General Convention wrap-up: Historic actions, structural changes

First black presiding bishop, marriage equality approved, church governance revamped

[Episcopal News Service] The 78th General Convention, in a series of historic moments, elected the first African-American presiding bishop; approved marriage equality for all Episcopalians; adopted a budget that emphasizes racial reconciliation and evangelism; endorsed the study of fossil fuel divestment; opposed divestment in Israel, Palestine; and made some significant changes to the church’s governance.

North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry elected presiding bishop
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention made history June 27 when it chose Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry to be its 27th presiding bishop.

The House of Bishops elected Curry, 62, from a slate of four nominees on the first ballot. He received 121 votes of a total 174 cast. Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop Dabney Smith received 21, Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, 19, and Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, 13. The number of votes needed for election was 89.

Curry’s election was confirmed an hour later by the House of Deputies, as outlined in the church’s canons, by a vote of 800 to 12.

Full story.

Marriage equality
In the wake of the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage for all Americans, General Convention followed suit on July 1 with canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality for Episcopalians.

The House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops’ approval the day before of a canonical change eliminating language defining marriage as between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and authorizing two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Resolution A054).

Full story.

Budget emphasizes racial reconciliation, evangelism
The General Convention adopted the 2016-2018 triennial budget July 2 after agreeing to add $2.8 million for evangelism work.

While the addition passed with relatively little debate in the House of Deputies, it faced some opposition in the House of Bishops.

The 2016-2018 triennial budget is based on $125,083,185 in revenue, compared to the forecasted $118,243,102 for the triennium that ends Dec. 31 of this year. The expenses are projected to be $125,057,351. The budget comes in with a negligible surplus of $25,834. Its revenue projection is based in part on asking the church’s dioceses and regional mission areas to give 18 percent of their income to fund the 2016 budget, 16.5 percent for the 2017 budget and 15 percent in 2018.

The version of the budget presented July 1 by the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) also included a major new $2 million initiative on racial justice and reconciliation, even as it reduces the amount of money it asks dioceses to contribute to 15 percent by 2018.

Full story.

Mandatory assessment
General Convention made mandatory the current voluntary diocesan budgetary asking system for the 2019-2021 budget cycle and imposed penalties for noncompliance.

The mandatory assessment will not apply to the upcoming 2016-2018 triennial budget, but becomes effective Jan. 1, 2019. 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 unless the Executive Council (http://www.generalconvention.org/ec) specifically approves disbursing the money.

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

The resolution allows the council to begin granting waivers to dioceses that do not pay, based on financial hardship, beginning Jan. 1, 2016. Council agreed in January to create a so-called Diocesan Assessment Review Committee to work with dioceses that do not to meet the full churchwide asking.

The resolution also agrees to study the issue of whether the House of Deputies president ought to receive a salary.

Full story.

Divest from fossil fuels, reinvest in renewables
General Convention passed two resolutions aimed at environmentally responsible investing and creating a climate change advisory committee.

Resolution C045 calls upon the Investment Committee of Executive Council, the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund and the Episcopal Church Foundation “to divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in clean renewable energy in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Resolution A030 calls for the creation of a climate change advisory committee with one representative from each of The Episcopal Church’s nine provinces. The resolution also calls on each province to create a Regional Consultative Group composed “of no fewer than five experts in areas of environmental sustainability appropriate to the demographic, ecological, cultural and geographic specifics of each region.”

Read more here.

Agrees to major structural changes
The General Convention approved two resolutions making major changes to the structure of The Episcopal Church.

Substitute Resolution A004 slightly expands Executive Council’s appointment power concerning three members of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s executive staff, including the chief operating officer, chief financial officer and chief legal officer (a position created in the resolution).

Substitute Resolution A006 reduces the number of the church’s standing commissions from 14 to two. The two would be the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons, and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. The presiding bishop and House of Deputies president would appoint study committees and task forces to complete the work called for by a meeting of General Convention, with council’s approval. All of those bodies would expire at the start of the next General Convention unless they are renewed.

