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From Columbus: Deputies finish work with rapid agenda

By Melodie Woerman and Jim DeLa
6/21/2006
[Episcopal News Service] 

A flurry of legislation cleared the House of Deputies in the waning hours of the 75th General Convention June 21, including a resolution that begins interim Eucharistic sharing with the United Methodist Church (UMC), and other resolutions that reaffirm church support for gays and lesbians.

The relationship with the United Methodist Church includes recognition of the UMC as "a member of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church in which the Gospel is rightly preached and taught" and encourages the development of a common Christian life between the two bodies. The agreement permits common, joint celebrations of the Eucharist (Holy Communion) between the two churches.

Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops in opposing the criminalization of homosexuality, opposing state or federal constitutional amendments that prohibits same-gender civil marriage or civil unions and affirming the civil rights of gays and lesbians.

Another resolution reiterates Episcopal Church support of gay and lesbian people as "children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church."

Deputies also concurred with bishops in adopting a resolution calling for equal representation of women and men on all decision-making bodies within the church at local, diocesan and national levels. This recommendation originated with the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

The deputies also concurred with the House of Bishops in a mission initiative resolution for the New Orleans area that will gather data that can be used to advance evangelism elsewhere in the church.

Additional resolutions were passed that came from the special committee that considered resolutions in response to the Windsor Report. They reiterated the historic separate and independent status of the churches of the Anglican Communion and affirmed the "Windsor process" to discern the nature and unity of the church and the report's call for a listening process.

Deputies also concurred in creating a new task force to study aspects of church disciplinary canons. Proposed changes to Title IV would have replaced the current court-oriented system with a multi-layered approach intended to focus on mediation and reconciliation which included a controversial provision that would subject certain lay leaders to the new canons. After hearing significant concern about the proposal, particularly about subjecting laity to ecclesiastical discipline, the legislative committee attempted to rewrite the 30-page resolution to clarify issues. However, it quickly became apparent to committee members the revision could not be accomplished in time for this convention to act, prompting a referral to the task force for continued revisions in the next three years.

Deputies also approved a pilot project to provide summer camps for children whose parents are in prison. A line item in the budget already approved by General Convention included $65,000 for the new program.

In other final day action, the House of Deputies also took action on the following legislation that had already passed the House of Bishops:

  • directed General Convention planners to provide child care facilities at the 2009 convention. It also encourages dioceses and provinces to provide similar services at conventions and synod meetings (D059).
  • defeated a resolution to shorten the length of General Convention to eight days, or nine days if a Presiding Bishop was to be elected (A155).
  • adopted a proposal to standardize the size of standing commissions to 12 people, three bishops, three priests or deacons and six lay persons (A104).
  • authorized the creation of a Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Education and Formation to develop and recommend policies for children, youth, adults, and seniors for lifelong Christian formation (A105).
  • approved active support for the right of workers to form a union and increase the support nationwide for passage of "living wage" legislation. It also commits the church to contract solely with union hotels in its meetings, or hotels that offer "living wages" to employees (D047).
  • approved additional commemorations in the Calendar of the Church Year and authorize trial use thereof for the triennium 2007–2009, for  Harriet Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary; Anna Julia Heyward Cooper, Educator; James Theodore Holly, Bishop of Haiti and Dominican Republic; Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, and The Martyrs of El Salvador; Tikhon, Patriarch of Russia and Confessor; Vida Dutton Scudder, Educator and Witness for Peace; and  Frances Joseph-Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer (A063 and A064).
  • approved for trial use new liturgies concerning rites of passage, including reaching puberty, earning a driver's license and dating relationships (A067).
  • acknowledged the authority of the triune God, exercised through Scripture (D069.)
  • recognized the position in the Constitution and Canons that only those who have been baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion; and that the 76th General Convention receive a pastoral and theological understanding of the relationship between Holy Baptism and Eucharistic practice (D084).
  • directed the Standing Commission on Ministry Development to design strategies for raising awareness and responding to the crisis of educational debt for seminarians (B006).
  •  urged the church to work to ensure that governments provide programs that combat social and economic conditions that place children at risk or diminish children's ability to achieve their full potential in the world (A018).
  • defeated a proposal that would allow an assistant, suffragan or coadjutor to help a diocesan bishop fulill the canonical requirement to visit each congregation in a diocese (B007).
  • authorized the establishment of a Church Planting Initiative to raise funds for new congregations (A042).