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Executive Council proposes an Anglican convocation in the Americas
Members briefed on status of diocesan property disputes, strategy

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray tells the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council November 15 about the efforts of his diocese and the Diocese of Louisiana to recover from the 2005 hurricane season that devastated the Gulf Coast.  

ENS Photo by Mary Frances Schjonberg
Executive Council member (from left) Dennis Stark, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, member Angela Helt, member the Rev. Edward Rodman and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori listen November 15 as retiring Episcopal Church Executive Director Patricia M. Mordecai says goodbye to the council.   (ENS Photo by Mary Frances Schjonberg)

[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Church's Executive Council agreed November 15 to contemplate an "Anglican regional convocation of the Americas" to better equip churches for "mutuality and interdependence in God's mission."

The council, the church's governing body between General Conventions, asked Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson to appoint a working group to investigate the possibility of the convocation.

The group would consult with the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Council of Latin America (Concilio Anglicano Latino Americano or CALA), and the Province of the West Indies. The other major convocation of Anglican provinces consists of churches in the Global South.

The decision to pursue an American Anglican convocation was one of the actions the council took as it concluded its four-day Chicago meeting. Its gathering is to be followed November 15-18 by a joint meeting of 23 Episcopal Church commissions, committees and boards. Both meetings are at the Chicago Marriott O'Hare hotel.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention and oversees the ministry and mission of the church. The council is composed of 40 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by provincial synods, plus the Presiding Bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

The meeting opened the 2007-2009 triennium for Executive Council, although it occurred at the end of the 2003-2006 triennial calendar. The majority of the meeting was spent in orientation and organizational matters. There is a full list of the resolutions the council passed at the end of this story.

Lexington Bishop Stacy Sauls gave the council a written report about the work of the House of Bishops Task Force on Property Disputes, whose work began at the September 2005 House of Bishops meeting and was sanctioned by the council earlier this year.

At that time, the council appropriated $100,000 for the task force's work. The group also has $25,000 available to it from the Church Pension Fund. The task force has not yet spent any of the money, according to the group's written report.

Lawyers, including several diocesan chancellors and a judge on the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals, serve as consultants to the bishops.

Sauls' written report says that the task force has:

  • developed a "brief bank" of various court filings and research memoranda that are available to aid dioceses with litigation, and has identified potential expert witnesses;
  • evaluated "options that might be available through processes of mediation, reconciliation and settlement;"
  • introduced General Convention Resolution B032 stating that none of the Windsor Report-related responses contemplated or established by various dioceses "is intended to affect either the historic separate and independent status of the churches of the Anglican Communion or the legal identity of The Episcopal Church." The report says that the resolution was proposed because it appeared that part of the Windsor Report-response strategy of some dioceses was to "force the Archbishop of Canterbury to sanction such activity and to provide a 'safe haven' for those wishing to pursue that course of action;"
  • decided to monitor the efforts of what the report called "problem dioceses," including Pittsburgh, Quincy, Springfield, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Rio Grande; and
  • briefed Jefferts Schori on its work and recommendations.

The task force's report said it will continue:

  • maintaining contact within "problem" dioceses with people who wish to "remain loyal to the Episcopal Church;"
  • working on a position paper "setting forth possible common grounds which could be sought so that the split in the Episcopal Church which is feared by the task force might be avoided;"
  • preparing filings to be used "in certain very limited situations" to institute presentments or lawsuits against any "entity which has affirmatively undertaken conduct to separate from the Episcopal Church," eventualities that the task force "hopes and prays" do not come to pass; and
  • continuing to support litigation that supports the Episcopal Church.

Sauls' report came the same day that David Beers, the Presiding Bishop's chancellor, gave the council an off-the-record briefing about the church's stance on diocesan property disputes.

