Via the Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs
A Message from Executive Council
Salt Lake City, October 21-24, 2011
Weave, weave, weave …
Weave us together in unity and love.
[from the Weave song attributed to Rosemary Crow]
All day long on Thursday, October 20, the Executive Council gathered. Members came from Bogota in the Diocese of Colombia, from Seattle in the Diocese of Olympia, from the Standing Rock Reservation in the Diocese of North Dakota, from St. Thomas in the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, all ready for their seventh of nine meetings in this triennium. Some traveled only a little more than an hour by air while others spent 18 hours or more making connections and weathering flight delays. Steve Hutchinson of the Diocese of Utah was the only Council member able to sleep in his own bed in Salt Lake City each night as his colleagues came to meet in his home town.
Each was eager to greet colleagues and friends and dive into the full schedule of the meeting when it officially began on Friday morning. Council members had already become immersed in the papers and reports, budget and financial statements that have been posted to the online community known as the Extranet on a constant basis over the past month. A new norm for Council requests that documents be posted fourteen days in advance to allow for translation into Spanish, the native language of several Council members; simultaneous translators are present at Council meetings to facilitate participation. We are living into a new season of weaving our threads of interdependence together in the spirit of ubuntu — you in me and I in you, the theme of our last General Convention.
This Council meeting was one day longer than the typical meetings in the triennium because Council considered the draft proposed budget that Council will submit to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance at General Convention. Council also approved the 2012 budget for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) and Council’s report to the 77th General Convention, commonly referred to as the “Blue Book.” Also on the agenda were reports to General Convention from the D020 Task Force, including a resolution responding to the Anglican Covenant, and the INC-055 Task Force, which was charged with studying the United Thank Offering’s current and future status.
We are many textures, we are many colors,
… we are entwined in one another in one great tapestry
The first morning of Council brought three distinctive yet interwoven narratives from the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies and the Chief Operating Officer. Each made important statements about how the work of Executive Council relates to the larger narratives of the life of the Church. There were moments of conflict as values held passionately by the three speakers were openly expressed. There were admonitions to find Jesus among the poor, to honor the hard work and witness of the whole people of the Church in all orders, to express how we carry out God’s mission in the shaping of a budget.
The experience of conflict in church meetings where budgetary discussions and vision are mixed together often make us wary of even trying to connect the dots, of weaving a whole story from the threads. Rich insights by committed leadership, accompanied by a common commitment to hear one another out, resulted in the beginnings of new stronger cloth.
In 2009, General Convention closed with a strong emphasis on mission, mission, mission. … God is calling the church to meet Jesus in the marginalized — the poor, the lonely, the suffering, the lost. Weave, weave, weave. … Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in her opening remarks challenged Council to regard budgets as moral documents. The 76th General Convention’s adoption of the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion as mission priorities are the threads that are woven through all the parts of The Episcopal Church’s budget.
So yes, our work began with passionate narrative. But by 11:30 of the first day the work of Council was well under way. We went from being at separate tables to being at the Lord’s Table. We shared simple Eucharist from a Lutheran liturgy in Spanish, celebrated by Pastor Kathryn Tiede, our ecumenical partner from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the threads of bible study formed into a collective amen to the Gospel.
The remainder of the first day and the morning of the second were devoted to committee work. Much of our time in committee was devoted to preparation of Blue Book materials, reports on work done in this Triennium and preparation of a budget for 2012 and beyond. Always in the background was the concern to shape our structures in such a way as to serve God’s mission better, the knowledge that change is in the offing, and the awareness that we have a choice to meet it by reaction or by preparation.
On Saturday afternoon we met in plenary session to have an open conversation about the core principles and budgeting strategies to be used in developing the draft budget for the years 2012-2015. In keeping with the core principle that says, “The voices of all the baptized are valued in the governance and decision-making of this Church,” almost everyone on Council contributed to the discussion. Other key principles and strategies include being especially attentive to the poor and the marginalized, providing enabling grants to support or create experimental, new expressions of the Church; and the notion that new structures may provide new resources and opportunities for ministry.
Sunday morning members of the group headed off to church. The Presiding Bishop preached at the St. Mark’s Cathedral, and some attended with her. Others visited St. Paul’s, Salt Lake City. The gospel — Matthew 22:34-46 — on the Law, the Messiah and the silenced questioners — called us to the core of our faith, to silence and to joyful obedience. We returned to our committee work in the afternoon, and a few committee members continued to meet after dinner to finalize resolutions for the plenary sessions on the final day.
We are different instruments playing our own melodies …
But we are all playing in harmony in one great symphony.
Monday, the fourth day, began with Morning Prayer. As it ended and Council prepared to come into session, another slide came up on the screen. It showed Jesus on a park bench with a young man whose backpack is on the ground beside him. Jesus is leaning toward the young man, speaking intently. The caption says, “No, I’m not talking about Twitter. I literally want you to follow me.” The room erupted in laughter.
Council heard reports from its five standing committees and considered and voted on a large number of resolutions presented by those committees. Many of the resolutions perfected language of resolutions referred to General Convention as part of the Executive Council Blue Book report — the so-called “A” resolutions. Among the key resolutions passed by Council on this last meeting day were the following:
- Received the report of the INC-055 Ad Hoc Task Force on The United Thank Offering and commended it to the 77th General Convention and the Triennial Meeting of Episcopal Church Women in 2012, and approved the newly developed Bylaws for The United Thank Offering Board.
- Received the report of the Executive Council D020 Task Force for inclusion in the 77th General Convention Blue Book and submits a resolution to the 77th General Convention that expresses thanksgiving for those who worked at producing the Anglican Covenant, commits The Episcopal Church to continued participation in the wider councils of the Anglican Communion and to continued dialogue with the provinces of the Anglican Communion, and states that The Episcopal Church is unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form.
- Approved the 2012 budget of The Episcopal Church.
- Requested the House of Bishops to consider issuing a new Pastoral Letter on the Sin of Racism at their March 2012 meeting and submitting a resolution to the 77th General Convention to recommit and declare itself to be dedicated to continuing to work against the sin of racism.
- Affirms the growing movement of peaceful protests in public spaces in the United States and throughout the world in resistance to the exploitation of people for profit or power bears faithful witness in the tradition of Jesus to the sinful inequities in society, and calls upon Episcopalians to witness in the tradition of Jesus to inequities in society.