Executive Council begins three-day meeting

Budget, covenant response, conversation with Episcopalians in Diocese of San Joaquin on agenda
January 29, 2009

The Episcopal Church's 2010-2012 budget and a response to the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant topped the agenda January 29 as the church's Executive Council convened a three day meeting in Stockton, California.

The meeting is taking place in the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, a move made by the council to show its support for the diocese's efforts at reorganization since the former leadership and a majority of its members joined the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Council members are scheduled to spend time on January 30 hearing about the progress made by the diocese.

Council began its meeting January 29 with an organizational plenary session, followed by private conversation. Council members, Episcopal Church Center staff and visitors celebrated Eucharist at midday. Members also devoted another hour to Council's on-going effort to participate in the church's anti-racism training effort.

Its four standing committees (Administration & Finance (A&F), Congregations in Ministry (CIM), National Concerns (NAC) and International Concerns (INC)) met for four hours on the 29th and will also meet all morning on January 30.

During the afternoon of the 30th, Council will meet in plenary session to hear Treasurer Kurt Barnes report on the draft triennial budget. The Council must propose a budget for the upcoming three-year period to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) no less than four months before the next meeting of the General Convention. PB&F can then refine that version before it proposes a budget to Convention.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the council during her opening remarks on January 29 that "there's both good news and hard news in terms of the budget situation."

"We have budget problems but they're budget challenges related to the performance of the endowment; they're not related to diocesan contributions that are at least flat, if not up," she said.

The council is also scheduled to hear a report on January 30 from its Covenant Response Group, which is charged with drafting the council's response to the current version of the proposed Anglican Covenant, known as 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.

Members of the Diocese of San Joaquin will meet with council members in the later part of the day and evening on January 30. On the following day, the council will conclude the meeting with an all-day plenary session to consider resolutions presented by its four committees and other task groups.

Also on January 29, the council:

* heard Jefferts Schori report on her activities since the council's last meeting in October. In her remarks she noted that President Barack Obama's administration "is reaching out to the faith communities for consultation. It is refreshing and exceedingly hopeful." The Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations has already participated in a number of meetings on policy issues, she said, "and we only expect that to grow."

* heard Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies and council vice president, give an overview of the February 22-27 Conference of the Anglican Churches in the Americas in Mutual Responsibility and Mission in San José, Costa Rica. The idea for the gathering grew out of a November 2006 proposal for an Anglican regional convocation of the Americas that Anderson made to the council. Resolution INC005 from that council meeting authorized a work group, appointed by Anderson and Jefferts Schori, to develop the idea. The resolution said that the goal of such convocation would be "to equip better our churches for mutuality and interdependence in God's mission." The February meeting will allow participants to tell their colleagues about their mission and ministry along with training opportunities and a day spent in service with Costa Rican Anglicans. The eight provinces that have been invited to attend are the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of the Central America Region, the Anglican Church of Mexico, Church in the Province of the West Indies, the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of the Americas, and the Episcopal Church of Cuba, along with the Episcopal Church. Each province was invited to send two clergy and four lay representatives to the gathering, along with its primate and provincial secretary or designated representatives. Anderson told the council the hope is that "deep engagement with each other on a personal level" about mission and ministry will result in the development of new networks for regional mission efforts.

* received an update from Episcopal Church Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt on the Church Center staff reorganization. She said that the reorganization, which began about a year ago, is "essentially done" and that regional offices in Los Angeles, Omaha, Seattle and Washington, D.C. are fully staffed. Now, she said, the challenge is to think strategically about coordinating the staff's work. Watt acknowledged that the reorganization caused "a lot of turmoil" and efforts are being made "to integrate us into a more cohesive whole." One attempt was three days of training and networking held in the main office in New York City in early January, she said.

* heard a report from newly hired Office of Communication Director Anne Rudig about efforts to position and brand the Church Center's four mission centers (Advocacy, Evangelism and Congregational Life, Mission Leadership and Partnerships) that resulted from the reorganization. She previewed for the council logos for each center that had been developed with the help of people who work in those centers, noting that part of their efforts included considering each center's "future desired personality." The logos will debut on the Episcopal Church's website "very soon," she said. Rudig also told Council that part of her job is to "lead us into the brave new world of new media" and to help the staff "work together more collaboratively and creatively."

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.

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