Episcopal Church grant. His congregation, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Texas, was forced to start anew in a theater after a doctrinal split in the diocese led to a legal dispute over possession of the church building.

In the process, Johnson said, St. Alban’s has found a “new way to be church,” and the quest to find those new ways is at the heart of the Episcopal Church’s increased investment in church plants in recent years.

(Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.)

General Convention approved $1.8 million for church plants and Mission Enterprise Zones in the 2013-15 triennium, and $3.4 million was allocated for such ministries from 2016 to 2018. The evangelism committee has been assigned Resolution A005 that would approve $6.8 million in spending over the next three years to build on recent successes of these “holy experiments.”

The church vitality committee joined the hearing because Resolution A032, which was assigned to it, calls for $3 million in spending on church redevelopment, which overlaps with the work on church planting. By the end of the joint hearing at the JW Marriott, the two committees agreed to move that resolution to the evangelism committee’s plate as well.

Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, co-chair of the evangelism committee, took the lead in pressing for answers to the question, “What could we do to be more effective?”

Johnson recommended coaching on church development and marketing support. Charis Hill, a delegate from Northern California who spoke from her wheelchair, said she would like to see the church develop more ministries focused on outreach to people with disabilities.

The Rev. Ramelle McCall, a member of the evangelism committee and a deputy from Maryland, suggested churches and dioceses should be looking outward and asking what they can do be a positive presence in the community, from dealing with the opioid epidemic to feeding the hungry.

“It is exhausting work, but it is good work,” said McCall, who is urban missioner for the Diocese of Maryland. One example he cited was a partnership in Maryland between Evangelical Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopalians on a joint ministry called the Slate Project, which is “really working this new kind of community in our cathedral.” He spoke in favor of the church planting resolution and the resources it can provide for new, innovative initiatives like those he is working to support in his diocese.

Church planting “is crock pot work, not microwave work,” the Rev. Michael Michie, staff officer for church planting infrastructure, said at the July 5 hearing Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The chairs also asked the Rev. Michael Michie to add his perspective to the discussion. Michie is the Episcopal Church staff officer for church planting infrastructure and works closely with recipients of church planning and Mission Enterprise Zone grants to ensure they are getting the backing they need. Most of these ministries would not be possible without the financial support they receive from the church, he said, and they don’t succeed overnight.

“This is crock pot work, not microwave work,” Michie told the committees. “To expect these seeds to take root, sprout and bear fruit perfectly within triennial cycles is a little unrealistic and I think the central challenge for the episcopal churches when it comes to starting new ministries… it’s a leadership development question.”

At the same time, Michie said, the lessons learned by church planters can be applied to existing congregations everywhere that are looking for new ways to be church in their communities.

“I think any congregation can think like a church planter,” he said. “Revitalization can happen anywhere.”

The committees also took comments on Resolution A006, which calls for the collection of demographic info about the church leaders behind new evangelism ministries, so that data can be compared with info on the communities they are trying to serve.

There was general support for the goal, of encouraging congregations to think more about representation, though committee members expressed ambivalence about the approach. Could it somehow be used to penalize congregations with low representation scores? Would a homogenous vestry overshadow the greater diversity in a congregation’s ministry leaders?

Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows also suggested the Episcopal Church didn’t need a new analysis tool to learn many of its congregations were out of sync with their communities, and she questioned whether collecting this info would have any effect.

“If we want our congregations to reflect our communities’ demographics, there’s a lot of work to do,” she said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Budget committee hears requests for funding at first of two hearings

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 8:37am

Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance has 27 members plus other General Convention officers and support staff, as well as staff members from the treasurer’s office. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal New Service

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

[Episcopal News Service –Austin, Texas] The Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) held the first of two planned open hearings the evening of July 5 to hear from Episcopalians asking that the committee help fund their ministries.

Nearly 30 witnesses spoke to the committee during the 90-minute hearing at the JW Marriott Hotel two blocks from convention’s home in the Austin Convention Center. Among the topics of concern included funding for church planting and congregational redevelopment, Christian formation programs, the work of a proposed Task Force for Women, Truth, and Reconciliation, bringing the Episcopalians in Cuba back into the Episcopal Church, youth ministry, new resources for sexual misconduct-prevention training, the work of the Archives of the Episcopal Church and sustainability work in the church’s indigenous ministries.

PB&F has already begun work on the draft 2019-2021 triennium budget that Executive Council passed in January.

The total income in council’s draft budget of $133.7 million would pay for an equal amount in expenses, with a very small surplus of just $2,654. The triennial budget is up about $8.7 million from that approved by the 2015 meeting of General Convention for the current 2016-2018 triennium.

The Episcopal Church’s three-year budgets are funded primarily by pledges from the church’s 109 dioceses and three regional areas. Each year’s annual giving in the three-year budget is based on a diocese’s income two years earlier, minus $150,000. For the 2016-18 budget, dioceses were asked to give 18 percent in 2016, 16.5 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2018. Not all dioceses pay the full asking for a variety of reasons.