Full story here. 

Oppose divestment in Israel, Palestine
The House of Bishops sent a strong and clear message July 2 that divestment from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel is not in the best interests of The Episcopal Church, its partners in the Holy Land, interreligious relations, and the lives of Palestinians on the ground.

The bishops rejected Substitute Resolution D016, which would have called on the Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to develop a list of U.S. and foreign corporations that provide goods and services that support the infrastructure of Israel’s occupation “to monitor its investments and apply its CSR policy to any possible future investments” in such companies.

General Convention passed two resolutions on peacemaking. Substitute Resolution B013, proposed by Bishop Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island, “reaffirms the vocation of the Church as an agent of reconciliation and restorative justice,” and recognizes that “meaningful reconciliation can help to engender sustainable, long-lasting peace and that such reconciliation must incorporate both political action and locally driven grassroots efforts.”

Resolution C018 expresses solidarity with and support for Christians in Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories; affirms the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in healing, education, and pastoral care; and affirms the work of Christians engaged in relationship building, interfaith dialogue, nonviolence training, and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians. The resolution also urges Episcopalians to demonstrate their solidarity by making pilgrimage to the Holy Land and learning from fellow Christians in the region.

Full story.

Plans to be created for prayer book, hymnal revision
General Convention 2015 took a step toward revising the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal 1982, directing the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to prepare plans for revising each and to present them to the next convention in Austin, Texas, in 2018.

Among other liturgical issues, the convention directs bishops to find ways for congregations without clergy to receive Communion, but the House of Bishops defeated proposals to allow unbaptized people to receive Holy Communion or to study the issue.

The convention approved making available a revised version of “Holy Women,Holy Men” with additional saints’ commemorations but left “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” as the church authorized supplemental calendar of commemorations (see article here).

The revised “Holy Women, Holy Men,” is called “A Great Cloud of Witnesses.”

Full story.

Convention takes a first step, admits: ‘Alcohol affects us all’

General Convention passed three resolutions on the issue of alcohol and drug abuse.

Resolution D014 recommends that ordinands should be questioned at the very beginning of the discernment process about addiction and substance use in their lives and family systems.

The bishops also passed Resolution A159, which acknowledges the church’s role in the culture of alcohol and drug abuse.

Resolution A158, to create a task force to review and revise policy on substance abuse, addiction and recovery, passed with one amendment.

Full story.

Closer relations with Cuba
The U.S.-based Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church of Cuba took a step toward closer relations during the 78th General Convention, meeting here June 25-July 3. Convention also passed a resolution calling for the U.S. government to lift its economic embargo against Cuba.

Full story.

Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry sat for a video interview
In an 18-minute interview with the Episcopal News Service, Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry speaks about his priorities for leadership and administration, the role of the church in engaging God’s mission in the world, the state of race relations in the U.S., the importance of Anglican Communion partnerships, and his commitment to what he calls the Jesus Movement, to go out into the world “to bear witness to the good news of Jesus.”

Full video.

Bishops led a march against gun violence
About 1,500 General Convention participants joined a Bishops United Against Gun Violence procession in Salt Lake City the morning of June 28.

 The prayerful procession walked the half-mile from the Salt Palace Convention Center to Pioneer Park while marchers sang hymns and prayed. Members of Utah anti-gun violence groups and civil rights organizations joined in.

Full video.

Greater solidarity for persecuted Christians
Advocacy for Christians facing persecution and living in the context of civil war are the subject of several resolutions passed by the Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention, meeting here June 25-July 3.

Convention agrees that Christians in Pakistan, Syria, Liberia, South Sudan and Sudan are among those for whom the church needs to step up its support and solidarity as many of them live in fear of death, starvation, and displacement in their war-ravaged or extremist-influenced countries.

Full story.