Lambeth plans outlined

Council member the Rev. Ian Douglas told the council about his work on the group designing the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the every-ten-year gathering of the Anglican Communion's active bishops. Douglas was first named to the design group when the intention was to have both the Lambeth Conference and an "Anglican Gathering" at the same time in South Africa. Budget issues forced the postponement of the gathering and movement of the Lambeth Conference back to England, Douglas said.

However, the Archbishop of Canterbury kept the design group together so that the gathering's "vision and passion" could guide the Lambeth meeting, he said.

Because of that, the 2008 Lambeth Conference will be much different from the last two, Douglas said. Those meetings featured four issues-related groups that developed resolutions for the body to consider. Instead, in an effort to equip the bishops as leaders in God's mission, the Lambeth Conference will begin July 14, 2008, with a two-to-three day retreat meeting in groups of five "to encounter God's word and to encounter one another through the sharing of stories and through sharing of God's story."

The small groups of bishops will continue to meet after the retreat and will only eventually combine in larger groups for discussions of issues, Douglas said. Some of those issues could well include the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), global economic justice, environmental concerns, interfaith dialogue (especially between Christians and Muslims), how to include voices not normally heard at Lambeth (such as women, young people and other parts of the laity), Anglican biblical hermeneutics, Anglican identities, the Listening Process, and "human sexuality writ large."

The bishops will also receive "very practical and hands-on opportunities" for learning about a range of mission and ministry issues, from how to develop a communications strategy for their diocese to the latest epidemiological information about HIV/AIDS.

In other business, the council:

  • heard Jefferts Schori thank Patricia C. Mordecai for her service to the Episcopal Church. Mordecai is retiring at the end of the year as the church's executive director. She will be replaced by Linda E. Watt. "We are enormously grateful for the health you have built into the system at the Episcopal Church Center," Jefferts Schori said.
  • elected the Rev. Miguelina Espinal of the Dominican Republic to succeed the Rev. Titus Presler, who resigned November 13. The council elected Espinal as Presler's replacement November 15 under its prerogative in Canon I.4.2(c), which says that the Council shall elect people to replace members elected by General Convention, until the Convention elects a successor. Presler's term was to expire in 2009.
  • elected the Very Rev. Petero Sabune as the council liaison to the Council of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.
  • ratified elections to the board of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD).
  • agreed to set up a task force made up of representatives of Executive Council, ERD and Jubilee Ministries to recommend to the council at its March meeting how it ought to spend more than $900,000 designated specifically in the church's budget for its response to the MDGs. Administration and Finance Committee chair Josephine Hicks reminded the council that the church spends "many times more" in work towards the accomplishment of the MDGs. This specific line item in the budget was requested by the 75th General Convention.

* heard greetings from the Rev. Randy Lee, ecumenical officer for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who told the council that the two denominations face many of the same policy and administrative issues.

* heard Bishop Rodney Andrews of the Anglican Church of Canada's Diocese of Saskatoon say that both provinces face common challenges out of a common ethos. Andrews is filling in for New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham, the Canadian church's partner on the council, who is on sabbatical. He praised the Episcopal Church's commitment to the MDGs. At this council meeting, Jefferts Schori and Anderson appointed the Rev. Victoria Garvey, a council member from Chicago, to fill a similar role on the Council of its General Synod.

* heard Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray's report about the effects of the 2005 hurricane season on his diocese, and the Episcopal Church's Darkness into Day effort to support the restoration of the Episcopal Church's presence in Mississippi and Louisiana. He also described the efforts to implement General Convention Resolution B011, which includes money for a person based in Louisiana to coordinate a model missionary initiative, including evangelism and service, while providing a test project "for organization in areas or natural disaster or economic impoverishment."

The Executive Council passed the following resolutions:

Executive Council as a whole

EC 01: Approved appointments of Del Glover, Bishop Stacy F. Sauls, the Rev. Robert Windsor and Ernest Petrey, Jr. as members at-large to the Audit Committee.

EC 02: Approved tax-deductible housing allowances for clergy employed by the DFMS.

