Church needs time to consider covenant, says Presiding Bishop

Budgets for 2009, 2010-2012 triennium getting Council attention
October 20, 2008

If a proposed Anglican covenant is released in mid-May for adoption by the Anglican Communion's provinces, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will "strongly discourage" any effort to bring that request to the 76th General Convention in July.

Jefferts Schori briefly discussed the covenant process during her remarks to the opening plenary session October 21 on the second of the Executive Council's four-day meeting in Helena, the seat of the Diocese of Montana.

Anglican Communion provinces have until the end of March 2009 to respond to the current version of the proposed covenant, known as the St. Andrew's Draft. The Covenant Design Group meets in London in April 2009 and may issue another draft of a covenant. That draft is expected to be reviewed by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) during its May 1-12, 2009 meeting. The ACC could decide to release that version to the provinces for their adoption.

If the ACC decides to do that, "my sense is that the time is far too short before our General Convention for us to have a thorough discussion of it as a church and I'm therefore going to strongly discourage any move to bring it to General Convention," Jefferts Schori told the Executive Council. "I just think it's inappropriate to make a decision that weighty" that quickly, she added.

The 76th General Convention meets July 8-17 in Anaheim, California.

Council also heard October 21 that it will be asked during its January 30-February 2, 2009, meeting in Stockton, California, to officially respond to the St. Andrew's Draft. The covenant drafters have asked provinces to say if they believe in principle that they can commit to the covenant, what provincial process is required for that commitment and what changes to the St. Andrew’s Draft would give them the greatest chance of being able to make the commitment.

Council's Covenant Response Group is reviewing comments from diocesan General Convention deputations as it considers a proposed response, Council member and response group member the Rev. Ian Douglas told the council. Deputations have been asked to send their comments to the General Convention office by the end of October. Thirty responses have been received so far, Douglas said. The group earlier drafted the Council's October 2007 response to the first covenant draft, which is available here.

The shape of the Helena meeting
The Executive Council began its four-day meeting October 20 with a full day of meetings of its four standing committees: Administration & Finance (A&F), Congregations in Ministry (CIM), National Concerns (NAC) and International Concerns (INC). The committees met for a short time on the 21st and will have their final meetings of this council session during the morning of October 22. The committees, especially A&F, have spent much of their time discussing the 2009 budget and the formulation of the 2010-2012 proposed budget that it will make to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F). That committee will eventually propose the 2010-2012 budget for the 76th General Convention's approval.

Council, Episcopal Church Center staff and visitors celebrated Eucharist at midday on October 21. The congregation prayed the Litany of Offence and Apology from the recent Service of Repentance at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The litany acknowledges the Episcopal Church's complicity in and benefit from slavery, and prays that that Church may "by acknowledging manifold sinfulness in the support of slavery and its associated evils, hereby pledge to adopt a new spirit and application of freedom and respect, leading to redemption and reconciliation."

Beginning on the afternoon of the 22nd, Council will spend the remainder of this meeting in plenary sessions. During that time, members will consider approving a revised 2009 budget for the Episcopal Church. They are also due to discuss, among other items, a requested survey by former General Convention Secretary Rosemari Sullivan of Council's roles and responsibilities, and their reactions to those duties.

Council will have dinner on the 22nd with representatives of the Diocese of Montana and Province VI.

In other business on October 21, Council:

  • Heard President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson outline her activities since the last Council meeting. She also reported that 40 percent of the House of Deputies will be new when the General Convention convenes in Anaheim. That percentage "is not unusual," Anderson noted. She said that she has set up a moderated online forum for deputies to discuss General Convention issues and procedures. Those discussions, she said, will not include consideration of legislation. Anderson also presented some video examples of the use of a public-narrative process to have an intentional conversation about mission during the General Convention.
  • Heard Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt describe progress on the Episcopal Church Center's reorganization. Watt summarized the intention of the center's staff to be program managers, network builders, matchmakers between resources and people who need them, a repository of knowledge and champions of best practices. The Church Center staff ought to only do things that cannot be done better or more efficiently elsewhere, such as at the diocesan level, Watt said. She told Council that regional offices in Omaha and Los Angeles are fully operational, an office in Seattle is due to open soon and that "we're still hoping for an office in the South." Watt also outlined a new performance evaluation process for Church Center employees, describing it as one that will help monitor and improve performance as well as provide a way to report to the wider church about the employees' "concrete achievements."
  • Heard a presentation by Robert Johansen of the Menlo Park, California-based Institute of the Future on the Episcopal Mapping Project, which the institute and the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes have begun as a way for Episcopal Church parishes to predict where they will be in 10 years. That knowledge, he said, can help parishes have constructive conversations as well as make decisions in the present based on their sense of that 10-year forecast. Ten-year forecasts are also meant, Johansen said, "to sense what's important beyond the polarities of the present." Johansen told Council members that such exercises work well with Episcopalians because they have "the kind of faith that can engage with uncertainty" and are comfortable posing "discerning questions" that give people a framework for making decisions. Seventy TEC parishes are testing the institute's tools at the moment, according to Johansen, and there are plans to eventually expand its use to an interfaith audience.
  • Ratified the election or re-election of four people to the board of directors of Episcopal Relief and Development. They are Steven W. Duff (re-elected, president and chief executive officer, Reich & Tang Funds), C. Jill Oettinger (re-elected, chief operating officer of Good Samaritan Community Services, Diocese of West Texas), Texas Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison (elected), the Rev. Jay Sidebotham (elected, rector of Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Illinois) and Flo McAfee (elected, manager of a strategic communications firm).

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The Council is composed of 38 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by provincial synods, plus the Presiding Bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.