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Toward Columbus: World Mission, reconciling ministries are priorities for Convention

By Matthew Davies
5/30/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  Promoting partnerships for global mission and expanding current programs to better serve the church in the world will be at the heart of at least ten resolutions to be presented to legislative committees at the 75th General Convention, when it meets June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio.

The Standing Commission on World Mission (SCWM), responsible for drafting Resolutions A113-122, met four times in the last triennium, which it describes as "a time of considerable promise and anxiety -- promise because Episcopalians are increasingly aware of their engagement with the Anglican Communion and of their desire for shared mission, but anxiety because conflict threatens that fellowship."

'Reconciling ministries'

Cause for much celebration and hope can be found in the Episcopal Church's missionary program, which is central to the Church's mission in the world.

SCWM describes missionaries as the "incarnate link between churches at home and overseas" who provide the Church with "unique cultural, theological, and ecumenical expertise and perspective on the world." Affirming their "reconciling ministries," Resolution A113 requests a minimum of $3.3 million for the 2007–2009 triennium for the Volunteers for Mission and Appointed Missionary programs, an increase of $221,000 from the 2004-2006 triennial budget.

Mission opportunities for those aged 18-30 are also offered through the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) program -- a partnership between the Offices of Anglican and Global Relations (AGR) and Ministries with Young People -- which has one-year assignments to bring young adults into the life of the Anglican Communion. Resolution A114 asks AGR to increase the number of YASC placements from 10 to 15 per year and requests a budget allocation of $550,000 -- augmented from the current triennium's $309,000 -- for its implementation.

AGR will also be invited in Resolution A115 to develop a range of world mission educational materials and resources, dependent on funding, and resolutions A116 and A117 will urge an increase in resources and programmatic support for short-term overseas mission pilgrimages and funding toward cross-cultural and international experience for seminarians.

Covenants in Communion

In its report to Convention, SCWM refers to two documents in particular that speak of promise and opportunity: "The Gift of Communion," a set of reflections by SCWM members that give credence to mutual responsibility and interdependence throughout the Anglican Communion; and "A Covenant for Communion in Mission," the report of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism (IASCOME) to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

At its 13th meeting in Nottingham, England, in June 2005, the ACC called for all churches of the Anglican Communion to study and apply the covenant.

Resolution A126, submitted by Executive Council, recognizes this call and commends the document for study by parishes, dioceses, seminaries, networks and commissions "as a vision for Anglican faithfulness to the mission of God."

The resolution also requests SCWM to gather responses to the document and include reflections and recommendations concerning application of the covenant in its report to the 76th General Convention in 2009.

The full text of "A Covenant for Communion in Mission" can be found online at: http://www.aco.org/mission/commissions/iascome/covenant/index.cfm and is also included in the Report of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, "One Baptism, One Hope in God's Call," available at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/SCECACReport.pdf

Covenants also exist in the form of ongoing partnerships between the Episcopal Church and other provinces or dioceses within the Anglican Communion -- current formal commitments include those with the Episcopal/Anglican churches of Brazil, Central America, Liberia, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Resolution A118, developed in conjunction with the Standing Commission on Structure, suggests ways to refine representation and reporting processes of the covenant committees. These are joint committees, typically consisting of three or four members from each church – but the aim is to ensure that on the Episcopal Church's side, the representatives include one bishop, appointed by the Presiding Bishop, and one priest, deacon, or layperson, appointed by the President of the House of Deputies, each serving for no more than six years. One member from SCWM and one liaison from Executive Council would each serve a three-year term.

Endorsement of new language for the Episcopal Church's current bilateral agreement with Brazil, "Commitment to be Companions in Christ," will be called for in Resolution A119.

The full text of the document, which commits to mutual support and encouragement for ministry and mission development within both provinces, can be found online at: http://gc2006.org/legislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=126&type=ORIGINAL

The two churches have shared a missionary history for more than 100 years, initiated in 1890 by missionaries Lucien Lee Kinsolving and James Watson Morris from the Virginia Theological Seminary.

In 1907, a missionary district of the Episcopal Church was established in Brazil under Kinsolving's leadership which, in 1965, became the autonomous province, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (IEAB).

The Bilateral Committee, established in 1990 by the Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church and IEAB, believes the endorsement of the agreement "will be good for the souls of both provinces" and will "solidify and make public and structurally accountable this ongoing commitment to one another."

In order to support the Centennial Endowment Fund of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), Resolution A120 will request a budget allocation of $100,000 in both 2008 and 2009, to help mitigate the impact on the ECP of the ending in 2007 of the 15-year financial commitment that the Episcopal Church made when the autonomy process began. This also would represent a partial response to Resolution 2000–B012 from the 73rd General Convention, which authorized the creation of the fund.

In its report to Convention, SCWM notes that Executive Council was able to commit an initial $250,000 toward a projected goal of $1.5 million, but it has not developed a plan for raising monies towards that goal.

Fundraising for the Endowment Fund has fallen short of expectations on both sides, SCWM explains. Accordingly, clergy in five of the six ECP dioceses have been operating on reduced budgets and salary cutbacks.

In other proposed legislation (Resolution A122), recognition of the already existing Francophone Network is requested, as well as budgetary support for French translation and interpretation services "thereby acknowledging, affirming, and celebrating the growing ministry and presence of French-speaking peoples in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion."

The resolution also calls for necessary resources that would "enhance the Episcopal Church Center's ability to work with the growing numbers of French-speakers within the Episcopal Church in the United States and overseas and in the wider Anglican Communion," and asks for a budget allocation of $150,000 to be considered.

Among its priorities for the 2007-2009 triennium, SCWM will continue monitoring and implementing "Companions in Transformation: The Episcopal Church's World Mission in a New Century," the SCWM document that the 2003 General Convention called on the Church to study in this triennium.

Other priorities will include monitoring the mentoring process for the YASC, continuing participation with Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission, studying the role and needs for enhanced opportunities for theological education, and monitoring developments in the Episcopal Church's ten overseas dioceses and other jurisdictions, such as the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, as well as the Episcopal Church of Cuba.