Diocesan commitments for 2017 and 2018 are here.

At the 2015 meeting of General Convention, bishops and deputies turned the current voluntary asking system into a mandatory assessment, beginning with the 2019-2021 budget cycle. Council’s draft anticipates that some dioceses will get full or partial waivers of those payments under a system that will go into effect in the new triennium.

Without getting a waiver, a diocese that does not pay the full assessment will be unable to get grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the name under which the Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.)

Council’s draft budget is based on a 15 percent mandatory assessment, and it sets money aside for those full or partial waives.

The Rev. Richard Mahaffey, president of the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf, testifies with the help of spoken-word and signing translators. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal New Service

PB&F is being asked to consider Resolution B001 to scrap the mandatory across-the-board assessment and adopt a system of diocesan funding of the church’s triennial budget based on how much each diocese spends on average per congregation in their annual budget. Diocese of Georgia Bishop Scott Benhase, proposer of the resolution, told the committee that it “will actually increase revenue for the church and it will make your jobs much easier… so you can thank me later.”

He compared the current system to a flat income tax, which he said is “regressive” and “not helpful to those on the lower ends.” Benhase said that most economist argue that a “progressive” system such as the one he suggests “is much fairer and it’s more just.”

PB&F plans another open hearing on the budget at 1:15 p.m. July 6. Its final budget must be presented to a joint session of the Houses of Bishops and Deputies no later than the third day before convention’s scheduled adjournment. According to the draft convention schedule, that presentation is set to take place at 10:30 a.m. CDT on July 11.

The bishops and deputies then separately debate and vote on the budget.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

79th General Convention: July 5 sermon by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 12:00am

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry begins his sermon at the opening Eucharist at the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Well good morning Episcopal Church! We are here! We are here! We are here!

I think it was Secretary Barlowe at one of the introductory sessions a few months ago, orientation sessions a few months ago, who said that the theme of the City of Austin was “Keep Austin Weird,” and he said that he had full confidence that we would be able to accomplish that. It is so good, it is so good to be here.

Allow me, if you will, to offer a reflection on the words of Jesus that you just heard from the 15th chapter of John’s gospel, which happened to be at the Last Supper in John’s gospel, at the Last Supper, not long before Jesus would show what love looks like, giving of the self, even sacrificing the self for the good and well-being of others.

At the Last Supper he says, “A new commandment I give you,” not a new option, a new commandment I give you that you love one another. At the Last Supper when he showed them what it looked like by taking a towel and washing the feet of his disciples. At the Last Supper, “as the Father has loved me”, he says, “so have I loved you. Now abide in my love.” When he knew their world would fall apart, when he knew uncertainty and ambiguity was in the air, when he knew that he did not know for sure, or precisely, what lay ahead, and all he could do was trust the Father, and leave it to the Father’s hands through the hands of an empire. And it is then that he said to them what he may be saying to us, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” I don’t know if you heard it, but “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Have you heard it, “I am the vine you are the branches?” Do you hear him whisper, Episcopal branch, of the Jesus Movement? “I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me and I in you, for apart from me,” check this one out, “apart from me you can do nothing. But abide in me and you will bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”

Allow me, if you will, to reflect on that, the Jesus Movement text, by using another text. They told me never do that in seminary, but I have been out of seminary almost 40 years. But there is another story in the Bible in the gospel that actually may illuminate what Jesus was getting at here. I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me as I in you. For those who abide in me bear much fruit prove to be my disciples. How’s that Lord? By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, not that you can recite the baptismal covenant, that’s important – and it is important – not that you know the Nicene Creed by heart, or whichever version with the filioque clause, or without, that’s important, but that’s not it, not that you know the Athanasian Creed at the end of the Prayer Book and those historical documents that only historians actually read. No, how will the world know that you are my disciples? He says that you love one another. Love is the way. Love is the only way. Those who follow in my way follow in the way of unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial love and that kind of love can change the world! That, that kind of love.

But the question is how? How do you do it? Young people – on Wednesday I was with the Youth Presence, they’re probably in here somewhere, I don’t know where – where are y’all? Oh, there they are, all right, there they are! We were talking about this on Wednesday, and somebody said “How do you follow Jesus in the way of love in a world that is profoundly unloving?” How do you do it? This message is for you. So let me talk to them, and I want you to be like Sarah in the Bible, and eavesdrop at the tent.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivers sermon at the opening Eucharist at the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

There’s an old song that may help. It says,

I got my hand on the Gospel plow
Wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on

Got my hands on the Gospel plow
Wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on

Now, I have a feeling there are several passages behind that song, but one of them comes out of the 14th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. And in the 14th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus has sent his disciples, at least some of them, off on a trip on the sea. And he tells them to get in the boat and he says, Y’all go across to the other side. The y’all was the King James Version of that, but that’s what he – that’s what he . . . Y’all go across to the other side. And as they were on the perilous journey, on the Sea of Galilee, in the middle of the night, if you will, a storm erupts, and they’re fearful for their very lives, ‘cause this is in the middle of the night. And this is night with not having ambient light. This is night without artificial light. All they had, whatever lamps they had in that boat, that was it. It was NIGHT. James Weldon Johnson said, “Blacker than a midnight in a cypress swamp.” Night! And they were fearful because they couldn’t even see the wind and the rain and yet they could feel them buffeting them back and forth, buffeting back and forth!

