[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Feb. 27 took a stand against gun violence and gun trafficking, and called on Episcopalians to “repent of our own roles in the glorification and trivialization of violence.”
The resolution “really bubbled up from the grassroots,” Byron Rushing, vice president of the House of Deputies, said during a press conference in the middle of the last day of council’s Feb. 25-27 meeting at the at the Maritime Institute Conference Center here.
The resolution expresses “profound sorrow at the epidemic of gun violence” and urges Episcopalians to work toward “comprehensive social responses that seek to stem the cycles of violence that fuel gun crime.” It affirms a number of previous General Convention resolutions, including Resolution 2000-D004 that spoke about the church’s “deep concern about the repeated use of easily available hand guns and assault weapons by and against children,” and called for Episcopalians to seek ways to develop community strategies and create sanctuaries for children, “so that all may come to identify and value themselves and others as the precious children of God that they are, and that they may come to know peace in their lives and to create peace for future generations.”
Council also reaffirmed General Convention Resolution 1991-D088 calling the church to advocate for “public policy and adequate funding to provide comprehensive community-based services, hospital care and research into the causes and treatment of mental illness.” Council’s resolution says mental-health services should be available and accessible “without stigma in a variety of settings,” and should be available to “those who have suffered trauma from exposure to violence or violent environments.”
General Convention Resolution 1997-C035 is also noted for its call for restrictions on sale, ownership and use of firearms, particularly those that are easily concealable, and enactment of tighter restrictions on concealed weapons. Council also reaffirmed Resolution 2000-B007, which acknowledged that violence is encouraged and enabled by the presence of guns and called for Episcopalians to advocate for the removal of handguns and assault weapons from homes, communities and vehicles.
Council’s resolution urges elected officials to make gun trafficking a federal crime and empower law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers and their entire criminal networks.”
Finally, the resolution urges Episcopalians to “examine our own cultural attitudes toward violence through efforts in congregations and communities [and] to repent of our own roles in the glorification and trivialization of violence, and to commit ourselves to another way.”
The Rev. Stan Runnels, council member from West Missouri who voted for the resolution, said before the vote that the statement was “in some ways safely benign.” He asked council’s Advocacy and Networking committee for future resolutions that would be “more specific, more direct, pointed” to address the issues “that are most germane to gun violence,” such as proliferation of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and mass large quantities of ammunition
“Right now in this country ducks are safer than human beings,” he said, because a duck hunter is only allowed to have five shells in his shotgun
In other action Feb. 27, council also:
* agreed to an approach to formulating a proposed 2016-2018 triennial budget. The approach is based on the consideration that the budget is a “financial statement of mission,” Finances for Mission committee member the Rev. Susan Snook said. The church’s committees, commissions, agencies and boards (CCABs) would be consulted to help flesh out budget vision and priorities.
The plan also calls for an early decision on the formula used to determine how much money dioceses would be asked to contribute to the funding of the budget, and to work with the House of Bishops in an effort to increase diocesan commitment to that asking.
A draft version of council’s budget would be released to the church in October 2014 so that church members can comment and their feedback can be considered before the budget proposal is completed in February 2015.
The budget approach suggests that FFM and the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F), which receives Executive Council’s proposed budget, ought to meet together at least once during this process. PB&F considers council’s proposed budget as it prepares a triennial budget to present to convention.
The FFM committee agreed in October 2012 that the budget process needed to be changed, even though a special task force on the structure of the church no doubt would discuss budgeting issues. That task force met for the first time earlier this month. It is due to report to the wider church in November 2014 and to bring its recommendations to the 2015 meeting of General Convention in Salt Lake City.
However, Executive Council’s process of developing a proposed 2016-2018 budget must run concurrently with that group’s work because General Convention Joint Rule II.10.c.ii says the council must give its proposed budget to PB&F no less than four months before the start of General Convention.
Council members took a first step in their new process Feb. 27 when they agreed to base the 2016-2018 on a framework of the Anglican Communion Five Marks of Mission. The budget would also be made available in a format that identifies corporate, canonical and program expenses.
* heard comments from most of it committees about the need to continue the effort to help the Episcopal Church become an anti-racist church. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president and vice chair of council, noted during the press conference that council members routinely participate in anti-racism exercises. Rushing said “people are not trying to figure out what are the next best steps in doing that work, but certainly this remains a priority of the Episcopal Church.”
* disbanded its Archives Strategy Committee, Jubilee Advisory Committee and Committee on Strategic Planning, and disbanded the Committee on HIV/AIDS, with any remaining work being transferred to the Standing Commission on Health. It also renewed its committees on Corporate Social Responsibility; Indigenous Ministries; the Status of Women; Science, Technology and Faith; and the Economic Justice Loan Committee. The duration of council committees expire at the second General Convention following their creation, unless otherwise specified by council, according to its bylaws (Article VIII.2.d).
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.