Mission Center: The Episcopal Church: Partnerships

What is expected of Executive Council in regard to covenant committee reports?
To receive the reports, review them carefully, and take any action it deems necessary. A guide to action may be found in the recommendations of the Standing Commission on World Mission in its Blue Book report to the 73rd General Convention. 2

Footnote 2

The Autonomy Process: Evaluation and Vision

A Consultation on Autonomy was held in Miami in October 1999 to implement SCWM’s goal of evaluating the process by which regions that were once part of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) have become autonomous. These regions include Brazil, Liberia, Philippines, Mexico, and Central America. The Commission received and considered responses to ten questions sent to each member of the covenant committee for each region. Two members of each covenant committee, one from the region, and one from ECUSA, were invited to the consultation. The regional representatives were asked to outline their experience of the autonomy process and the provinces’ life since becoming autonomous.

During the consultation and in their replies to the questionnaire, our partners expressed joy at the opportunity to be self-determining, enthusiasm for relating to other provinces of the Anglican Communion, and pain stemming from some aspects of the process of becoming autonomous. In some cases, a feeling of having been pushed out by ECUSA caused hurt and anger. Also a source of concern is that some aspects of some covenants have not been fulfilled. Grassroots involvement in the autonomy process had varied but was not generally felt to be deep. Regret was expressed by both sides at diminished relationships and opportunities to work together.

Autonomy Defined
Clarifying autonomy is important for relationships with our partner churches. The term highlights the theme of self-government within the Anglican Communion’s family of churches and thus the process by which jurisdictions outside the United States that were missionary districts have become self-governing Anglican provinces. The Episcopal covenants group is a helpful collective designation for these jurisdictions. The autonomy movement, dating from the 1960s, has expressed a conviction that the church in a particular cultural and national setting should direct its own life through the “three-self principles” of self-government, self-support, and self-propagation.  We believe that mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ describes more helpfully the relationships we seek among our communion’s constituent churches. This model stresses growth toward maturity in all aspects of the church’s life, mutuality in giving and receiving, and partnership in the mission of God. These qualities must be developed in planning for self-government, in addition to constitution, canons, prayerbook, and financial plan. Self-support is an important mark of an autonomous Anglican province, but we recognize that the economic disparities between ECUSA and jurisdictions now autonomous or considering autonomy mean that growth in self-support will be gradual.

The Episcopal Church has embraced multiple nationalities. As a Commission, we are clear that an ECUSA diocese outside the U.S. is welcome in our church and under no obligation to become autonomous or join another Anglican province. At the same time, our church remains committed to assisting with the autonomy process of non-U.S. dioceses that do wish to become autonomous.

A Future in Companionship
Although the Autonomy Consultation discussed possible improvements in procedures for autonomy, the shape of continuing relationships between ECUSA and jurisdictions of the Episcopal covenants group emerged as the major emphasis for the future. ECUSA has a special obligation to these jurisdictions because of its role in planting the church in those regions.

We believe that companionship in mission must characterize our future journey. Discernment of opportunities for carrying out mission together is crucial. Joint endeavor will involve interchange of personnel and ideas as each side of the relationship learns from the other. The way forward is in a partnership of equals, rather than in a parent-child relationship between churches, in interdependence, rather than dependence. As one effort to keep communication open, primates of the provinces continue to be invited as guests to General Convention.

At the same time, we realize that the historical inequities in financial resources have roots in injustice and therefore ECUSA has special obligations for support. We propose that Executive Council, using resources available from declining subsidies to jurisdictions of the Episcopal covenants group, allocate funds for providing special covenantal opportunities, such as training in stewardship, capital campaign planning, evangelism, congregational development, and the like.

Support and Oversight
To implement the companionship vision, we recommend the following modifications in the roles of covenant committees, Executive Council, and SCWM:

  • Covenant committees should be enlarged and their members given definite terms by the Presiding Bishop.
  • Covenant committees should be catalysts for mobilizing resources in response to the needs of their regions and function as bridges to overcome the isolation experienced by some regions.
  • Executive Council should organize itself in such a way that the concerns of partner churches, especially those in the Episcopal covenants group, can be heard and acted upon.
  • SCWM should monitor the ongoing work of covenant committees, receiving minutes and reports on a regular basis, and monitor the responsiveness of Executive Council.

Particular Regional Concerns
Overseas Dioceses of ECUSA—It is the responsibility of the Episcopal Church to monitor and evaluate the stewardship of the church’s resources. Some dioceses, both domestic and overseas, grow as congregations deepen their inner life of the Spirit through living into the Baptismal Covenant. It is important to discover what promotes growth and mission and what inhibits mission. Some overseas dioceses have expanded outreach, established schools, opened churches, and developed ministry training programs, while others remain static or decline. We believe that increasing resources for growth and mission is important. It is equally important to identify and evaluate dioceses where there is no significant mission. In some situations, declining dioceses may need to be merged with neighboring dioceses.