And then, when it was darkest, when it was most uncertain, Peter looked out, and he could see off in the distance, he saw a figure coming toward them. And he kept looking. And he even stood up in the boat while it was rocking. Imagine the others holding on to him. And the figure kept coming closer. And at first he thought maybe this is a hallucination. And then he could make out the face. And it was Jesus. He was walking on the water. And Peter, without even thinking, says, “Lord, if you bid me come to you I’ll come to you!” And Jesus says, “Well come on, brother,” and Peter jumps out of the boat and starts walking on the water, heading toward Jesus, and he actually did it! He just saw him, he said, “Lord!” He kept walking, “Lord! It’s you!” And then, he looked around, and it was a serious “uh-oh” moment. And the text says – Matthew very skillfully weaves the story – says that when Peter looked at the wind and the waves and saw the storm around him and lost focus off of Jesus and focused on the storm, THAT’S when he began to sink!

Oh, my brothers and sisters, I think there’s something there!

Got my hand on the Gospel plow!
Wouldn’t take nothin’ for the journey now
Just keep your eyes on the prize!
Hold on! Hold on!

Keep your eyes on the prize!
Hold on

Oh, I bet that there’s something here. Now I’m not going to be long, I’m going to bring this to a conclusion . . .

But there is some wisdom here, ‘cause in Matthew’s version, I want you to notice that the storm doesn’t stop. This is not a story about Jesus calming the sea. This is about Jesus, the storm rages on. But if you want to know how to walk through a storm – I like Rodgers and Hammerstein, but that’s probably not the best way to do it – you want to know how to walk through the storm? Keep your eyes on the prize! Keep your eyes focused on this Jesus, on his teachings, on his spirit, abide with him, dwell with him, live in him, when you live in him guess what? He’ll start living in you!

That’s what’s going on!

And the amazing thing about this is yes, Peter walks on the water – that really is amazing, I mean, I’m not surprised that Jesus walks on the water, that’s what he’s supposed to do. I mean, he is the Lord, that’s what I would expect the Lord to do – but I am surprised that Peter does it, and if you look at the dynamics of Peter doing it, it’s when Peter – Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I’m coming to a point, don’t worry, don’t worry – when Peter – Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that when he wrote a book called “The Cost of Discipleship”, and he was talking, it’s an exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6, and 7, where Jesus says stuff like “Love your enemies,” and Bonhoeffer says, I think what’s going on there, is that you have Jesus giving these teachings about how to live a life of love. But if you approach them as mechanical, legalistic things, you’ll stumble.

Bonhoeffer says the key is not to turn the teachings of Jesus into a new law. The key is to throw yourself into the arms of God. Throw yourself into the hands of Jesus. And then, you might actually learn to love an enemy. Then you might pray for those who curse you. Then you know what it means to be blessed. The poor. The poor in spirit. The compassionate. Makes them hunger for God’s justice.

To throw yourself into the arms of Jesus.

Got my hand on the Gospel plow!
Wouldn’t take nothin’ for the journey now
Just keep your eyes on the prize!
Hold on! Hold on!

Keep your eyes on that prize!
Hold on

Now, I’m gonna ask you to do something. I’m an Episcopalian all my life, so I know how Episcopalians say no, they just get quiet.

Several months ago, I invited a group of Episcopalians, clergy, laity, bishops, just a kind of a group of folk, and I asked them to come and meet, if they would just come and spend just a little bit of time to help me think and pray through how do we help our church to go deeper as the Jesus Movement, not just in word, but not just in deed, either, but for real. How do we help our folk to throw themselves into the arms of Jesus? How do you help me to do that? ‘Cause I know when we do it, and abide in him, we will bear fruit we never imagined. But I have to admit, Michael Curry didn’t have the answer. Still don’t. Yet, you’re saying, what are you going to say for the rest of the sermon?

