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House of Bishops acts on consent, education, calendar

By David Skidmore and Richelle Thompson
8/1/2003
[Episcopal News Service] 

The House of Bishops added two new members to its ranks Thursday afternoon and upped the ante of the church’s commitment to ministry to diverse populations.

The house confirmed the elections of the Rev. George Councell as bishop-elect of the Diocese of New Jersey and the Rev. Joe Burnett as bishop-elect of the Diocese of Nebraska.

Second-language requirement

Bishops also took a step toward requiring all ordination candidates to have competency in a second language or culture.

“If we really are serious about becoming a church who knows cultures and knows languages and really is evangelical,  then we would enshrine that in canon and would make it a requirement for all candidates,” said the Rt. Rev. Andrew Smith, bishop of Connecticut.

Province VIII is becoming increasingly multicultural, said Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. “Clergy cannot function there if they are not adept in another language or culture.”

The resolution directs the Standing Commission on Ministry Development (SCMD) to “prepare revisions of the ordination canons to require competency in a contemporary language other than native language or a culture other than the candidate’s native culture.” It also would require intercultural field education experience of all candidates.

Some bishops expressed concern about the structural implications of the resolution and its impact on General Ordination Exams. The Rt. Rev. David Bena of Albany raised the issue of the average age of ordinands, which has climbed over the years, and their language skills.

The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, said the diocese requires all non-American candidates to learn English. “And I think turnabout is fairplay,’’ he said.

The Rt. Rev. Mark McDonald of Alaska concurred. “Alaska would like to say 'amen' to Europe,” he said. “I’m very afraid if you don’t make it mandatory, it won’t get done. I think we could unintentionally leave up a barrier.”

Continuing education

A pilot program for developing diocesan continuing education programs also won endorsement from the bishops on Thursday after a short debate over whether dioceses should be forced rather than urged to provide continuing education for all clergy and lay professionals.

In its original form, the resolution (A121) from SCMD directed dioceses to make plans and provisions for such continuing education and report their progress to the commission. It urged dioceses without such plans to participate in a pilot program developed by the Office of Ministry Development. The legislative committee on Ministry amended the measure by substituting “encourage” for “direct” and eliminating a provision for 20 dioceses to participate in the pilot program. The committee also altered the measure by changing the directive on authorizing $46,000 to requesting the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to consider such an allocation.

Several bishops questioned the legislative committee’s changes, arguing that changing a mandate to a recommendation would ensure there was no accountability for a diocese’s participation. To substitute the word “encourage” for “direct” “takes the teeth out of it,” said Bishop William Gregg of Oregon as he moved to restore the original language.

Bishop James Jelinek of Minnesota supported the committee’s amendment, noting the difficulty of directing dioceses to follow through on clergy continuing education “when we have no teeth on recertification.” To do so, he said, “is putting the cart before the horse” and saddling small dioceses with an unreasonable expense.

Bishop Jim Kelsey of Northern Michigan pointed out that the Title III revisions being proposed by the SCMD call for establishing continuing education for all licensed and ordained ministry. “So this horse may be hitting the road,” he said. And if those proposals pass, the commission may be able to ensure there is accountability, he added.

Two attempts to further amend the resolution — a recommendation for dropping the diocesan pilot program provision and one removing reference to the 74th General Convention — were defeated.

Defending the pilot program, Bishop Russell Jacobus of Fond du Lac said his diocese probably would not have been able to get a continuing education program off the ground without having the help of the Office of Pastoral Development and its consultants.

Twelve dioceses, including Fond du Lac, agreed to participate in the two-year pilot program launched in 2000. Of the 12 who joined, two dropped out in the first year, and three others only partially participated. Six dioceses established full-fledged continuing education programs.

Calendar considerations

King Charles the Martyr has died again in the House of Bishops
 
Following the recommendation of the legislative Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music, the bishops soundly rejected the resolution from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to add the 17th-century English king to the Episcopal Church’s commemorative calendar. The resolution (C010) would have established a commemoration for King Charles I on January 30, the day he was executed in 1649 by order of Parliament.
 
The legislative committee heard arguments both for and against Charles’ inclusion, said Bishop Henry Louttit (Georgia), the committee’s co-chair. The chief objections focused on the need for more diversity in the calendar and whether his martyrdom was triggered by his defense of the faith or “his political rigidity,” said Louttit. “One issue is he is obviously male, English and old,” said Louttit, prompting laughter from the bishops. The committee, he added, felt there needed to be more balance in the calendar.
 
Bishop Barry Howe, also on the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee, said the committee heard conflicting historical analysis of Charles' efforts in defense of the historic episcopate, some of it surrounding his support of Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud whom Howe described as “one of the most confining and devastating archbishops."
 
Laud, who served from 1633 until his execution in 1645, was noted for his harsh punishment of Puritans and his efforts to make the church independent of Parliament. Along with Charles he is commemorated in the Church of England’s calendar.
 
Today’s action marks the second time the house has rejected a commemoration of Charles I, although the SCLM has considered at least a dozen proposals since the last vote in 1985.
 
The road proved easier for eight other candidates proposed for the calendar. By unanimous vote and without debate the bishops gave final authorization for Enmegahbowh, the first Native American ordained in the Episcopal Church who served as priest and missionary among the Minnesota Ojibwa; Florence Nightingale, the pioneer for hospital reform in the mid-19th century; and Philip the Deacon, one of the 12 apostles (A093). They also approved trial commemorations for Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda and Martyr; William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury; and C.S. Lewis, theologian and writer (A094); and the trial use of propers for Luwum, Temple and Lewis (A095). The first bishop of Ohio and Illinois, Philander Chase, was approved for trial commemoration (A096) as were propers for Chase (A097). The bishops also approved for a three-year trial the commemoration of Florence Li Tim-Oi, the first women priest in the Anglican Communion.

With limited debate the bishops referred for further study by the SCLM  two commemorations: Tikhon, Russian Orthodox bishop of Alaska and North America (C009), and the Rev. John Roberts, missionary to the Wind River Reservation.

Other actions

In other actions, the bishops followed the ministry committee’s recommendation by adopting the amended resolution (A119) directing the SCMD in consultation with the North American Association of the Diaconate (NAAD) to continue study of the role of deacons in the councils of the church. The committee had amended the resolution by having the SCMD consult the dioceses along with NAAD.

The bishops also adopted a resolution (A119) from the Standing Commission for Small Congregations calling for the Office of Congregational Development and the Missioner for Rural and Small Communities to print and distribute the resource, Expanding Mission and Vitality in Small Congregations. Bishop Larry Maze, chair of the legislative committee on the church in small communities, said his members were so impressed with the commission’s resource that they decided to amend the resolution to call for not only its printing and distribution but also its promotion.

In other business, the house tabled resolution A085, which discussed the reception of members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Although the resolution stems from continuing work in Called to Common Mission, the bishops tabled it after widespread concern that the church needs to do more theological reflection on confirmation and its meaning.

On second reading, the bishops overwhelmingly approved the continued use of the supplemental liturgical resources, Enriching Our Worship 1 & 2, during the next triennium (A091). These were first authorized by the 2000 convention.

The House of Bishops approved resolution C031, which calls on the church to work toward reconciliation and support and encourage interfaith worship services such as the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation.

The possibility of continuing the Executive Council Task Force on Ethics and New Genetics was approved in Resolution A013.

In recognition of the financial burdens on seminarians, the house passed a resolution calling for the SCMD to convene partnership with members of the Church Pension Board and other agencies to seek solutions to seminarian debt.
 
The resolutions adopted in this session now go to the House of Deputies for concurrence to become official actions of the convention.