A message from the Episcopal Church Executive Council

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church issued the following message at the conclusion of its three-day meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah (Diocese of Utah). The full text follows.

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A Message from Executive Council
April 20, 2012
Salt Lake City, Utah

The Lord is Risen! Alleluia!

The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

In this joyous Easter season, Executive Council came together in Salt Lake City for its final meeting of this Triennium.

It has been a time of reflection on what we have done, and what we have left undone. It has been a time to ask whether we have loved our neighbors – Council members and Church Center staff; bishops, clergy and laity of The Episcopal Church; our sisters and brothers of the Anglican Communion; sisters and brothers who chose to leave The Episcopal Church; the poor, the needy and the oppressed – as ourselves.

Have we had enough strength and courage for this work, or have we at times shrunk from the need to stand up and say things that are not only hard to say, but hard to hear? Have we cherished collegiality more than accountability? Have we used our structure to empower one part of the church while disempowering another? Have we been able to overcome fear of the unknown as we face the challenges of being church in a post-Christian world?

The presiding bishop spoke of this in her opening remarks: “We will be more faithful, and far more effective, in that discernment work if we can let go of suspicion, assumptions about others’ motives, and power politics – all of which are based in fear and scarcity. We do know that perfect love casts out fear, and when we can remember how deeply and completely love dwells within us, the fear does begin to recede.”

President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson said, “I want us to change. But I want us to do it responsibly, with a conceptual framework that will keep us from the unintended consequences that come from reactive decision-making. I want us to keep the decision making in the hands of all the baptized and not an elite few. ”

Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls said in his opening remarks, “The conversation I long to have with you as the elected leadership of the Episcopal Church is not about the panic of our declining numbers but about how we strengthen what is working best out there and make what is strong stronger so that the strong can serve the less than strong. The conversation I long to have with you is not about how to get more people in the doors to help us pay the bills but about how to make more disciples of Jesus to go about changing the world into God’s dream for it.”

The opening plenary session began with a frank discussion of Council’s extreme disappointment with the budget that was sent to PB&F. Council members were very clear that their disappointment was not simply a reluctance to let go of the budget but instead a very clear statement that the budget sent to PB&F is not the budget Council approved. Rather than spend time assigning blame, Council members moved fairly quickly to a discussion of how to rectify the situation within the confines of the canons. On Friday, Council passed a memo outlining their concerns to PB&F.

The plenary discussion strengthened our realization that while we attempted to save money by having shorter Council meetings, the amount of work remained the same or expanded. The result has been longer days with tired and stressed Council members and staff, resulting in a greater chance of errors occurring.

Having said that, we want to remind the Church that our work in this triennium involved much more than just the budget. Much of it is not as visible as the budget, but is structurally important, just as a lattice is often hard to see but is vital in supporting the vine as it grows toward the Light. This last meeting seemed an appropriate time to highlight the scope of our work.

The Committee on Local Mission and Ministry (LMM) was made up completely of new members of Council. This meant their initial task was discovering and developing the scope of their work. They decided that in addition to simply approving the continued funding of Jubilee Centers they would uphold and celebrate the work done by the various centers. At this meeting they celebrated the work of All Saints Cathedral on St. Thomas, whose work with elderly includes home visits, pastoral care, and work with grandchildren in after school care. LMM also spent a lot of time on multi-cultural issues with a particular focus on encouraging the whole church to engage in anti-racism work. This work calls the Church to continue, individually and corporately, to recognize, name and confront racism in all its guises.

In this meeting, Council’s anti-racism committee worked with members to focus on systemic racism. In our table discussions members recounted instances where they became aware of how racism permeates the world in which we live, move and have our being – most of us in positions of great privilege that insulate us from much of the destructive results of this sin and thus puts us in danger of being blind to its effect on those less privileged.

The report of the Committee on Advocacy and Networking around their work on issues of immigration led the Council into a heated and passionate discussion of how we tease out the differences between anti-racism training and diversity and inclusion training. Immigration includes more than issues of racism. How do we make space for people who come from other countries in our church? How do we broaden our conversation to address these issues without in any way lessening our commitment to the peculiar and dire necessity for anti-racism work in this church and in these United States? It is clear this will be an ongoing conversation in Council.