And so we sat down, we met in the Atlanta airport, cause that was kinda easy, an easy place to be. We met in the Atlanta airport and we just kinda locked up, said Holy Eucharist, said our prayers, and just locked each other – we didn’t do any wining and dining in Atlanta. We didn’t go to underground Atlanta. We didn’t get any Paschal’s fried chicken, though I wish we had but nonetheless, we didn’t, and we locked up in Atlanta, we just stayed there and just kept engaging, and they kept pushing me and we kept going back and forth, back and forth, and finally we realized something, we didn’t need to come up with a new program for the church. We got programs and there’s nothing wrong, but we don’t need a new program. We don’t need a new program. No. No. We realized that – wait a minute, we don’t have to do anything new!

Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel, “The scribe who is fit for the Kingdom goes into their treasure box and pulls out something old that becomes something new.” And we realized that we already have what we need in the tradition of the church going back centuries. For centuries monastic communities and religious communities and people of faith who have gone deeper in this faith have lived by what they often call a rule of life; a set of spiritual practices that they make a commitment to live in, practices that help them open up the soul, open up the spirit, helped them find their way, a way of throwing yourself into the arms of God. They’ve been doing this for long, you don’t believe me ask St. Benedict. They’ve been doing this a long time and we realized, what would happen, what would happen, if we asked every Episcopalian to adopt what we’re calling a way of love, practices for a Jesus-centered life. What would happen? And we got folk together, some of the monastic communities helped us out, some of the theological scholars helped us out. People who do formation in the church people who know how to do…we have what we need. It’s sitting in this room. It’s in the church. We brought them together and asked, help us. And this is what they came up with. It’s not a program. But did you all get these? Take ‘em out, take ‘em out. This is the old parish priest coming in me. I always gave my congregation some homework and had a handout. Got a handout? Everybody got it? If you found it, say, Amen!

If you can’t, say, Help me Lord. And look on that first one that says, What do we seek? We seek love. Because we all just want to be loved. We were made by the God, whom the Bible says is love. We were made to be loved and to love. We seek freedom. Every child of God was meant to breathe free. We seek abundant life, not bargain basement life, but the real thing. Maybe all that’s summed up by saying we seek Jesus. We seek Jesus. They came up with some words, and there’s all sorts of stuff online for you and should be up, I hope it is up by now, it’s already up, yep they’re nodding, it’s already up, the sources are there. This is coming from people in this church. The treasure was ready here.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivers sermon to an auditorium of deputies, bishops and guests at the opening Eucharist at the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service

It starts, Turn. That’s turn, repentance, that was a nice code word for repentance. We figured we’d scare everybody off if we started off by calling it repentance. But that’s turn. Repentance is not about beating up on yourself, it’s about turning from old ways that don’t work, old habits that don’t, turning and turning, like a flower turning in the direction of the sun. Turn! And then learn. Oh, the Bible’s a good book. I don’t know if it’s the number one best seller on the New York Times list, but it ought to be the number one best seller in the Episcopal Church. I remind all my Baptist friends, we gave you all the King James Version of the Bible. Turn! Learn! Pray! Worship! Bless! O we have been blessed to be to be a blessing. How can you bless this world, how can you bless others? Bless! And then go! Go! Go and make disciples! Go and proclaim good news! Go and be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judaea, in Samaria, in first century Galilee and in twenty-first century Austin! Go! And then rest. Sabbath rest is there in Genesis for a reason. Rest! I want to ask you to think about a commitment. I want to ask not only you, but every Episcopalian to make a commitment to throw yourself into the hands of Jesus. And then live life out of that. And these tools may help you. Now somebody’s wondering, will it work? We’re not far from California, and they field test everything in Silicon Valley. Let the Bishop of El Camino Real, the Bishop of California, see they know what I’m talking about, everything’s got to be tested. And I am glad you asked that question, because I was anticipating it. ‘Cause the truth is, it works. It’s already been field tested. You don’t believe me, read the Psalms of David. In the Psalms of David, the psalmist says, “in the morning, at noonday and at night, I offer my prayers to you.” That is a rule of life. That is a structure of times and places and a way to pray. You don’t believe, you don’t believe the Psalms of David, come to the New Testament. St. Paul, and I know folk have some issues with Paul, but don’t worry about that, my grandma used to say, “St. Paul was like any preacher. He has some good sermons and some not so good sermons. The problem is, they put them all in the Bible.” Oh that’s the problem. Yeah. But let me tell you something, Paul was having a good day in First Corinthians, chapter 9, when he says, he trains himself like an athlete. He trains his spirit like an athlete, like a great musician. He trains himself by practicing. Somebody asked me, how do you live a sacrificial, loving life? Well I guess it’s the same way a first responder does, a firefighter. They’ve practiced. They’ve practiced how to save a life. And when the moment comes, it’s instinct. The spiritual practices are how we practice for when the moment comes, and the Spirit moves through us.