EC 03: Approved appointments to the Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women: Bishop Marc Handley Andrus, the Very Rev. Cynthia L. Black, the Rev. Nicole S. Janelle, Sarah T. Moore, the Rev. Mary Moreno Richardson, the Rev. Catherine Munz, the Rev. Mary June Nestler, Callie Swanlund, Martina Gardner Woods, and the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward.

EC 04: Nominated Patricia Tourangeau as Trustee of the Board of the Episcopal Church Building Fund, as called for by AF 090 (10/05).

EC 05: Advise and consent to the appointment of Linda E. Watt as Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer.

Executive Council courtesy resolutions

  • Expressed appreciation for the work of Patricia C. Mordecai.
  • Expressed the council's love and appreciation to the 25th Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, and Phoebe Griswold.
  • Sent greetings to Bishop Michael Ingham, who has seat and voice on the council and is on sabbatical.
  • Sent greetings to council member and Central Ecuador Bishop Wilfrido Ramos-Orench, who could not attend the meeting.
  • Expressed appreciation for resigned member Titus Presler's service to the council.

Administration and Finance

AF 01: Established Trust Fund #1010 to hold and invest funds from St. John's Episcopal Church Cemetery Fund, Halifax, Virginia.

AF 02: Established Trust Fund #1011, the Hope Proctor Stokes Estate, income and accumulated appreciation to be used by the DFMS solely in Navajoland, at the discretion of the Director of Ethnic Congregational Development, the Missioner for Native American Ministries and the Director of Mission, after consultation with the Treasurer.

AF 03: Affirmed recommendations of the Commission on Theological Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, and approved requests totaling $485,415.00 from the income of Trust Fund #809.

AF 04: Amended Article IV.1 (b) of the by-laws of the Executive Council of the General Convention and of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (pertaining to investment committee membership).

AF 05: approved nominations to the Investment Committee of Joel Motley, Carol O'Neal, Dennis Stark and Wesley Williams (three-year terms); and Art Bjontegard, James S. Clark and Sally Zimmerman (terms expiring in 2009).

AF 06: authorized a corporate credit card for the College for Bishops, with Bishop Clayton Matthews as signatory and an $8,000 limit.

AF 07: Adopted revised official Travel Guidelines for DFMS, effective 11/16/06.

AF 08: Approved revised memorandum of understanding with Episcopal Relief and Development ("ERD") regarding the Council's and DFMS' future working relationship with ERD.

AF 09: Dissolved Trust Fund #903, the American Episcopal Chinese Ministry Endowment Fund (1986), and distributed assets to the Chinese Convocation of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry to help needy congregations.

AF 10: Directed Presiding Officers to appoint, by the start of Council's March meeting, a task force of representatives from each standing committee of Council, from Episcopal Relief and Development and from Jubilee Ministries to recommend how to distribute funds designated in the Budget for the Episcopal Church for 2007-2009 for the Millennium Development Goals (line 131).

Congregations in Ministry

CIM 01: Embraced the five priorities established by the 75th General Convention "and the vision of our Presiding Bishop of a renewed and empowered church."

International Concerns

INC 001: Expressed appreciation for mission companion appointments made by the Presiding Bishop.

INC 002: Expressed appreciation for mission companions who faithfully completed their term of service.

INC 003: Recognized a new Companion Diocese Relationship between the Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Lui in the Episcopal Church of Sudan, ending on April 20, 2011, unless extended or terminated by mutual consent.

INC 004:  Recognized extension of a three-partner Companion Diocese Relationship between the Diocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Southeast Mexico in the Anglican Church of Mexico, and the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan until December 31, 2011, unless extended or terminated by mutual consent.

INC 005: Requested the Presiding Officers to appoint a working group to investigate, with the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Council of Latin America (Concilio Anglicano Latino Americano or CALA) and the Province of the West Indies, the possibilities of an Anglican regional convocation of the Americas.

