Executive Council renews San Joaquin support, urges new vision of ministry
United Thank Offering study group reports 'new vision'
It pledged continued support to the reorganizing Diocese of San Joaquin, urging the remaining Episcopalians to establish Latino/Hispanic ministry in the heavily Hispanic Central Valley of California.
The council also welcomed a report from its United Thank Offering study group saying that the group and the UTO have developed a much closer working relationship and have resolved many of the concerns that prompted the study. The work is the result of a two-year effort to clarify the organization's relationship to the church, explore of ways to increase giving to the UTO, ways to make UTO better known to others in the church and ways to expand the organization's approach to funding mission activities.
The decisions came on the last day of council's four day meeting here. The council issued a message to the church at the end of the meeting. The text is here.
Encouraging new ministry in San Joaquin
The council agreed to loan the diocese of San Joaquin $285,000 to help pay for its operating expenses next year. The council also decided to grant the diocese $40,000 to help it establish a program of Latino/Hispanic ministry.
The diocese in the California's agriculturally based Central Valley encompasses a population of just under 4 million that is 44 percent Hispanic, 60 percent of whom older than five years do not speak English at home, according to a presentation by Nancy Key, chair of the diocese's convention deputation. The diocese has no Spanish-speaking congregations.
In June, the council agreed to loan the Diocese of San Joaquin up to $500,000 to support "its protection of diocesan properties and continuing operations." San Joaquin has received $2.3 million in grants and loans from the Executive Council since 2008, diocesan Chancellor Michael Glass said at that time.
The diocese had asked in June for an additional $450,000 loan to pay help pay operating expenses in 2012 but the council required diocese representatives to develop a sustainability plan. The diocese came to Salt Lake City to present that plan and to ask instead for a $285,000 loan. The plan, their representatives, said will allow the diocese to not just sustain itself but also grow and thrive.
However, reducing the amount of size of the loan request required cuts, including reducing Provisional Bishop Chester Talton to half-time and eliminating $50,000 that had been proposed to jointly fund Latino/Hispanic and youth ministries. The Finances for Mission (FFM) and Governance and Administration for Mission (GAM) committees became concerned about the lack of money for Latino/Hispanic ministry, given the evangelism opportunities they saw in the Central Valley's demographics and its racially divided history.
Bishop Jon Bruno of the neighboring Diocese of Los Angeles told council Oct. 24 that the FFM committee decided to encourage Latino/Hispanic ministry because the members thought such ministry was "imperative if the diocese is going to thrive in any way." The council also directed that the church's Latino/Hispanic ministry, church planting and development staff member work with the diocese as it develops the ministry.
When Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori read the resolution detailing council's decision over the phone to Talton and Glass, Talton said that "we are most appreciative and grateful" and said "our diocesan convention [which meets next week] is going to be overjoyed." He said that council's additional request to form a "covenant committee" between it and the diocese will be a good way to further the work of the diocese.
"Our diocese is growing and some of the congregations where there is growth are congregations that do not have buildings," Talton told a joint meeting of council's Finance for Mission and Governance and Administration for Mission committees on Oct. 22.
The diocese now has 16 parishes and 15 missions with a total average Sunday attendance of about 1,000, Key said.
The diocese is hampered by the fact that many of its assets are in litigation with the former leaders of the diocese who left the Episcopal Church in 2007 but who still retain much of the diocese's property. The property includes a large and valuable conference and retreat center at the gateway to Yosemite National Park. When the diocese begins to recover those properties, it expects to be able to begin paying back its loans, diocesan Chancellor Michael Glass told the committees.
Key said the diocese was "privileged to have the near-disaster" that occurred in 2007. The resulting challenges required the diocese to develop a new vision and "a more realistic way to do mission and evangelism." That vision includes partnering with surrounding dioceses for certain administrative and ministry work, according to Key and Talton.
They explained that the diocese is beginning to organize around three regional "mission hubs" in which diocesan resources would be centered and then connected to congregations in each region. While both Key and Talton said that the regional hub system had the potential to be a model for the rest of the church, the bishop also suggested that "should the Diocese of San Joaquin prove to be not viable," the system would also facilitate the separation of the diocese into some of the neighboring dioceses. He noted that such a separation had not yet been explored.
In her closing remarks to council, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson said the laypeople and clergy of the diocese are "a living testimony to what we can do together."
"If one were able to actually teach others commitment, the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin would be the professors emeritus," she said.
Jefferts Schori said during a post-meeting press conference that council had provided "significant assistance" to the diocese "in pursuing God's mission in that part of California."
United Thank Offering moves into future
The work of the UTO study group has resulted in a renewed relationship between the UTO and the Episcopal Church, and clarified each organization's responsibilities in that relationship, according to council member Mark Harris, chair of the UTO study group, and Sarita Redd, president of the UTO Board, formerly known as the UTO Committee.
The study group was formed in October 2008 to conduct a "serious and extensive" study of the UTO. The council's request resulted from a series of conversations that began in January 2008 and centered on the need to clarify the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society's legal relationship with UTO. (The DFMS is the church's corporate legal entity.)
"We discovered that, in the process of doing this work, we rebuilt confidence between the two organizations," Harris said, adding that a new set of bylaws passed by the UTO board in September "straightened out most of the issues that had to do with structure in ways that both satisfied the UTO and satisfied the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society."
The UTO has helped the Episcopal Church expand its mission for the last 120 years by making grants to ministries that address human needs
Redd told the council that another product of the work has been a package of board development activities that will help future UTO board members understand their responsibilities.
"There are many who were very upset about the study but, it's been productive, promising and it has allowed us to put out a great deal of fire, address some fears and I am hoping that today when I leave here we will be able to move forward," she said.
Jefferts Schori said in her closing remarks that what she called "this new vision for United Thank Offering" in partnership with the Episcopal Church "goes back to its roots and sends us forward in new ways."
Council's resolution also commends the report to General Convention and the Triennial Meeting of Episcopal Church Women for study.
More information about the goals of the study is here.
In other action, the council:
- adopted a revised 2012 budget for the churchwide mission, ministry and governance of the church.
- asked the House of Bishops to issue a new pastoral letter on racism. The bishops have spoken in the past about racism; information is here and here. The council passed a related action to submit a resolution to General Convention to have the church recommit itself to working against racism.
- agreed to continue considering the best options for the use of the Episcopal Church Center building at 815 Second Avenue. Those efforts include identifying people to suggest ways to make the building more attractive to potential tenants, considering a "highest and best use study" of the property and continuing an on-going conversation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America about expanded ministry collaboration and possibly facilities sharing. "Please know that this is not a proposal for any action; this is for information and reflects part of our ongoing analysis " FFM committee chair Del Glover told the council.
- submitted a resolution to the 77th meeting of General Convention in July 2012 that would have it decline to adopt the Anglican Covenant "in its present form." ENS coverage of that decision is here.
A summary list of the resolutions council passed at their meeting is here.
The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The council is composed of 38 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 for six-year terms, plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.