If you still don’t believe me, with this I really am going to sit down, I hope I haven’t thrown the schedule off, the Secretary, he’s way back there, he can’t talk. He can’t stop me. In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, my mama’s people hail from North Carolina. My daddy’s people hail from Alabama. Around, not far from Birmingham in 1963 Birmingham then was not the Birmingham we know, and are thankful to see, today. It’s a different city. In 1963 the sheriff of Birmingham was a man named Bull Connor. I believe he might have been an Episcopalian, but I’m not going to investigate too much. Bull Connor, well, Birmingham was as segregated as segregated could be. Birmingham was seen as one of the most intractable places in the entire south. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference determined that they needed to make a stand in Birmingham in order to transform the south, and eventually the whole country.

And so Dr. King and others went to Birmingham and they went to Alabama. The Alabama we know today is not what Alabama was then. Alabama, Birmingham, 16th Street Baptist Church, my aunt Callie taught Sunday school in that church in 1963. In 1963 four little girls who would have grown up to be my age, were killed in Sunday school when a bomb planted by a Klansman went off in a church. Birmingham in 1963 when young people marched, hoses were, water was sprayed on them from fire hoses and German Shepherd dogs attacked them at the hands of the police. Birmingham, Selma, Edmund Pettus Bridge. Our own Jonathan Daniels gave his life in Alabama. The Alabama today is not what it was yesterday because somebody was willing to love unconditionally, unselfishly, sacrificially. And they were black and white. They were Protestant, Catholic, Jew and Muslim. They were people of God and good will.

As part of their training for non-violent protest, Dr. King composed a set of practices, a kind of rule of life. And here’s part of what it said, “Remember, the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation, not just victory. Remember, always walk and talk in a manner of love, for God is love. Remember, pray daily to be used by God. Remember, sacrifice personal wishes so that all might be free. Remember, observe with friend and foe alike, the ordinary, normal rules of courtesy. Remember, perform services for others and for the world. Remember, refrain from violence of the fist and violence of the spirit. Remember, strive to be in bodily good and spiritual health.” But the first thing on the list that he repeated over and over again, was this, “Before you march, before you protest, before you do anything, meditate on the life and the teachings of Jesus.” My brothers and sisters, I am asking us as the Episcopal Church, no, asking us as individual Episcopalians, asking us as the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement before you begin your day, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. I am asking you to make that commitment. And nobody’s going to know but you and God, but I am asking you to make the commitment. Before you march, and while we’re here at Convention before you get up to speak at that microphone, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. You with me now. Right, right. With me now. Before you go over to the water cooler and start whispering something into somebody’s ear, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus! When we leave this Convention meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. When we come in here to worship, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. When we go out to the Hutto Detention Center, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. When we join with Bishops United Against Gun Violence, meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. Episcopal Church, join me, join me and meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. Throw ourselves into him, and let Jesus take over.

I love this church. I was born and raised in it. Baptized on the eighth day – oh, I don’t know what day it was, but anyway, baptized as an infant according to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Lord have mercy! My swaddlin’ clothes were that Episcopal flag. I love this church, and I love it because I learned about Jesus in and through this church. And I know, and I believe that we in this church can help Christianity to reclaim its soul and re-center its life in the way of love, the way of the cross, which is the way of Jesus.

So God love you. God bless you. And just throw yourself in the arms of Jesus and let those almighty hands and arms of love lift you.

Got my hand on the gospel plow.
Wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.
Just keep your eyes on the prize.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eyes on the prize.
Hold on.

Marriage-equality resolutions get long airing during committee hearing

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 8:48pm

Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The legislative committee charged with considering changes to the Book of Common Prayer heard from supporters and opponents of Resolution A085, which would strengthen the church’s commitment to sacramental marriage equality.

The resolution would require all bishops of the church to make provision for all couples asking to be married to have “reasonable and convenient access” to the two trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples approved by the 2015 meeting of General Convention (via Resolution A054). It would also add those rites to the Book of Common Prayer and amend the prayer book’s other marriage rites, prefaces and sections of the Catechism to make language gender neutral.

Cari Stein, left, PBS To the Contrary executive producer, looks over the witness registration list with committee Legislative Aide Liza Anderson. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

General Convention’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage that has monitored the use of the two new marriage rites was aware of concern about unequal access to the trial-use liturgies. Its Blue Book Report says it found widespread acceptance of the rites across the church. Eight diocesan bishops in the 101 domestic dioceses have not authorized their use.

The task force proposed A085 in part to provide such access. Episcopalians who support that effort were active ahead of convention. Claiming the Blessing, a group which formed in 2002 to advocate for the “full inclusion of all the baptized in all sacraments of the church,” according to its website, has published an advocacy piece. Some Episcopalians in the Diocese of Dallas have developed a website called “Dear General Convention” that includes videos and written stories about people who cannot be married in that diocese.

Some opponents also organized their testimony. Among those testifying against the resolution were a number of members of the Church of St. John the Divine in Houston, many of them young people who said they were raised in the evangelical tradition and appreciated the broadness of the Episcopal Church. However, most said they worried about the resolution’s impact on the rest of Anglican Communion and the larger Christian world for what they called a turning away from traditional teachings and interpretation of Scripture.