 

Comments

  1. Joe barker says:

    We are most conflicted now with the church we love – it seems that the Convention almost desires to re-write the Bible as it pertains to Holy Matrimony. We have many gay and lesbian friends whom we love, cherish and welcome to our faith, however to give the same level of Sacrament to a gay wedding as one between a man and a woman is simply something we cannot accept. We will give prayerful thought to how we proceed, but this is clearly not the same Episcopal Church in which we took our marriage vows 42 years ago. I know the church must evolve to grow and I thought the blessing for gay couples was adequate. I fear this radical change will force us to look for another church home that holds Holy Matrimony they same as we believe and that our church once believed

    • Joseph F Foster says:

      I wish you Mr. Barker a serene resolution to that conflict. I myself excommunicated the Episcopal Church quite some years ago but now see no hope of any restoration of that. I am going into the Eastern Orthodox Church.

      • Thomas Coates says:

        And yet, marriage equality in The Episcopal Church will mean I will leave The UMC and come to The Episcopal Church… God certainly is mysterious.

    • Cate Wetherald says:

      Ironically, some will leave, some will return, and some will turn to Christ for the first time because of one or more issue. ‘Twas ever so.

      There’s no malice… We each do what we must to be at peace with our conscience.

    • Charles W. Daily says:

      Joe,
      You are correct that there is a desire to re-write the interpretation of what is meant by Holy Matrimony. It is being advanced, despite the Holy Scriptures, Tradition and Reason that has guided the Anglican Communion. It has led many to abandon the Episcopal Church in search for the Christian Faith. Reimaging the Episcopal Church may or may not lead to a better understanding, but, it may lead to extermination. I hope that there will be few of us who cherish the church and will revive the past understanding of what marriage is and will always be held appropriate as a god defined marriage between two persons…man and a woman.

  2. Jenny Crumley says:

    I share Mr. Barker’s sentiments. I’m so sorry our church has evolved in this way. I am deeply concerned as to how to proceed in my faith walk. I shall give it prayerful consideration but will most likely be leaving the church that I’ve loved so well for 35 yrs.

  3. Jon Moore Stafford says:

    All very positive outcomes, love to see my Church moving in the right direction!

  4. James Michie says:

    ENS, you write about the “defeat” of three resolutions calling for the Episcopal Church to advocate boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) as though it were some landmark even. Lest we forget, the fate of those three resolutions were decided by the church hierarchy, outgoing Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and the House of Bishops (Episcopal version of the “College of Cardinals”), and, therefore, never reached the House of Deputies (the rank and file lay membership and clergy) for discussion and debate. It was a fait accompli. Consequently, the State of Palestine, including Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, will continue to suffer and endure Zionist Israel’s 48-year-long (and counting) brutal apartheid, genocidal, ethnic cleansing forced military occupation until 2018, when the Episcopal Church holds its next triennial General Convention. The two commentaries (see links below) explain in detail the dire human consequences of the House of Bishops’ “strong and clear message” that divestment “is not in the best interests of the Episcopal Church”:
    Episcopal Church rejects BDS resolutions citing fears divestment would hamper church in Jerusalem
    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/episcopal-resolutions-divestment

    Bishops: Divestment Not in our “Best Interests”
    http://wallwritings.me/2015/07/03/bishops-divestment-not-in-our-best-interests/

  5. Louis Stanley Schoen says:

    A fresh re-examination of scripture may also be in order, with careful attention to the historical/cultural context of the various texts influencing your choices.

  6. Edmund G. Lowrie, MD says:

    “Bishops led a march against gun violence”
    They marched but how did they vote on the resolutions? Why didn’t the tell us?

  7. Wayne Helmly says:

    Mr. Barker, I am sorry that you feel conflicted about The Episcopal Church. I know the pain of being a minority, of feeling unaccepted and unacceptable by my Church. It is terrible, and I will pray that you never feel what many of us have felt. Scripture has been misappropriated to justify many atrocities, including slavery and misogyny.

