“We want to be disciples who make disciples. We preach not the Episcopal Church, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as servants for Jesus sake,” the Rev. John A. M. Guernsey said to the House of Deputies in a special order of business Thursday afternoon, the second day of General Convention.
As deputies begin to deal with the flow of resolutions into their house Thursday afternoon, Guernsey, chair of the Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and Evangelism and co-chair of the 20/20 Strategy Group, joined with several fellow members to prepare the House for a great burst of energy from resolutions related to the future of the church.
“The emergence of the 20/20 vision opened our eyes,” said committee member the Rev. James Lemler. “The church needs to get ready for the mission we are talking about.”
Following their presentation, the 825 members of the house began to address resolutions before them.
After questioning funding, and being assured that it likely will come from sources outside the General Convention, the house passed a resolution (A120) from the Committee on Theological Education to convene a committee of bishops, seminary deans and provincial representatives to collaborate for six years and prepare a study on the future of theological education in the church, reporting to both the 75th and 76th General Conventions.
The house approved a resolution (A145) appointing a task force to prepare a comprehensive model for General Convention, specifically addressing the convention structure and agenda, to be implemented at the 2006 convention.
“There is a concern of issues such as length, effectiveness, efficiency and expense,” said Margaret Tinsman of Iowa. She noted that convention is trying to encourage more representation from people 35 years old and younger and diverse ethnic groups, both of whom often find it more difficult due to time, jobs and families to attend. “Change is difficult, but now is the time to discuss it.”
Continuing to receive consent requests for newly-elected bishops, the House of Deputies agreed to the consecration and ordination of the Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Florida, and the Rev. C. Franklin Brookhard, Jr., as bishop of the Diocese of Montana. (C041 and C042).
Diversity in communications
Acknowledging the continued diversity in the church, the house approved four resolutions reflecting and supporting the reality of its membership from the Communications Committee.
The first (C027) requires all audio-visual materials produced by and for General Convention and programs of the Executive Council and staff, to be made accessible to all people by providing closed captioning in English for deaf and hard of hearing people, subtitling or dubbing in Spanish and other languages as appropriate, and urge all producers of religious audio-visual materials to do the same.
The second (A082) states that materials issued by the Episcopal Church Center be multilingual, when appropriate, and that Executive Council and the church center staff develop a strategy to use existing multilingual resources, consider using translation services and consider a budget allocation of $85,000 per year for the triennium to implement.
The third (A027) approved was the substitute resolution encouraging equity in use of titles, wherein bodies of the Episcopal Church respect and reflect equality of men and women bestowed by baptism and address people by the form each prefers and groups by forms that include everyone equally.
The fourth (A026), approved with amendment, asks that General Convention commit itself to use language and visual images reflecting the diversity, age, sex, ethnicity and race among its baptized membership, and to create a task force to explore ways to include all who are created in God’s image in the use of biblical and theological language and for use in visual images.
Furthermore the task force is to create guidelines that include person of both sexes, all ages, ethnicities, races and people with disabilities, and encourage incorporation of these guidelines in everyday worship, music, education, preaching, written and visual arts material to be used at congregational, diocesan, and national levels of the church. The task force shall include theologians, members of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, Committee on the Status of Women, the House of Bishop’s Theology Committee, representatives of the various ethnic desks, and the Episcopal News Service. It requests a budget allocation of $35,500.
In other issues, the house also discharged and re-refered to a different committee a resolution (C026) that urges reducing the use of toxic chemicals on church property, proposed from the Committee on Social and Urban Affairs.
Approved a resolution (A083) asking each Episcopalian to articulate his or her faith story and that congregations and dioceses provide such opportunities.
Deputies approved a resolution (A154) selecting Columbus, Ohio, as the site for the 75th General Convention and announced the dates of June 12-21, 2006. “The intent is to shorten the convention by one day,” said George Werner, president of the house. Some were concerned that the dates put youth presence and deputies who were teachers in jeopardy to attend as school might still be in session.