Re-structuring the church

The Diocese of Oregon meeting in Convention this past weekend adopted the following resolution supporting the work of the Standing Commission on Structure:

Calling for Reorganization of The Episcopal Church

Resolved, that the Diocese of Oregon, meeting in November 2011 in its 123rd Convention, calls upon the Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church (SCSC), to continue its work, through prayer, study and Church-wide conversation, to develop recommendations and supporting resolutions for reorganizing The Episcopal Church to enhance its mission and ministry in the 21st century. This work should include, but not be limited to, a review of staffing organization at the national and provincial levels, program focus and delivery, and revenue sharing. And be it further

Resolved, that the SCSC report its findings and recommendations to the 78th General Convention (2015) of The Episcopal Church for further action.
Action of Convention: ADOPTED

What other discussions of re-structuring the church have been held? Have other dioceses commented or adopted resolutions? Where is the Sauls' proposal? Has his proposal been entered into the process of General Convention? Has anyone seen the details of his proposal? Have discussions been held with the Standing Commission on Structure? Has the Executive Council seen it? What other questions need to be asked?

Comments (11)

The Diocese of Iowa passed a similar resolution at its October Convention.

Chris - I thought Iowa passed a resolution supporting the Sauls' proposal not the work of the Structure Commission.

Adopted by the Diocese of Iowa
Resolution 159-E
A Resolution for Structural Reform to the 77th General Convention
BE IT RESOLVED that the 159th Convention of the Diocese of Iowa directs that the following resolution be filed with the Secretary of the General Convention for consideration by the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church:
Resolved, the House of Deputies or House of Bishops concurring, there shall be a Special Commission on Missional Structure and Strategy, the composition of which shall be at the discretion of the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies and the members of which shall be appointed jointly thereby not later than thirty days following the adjournment of this 77th General Convention. The Special Commission shall be charged with presenting a plan to the Church for reforming its structures, governance, administration, and staff to facilitate this Church's faithful engagement in Christ's mission to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk. 4:18) in a way that maximizes the resources available for that mission at all levels of this Church.

Resolved, the Special Commission shall endeavor to issue its report and recommendations along with resolutions necessary to implement them, including proposed amendments to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, so that they might be considered by a special General Convention prior to the convening of the 78th General Convention in 2015, but in any event, not later than February 1, 2015.

Resolved, the General Convention requests the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $100,000 for the implementation of this resolution.

We passed an amended version of the Saul's resolution here in Arizona. Ours was amended to call on Convention to use the work of the Standing Commission on Structure as the starting point for any Special Convention, and then amended from the floor to call on Convention to intentionally reach out to organizational and systems experts within the laity and clergy to resource the work should a Special Convention be called.

When Bishop Sauls put this proposal out there he said the fact that he, a bishop, went to the House of Bishops with a proposal buttressed by a lengthy presentation on how much money could be saved by reducing the meetings of the House of Deputies, and how wise it would be to strip Executive Council of its fiduciary responsibilities, was not an attempt to disenfranchise the laity and clergy of the church from the governing process, but rather, to engage them in a conversation. Yet the proposal, made in September, was adopted by conventions meeting in October and in some places was on the consent calendar.

I hope the lay and clergy members who serve in the House of Deputies and on Executive Council are aware of this. Because it is very clearly not an attempt to engage anyone in conversation. It is an attempt to dictate terms.

It might be clarifying for people to look beyond the affection they feel for this particular Presiding Bishop as a person and to think abstractly about whether we want to centralize power in the office that she now holds. Because that is the direction in which this train is heading.

Our Diocese here in Oklahoma passed a similar resolution at our convention in November encouraging the National church to move ahead with discussion and study of ways to make our Life Together more cost effective. I hope there is a way to do that that maintains the balance between laity and our bishops. Discussing certainly can't hurt, can it.

I find the size and slowness of general convention to be such bad stewardship of our human and financial resources. With one lay person and one clergy from each diocese, we could meet in a church building or at a conference center and actually talk to each other and make decisions as a community... and save lots of money that could be used for mission. In the same way, most resolutions at GC are forgotten or never even known by anyone except deputies after they are passed. Is there some way to limit resolutions to a few key items, letting the PB or HOB speak for us at other times? We need to define adiaphora and subsidiary and live by them!

The following resolution was passed in Southern Ohio by (what I perceived to be) a unanimous voice vote. It was moved as a substitute to the Sauls boilerplate language on behalf of our entire deputation.

In my view, the issues are too urgent to sit on past 2015 and should not be derailed by concerns about how Bishop Sauls offered the proposal, but that the precise process should be up to all of us and the leadership of the Deputies and Bishops need to get on the same page. We specifically commend collaboration with any interim bodies that have been working on these matters but want to insist that the Deputies and Bishops work together to achieve fundamental change by 2015. This precisely is what the resolution calls on us to do. My own sense is that this will require a Special General Convention, though we left this out of the resolution because not all members of our deputation could support it in good conscience.

RESOLVED, that the 137th Convention of the Diocese of Southern Ohio urges the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church to act boldly to achieve fundamental structural changes by 2015 for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ and the mission that he has entrusted to us as baptized members of his Body. As the Church undertakes this restructuring for the sake of our mission, it is essential that we keep always before us the good news to those who seek, the good news to the poor, the Baptismal Covenant, and the Marks of Mission; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the 137th Convention of the Diocese of Southern Ohio urges that the House of Deputies and House of Bishops, collaborating with the interim bodies that have been working on restructuring, should jointly adopt an agreed upon process for deciding upon these matters in a transparent, fair, and expeditious way that preserves the stake of all baptized persons in the governance of the Episcopal Church; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the secretary of convention be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the President of the House of Deputies, the Presiding Bishop, and all bishops and standing committees of the Episcopal Church, requesting that it be shared with members of the deputation of each diocese.

I appreciate what your diocese was trying to do with this, Bill. I don't have a firm opinion about a special convention. And I don't actually think the House of Bishops as a whole, but rather certain of its members, are trying to roll the House of Deputies. But I agree that we need a serious conversation about governance sooner rather than later. I just don't want it to take place in the framework Bishop Sauls has created.


Our goal is to put it back with the Deputies and Bishops, which is where this will be hammered out anyway, and to commend the 2015 timeline without necessarily endorsing any other aspect of Bishop Sauls' proposal.

Any proposal that diminishes the voice and authority of the laity should be a non-starter. I recall Bishop Smith of Arizona posting an article showing how churches that embrace collaborative leadership are doing well. To diminish the role of laity, thus continuing with a top-down model of leadership will not serve the Episcopal Church well, but would most likely lead to further decline in membership and and our spiritual presence in the world.

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