A and N [Committee on Advocacy and Networking], working in collaboration with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, has moved resolutions on Immigration Reform, Racial Profiling, and Corporate Social Responsibility. These resolutions empower local, regional, national and international advocacy on behalf of the disenfranchised and empower OGR to lobby on behalf of our shared values as Episcopalians in a conflicted, partisan environment on Capitol Hill. For example, one simple resolution on the moral dimensions of balanced budgets gave The Episcopal Church the ability to participate in a dominant national debate in a creative, visible, and influential way that would not have been possible absent the resolution.

The Joint Standing Committee on World Mission addressed many major areas of concern. It worked with the D020 Task Force that developed a process that allowed for the involvement of the church in responding to the proposed Anglican Covenant through the preparation of a study guide. Collated responses from church leadership at all levels informed the report, which is in the forthcoming Blue Book. The committee engaged in an on-going review of the funding source and distribution of funds for CETALC (Theological Educational Center of Latin America and the Caribbean). It followed the formation of a seminary for Latin America and the Caribbean, heard from missioners, especially the Young Adult Service Corps, and discussed ways of supporting future missionary efforts. After the successful Mutual Regional Ministry Conference in February 2010 that involved all the provinces of the Americas, the committee discussed plans for a future conference. The committee continued to evaluate the covenants the Episcopal Church has with our covenant partners in Mexico, Central America, Brazil, the Philippines and Liberia. Finally, the committee also received regular reports from Episcopal Relief and Development and worked with the “Rebuild Our Church in Haiti” campaign.

The Joint Standing Committee on Finance for Mission dealt with many issues beyond the budget. They continued consulting on funding for the Archives and tracked mission funding as well as the larger financial picture of the Church, including modifications of the budget on an annual basis and financial trends five to twenty years out. They also have examined the highest and best use of the Church Center property and reviewed the status of fundraising for Haiti.

In the absence of committee chair Del Glover, acting chair Tim Anderson asked COO Sauls to share with the entire Council his report on the proposed effort to create an Episcopal Church Cooperative. This involves providing high-quality professional service to dioceses, congregations and other Episcopal institutions at a lower cost than would be available to these individual institutions by making use of economies of scale and group purchasing power. This would leave additional funds for mission and ministry at the local level, thereby furthering the overall mission of the Church.

The Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration for Mission (GAM) was formed at the beginning of this triennium and quickly realized there was ample work to accomplish, which included a comprehensive review and revision of the By-laws of the Executive Council of the General Convention and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society; the creation of Rules of Order for the Executive Council; a revision of the Whistleblower Policy for the staff; a call for the GAM-009 Consultation on Church Structure held in May 2011; and the initiation of board development training for members of Council. At this meeting, the Council adopted a new DFMS Employee Handbook, human resources policies, and Policies for the Protection of Children & Youth from Abuse. The adoption of the Employee Handbook and policies represents an enormous amount of work on the part of the Executive Council and staff members John E. Colón, Paul Nix, and Bishop Stacy Sauls. John Colón, Director of Human Resource Management, was especially commended for his significant contribution and tireless devotion to the completion of this important project.

Wednesday night the Class of 2015 said farewell to the Class of 2012 with a lighthearted roast that revealed hitherto unknown talents of some of our members. The Class of 2012 was treated to an “EC Cruise” led by “Captain Gregory Straub,” who was played by a Council member who will remain unnamed to protect him from being besieged by talent scouts.

On Thursday Council heard reports from the Rt. Rev. James Cowan, bishop of British Columbia and liaison to Council from the Anglican Church of Canada, and from Lelanda Lee, elected representative from Council to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Bishop Cowan reminded us of the need to listen respectfully and deeply to one another and to “the many.”

He asked, “Where are the voices of prophecy in your midst? Personally, I as a bishop, need to remember that prophets are annoying as I seek to maintain an institution, but are necessary to reforming the institution.”

He also said he wants to take home with him the Council’s process of anti-racism training.

Lelanda Lee reported on attending a meeting last week, where for the first time, three other ELCA Full Communion Partners also were present from the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Southern Province of the Moravian Church. Lee noted that unlike the other ecumenical partners, she is the only layperson among them, a reflection of the Episcopal Church’s commitment to the ministry of the laity. Her point in sharing specific information from the ELCA meeting and these other churches was to highlight the fact that our churches share many concerns and trends in common.

Council also heard a comprehensive report from Elizabeth Lowell about work being done around creating a Development Office for The Episcopal Church. Major challenges include the time to do appropriate cultivation of possible donors; finding people who can ask for those major gifts, and obtaining most effective development software.

