As it concluded its three-day fall meeting at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dearborn, Michigan, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church thanked the House of Bishops for its efforts that resulted in a statement to the Anglican Communion issued in September.
However, Council Resolution NAC026 said that where the bishops' statement called "particular attention to the application of [General Convention] Resolution B033 to lesbian and gay persons, it may inappropriately suggest that an additional qualification for the episcopacy has been imposed beyond those contained in the constitution and canons of the church."
Resolution B033, passed by General Convention in June 2006, calls upon diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."
The House of Bishops September statement acknowledged that "non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains," but did not describe any other category of persons to whom the resolution applies.
The Council, the church's governing body between meetings of General Convention, said in its resolution that "broader impact" of B033 has been to discourage "the full participation by lesbians and gay persons in the life of the church and enshrine discrimination in the policies of the Episcopal Church."
Finally, the Council acknowledged "with regret the additional pain and estrangement inflicted on lesbian and gay members of the church" and the council pledged "to work toward a time when our church will fully respect the dignity of every human being in all aspects of the life of our church."
Church Center reorganization
After nearly an hour of debate, the Council endorsed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's plan to reorganize the staff of the Episcopal Church Center and agreed to allow up to $550,000 of the 2008 budget to be reallocated to implement the plan.
Resolution AF041 says the plan: is an "effort to reflect" the 2007-2009 triennial mission priorities and budget; will "provide greater flexibility, decentralization, and increased responsiveness toward the mission of the Church"; and is "evolutionary in character and is expected to ultimately provide greater service, increased accountability and cost savings as it fulfills the mission of the Church."
During the discussion, Administration and Finance (A&F) chair Josephine Hicks told the Council that the resolution is "our best effort to allow the Presiding Bishop to move forward with what she wants to do." Hicks said the committee is excited about the prospects of what the plan can accomplish with its changed approach to leadership and decision-making.
The Rev. James B. Lemler, director of mission, acknowledged that there is "anxiety" in the Church Center about the implications of the plan. He also said that the reorganization task force "is trying to dance the good dance" between acknowledging the Council's role in these sorts of matters and the need to give Church Center employees the specificity they need to move forward.
After discussion about what Council's approval of the resolution did and did not mean, and the extent of the members' authority, Jefferts Schori said, "I think we're somewhat confused about roles." She said that the Presiding Bishop has the authority to staff the Church Center in the way needed to carry out the budget and mission priorities of General Convention.
"At some important level, it's really the responsibility of my office to do that," she said.
House of Deputies president and Council vice president Bonnie Anderson asked a series of questions, saying they are "not to nit-pick it but to be on board" with the plan so as to ensure its success. She also cited Canon 1.4.1(a), which describes the Council as having the duty "to carry out the program and policies adopted by the General Convention" and "charge of the coordination, development, and implementation of the ministry and mission of the Church."
"So I think it's a partnership here," she said.
Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno, a member of A&F, said he is comfortable with the plan, adding that "the boss is the boss" and the Presiding Bishop should have the ability to do the work in the way she wants to, because "she's not tampering with the mission of the church."
Council member Kim Byham said he could not endorse the plan because "I don't have enough information to endorse and commend it."
Council member and Lexington Bishop Stacy Sauls said the plan is basically a good one, but expressed concern about the process by which the request for the Council's approval came to the group. As a Council member, Sauls said, he has a duty to discharge and "I cannot discharge my duty if I am not consulted."
Saying he would vote for the plan, Council member Mark Harris said he did not want the Council's decision to be considered as a vote of confidence in Jefferts Schori's leadership. Anderson agreed that she was uncomfortable with the direction of the debate, saying she's excited by the plan but concerned about the process used to reach the point of asking Council's endorsement of the plan.
The resolution passed on a voice vote with some opposition.
During her remarks in closing the Council's meeting, Jefferts Schori suggested that the Council consider spending some time "strengthening itself as a board" by examining how best to fulfill its roles and responsibilities, and whether its existing structures are the best way to carry out its work. She said that she did not have any particular changes in mind, but that this was a "useful question to ask periodically."