    You write that you love, cherish and welcome your LGBT friends, and I believe you. Yet it seems that love is quite conditional. You would seat them at the back of the “Sacramental bus” when it comes to marriage. Jesus’ said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40) Nowhere in the commandment do I find that LGBT people are excluded from the neighbors we are called to love as ourselves. I fail to see how we can love LGBT people and deny them a Sacrament that heterosexuals enjoy.

    I’ve been pondering whether the Church should offer only blessings of marriages and get out of the legal contract part altogether, thus giving Caesar what is Caesar’s. But if heterosexual couples can be legally wed in the Church, then surely unconditional love, as described by Jesus in Matthew, demands equal treatment of LGBT brothers and sisters.

    You are right, Mr. Barker, The Episcopal Church you took your vows in 42 years ago has changed. I believe She is following Jesus’ two greatest commandments. Thanks be to God.

  8. F WILLIAM THEWALT says:

    I can only look at the issue of gay marriage and ask, “What difference does it make to me if two people of the same sex want to marry.” It will not change my life one iota but gives others solace.

  9. Mark Barwick says:

    I always find its deliciously ironic when people speak of “rewriting the Bible as it pertains to Holy Matrimony,” as the Bible does not even contain such language. Indeed, we are challenged to even construct anything resembling a biblical theology of marriage.
    Such ruminations sadly remind me of similar discussions around race when I was a boy. When will we be able to accept that the creation is much more diverse and fluid that we had previously thought?

  10. Kerith Harding says:

    Regarding DO16 substitute resolution “Being Responsible investors in Israel and Palestine”, this article’s author writes, “The House of Bishops sent a strong and clear message July 2 that divestment from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel is not in the best interests of The Episcopal Church, its partners in the Holy Land, interreligious relations, and the lives of Palestinians on the ground.” What a strange use of language! The resolution did not call for divestment from companies engaged in “businesses related to the State of Israel”. The resolution called for divestment from businesses that profit from the illegal occupation Palestine. There’s a big difference, ENS. I’d suggest you re-write this portion of your commentary if you’d like it to be accurate; or print a retraction. Here is a quote from the resolution: ” That the Episcopal Church will work earnestly and with haste to avoid profiting from the illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and will seek to align itself with, and learn from, the good work of our Ecumenical and Anglican Communion partners, who have worked for decades in support of our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers and others oppressed by occupation, particularly the Board of Governors of the Church of England and their report of 2006, which states that they will no longer invest in companies that profit from the illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank…”

  11. It was wonderful being able to follow GC78 on Twitter–my thanks to the many diverse voices who shared resources, information and ideas from that momentous event with Episcopalians everywhere. I am a cradle Episcopalian whose 3xgreat-grandfather, Judge J.W. Bocage, was a founder of the first Episcopal church in my home state. I am thankful every day for being raised in this tradition of love, beauty, kindness, thoughtfulness and care. One of the aspects I appreciate the most of our many differences from the so-called Christianity that has purported to speak (stridently) for God in voices of hate, fear, ignorance and exclusion is our refusal to cling to ignorance as science explores more and more of the created universe. In acknowledging that two women or two men may forge a bond as sacred and holy as that of any heterosexual couple, this church has ended a pernicious form of discrimination which flew in the face of science, and this is something to celebrate! Those who use this as a reason to condemn or leave the Episcopal Church should first take a careful look at the nature of the collection of writings we call the Bible, and at the questions Matthew Vines presents here: ” 40 questions for Christians who oppose marriage equality:” http://tobingrant.religionnews.com/2015/07/0 …before rejecting our beautiful church because of misconceptions.

  12. Tim Kunkel says:

    It’s very fortunate timing for the Episcopal church, I suppose, that the general convention was not compelled to consider its historic support for planned parenthood, in light of the egregious processing and for-profit sale of human body parts. I realize the leadership has no difficulty rationalizing it support for this, as it all somehow magically falls under the unassailable umbrella of “womyn’s healthcare”.

    This is a monstrous, indefensible atrocity, christians. Does this even register on your conscience?

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