The Episcopal Church's 2007-2009 triennium of mission and ministry will have its unofficial start beginning November 12 with overlapping meetings of the Executive Council and many of the church's commissions and committees.
Executive Council will meet from November 12-15, and 22 commissions, committees and one board will meet jointly from November 15-18, all at the Chicago Marriott O'Hare hotel.
The Executive Council carries out programs and policies adopted by the General Convention and oversees the ministry and mission of the Church. The council is composed of 38 members, including bishops, priests or deacons, and lay people, 20 of whom are elected by General Convention and 18 by provincial synods.
"As this is the first meeting of the triennium, a good part of our work will entail getting to know each other and developing a set of systems and relationships to guide our work for the next three years," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. "I hope we can continue to focus externally -- both on the blessed challenge which the Millennium Development Goals present, and on the challenge of evangelizing the many around us who need to hear and experience good news, whatever their age, language, or station in life."
The meeting begins November 12 when Executive Council and Church Center staff join the Eucharist at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Chicago.
Council members will spend the rest of the 12th and part of the morning of November 13 being oriented to their responsibilities. That work will be led by Gregory Straub, executive officer and secretary to General Convention; Suzanne Baillie, Church Center in-house counsel; David Beers, chancellor to the Presiding Bishop; and Sally Johnson, chancellor to the President of the House of Deputies.
"It's really a time for us to understand how we work and who we are," said House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson.
Another part of the council's work will be to consider a series of alternatives for organizing some of the triennium's meetings. The General Convention Office's meetings department will present scenarios that could include options such as meeting in one place as opposed to meeting in a different location, meeting at conference centers rather than hotels, and meeting only in cities served by major airport hubs.
"They're all designed to make meeting less expensive," Straub said.
Council is canonically required to meet at least three times a year (Canon 1.4.4 (a)). However, Straub said, the 75th General Convention cut the council's budget by a third.
"We are all trying to live within the budget realities," Anderson said.
The council's four committees will discuss the alternatives and then the entire group will be asked to craft a solution that will be used for one year beginning in the fall of 2007, after which it will be evaluated.
Committee meetings will occupy the rest of the 13th and most of the day on the 14th. Council members will go next door November 14 to the churchwide offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for noon Eucharist. ELCA staff members have been invited to join the service and Lutheran Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson is due to greet the council after the service.
The council will have dinner with representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, including diocesan Bishop William Persell, on the 14th and hear a presentation about the diocese's ministry and mission. Members of the diocese's General Convention deputation have also been invited to attend whatever parts of the meeting they can.
November 15's agenda could include council action to consent to Jefferts Schori's choice of a new executive director who acts as the church's chief operating officer. The person will succeed Patricia C. Mordecai who will retire at the end of the year. Jefferts Schori has been interviewing finalists whose names were given to her by a committee that screened applications.
The agenda for the 15th also includes a presentation by Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray about the Episcopal Church's Darkness into Day effort to support the restoration of the Episcopal Church's presence in Mississippi and Louisiana following the devastation by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Bishop Rodney Andrews, of the Anglican Church of Canada's Diocese of Saskatoon, will report to the council about the two churches' companion relationship. Andrews is filling in for New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham, who is on sabbatical.
That evening, the council will have dinner with the members of the groups gathering for the second meeting of the week.
This is the first time that a group of the committees, commissions, agencies and boards (CCABs) of the Episcopal Church's General Convention have met together before the official beginning of a triennium to begin planning their work, Straub said.
The CCABs receive resolutions from General Convention and set policies for their implementation during the following three years until the next convention.
About 350 members of 22 standing commissions, Executive Council committees and one board will be at the meeting, according to Straub. The specific groups were invited to the meeting based on their canonical mandates and whether General Convention resolutions have been assigned to them, he said.
High on the agenda is seven hours of anti-racism training. The training is required of all the CCABs, but this joint training allows a large group of members to develop a "base level from which they can do additional anti-racism training that is specifically related to their work," Straub said.
The joint training is also an opportunity to "explore our quest to be an anti-racist church," Anderson added.
The joint meeting is partially an effort "to build collegiality among the groups" and help their members see where they can collaborate, both Anderson and Straub said.
It's also a chance to orient a large number of the CCABs to their responsibilities without a General Convention office staff person having to travel to each group's meeting, according to Straub.
The gathering will also give Jefferts Schori and Anderson a chance to meet with a large number of the people they have appointed to the groups and become familiar with the work assigned to them by the General Convention.
Another way the two officers will monitor that work is through the provisions of General Convention Resolution A104 that requires them to appoint Executive Council liaisons to each Standing Commission (see list below). The officers are ex officio members of all the groups. Resolutions A104 requires the Presiding Bishop to appoint a staff liaison to each commission, and she and Anderson may each appoint a personal non-voting representative to each commission.
The Executive Council members are each assigned to one of the council's four committees. The assignments for the 2007-2009 triennium are (diocese, province in parentheses):