As that plenary session ended, in a moment of personal privilege one Council member mused — given current data on the number of people with no church affiliation — on what would happen if we all committed to spending as much time and money developing evangelism and stewardship skills as we do fundraising skills.

As always, we ended around the Lord’s Table, gathering not just for solace but also for strength, not just for pardon but also for renewal.

Council passed resolutions on the following topics:

  • Declares Council’s support for Senate Bill 1670, End Racial Profiling Act of 2011, which is designed to enforce the constitutional right to equal protection of the laws by eliminating racial profiling through changing the policies and procedures underlying the practice, and stands in solidarity with the suffering of the victims of the harm caused by racial profiling, their families and their communities.
  • Urges the Congress to adopt Senate Bill 1925 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes new protective measures for Native American women.
  • States Council’s support of the work being done by Children’s Defense Fund’s “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” campaign and similar campaigns directed at breaking the cycle of disproportionate incarceration of children and youth of color targeted by Zero Tolerance rules.
  • Reaffirms the importance of ongoing Anti-Racism Training for the church, and commits Council to participate in Anti-Racism Training at its regularly scheduled meetings on a periodic basis.
  • Reaffirms the commitment of the church to the Rebuild Our Church in Haiti campaign, thanking the Episcopal Church Foundation for its early leadership in administering the campaign, which will now be part of the development effort of the DFMS staff.
  • Recognizes a new companion diocese relationship between the Dioceses of Southeast Florida and Haiti.
  • Reaffirms the Executive Council Committee on Indigenous Ministries, restating its mandate and committee composition.
  • Reauthorizes the continuing Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Economic Justice Loan Committee.
  •  Adopted some cleanup amendments to Council’s bylaws.
  • Adopted a new Employee Handbook resulting from more than two years of intensive work on the part of the present Joint Standing Committee on Governance and Administration and the former Administration and Finance Committee.
  •  Addresses the need to plan for partnership conversations with Province IX, IARCA, and Mexico, so that such conversations might serve as model for other partnerships.

Comments

  1. John-Albert Dickert says:

    It seems as if to many of our people are getting bogged down in finances. So much so they can’t put a budget together that reflects the simplicity and generosity which Christ wants from us. I hope we are not spreading ourselves so thin that we lose the Christian charisms of feeding the poor, providing for widows, orphans, the elderly and infirmed while sharing what we have left- over with our neighbors outside of our relgion.

    No where in our scriptures did Jesus say we should build churches or buildings, actually I believe that by his example and teachings it was just the opposite. I imagine he is more than annoyed at our obsession for externals, when it is quite clear to me it is the internal, the heart of the believer that matters the most. Yet where I live there is not one Episcopal Church that has a daily Eucharist. Not one. Not even our cathedral.

    I find myself closer to G-d now than ever before in my life, and that is not the result of a budget line, or project and I assure you not in the polity of our church. Quite simply put I found Jesus in the Eucharist. It is from there I am able to love those who are different than I am, it is from there I am able to confront the greed which grows from day to day with a giving heart. It is from there I am able to forgive the hypocrite, lier and cheat. And it is from there that I find forgiveness for myself and my own short commings.

    I find it sad and even dangerous to allude to accountabilty as “pointing the finger” or place blame at those who did not do what they should have done in the first place. And then to say a bad budget cannot be fixed because of cannon law to me is obsurd. I don’t get it. And I think we should hold our leadership accountable for not doing what should have been done, not as a way to embarrass or punish, but as a way to educate and improve that which is to be improved upon.

    I say we pray more and love more and the people that you are so afraid of leaving might just stick around to see the new people that will be drawn to us as a people of prayer and love.

    So for what it is worth, see you at the altar.

    John-Albert Dickert
    Christ Church Cathedral-Cincinnati,Ohio

    • Joh W Ward says:

      A Presbyterian triple AMEN to you John-Albert

      Conversion, Conversion, Conversion – It’s Conversion stupid.

      We Episcopalians are Eucharistically starved by unconverted professional priests and bishops who operate the church-nine to five-like a secular company – always locked up – instead of offering daily Mass in open churches inviting prayer and adoration. I, like you, have been converted by The Living Christ in His Body and Blood. We are desperately in need of clergy called by the Holy Spirit to Vocational Ministry. There are exceptions that “prove the rule” and I thank the Lord Christ for you. Converted clergy and Eucharistically centered congregations in an evil world might just fill our churches and witness to the world in Jesus’ name. After all, is not that our primary job as Christians-Episcopallians?

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