[Episcopal News Service – Indianapolis] The House of Bishops on July 10 approved a move away from, but did not authorize the sale of, the Episcopal Church Center headquarters.
Bishops voted 74-71 in favor of Resolution D016 after striking the last paragraph, “General Convention directs the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to sell the Church Building at 815 Second Avenue, New York City.”
Deputies had approved the church center sale July 6. Since bishops amended the resolution, which came through the legislative committee on structure, the measure now returns to deputies for another consideration.
Several bishops objected.
“It is fiscally irresponsible to demand immediate sell of a building without knowing where you’re going, knowing if the economic climate is right,” said Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce of Los Angeles.
Bishop Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church, also opposed the measure. He said a study is underway to help determine answers to two issues: what to do with the strategic and missional location of the church center and what to do with a real estate asset in Manhattan that is owned by the Episcopal Church.
He said Executive Council has been kept informed as the study has progressed and anticipates presenting its final results in October of this year.
Bishop Mark Sisk of New York offered the amendment, saying he is “convinced there are ways to make a property like that – it’s extremely valuable – make it an income-earning asset. At the very least there could hardly be a worse time to enter the real estate market in the sales end than this time. This resolution would not prohibit the sale, it simply wouldn’t direct it and would allow leadership to consider the alternatives, of which there are many.”
Bishop S. Johnson Howard said the structure committee, which he chaired, supported the resolution “to provoke just the sort of conversation we’re having now, with the feeling that in the church at large there is a will to leave that building in New York and to get out from under some of the debt it evidently carries and to have some of the income from the sale.
“You will notice there is no time period set on the sale. It could be a matter of years before it happens.”
Bishops also saluted both outgoing President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson and President-elect the Rev. Gay Jennings with sustained applause and standing ovations. The house passed a courtesy resolution expressing “thanks and praise to God” for Anderson’s service and leadership.
Anderson thanked bishops for their hospitality, commitment and service. “Our relationships are critical,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to continue to talk with each other and solve problems. Many of you served so long and so diligently in the standing commissions and I had the pleasure of working with you and the work you did is just so great.”
Jennings said she looks forward to the next triennium. “If there’s anything I or the House of Deputies can do to be of assistance to you, we’re ready.”
In other convention business, bishops also considered several resolutions involving the relationships of bishops with dioceses. Among those was a substitute for Resolution B021, which would create a process for the office of the presiding bishop and the House of Bishops to help reconcile disagreements affecting pastoral relationships between a bishop and a diocese, including mediation, reconciliation and even removal of that bishop from office. The bishops requested discussions be continued in private.
They approved Resolution D001, which would allow a suffragan bishop to serve also as a rector of a congregation, but rejected Resolution D085 which provided that a bishop could leave a diocese before he or she reached the recommended commitment of at least five years service and be elected in another diocese if the pastoral relationship isn’t working.
“It seems an unlikely way to solve a bad pastoral relationship, to hope that they (a bishop) will be elected in an other diocese,” California Bishop Marc Andrus said. “I would also raise the question of the financial burden it would place on the diocese in which that person is currently serving. We have seen departures after one or two years in the House of Bishops and the cost it imposes on the diocese.”
Bishops also approved an amended resolution directing the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations to initiate dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Mormon Church “for the interreligious purposes of friendship, goodwill, mutual understanding” and in anticipation of the 78th General Convention to be held in Salt Lake City in 2015.
A courtesy resolution (D030) honoring the life and service of Pam Chinnis, the first woman president of the House of Deputies, was approved and applauded by bishops.
– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.