In a final push to the end over the last two days of General Convention, the House of Deputies dealt with a wide range of resolutions, for the most part concurring with actions of the House of Bishops.
In a last-minute flurry of action Friday on a resolution to replace the current Prayer Book lectionary with the Revised Common Lectionary used by several other denominations, including the Lutheran Church (A103), deputies first narrowly rejected concurrence on the resolution, and then reconsidered, approving a substitute resolution.
Some deputies who voted against concurrence Friday morning said they did so because they wanted to preserve the possibility of choice between using the Revised Common Lectionary and the current Prayer Book lectionary. But the Rev. Francis Wade of Washington, co-chair of the Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music Committee, later explained that because the Revised Common Lectionary was approved for only three years, the vote not to concur with its authorization meant that it could no longer be used in Episcopal churches at all. The substitute resolution, which deputies adopted, permits but does not require its use. The bishops, who had completed their work, remained in session Friday afternoon in order to be able to also approve the substitute.
Deputies also concurred with bishops in approving an amendment to the constitution that will restrict voting rights in the House of Bishops to “bishops having jurisdiction, bishop coadjutors, bishops suffragan, assistant bishops and bishops holding offices created by the General Convention (B005). Other bishops, such as retired bishops, not in those categories will still have “seat and voice.” Michael Rehill of Newark said he supported the move, even though he voted to reject a similar resolution at an earlier convention, because “I’ve come to believe that this is the way to go.” The resolution was “brought by 49 retired bishops” and received overwhelming support from the House of Bishops, he pointed out.
Deputies chose not to concur with the bishops in calling on the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a Commission on Faith and Order to consider the theological issues related to human sexuality (B009), after deputies argued that the archbishop has already proposed a meeting of primates in October in response to the Convention’s actions on sexuality. The concurrence failed, 390 to 226.
Deputies concurred with a resolution that would establish a Standing Commission on Health (A124) despite arguments that the move would be at cross-purposes with efforts to reduce expenses for national meetings. The Rev. Willa Goodfellow of Iowa recalled testimony that “one day of one meeting for one person costs this church $900,” and the cuts made in the budget for committees, commissions, agencies, and boards to try “to get that line item in the budget under control.” Deputies had commended “the newest standing commission on communications for saying they will work with no money,” she said, adding that the church needs to have an opportunity to “practice new ways of doing business, before we add any more commissions.”
But James Bradberry of Southern Virginia argued that “if we are going to have a meaningful voice in trying to bring health care issues into a proper perspective in the church, we need to have this commission working at a national level.” In earlier discussions, deputies expressed “considerable interest” in addressing health care concerns, recalled J. Patrick Waddell of El Camino Real. He also pointed out that “the wording of the resolution also just provides the canonical language needed “if we decide to fund it.” The deputies concurred by a vote of 386 to 227.
Deputies concurred with bishops in referring to the Committee on Constitution and Canons a proposed change to the constitutional requirement for approval of the election of a bishop. The change, which bishops did not adopt, would have required only the consents of the majority of standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction in the province where the election occurred (B023).
Deputies concurred with bishops in supporting the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican leaders who have “jointly affirmed with Islamic leaders in various countries our shared desire to honor those teachings in our respective traditions which work to avoid coercion and respect individual liberty” (D020). The resolution also urges that future dialogues pay particular attention to vigorously opposing “any nation’s or other governmental body’s imposition of or continuation of a legal system which violates fundamental human rights.”
Programs for youth
Deputies concurred with bishops on several resolutions directed toward ministry with youth and young people. While the resolutions often included requests for financial support through the budget, the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance chose to allocate an additional $1 million for such ministries without designating which proposed programs would be funded. Executive Council, working with national staff in consultation with young people, will decide how to use the $1 million. Possible initiatives endorsed by Convention through the bishops and deputies action included:
- A call for the Ministries with Young People Cluster, dioceses, congregations, educational institutions, and other organizations to identify and develop internships and leadership programs for 18- to 30-year-old members of the church (A065). The resolution requested $500,000 per year for a total of $1.5 million for the triennium.
- A call for Executive Council, dioceses, and congregations to affirm existing campus ministries and explore “new and creative forms of campus ministry, new sources of funding and to commit adequate resources in time, talent and treasure to ensure a significant and effective ministry at each campus (A066).