Julian Borda, from St. John the Divine, said that the Gospel of John warns there are leaders who hear the word of Jesus and who believe it “but then remain silent because they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Borda said he is called to be a priest in the church and fears that he that he will be required to “deny an unpopular truth” found in the Book of Genesis that says “God has mandated” that there are men and women, and that marriage is a “lifelong commitment between the male and the female.”

Honduras Deputy Norma Coello said she was raised to believe that what the Bible said was the word of God. “I can’t believe that, at this age, I am going to learn that he was wrong,” she said.

Moreover, many who spoke in opposition said they feared that they would lose their place in the Episcopal Church if the resolution passes.

Emily Hodges, a member of St. John the Divine, told the committee that she felt the resolution would take away her freedom in order to grant it to others. “I have to ask: who’s the winner right now?” she said.

Honduras Deputy José Ramon Juarez registers July 5 to testify against Resolution A085. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Five Province IX diocesan bishops and one retired bishop representing the dioceses of Ecuador Litoral, Ecuador Central, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Honduras warned the task force that if convention makes changes about marriage that would force them “to accept social and cultural practices that have no Biblical basis or acceptance in Christian worship,” the action would “greatly deepen the breach, the division and the Ninth Province will have to learn to walk alone.” The bishops of Colombia and Puerto Rico did not sign the statement.

Diocesan of Honduras Bishop Lloyd was scathing in his criticism of the lack of an official translator for the hearing, saying it was symptomatic of the constant feeling he has of being unwelcome in the church.

“If the church continues to change the prayer book and to play with Scripture, it will be a time, probably, for Province IX, who are not welcome, to begin to walk apart,” he said. “It’s not easy to stand before you and utter these words, but what can we do in a church where we are not welcome?”

Other witnesses explained their support for the resolution. The hearing’s first witness, Fred Ellis, from the Diocese of Dallas whose bishop will not authorize the rites, said A085 “gives us the opportunity to have full status.”

The Rev. Casey Shobe, rector of Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, told the committee he wants to be able to offer the sacrament of marriage to all members of his church, regardless of their orientation. Currently, LGBTQI Episcopalians and their straight allies in Dallas “feel the stringing pain of exclusion.”

Allen Murray from Diocese of Oregon told the committee he would not argue theology in the two minutes allotted to each witness. Instead, he told the committee that he and his husband have been together for 10 years and married for five of those years. How, he asked, could the Episcopal Church baptize their 3-year-old daughter “but tell her parents that their relationship is not equal?”

Los Angeles Bishop Jon Taylor said that the Episcopal Church’s stance on marriage equality is a matter of evangelism. Despite the number of young people who testified against A085, he said, most polls show that the majority of young people consider the issue “a settled matter.”

“Let’s simplify our message and let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ ” he said, echoing the biblically based motto of some A085 supporters.

Deputies, bishops and visitors packed a meeting room in the Austin Hilton Hotel the afternoon of July 5 to testify on three marriage-related resolutions. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Ruth Meyers, a California alternate deputy and liturgy professor who has long been active in the church’s marriage-equality work, told the hearing that the church’s constitution allows for partial revisions of the prayer book. She said the changes to the Book of Common Prayer’s wording “makes room for different understandings” of marriage.

She also reminded the members that passage of A085 would be in line with actions by the Anglican provinces of Brazil and Scotland.

The gathering was also a hearing for Resolution B012, which would continue trial use of the marriage rites without a time limit and without seeking a revision of the prayer book. The resolution proposes that access to the liturgies be provided for in all dioceses, without requiring the permission of the diocesan bishop. Instead, congregations that want to use the rites but whose bishops have refused permission may request and will receive Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) from another bishop of the church who would provide access to the liturgies.

“I implore you to help the whole church move forward,” said Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, the resolution’s proposer, adding that he fully supports same-sex marriage.

“Some, including member of this committee, have taken great exception to my proposing B012 particularly in the [context of the] long, arduous and faithful work of the task force, but given that, do not, do not dismiss the opportunity that is before you and the church today and in the days to follow at this General Convention.”

To address the concerns of Province IX, Resolution B012 also calls for a “Task Force on Communion Across Difference,” which would be “tasked with finding a lasting path forward for all Episcopalians in one church, without going back on General Convention’s clear decision to extend marriage to all couples, and its firm commitment to provide access to all couples seeking to be married in this church,” the three bishops’ news release said. The task force would seek a path consistent with the church’s polity and the 2015 “Communion Across Difference” statement of the House of Bishops, prompted by bishops who objected to convention’s actions on marriage.

Seven bishops, five who refuse to authorize the rites and two of the five bishops who signed the Province IX statement, said on June 28 that they will implement Resolution B012 if it is passed.