INC 006: Reaffirmed the Episcopal Church's commitment to the rightful existence of the State of Israel and a State of Palestine as nations among nations to be recognized by one another's elected leadership; recognition of Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states, with full access to the respective holy sites of the three Abrahamic faiths; the end of all violence and the rejection of terrorism and their crippling impact on Israeli and Palestinian societies; withdrawal by Israel from all occupied Palestinian territories; return of all parties to the negotiating table; and the eradication of the sins of anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism. (Completes Resolution A011, passed by the House of Bishops)
INC 007: Declared the following as policies of The Episcopal Church: an end to the isolation of East Jerusalem and Bethlehem from the West Bank created by the continued construction of Israeli settlements, settler roads and the barrier; removal of the barrier by Israel where it violates Palestinian territory, and termination of the policy and practice of terrorism by any constituency of the Palestinian Authority; assurance of human rights for Palestinians and Israelis; support for return of sovereign control of Gaza's airspace, coastline and borders to the Palestinian people and mutual respect for borders; urge Hamas to recognize the State of Israel, renounce violence, and accept past peace agreements; assurance that no U.S. tax dollars are used, directly or indirectly, to finance the building of the barrier and bypass roads that support the settlements. (Completes Resolution A012 passed by the House of Bishops)

INC 008: Called for an immediate end to the United States economic embargo against Cuba, particularly revisions implemented in 2004; that dioceses and congregations in the Episcopal Church consider the establishment of companion relationships with the Episcopal Church of Cuba; that all members of the Episcopal Church are encouraged to travel to Cuba subject to the availability of licenses from the U.S. government where applicable, and receive delegations from the Episcopal Church of Cuba subject to approval by the U.S. government where applicable; and that the Episcopal Church recommit itself at all levels to pray for the reconciliation of the United States and Cuba. (Completes Resolution A016, passed by the House of Bishops)

INC 009: Requested all governmental leaders in countries where The Episcopal Church is present to urge the government of the Republic of Turkey to allow the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) to reopen its theological seminary at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity on Halki Island for the training of Orthodox clergy; recognize the Patriarch's title of Ecumenical Patriarch; restore all properties confiscated from the Patriarchate in Turkey, in particular the Orthodox orphanage of Prinkipos on the Prince Island (Buyukado); establish clearly the legal status of the Patriarchate in the context of Turkish civil law; directs the Office of Government Relations to pursue these objectives; inform the government of Turkey and the Foreign Minister of the European Union of these concerns; and notify His All Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America of these actions.

INC 010: Directed that representation on covenant committees consist of one bishop appointed by the Presiding Bishop and one priest, deacon, or layperson appointed by the President of the House of Deputies, for six year rotating terms, so that one of the two shall be appointed at the start of every triennium. One member from the Standing Commission on World Mission and one member from the Executive Council will be appointed from those bodies for three-year terms. (Completes Resolution A118, passed by the House of Deputies)

INC 011: Endorsed "Commitment to be Companions in Christ" between the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil and the Episcopal Church.

INC 012: Recognized the call of the Anglican Consultative Council for all churches of the Anglican Communion to study and apply A Covenant for Communion; commended the document for study by parishes, dioceses, seminaries and church commissions and networks; gather reflections and recommendations for the 76th General Convention. (Originally proposed by the Executive Council and passed in the House of Deputies)

National Concerns

NAC 001: Thanked the Reverend Barbara Smith-Moran "for her dedication, leadership and vision in relating the Christian faith to science and technology."

NAC 002: Reviewed a list of Jubilee Programs.

NAC 003: Directed the Treasurer to file shareholder resolutions on behalf of the DFMS.

NAC 004: Agreed to require Council approval for the SRI Committee to file or vote on shareholder resolutions only once in each triennium for each issue or subject area.

NAC 005: Strongly opposed "the overly broad interpretation" of the "material support" provisions of the Patriot Act.