Executive Council puts disaffected dioceses on notice about constitutional changes

Members authorize Anglican Covenant monitoring group, honor two soon-to-be retired staffers
June 13, 2007

Episcopal Church dioceses that change their constitutions in an attempt to bypass the Church's Constitution and Canons were warned by the Executive Council June 14 that their actions are "null and void."

The Council passed Resolution NAC023, reminding dioceses that they are required to "accede" to the Constitution and Canons, and declaring that any diocesan action that removes that accession from its constitution is "null and void." That declaration, the resolution said, means that their constitutions "shall be as they were as if such amendments had not been passed."

The action came on the last day of its four-day meeting at the Sheraton hotel in Parsippany, New Jersey. The Council spent June 11, 13, and 14 in New Jersey, and on June 12 traveled to the Episcopal Church Center at 815 Second Ave. in New York City. Earlier in the day, the Council issued its reply to the communiqué issued by the Anglican Primates at the end of their February meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. ENS coverage of that statement and a link to the statement itself is available here.

At the close of the meeting, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori congratulated the Council for engaging a variety of issues "faithfully and with clarity," recognizing the diversity of opinion that exists within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. She also noted that Council learned that there are sometimes other ways to cope with tough issues rather than legislation that can result in winners-and-losers situations. She observed that during the Parsippany meeting, members worked pastorally behind the scenes to achieve consensus on some issues.

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson echoed those sentiments, saying that the members had used their gifts and skills in an atmosphere of prayer. She singled out Belton Zeigler of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, who opposed the Council's statement on the Primates' Communiqué, thanking him for speaking his mind and taking "the will of the group with great grace."

Resolution NAC023 names the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin and Quincy.

Some council members argued against naming the dioceses, including Ted Yumoto of San Joaquin, who said the resolution was a "statement of alienation" rather than reconciliation.

Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic also urged the Council not to name dioceses but to make the resolution more obviously applicable to all dioceses. He also called on the Council to "soften [the resolution] in favor of dialogue." Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico disagreed, saying that the resolution needed "more teeth."

The Rev. Gay Jennings of Ohio reminded the Council that General Convention had agreed about how to "order our common life" through its Constitution and Canons, and that the specific dioceses' actions have been "injurious to our common life."

Lexington Bishop Stacy Sauls, who helped to draft the resolution, said it was important to name the dioceses, in part because a judge in any future legal action connected with the dioceses' actions might ask why the Church never made a statement against those constitutional changes.

Covenant-development review process
Rosalie Ballentine of the Virgin Islands, chair of the International Concerns (INC) Committee's draft-covenant subcommittee, told the Council her group was surprised and pleased with the depth of the responses to the questions in the study guide on a draft of an Anglican Covenant.

Among the responses, 201 came from the laity, 100 from priests and deacons, 64 from organizations and groups including General Convention deputations, 27 from parishes, and 18 from bishops. The stack of responses is about three inches high and they range from one-sentence replies to each of the guide's questions to 10-page replies.

The comments are meant to help Council create a response to the draft covenant at its October meeting in Detroit, Michigan.

"The drafting committee will be informed by these responses but will not be constrained by them," Ballentine said, adding that the sub-committee will urge the drafting group to consider stances taken by previous meetings of General Convention about issues that are now included in the draft covenant.

In a related action, the Council approved Resolution INC021, authorizing Jefferts Schori and Anderson to appoint a work group to draft the Council's response. That group would also follow the covenant-development process, enable comments from the wider Episcopal Church and provide comments on behalf of the church to the Communion's Covenant Design Group.

The Windsor Report, released in October 2004, proposed a covenant as a way for the Anglican Communion to maintain unity amid differing viewpoints. The Primates received and discussed the draft during their February meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. They then released both it and an accompanying report to the entire Communion, asking for comment from of the 38 provinces by January 1, 2008.

Based on those responses, it is expected that a revised version of the covenant will be presented to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, to be followed by a final text that would be proposed to the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). If the ACC adopts the text, it would offer it to the provinces for consideration.

The Executive Council's guide and the work group come in response to Resolution A166 passed by the 75th General Convention this past June. The resolution calls for the Episcopal Church, "as a demonstration of our commitment to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion," to support the process of the development of an Anglican Covenant "that underscores our unity in faith, order, and common life in the service of God's mission." It also called for the INC and the Episcopal Church's members of the Anglican Consultative Council to follow the development processes of an Anglican Covenant and report regularly to the Executive Council as well as to the 76th General Convention in 2009.

In a letter to the Episcopal Church at the close of its March 2-4 meeting in Portland, Oregon, the Executive Council said "responding to the draft covenant does not presuppose agreement with the terms and principles advanced in the draft."

In other business, the Council:

  • gave a rousing ovation to the Rev. Canon Carlson Gerdau as he prepares to retire as Canon to the Presiding Bishop. Resolution EC013 noted his "considerable influence, often gentle, on every aspect of the church's governmental, legislative and diplomatic life." Calling Gerdau a man who is equally at home in the remote corners of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the Metropolitan Opera, the resolution further described him as a man "whose sometimes gruff exterior inadequately conceals a soul of extraordinary kindness, wisdom and humor, a soul deeply in love with the Church his entire life, and wide enough to embrace everyone from those in high places to those in need, unknown, unacknowledged and known only to him and them."