Deputies concurred with bishops in calling on members and congregations to “take the lead in insuring that all methods used to prevent the spread of HIV are taught in school curricula, Church School curricula and in other educational settings” (A021). The resolution was amended by bishops to remove a statement that “educational efforts shall be intentionally directed toward the prevention of HIV among men who have sex with other men.”
Deputies concurred with bishops in designating the Report of the Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations on The Gift of Authority as the official response of the church, and stipulating that it be referred to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) for further dialogue (A088). Deputies also concurred with adjustments renaming the commission as the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (D010).
Deputies joined bishops in endorsing a worldwide “Anglican Gathering” of lay people, priests, deacons and bishops from every diocese of the Anglican Communion that is tentatively planned to be held in South Africa in 2008 in place of the traditional Lambeth Conference of bishops. The resolution (D009) calls on every diocese to begin to plan and make financial provisions for representation at the gathering, and directs the Standing Commission on World Mission, the Executive Council, and the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to prepare a plan for the national church’s financial support of the gathering.
National and international affairs
Deputies supported continuing the full funding of the Episcopal Church’s Washington office by rejecting a resolution that would have reduced the funding to under $200,000 a year (D030). The resolution would have redirected the funds saved to support regional ministries in the nine provinces. The Rev. Gary Waddingham of Montana supported the resolution, noting that the provinces do an “enormous amount” of work in various ministries that could be supported by the funding.
Marge Kilkelly of Maine urged the rejection, however, pointing out the wide range of national and international issues addressed by General Convention resolutions. “We will not have voice if we don’t have an office in Washington,” she said. Karen Paterson of Southwest Florida agreed, saying she had found the Washington office invaluable in her work as an advocate for the elderly. The resolution was rejected 589 to 177.
Deputies concurred in calling for immediate action on applications to release pension payments, restricted endowment, and trust income held by the Episcopal Church for the Diocese of Cuba, as well as other grants held up by the Patriot Act following September 11 (D050). The resolution’s explanation notes that the interruption of the payments has “inflicted real hardship to those who earned and planned on these payments.”
Deputies returned briefly to an earlier discussion of a resolution advocating research on human stem cells (A014) to concur with the bishops’ removal of a sentence that stated the Convention “urges that adult stem cell research continue.”
Deputies concurred in calling for an inter-denominational and inter-disciplinary study titled “Surviving Loved Ones of Murder Victims: The Impact of Executions on Healing and Pastoral Care” that will be conducted through the International Center for Healing and Law (B020).
Stewardship and Development
Deputies concurred with bishops in endorsing The Alleluia Fund and similar funds and urging dioceses to participate in the “Alleluia Fund process of planning, giving, and spiritual transformation” (A134). Deputies also concurred in encouraging congregations to take special offerings whenever martyrs of Africa are being commemorated and to send those offerings to Episcopal Relief and Development (B022).
Deputies concurred in urging all church groups to “recognize the Episcopal Church’s international membership beyond the boundaries of the United States when producing informational material, documentation, publications, web sites, and advertisements” (C037). Deputies also concurred in supporting the revised strategy to establish Church Publishing Incorporated as a “significant provider of books, software, and related services” (D021).
Deputies concurred in inviting abortion recovery programs and the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL) to participate in developing a liturgy for a healing/memorial service ministering to those suffering from post-abortion stress (D047). They also concurred in directing the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop supplemental liturgical materials that hold up the ministry of the baptized in ordination services (C025).
In other actions, the deputies concurred with bishops in
- Referring to committee a call to support “biodiversity in food production” (A016)
- Supporting the church’s participation in the International Anglican Liturgical Consulation (A109)
- Referring to the Standing Commission of Liturgy and Music a request for propers and collects to commemorate the anniversary of the “First Communion on the Moon” (D049)
- Correcting the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer to accurately quote Micah (D003)
- Referring to committee a request to change the date of Harriet Tubman’s commemoration from July 20 to March 10 (D035)
- Urging congregations to welcome in their buildings and facilities “certified service animals” people need for assistance (D041)
- Amending the disciplinary canons (D012)
- Commending the use of Fresh Start, a resource for congregations and clergy in transition to new clergy leadership (B017).