Episcopal Church in the Philippines—When the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) became a province of the Anglican Communion, ECUSA made a covenant commitment to assist that church in implementing a major capital fund campaign. The desire for such a campaign is still alive in the ECP, and the resources to assist are still available in ECUSA. As the ECP’s tenth anniversary as an autonomous church approaches, SCWM believes the time is right to keep the promise made to our sister church. SCWM urges the treasurer and Executive Council staff to expend appropriate funds to retain campaign counsel to conduct a feasibility study for a capital fund drive. A joint drive should be studied, using matching amounts of pesos and dollars. For instance, if one million dollars could be raised in the U.S., then one million pesos would be raised in the Philippines. The dual campaigns would strengthen both churches in principles of stewardship and capital campaigns.

Proposed Province of the Caribbean—Planning continues for a Province of the Caribbean to be constituted by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Puerto Rico, with a target date of 2003. However, Haiti has expressed its desire at some time in the future to join with other francophone countries in the formation of a different province. SCWM is concerned that without Haiti the proposed Caribbean province will not be viable. The Commission therefore urges the emerging Caribbean province to engage other potential member dioceses in its planning.

Province IX—ECUSA dioceses in Province IX are Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras and Litoral. We recommend that during the 2001-2003 triennium SCWM, the Standing Commission on Structure, Executive Council, and the ECUSA dioceses of Province IX consider the province’s future, in the event that emerging provincial structures leave it with too few dioceses to continue as presently constituted.

Use of Funds from Decreasing Subsidies
Autonomy arrangements for jurisdictions of the Episcopal Covenants Group typically include plans for decreasing monetary support from ECUSA. Such plans are presently being implemented with Central America, Mexico, and the Philippines, while successive crises have prompted an indefinite hold on subsidy reductions in Liberia. The era of continuing subsidies will draw to a close over the life of these covenants.
Currently, forty percent of ECUSA’s program budget is spent on world mission, with the majority going to support overseas dioceses and jurisdictions in the Episcopal covenants group. As less money is allocated to autonomous jurisdictions in the future, the church’s spending in the areas of world mission will decline significantly. Presently, the majority of funds no longer devoted to these jurisdictions are being reallocated in the normal budget process to other programs and concerns.

A major priority for SCWM in the next triennium will be to develop a comprehensive vision for the world mission of the Episcopal Church. This will include a plan for the allocation of such resources as will ensure that the church continues to be faithful to God’s global mission in the 21st century.

Resolution A129 Overseas Dioceses and Covenants

Resolved, the House of _________ concurring, That the 2000 General Convention commends to Executive Council the record of the Consultation on Autonomy held in October 1999 by the Standing Commission on World Mission with autonomous jurisdictions that were formerly part of the Episcopal Church, namely, the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, the Anglican Church of Central America, the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia (now a member of the Province of West Africa), the Anglican Church of Mexico, and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines; and be it further

Resolved, That this convention directs Executive Council to implement the church’s continuing covenants and agreements with jurisdictions of the Anglican Communion that were formerly part of the Episcopal Church to ensure that all of the Episcopal Church’s responsibilities under the covenants are carried out and that the church work in companionship with them to carry out God’s mission; and be it further

Resolved, That this convention directs Executive Council to nurture companionship with the church’s present overseas dioceses—namely, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Litoral, Taiwan, and the Virgin Islands—to ensure growth toward maturity among all participants; and be it further

Resolved, That this convention directs Executive Council to set long-range financial goals for the portion of the program budget devoted to overseas ECUSA dioceses; develop and publicize a plan for meeting such goals; and determine the feasibility of a “campaign for autonomy” that would avoid the need for lengthy covenant commitments if and when autonomy is undertaken by any overseas dioceses; and be it further

Resolved, That this convention directs Executive Council to include the church’s overseas dioceses in all communications planning and programming, especially electronic communications; and offer financial incentives to domestic dioceses to consider companion relationships with geographically distant overseas dioceses and provinces; and be it further

Resolved, That this convention directs Executive Council to ensure that all Executive Council members are briefed thoroughly on the status of overseas ECUSA dioceses, autonomy processes being undertaken by ECUSA dioceses, and covenants with autonomous jurisdictions formerly part of ECUSA; and be it further 

Resolved, That this convention directs Executive Council to ensure that overseas ECUSA dioceses and autonomous jurisdictions formerly part of ECUSA are effectively represented on decision-making bodies of the church.

At the Autonomy Consultation held in October 1999, the Standing Commission on World Mission was informed that aspects of several of our church’s covenant agreements with Anglican jurisdictions formerly part of ECUSA have not been honored. For instance, technical assistance for a capital campaign was agreed to with the Episcopal Church in the Philippines but never delivered.

Further, it has become clear that Executive Council needs to organize itself in such a way that it can maintain effective links with overseas ECUSA dioceses and respond effectively to the needs and concerns of covenant committees established to monitor ECUSA’s continuing relationship with jurisdictions formerly part of our church.

The Baptismal Covenant asks that the community of the baptized “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” As the church, we have often served our partner churches in the letter of the law of our covenants, but we have not responded to them in the Spirit of Christ. The covenants need more visible priority in the life of the church. This resolution seeks to accomplish that goal through efforts by Executive Council.

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