Reflecting on his career, Gerdau told the Council, "You never know what's to be ahead of you, but it's been a wonderful journey."

  • expressed "its heartfelt appreciation" to Episcopal Life editor Jerrold Hames, who is due to retire at the end of the month after 17 and one-half award-winning years with the monthly newspaper. Resolution CIM014 noted Hames' 43-year journalistic career, characterized by his "commitment to balanced and accurate reporting" and "international reputation for integrity." The resolution explains that Hames' reputation will be perpetuated by the Jerrold Hames Scholarship for Multicultural Communication in the Episcopal Church.
  • said farewell to New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham, Council's Anglican Church of Canada partner, who was thanked for his time with the Council.
  • discussed reports about providing pension benefits for clergy in Episcopal Church dioceses which have not been in the Church Pension Fund, and about the ongoing work of getting a better picture of the lay employees in the church.
  • passed Resolution NAC022, deploring raids carried out by the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) seeking undocumented workers "which result in separating families and leaving children parentless," and calling on Episcopalians to "assist those seeking protection from deportation and detention by the provision of sanctuary which can include material, legal, and pastoral support."
  • reviewed an explanatory letter sent by NAC committee chair John Vanderstar to Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray, who had written to Council criticizing the Episcopal Church's representation in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). Vanderstar wrote that the Church's membership is related to its "long history of supporting a woman's right to make her own decisions regarding a pregnancy." The letter also notes that the Church has not been involved in the RCRC's lobby efforts against specific U.S. Supreme Court nominees, an activity which Duncan criticized in his letter.

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.

A summary of other resolutions passed during the Parsippany meeting follows.


Administration and Finance
Disbursed $13,375 for every DFMS department to access upgraded accounting software (AF023).

Withdrew $110,000 from Trust Fund #872 (Endowment Fund for the Episcopate, Diocese of Honduras) to assist the Episcopal Church of Honduras (IEH) to make pension contributions now in arrears (AF024).

Withdrew $100,000 from three trust funds to fund a diocesan Special Convention and costs associated with an episcopal transition for the Episcopal Church of Liberia (ECL) (AF025).

Amended the description of Trust Fund # 1008 (Emma Lou Benignus), established for use solely by the Women in Mission and Ministry program (AF026).

Changed the name on Trust Fund # 992 from Southeast Florida Episcopal Foundation Inc. to Episcopal Charities of Southeast Florida, Inc. (AF027).

Established Trust Fund #1012 for St. Thomas Episcopal Church for the Deaf, Kirkwood, Missouri (AF028).

Established Trust Fund # 1013 (Margery H. Fawcett) to be used for work among North American Indians (AF029).

Established Trust Fund # 1014 (Frederick M. Pedersen) for mission work in China or Japan (AF030).

Asked the Presiding Officers to appoint a Budget Committee to coordinate and oversee the work of the Executive Council and Standing Committees in preparing a budget for the 2010-2012 Triennium (AF031).

Asked the Presiding Officers appoint a Task Force to review progress on the Mission Funding Initiative and report to the October meeting (AF032).

Provided another $10,000 to support the work of the Title IV Review Task Force II (AF-033).

Congregations in Ministry
Established a minimum requirement of 14 hours of anti-racism training (CIM004).

Urged dioceses to convene committees on disability concerns and congregations to designate a representative responsible for disability concerns, and all churches, affiliated organizations, and institutions to use only fully-accessible facilities (CIM005).
Recommended for a Constable Fund grant:

$29,000 for Anglican Communion Response to Malaria and HIV/AIDS (Peace and Justice Unit, Officer of Government Relations) (CIM006)
$35,000 for Black Clergy and Lay Women's Gathering (CIM007)
$10,000 for CCAB of Color Gathering – (Ethnic Congregational Development Unit) (CIM008)
$25,000 for Cancionero: A New Songbook for Latino-Hispanic Episcopal Congregations (Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries) (CIM009)
$14,650 for Convocation of American Churches in Europe Education Events (Office of Ministry Development) (CIM010)
$11,000 for Creating the Global Conference (Stewardship Office) (CIM011)
$29,000 for Empowering Women Advocates (Office of Women's Ministries) (CIM012)
$10,500 for Resourcing and Renewing Ecumenical and Interfaith Leadership (Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs Office) (CIM013)

Executive Council
Accepted the Audited Financial Statements covering the fiscal year ended December 31, 2006 (EC09).

International Concerns
Recognized a new Companion Diocese Relationship between the Diocese of Utah and the Diocese of Mexico in the Anglican Church of Mexico (INC018).

Expressed "deep appreciation" to Episcopal Church missionaries, particularly those who met with the Executive Council (INC019).

Asked the Presiding Officers to appoint a work to draft a response to the Draft Anglican Covenant to be considered at the October 2007 Executive Council meeting (INC021).

National Concerns
Reviewed a list of 3 new and 15 reaffirmed Jubilee Programs (NAC021).

Urged education on the plight of refugees, immigrants and migrants and encouraged assistance for those seeking protection from deportation and detention by the provision of sanctuary (NAC22).

Declared that "any amendment to a diocesan Constitution that purports in any way to limit or lessen an unqualified accession" to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (including those passed by the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin) is "null and void" (NAC023).