Bonnie Anderson, recently elected president of the General Convention's House of Deputies, speaks about the rich history of the Episcopal Church's decision-making processes and the mission priorities emphasized at its 75th General Convention, held in June in Columbus, Ohio.
"These mission priorities placed Justice and Peace -- Promoting justice and peace for all of God's creation and continuing and accelerating the leadership role and programs of the Episcopal Church, which support the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the dioceses of the Episcopal Church and in the world -- as the number one priority," she said, challenging all people to focus upon the mission of reconciliation in the world and particularly with the global poor.
An audio stream of Anderson's message is available here. The full text follows:
The General Convention meets once every three years. The General Convention is the bicameral governing body of the Episcopal Church. It is composed of a House of Deputies and a House of Bishops.
The Episcopal Church through its rich history of creativity and bicameral decision making, has governed itself in this way since the first General Convention in 1785. Getting things done is a common characteristic of General Convention. By the end of the convention in 1785, there was a draft Book of Common Prayer and a Draft Constitution, which were both approved in final form in 1789. The phrase, "We have always done it that way," certainly rings true when applied to our form of governance.
The House of Deputies is composed of 4 clergy and 4 lay deputies from each of the 111 dioceses. Almost all the dioceses send a full deputation, which totals over 800 deputies seated in the house. The House of Bishops is composed of all bishops, retired and active, and is composed of approximately 300 bishops. The presiding officer of the House of Bishops is the Presiding Bishop. The presiding officer of the House of Deputies is the President of the House of Deputies. That person is elected by the House of Deputies and serves a three-year term (for which he or she may run again) which begins at the close of the convention at which he or she is elected.
With regards to the decision-making process at General Convention, resolutions for consideration may be proposed by Provinces -- there are 9 provinces in the Episcopal church and they are geographic boundaries each containing several dioceses -- by Dioceses, by Bishops, by Deputies and by Commissions and Committees that work during the years between General Convention responding to resolutions that were passed at the previous General Convention. A resolution must be adopted in the same language in each house in order for it to become a concurred action of the General Convention.
If you are interested in reading the concurred resolutions, the Episcopal church website has all the concurred resolutions posted in their final form.
When gathered, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church takes on a life of its own. Grounded in daily worship and prayer, legislative deliberation is done prayerfully and thoughtfully. The Holy Spirit is often invoked and always expected and welcome, even fervently pleaded with to be present. The 75th General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, was no exception in that regard.
While the relationship of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion is an important part of our ministry and our life, the 75th General Convention was overwhelmingly about mission. Contrary to much post convention publicity and discussion, the General Convention actually shouted out loud about mission.
The mission priorities, which focus the budget and the mission and ministry work of the Episcopal Church during the triennium, were adopted by General Convention. These mission priorities placed Justice and Peace; "Promoting justice and peace for all of God's creation and continuing and accelerating the leadership role and programs of the Episcopal Church, which support the eight (8) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the dioceses of the Episcopal Church and in the world," -- that's the number one priority.
Like the General Convention itself, the post-General Convention church also has a life of its own. Sometimes referred to as "the larger Church" it is characterized by our own bishops and deputies and their interpretation of General Convention actions, and the interpretation of other interested parties, both at home and abroad, questions and comments and opinions from the "people in the pew"; in other words, the whole Episcopal Church." I encourage every Episcopalian to be familiar with concurred resolutions, especially if you have particular interest in them. Speak about your Church from a factual base. Opinions are important and necessary. So is fact.
Although it is tempting to focus ourselves around the unsettled aspects of our Church life, and although resolving issues within the Anglican Communion is an important part of our post-convention life, I would challenge us all to focus ourselves upon our mission of reconciliation in the world and particularly reconciliation with the global poor. The General Convention put the ground work into place:
• Seventy-one dioceses have embraced the Millennium Development Goals and 0.7% giving. The General Convention challenged all dioceses to commit 0.7% giving by July 7, 2007.
• General Convention issued a challenge to every department and funded mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church to give 0.7% of their money toward the MDGs.
• A pledge by all members of Program, Budget and Finance to give 0.7% of their personal incomes toward the MDGs challenged to all bishops and deputies to do the same.
• A line item representing more than 0.7% of the budget for the Episcopal Church has been dedicated to supporting the MDGs, and an additional $1,326,000 in new and increased mission funds were identified that support the MDGs.
Now it is up to us. It's up to the larger Church. General Convention did a great job. Now it is our challenge to make the life of the Episcopal Church be a life that is mission driven. That is our call.
While attending to the importance of our collective life as members of the Anglican Communion, and continuing to advocate for inclusions of all people at all levels of our ministry in the Church, let us focus ourselves on the mission of the Church, both domestically and in the Anglican Communion. Let us focus ourselves on the reconciling work of Christ in the world. Let us connect with our Anglican sisters and brothers in our common ministry. Our common ministry is to and with the global poor. Let us put faces with the name of the Millennium Development Goals.