The legislative committee – officially titled the Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169 – held a second hearing the evening of July 5 to hear from even more Episcopalians.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.

Deputies adopt resolution calling for their president to be paid

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 8:42pm

Deputy Diane Pollard of New York speaks July 5 in favor of the resolution to establish a pay structure for the House of Deputies president. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service –Austin, Texas] The House of Deputies voted July 5 by overwhelming majority in favor of creating a system for paying its president for the work of the office, in recognition of how that work has expanded significantly over the past several decades.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, who currently holds that office, stepped down as chair of the legislative session during discussion of Resolution B014, and after three deputies spoke in favor and one deputy against, Vice President Byron Rushing called a voice vote and announced the resolution had passed. A request for a vote count confirmed the result: 705-120, or 85 percent in favor.

“It has been a long time coming, and I’m sure there are some very special angels looking down on us today as we consider this action,” Diane Pollard, a lay deputy from New York, said before the vote in urging the resolution’s passage. It now goes to the House of Bishops for final approval.

The legislative Churchwide Leadership committee voted unanimously July 4 to recommend Resolution B014 for adoption by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. The resolution would pay the House of Deputies’ president director’s and officer’s fees “for specific services rendered in order to fulfill duties required by the church’s Constitution and Canons.”

The issue of compensating the president has been discussed for decades. General Convention considered the salary issue in 1997, 2000 and 2015. Each time, the deputies were clear that they wanted to see their president compensated.

“We have debated this issue across several General Conventions in the last three decades. This is the way we get this done and appropriately remunerate and compensate the president of the House of Deputies,” said the Very Rev. Steven Thomason, a deputy from Olympia who is a member of the Churchwide Leadership committee.

Deputy David Quittmeyer of Central Gulf Coast also spoke in favor of the resolution.

“I see this as a generous and substantive move forward,” he said. “This resolution recognizes the [president’s] multiple, mandatory corporate and fiduciary roles.”

House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing presides over discussion of Resolution B014 on July 5. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The question of a salary for the House of Deputies president prompted a rare conference committee between bishops and deputies in the waning hours of the last convention. The 2015 meeting of convention eventually agreed to postpone making a decision, instead calling for the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies to appoint a task force to study the issue.

The Task Force to Study Church Leadership and Compensation, called for by the 78th General Convention, concluded in its report to this meeting of convention that the work of the House of Deputies president amounts to a full-time job. Its Resolution A028 calls for a salary but does not set an amount. Pollard chaired the task force.

In addition to chairing the House of Deputies during convention, the president also is canonically required to serve as vice chair of Executive Council and vice president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, or DFMS, the nonprofit corporate entity through which the Episcopal Church owns property and does business. He or she has a wide swath of appointment powers, 800 positions. The president also travels around the church, speaking at conferences and other gatherings, meeting with deputies and other Episcopalians.

The position, which is filled by election during each meeting of convention, has a travel budget and a paid assistant. Each president is limited to three consecutive three-year terms.

Supporters say making the office a paid job in some way would broaden the pool of people able to consider running for election. The task force said that only people who are older and/or have what it called favorable “personal economic circumstances” can realistically hold the office. Thus, presidents are not always chosen based solely on gifts and skills, the members said.

Others disagree with any proposal to pay the deputies president, some saying they fear “mission creep” and those polity implications in the form of an expansion of the president’s duties and authority.

The only deputy to speak against the resolution on the floor of the house on July 5 was Curtis Hamilton of West Missouri. He took issue with assigning fees for service as a director and an officer.

“I believe that if the president of the House of Deputies is to be provided fees for service, all of our directors should be remunerated similarly,” he said.

Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania Sean Rowe, B014’s proposer, told the committee July 4 that the resolution recognizes that the president of the House of Deputies has “extraordinary duties, that it is a matter of justice, that it is a matter of the pool of candidates that could present themselves for such a position [in its current unpaid form] and that it is fair for what the Constitution and Canons require of the position that it be compensated.” He also said the resolution changes nothing about the church’s polity and the role of the House of Deputies president compared to that of the presiding bishop.

Discussion and voting on the resolution by the House of Deputies took about 20 minutes. After its approval was confirmed and the vote count announced, applause broke out on the floor, which drew some objections.

I’m glad the PHOD compensation resolution passed, but we should not applaud legislative action. Ever. #gc79

— Scott Gunn ن (@scottagunn) July 5, 2018

The house parliamentarian was asked about the prudence of such an audible display of approval after a vote, and the parliamentarian confirmed it was frowned upon.

Jennings, now having returned to her seat as chair, said she agreed.

“The House celebrates people but not votes,” she said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Senior editor and reporter Mary Frances Schjonberg contributed to this report.

Book of Occasional Services faces changes

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 7:36pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music heard testimony July 5 on General Convention Resolution A064, which calls for the authorization of the use of the Book of Occasional Services, 2018.  It has been 39 years since the supplement was first published and 15 years since its last revision. These revisions have been underway since the 2012 General Convention A056 called for them.

