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Resolutions fly as convention nears end
Deputies tackle social justice issues, canons, youth, international affairs

By Sarah T. Moore
[Episcopal News Service]  A resolution from the Social and Urban Affairs Committee asking that General Convention to support a legislative bill authored by U.S. Rep. John Conyers calling for restitution for Africans enslaved in America for 246 years was defeated Wednesday after much discussion, pro and con (C003).

Deputy the Rev. Billy J. Alford of Georgia, urged passage of this resolution. “It is not about money but restitution and justice. We need an open, truthful discussion of the wrongs done, and we need to recognize that the wealth of this nation is due in part to unpaid, slave labor. And we need to recognize that the slaves could not hand down their possessions or benefit from their labor, or even keep their families intact. We need to mend and heal the nation, and this will help.”

Commenting against adoption, Deputy Anneke Bertsch of Central Florida said that “reparations will not heal the suffering of the past; nothing will. I know. I was imprisoned in Japanese concentration camps of Southeast Asia during World War II because of my white skin. The only thing that has healed me is reaching out in Jesus’ name to those who are suffering.”

Returning to the issue of reparations at the opening session Thursday morning, the chaplain called the house to prayer at the request of Deborah J. Stokes, deputy of Southern Ohio, acknowledging the emotion and divided opinion on this issue.

“We have caused deep injury to our fellow deputies who are Episcopalians of color, our brothers and sisters. Sufficient numbers of this house, myself included, failed to perceive the literal and symbolic importance of reconsidering resolution C003. I therefore would like to express my own apologies and repentance for this action,” said the Rev. Susan Williams, deputy from Western New York.

Copies of a petition to provide signers to personally commit to support legislative efforts to seek reparations were made available to all deputies through the convention.

On Wednesday, however, working under self-imposed special order of business limiting the time of debate and aiming at pushing legislation out from the House of Deputies to the House of Bishops, the deputies spent hours rolling resolutions out the door.

The house passed a resolution supporting the World Council of Churches’ “Decade to Overcome Violence” and its work with other faith communities and called for governmental diplomacy rather than warfare (C024).

“This is appropriate discussion on the anniversary of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945,” said Deputy Betsy Madsen of Massachusetts, noting what a difference it would make if the dollars spent on the Iraq war were sent instead to the World Court.

Deputies passed a resolution from the National and International Affairs Committee recognizing that Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal and a deterrent to the peace process, and called on the president and government to urge Israel to end its policy of demolition of Palestinian homes (D008).

In addition, the deputies approved a resolution from the Social and Urban Affairs Committee to establish a fund to which Jubilee Ministry centers could apply for grants (including request to Episcopal Relief and Development) to further their ministries to the poor and oppressed (D061).

Deputies adopted a substitute resolution recommending ministry to youth at risk. This includes programs such as literacy, conflict resolution and religious education curricula recognizing socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, linguistic and cultural diversity of the church (A128).

“This is my fourth General Convention, and there are still aspects of the convention in which I am unable to participate. I approve of this resolution so that other persons with disabilities can participate as well,” said Margo McMahon of Western Massachusetts, speaking to the adoption of a resolution recommending that meetings of the Episcopal Church, churchwide, be accessible to persons with disabilities (D051).

Adopting a resolution from the Ministry Committee that asks recognition of the ministries of persons of color and ordained women, deputies agreed that each diocese should assess the extent to which it recruits, trains and deploys women and persons of color for ordained ministry and report these data to the office of the assistant to the presiding bishop by March 31, 2005 (D043).

Deputies passed a resolution to recommend that diocesan conventions elect deputations to General Convention that reflect the diversity of the church, including representatives of the next generation, multilingual and multicultural character of its congregations (A079).

“Youth being involved in leadership of this church is important,” said Aaron Ferguson, representing the official youth presence. “Our deputation needs young people in diocesan conventions so we can hear from all parts of the church … what motions we want to get across and what voices we hear.”

Speaking to issues of just and unjust war, the deputies adopted with amendment a resolution calling congregations to discuss war, especially the strategy of pre-emptive strike, recalling the Episcopal Church view adopted at a 1930 Lambeth Conference and the 1931 General Convention that “war as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ” (A033).

Other actions

In other actions the deputies:

Adopted a special order of debate on the report of Program, Budget and Finance (X034).

Adopted a resolution from the Evangelism Committee stating that each congregation foster a mission perspective or culture, partner with others for mission and ministry and undertake congregational self-study for strategic plans looking at its transformation for mission (A075).

Adopted an amendment that every congregation of the church review its common life with specific questions, including ones of mission, transformation, how it impacts its community and how leadership is exercised (A074).

Adopted a resolution transferring specified territory from the Diocese of Wyoming to the Diocese of Idaho (C052).

Adopted  a resolution recommending a procedure to select site for General Convention that includes more lead time for site and date negotiations (A144).

Adopted resolution on the culture of nonviolence, asking awareness and training promoted for use in dioceses and congregations (D031).

Adopted with amendment a resolution that a Israeli security wall under construction is an impediment to peace and negotiated settlements of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and support of ongoing questioning to the president and national security advisor of the construction of the wall (D081).

Adopted with amendment a resolution recommending endorsing and implementing four resolutions on sustainable development passed by the 2002 Anglican Consultative Council, including endorsement and action on the declaration of the Stewardship of Creation (D066).