Jefferts Schori also asked that the Council consider whether there is a way to conduct a mutual ministry review of her work. She suggested that such a review would be a way to ask the question of "how is this office reviewed and challenged."
In other business, the Council:
- heard that Bishop Miguel P. Yamoyam, Episcopal Church in the Philippines' provincial secretary, was in intensive care in a local hospital October 28 and due to have surgery after suffering a stroke the previous evening. "He is not doing well," Jefferts Schori said. "We need to pray for him.
- honored the Rev. Canon Anthony Jewiss, deputy executive officer of the General Convention, in anticipation of his retirement at the end of the year, wishing him a good life at his home in southern France and "good travels always." Jewiss, in turn, wished the Council well in their work of guiding this church "we love so well."
- agreed to commit up to $2 million to enable the Archives of the Episcopal Church to relocate from the campus of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest by the end of 2009.
- heard Anderson explain that the theme for the 76th General Convention in 2009 will be "ubuntu," which is an African word that essentially means "I am because you are." Anderson said that connected to the theme will be the issues of an understanding of the Episcopal Church's identity and mission. She reported that a contest among Episcopal Church members will be held to develop the convention's logo and the winner will be able to make a donation to a charity of his or her choice.
- discussed in executive session a report of the Mission Funding Initiative Task Force. The task force, called for in June by AF Resolution 32, was to review progress on the Episcopal Church's Mission Funding Initiative and outline and present a plan to "formalize the organization and operation of the initiative including representation by members of and reporting to the Executive Council," according to the resolution's accompanying explanation. The Mission Funding Initiative was established in February 2005 during Council's meeting in Austin, Texas.
- renewed the covenant partnership with the Episcopal Church in the Philippines.
A summary of other resolutions passed during the Dearborn meeting follows.
Administration and Finance
Affirmed the recommendations of the Commission on Theological Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, and approved requests of $ 350,522.00 from the income of Trust Fund #809 (AF034).
Approved the revised Episcopal Relief and Development by-laws adopted unanimously by the Board of Directors of ERD in September 2007 (AF035).
Established the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan Native American Scholarship Fund (AF036).
Established the Benignus, Emma Lou (Aging Ministry) Estate, for the ministry to the aging (AF037).
Established the Taiwan Episcopal Church Trust Fund to hold and invest funds for Taiwan Episcopal Church (AF038).
Entered into an agreement with Bank of New York to borrow from time to time an amount not to exceed $50,000,000 to provide working capital and liquidity to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (AF039).
Agreed to appoint and convene the Archives Strategy Committee to work with the Archives of the Episcopal Church Board to take next steps necessary to enable relocation of the Archives by December 31, 2009 (AF040).
Endorsed and commended the plan for Church Center reorganization (AF041).
Allowed $176,000 to be withdrawn from certain trust funds and remitted to the Episcopal Church of Liberia for rehabilitation of damaged churches and schools, and settling the educational cost of scholarship students (AF042).
Designated housing allowances for clergy employed by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (EC014).
Approved appointment of Grant Thornton, LLP, to conduct the 2007 audit of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (EC015).
Acknowledged newly assigned missioners and those who have completed their term of service (INC022-025)
Recognized a new companion diocese relationship between the dioceses of Connecticut and Colombia for a period ending on January 30, 2015, unless extended or terminated by mutual consent (INC026).
Agreed to publish the document, "A Response from The Episcopal Church to The Draft Anglican Covenant," as a contribution and response of the Episcopal Church to the request by the Covenant Design Group for comments on its draft covenant, and that this document be forwarded to the Covenant Design Group (INC028).
Adopted a renewal of the covenant between the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (INC027).
Reviewed a list of Jubilee Programs (NAC024).
Approved shareholder resolutions with Colgate Palmolive, FedEx and International Paper (NAC025).
Expressed its appreciation to the House of Bishops for undertaking the monumental task of trying to clarify the conflict between the canons of the Episcopal Church and the demands raised by the Dar es Salaam communiquÃ© and expressing concern about the statement's stance on lesbian and gay persons (NAC026).
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.