It was the consensus of the two who testified today that the resolution to move forward with BOS, 2018 should be adopted. The Rev. Jared Cramer, who has studied the revisions extensively in his blog, Care with the Cure, said in his testimony, “There is so much good in the book we need in the Church now.”

Even with all the positive accolades offered for the work done by the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music over the last two trienniums to make revisions, edits, additions, and even deletions to the 2003 edition, BOS, 2018 is still a work in progress.

The committee is submitting three resolutions out of its sub-committee for the revisions to the Book of Occasional Services. The first one recommends that BOS, 2018 be made available as a resource to the Church, allowing for a digital posting of the book for use over the next triennium, with a review by SCLM ready for General Convention in 2021, before going to press with a hardcover book.

Deputy Jack Zamboni of New Jersey added, “it may be the time that the Church no longer needs a [physical] ‘book’ of occasional services, but a digital resource. Not something with a cover.”

The committee is also submitting a resolution to review and revise specific liturgies, and one to create a digital resources manager who would curate liturgical resources for the Church. The second resolution also contains a budget request of $325,000 over the next triennium.

Dean Benjamin Shambaugh, a deputy from Maine, said of the latter submission, “This position shows the need to move the Church forward in its use of digital resources – creation, curation. The Anglican Communion does this very well already.”

– Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer with Episcopal News Service

Proposal to change provincial representation on Executive Council draws questions

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 6:54pm

[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The Governance and Structure  Committee on July 5 struggled with the question of how to ensure that the geographical areas covered by the Episcopal Church’s nine provinces receive adequate representation on Executive Council under a proposed resolution submitted for its consideration.

Resolution A075  proposes to ensure “diverse representation on Executive Council” by including representatives from the provinces but allowing the election of the representatives to be held at the General Convention rather than as part of provincial elections.

“I’m troubled by all elections going through one centralized committee,” said Colorado Deputy Lawrence Hill, a committee member. “I don’t think it’s healthy for the church.” Currently, two representatives to Executive Council are elected by each of the nine provinces.

The resolution was submitted by the Task Force to Study Provinces. The task force was enabled by a resolution to eliminate provinces that was presented at the 78th General Convention. Resolution D011 charged the task force with studying the potential effects of eliminating the provinces and to consider what structures might replace them that would support the ministry and mission of the church.

In its report to the 79th General Convention, the task force said that restructuring how representatives to Executive Council are selected is an effort to refocus the energy of the provinces “on the mission of the church and relax their focus on the polity of the Episcopal Church.”

The Very Rev. Craig Loya, Diocese Nebraska deputy and a member of the committee, said that if representatives are elected at General Convention, “it’s unlikely that anyone from Nebraska would ever be elected. My issue is not who is elected from Province VI but that someone from our neighborhood is elected.”

Several committee members also shared their thoughts about whether the provincial system is even effective anymore.  “Is the current provincial system viable?” asked North Carolina Deputy Joseph Farrell. “If we don’t agree on the concept, I don’t see how we can move forward.”

Earlier in the day, the Governance and Structure Committee held a joint hearing with the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality Committee, which is considering additional resolutions submitted by the Task Force to Study Provinces. The joint hearing was scheduled to allow members of both committees to hear comments on overlapping issues.

During a general discussion, members of both committees grappled with a series of proposed resolutions relating to provinces, including their purpose, representation and funding.

The Governance and Structure committee made no immediate decision on whether to approve those resolutions before it, including Resolution A075. Sub-committees were formed to review the resolutions in more detail and report back to the entire committee on its recommendations.

Other proposals included Resolution A076, which would remove representatives from each province from the process of selecting a location for General Conventions because “approving the site of General Convention does not seem to relate to the mission of the church.”

Resolution A072  asks dioceses over the 2019-21 triennium to “review, consider and align with whichever province best serves their identify and needs.”

In its report, the task force concluded that key advantages to the province system are that they foster collaboration throughout the church, facilitate the preparation of deputies for the General Convention and enable small ministries to find individuals and resources to carry out their mission.  “To remove this structure would jeopardize these advantages,” the task force reported.

The task force said that “the pattern of having some type of structure connecting the diocesan level with the church is important. Rather than invent something new, the recommendation is to look at what already exists and maximize what is working, as well as shifting what may not be working in each of the provinces.”

It also suggested a shift in emphasis from provinces helping to maintain the structure of the church.  “The energy in the system needs to support the mission of the church, not be used in maintaining the structure,” the task force said. “The task force sought to focus the work of the provinces on supporting the mission of the church rather than on maintain parts of the system focused only on the organization of the system itself.”

This shift in emphasis led to the proposed resolution to amend how provincial representatives are elected to Executive Council.

— Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.