Adopted a resolution that the Theology Committee of  the House of Bishops prepare a study on new warfare situations addressing the Just War theory and other related issues (D068).

Adopted with substitute a resolution that the Office of Government Relations work to encourage the U.S. Congress to hold public hearing examining the relationship between the extension of police powers and USA PATRIOT Act (Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act 2001) and that the convention go on record opposing the use of federal legislation passed since Sept. 11 violating fundamental civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution (D063).

Adopted with amendment a resolution condemning domestic and international trafficking in all persons for sexual purposes and request an Episcopal Church committee prepare educational campaign for parishes and diocese on the subject to make faith-based people aware of issues and agencies surrounding the welfare of people in these circumstances (D034).

Adopted with substitute a resolution that General Convention support several issues relating to HIV/AIDS, including urging the government to keep America’s “Promise to Africa” by fully funding the president’s proposed five-year, $15-billion budget request for HIV/AIDS relief for Africa and the Caribbean, encouraging the government to find new ways to combat the disease, honor and support trade policies that promote access to essential AIDS medicines and the global fund to fight AIDS (D054).

Adopted a resolution from the International Relations Committee on the status of forces agreement with South Korea that the convention urge the government in such renegotiation give special attention to the rights of South Korean citizens to equal treatment and concerns for negative effects of U.S. military presence and activity, and recommend the eventual goal of phasing out U.S. military bases in South Korea (A037).

Adopted a resolution affirming actions by the church on discrimination issues of the Japanese-American internment in World War II and to uphold the dignity of every human being supporting the civil liberties of all, regardless of ethnicity and religious beliefs and that the government be instructed by this deplorable history when considering any reauthorization, expansion or implementation of legislation of the PATRIOT Act (D014).

Adopted a substitute resolution as amended on human affairs regarding support for Palestinian and Afghani women and encourage all Episcopalians to learn about their plight and provide support for women and children of all faiths in war-torn areas (A028).

Adopted with amendment a resolution to amend the canons on court for Trial of a Bishop, presented by the Committee on Ministry (D056). This was passed after a constitutional change was adopted on a vote by orders to amend the constitution, Article IX, the second reading to establish one or more courts for the Trial of Bishops (D062). This completes the work started in 1997 to make the discipline process for bishops parallel to that for priests and deacons, said Deputy Sally Johnson of Minnesota.

Adopted with amendment a resolution from the Communications Committee that broad, diverse and multifaceted communications is central to and essential for the mission of the Episcopal Church, that effective communication is an overarching ministry and cannot be fulfilled as either a list of tasks or an addendum to other facets of the church’s mission and ministries, and that a national strategy for communication must meet the needs of and be reflective of a broad and diverse church; and that a Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication participate in the strategic planning and share in oversight of implementing a comprehensive communication strategy for the Episcopal Church (D069).

Deputies also adopted several resolutions from the Social and Urban Affairs Committee including:

  • a resolution encouraging work on public policy to ensure that clean water is accessible and available to all (D070).
  • a resolution opposing federally sponsored marriage promotion through governmental assistance programs (Temporary Assistant to Needy Families [TANF] ) and that the office of government relations advocate on behalf of all needy families (D071).
  • a resolution that the 75th General Convention report on responses by dioceses of the church’s charge encouraging dioceses to establish commissions on marriage and that the National Concerns Committee of Executive Council make available to dioceses and congregations the developed programs for marriage enrichment and renewal and premarital counseling (D036).
  • referred to the Standing Commission on National Concerns a resolution calling for the church and related organizations within the church to withdraw membership in and financial support for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) (D045).
  • adopted with amendment a resolution that the convention reaffirm its commitment to providing rental and owner-occupied housing that is safe, accessible and affordable for low-income and moderate-income persons and their families and for persons with disabilities. Also, the resolution urged that the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice identify existing and new opportunities for involvement in the creation and investment in affordable housing and report through the Jubilee Ministries Advisory Committee on the status and opportunity for greater involvement at the next General Convention (D040).

Adopted a resolution supporting the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride by educating members about immigration law reform and engaging in supportive activities and education (C028).

Adopted a resolution from Social and Urban Affairs commending the formation of Episcopal Community Services in America as an umbrella organization for member organizations within the Episcopal Church that seek to serve those in need through health and social services (D073).

Adopted a resolution supporting the 20/20 goal that the Episcopal Church in teh year 2020 reflects the diversity of society and that the presiding bishop and Executive Council include in future triennial reports to convention faith-based reconciliation models particularly regarding effects on the church’s membership, mission and ministry (D017).

Adopted a resolution encouraging all dioceses, congregations and Episcopal affiliate organizations to append the phrase, with appropriate connecting wording “Anglican Communion” to their signage, publications, advertising and communications so that churches and organizations of the Episcopal Church may be easily identified as part of the wider fellowship of churches in the Anglican Communion by persons of other member churches of the Communion (D011).

Adopted with amendment a resolution charging the Church Center staff and particularly the ethnic ministries desks to continue to develop strategic resources for transformation, to continue to hold up new paradigm models, including multicultural congregations, and to continue developing training, gatherings for leadership and resource sharing, and developing educational resources and maintaining awareness of opportunities for learning and transformation in congregational life (A076).