Updated with Mary Frances Schjonberg's story:
The Episcopal Church's Executive Council Oct. 25 approved a reduced 2011 budget for the church and continued a discussion of church governance begun the day before. The 2011 budget is five percent lower than the version adopted by General Convention in 2009.
The budget decision came during the council's final sessions of its Oct. 23-25 meeting here.
Council spent more than a half hour discussing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's remarks from the previous day concerning the tensions inherent in the Episcopal Church's governance structure. Twelve members of council spoke during the conversation.
Our earlier report:
The Executive Council apparently had a heartfelt conversation about Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's suggestion that the Episcopal Church was a risk of governing itself to death, but details weren't forthcoming on the conference call that Bishop Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, held with members of the church media not long ago.
Until Mary Frances Schjonberg of Episcopal News Service files her story, we will be without a first hand account, but email communication with some of those present suggests that some members of the council thought that the Presiding Bishop was beginning to make the case for a style of governance that concentrated more authority in the hands of bishops and the Church Center staff at the expense of clergy and laity. Several deputies noted remarks made by bishops at the last General Convention which seemed to disparage or discount the need for the House of Deputies.
The Presiding Bishop said she had not heard conversation about doing away with the House of Deputies. There was much use of the Pauline metaphor of the church as the body of Christ, and general agreement that, as Paul said, no member could say to another: I have no need of you. Yet, each member has a different role, and the bishops on the council asserted the distinct nature of their role.
There was a certain amount of conversation about nimbleness, and about the need to have governance structures that were responsive to current realities, but little in the way of what opportunities had been squandered by our failure to be nimble or which realities required response.
The Presiding Bishop said in the concluding news conference that she was inviting the council to consider "the broad panoply of structures in the church" and whether individual structures helped advance the mission of the Church.
The President of the House of Deputies said that the Episcopal Church needed structures that proclaimed that everyone was welcome in the Episcopal Church, and welcome not just to sit and have ministry done to them, but to become involved, and even to lead.
The most important thing to come out of the meeting, the Presiding Bishop said, was "our ability as a council to function with clarity of roles, our ability to have a challenging conversation with each other."
[October 25, 2010] The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church has issued the following message following the conclusion of its three-day meeting held in Salt Lake City, UT.
A Message from Executive Council
Meeting in Salt Lake City
October 23 - 25, 2010
Slate gray rain clouds greeted Executive Council members arriving in Salt Lake City on Friday, but they could not dim the brilliant fall foliage that scatters bright colors across the Salt Lake Valley and along the city streets. And as the Council ended the first day of its meeting Saturday night, a full moon broke briefly through the low-hanging clouds, its light silvering the edges of the Wasatch Mountains for a bright moment before the dark clouds closed in again.
Such moments of light and beauty occurred during the meeting as well. Council began on Saturday with Morning Prayer and reflection on the readings. The day was spent in committee work and common gathering for meals. There was time in committees for check-ins with one another - news of births and deaths, joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats. The practice of becoming a beloved community again provided the context within which the Council could proceed with courage and singleness of heart to do the work we have been given to do.
Several themes recurred at this meeting -- the need for clarity of roles and accountability, the continued concern about the budget, the long term commitment to helping our diocese in Haiti, and a renewed commitment to anti-racism work with the Church Center staff being asked to assure engagement with anti-racism officers at the Provincial level.
In many ways the Council appeared to hit its stride at this meeting, with members arriving well-prepared and with committees working jointly to assure efficient distribution of work on shared concerns.
At this meeting Council welcomed James Cowan, bishop of British Columbia and liaison from the Anglican Church of Canada; and Kathryn Tiede, senior pastor of Living Waters Lutheran Church in Lino Lakes, Minnesota, and liaison with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
At dinner on Saturday Donald V. Romanik, president of the Episcopal Church Foundation, challenged the Executive Council to be the first to respond to the Haitian Solidarity Initiative being proposed by its Finances for Mission Committee. He unveiled the plan to raise the funds for the support of the rebuilding of the Church in Haiti first proposed in the February 2010 meeting of Executive Council. Several checks and pledges were received on the spot and it was decided that ingathering of all our pledges would be made at the closing service on Monday. The day ended on the high note of our continued commitment to support from one part of the body to another.
With worship scheduled for Sunday evening, we launched into work immediately with a question-and-answer session on the budget requested by several Council members seeking clarification or wanting to make specific observations about the potential impact of proposed budget cuts. From there we moved back into committee work, then reassembled in plenary for anti-racism work led by two of our members, Anita George and Joyce Hardy. At each table we listened to each other’s stories of encounters with racism, then reflected on what we learned from each other, how what we learned affected our relationships, and how it was to hear experiences different from our own. Like much of the work of this meeting, there simply wasn’t enough time, and many of the conversations continued over lunch.
In the afternoon plenary session the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies offered frank appraisals of the relationship between governance and mission in The Episcopal Church.
We heard reports from committees, had a brief executive session, and then adjourned for Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. Mark, which we learned is the third oldest cathedral in the United States. Diocese of Utah Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish presided and Bishop-Elect Scott B. Hayashi preached on Luke’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
Bishop-elect Hayashi said that moments of clarity and understanding, of self-knowledge, are important for those called to be leaders in our church, that the first task of a leader is to come to an understanding of who he or she is – and to lead from there. We have to know we are caught up short by our own image of our leadership abilities -- and then let that go, for it is only by opening our arms and gathering in all that God has to give us can we then turn and offer it to others.
The Eucharist was followed by dinner in Episcopal Church Center of Utah, the Wasatch Retreat and Conference Center, a lovely new – and environmentally green -- complex complete with a book store that tempted many of us on the way into the reception. Bishop Irish greeted us and introduced the deputies to General Convention, members of the Standing Committee, and other clergy and lay people from the diocese who joined us for dinner. We watched a powerful video on the history and outreach work of the churches and the diocese of Utah.
Monday morning began with prayer. We elected Fredrica Harris Thompsett to fill a vacancy on the Council and heard a lengthy report from the Standing Committee of Executive Council on Governance and Administration for Mission (GAM) dealing with issues of clarity of roles and responsibility in many areas of our work and with ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our work.
A member of Council stated her desire to seek clarity from the Presiding Bishop about her remarks on Sunday on church governance. She noted that the Presiding Bishop’s remarks were taken by some to diminish the role of deputies in the widest governance of the church. The Presiding Bishop explained that she was not questioning the need for the House of Deputies nor diminishing their governance role, and that she views the natural tension between the two houses as healthy and necessary. She said that her larger concern was that leaders in the church – bishops, clergy and laity – not be afraid of exploring ways to respond to changing circumstances in a nimble way, that we “choose life” and find ways to insure that our governance enables that, and does not get in the way of it.
Out of that conversation came a renewed commitment to talk openly with one another, to challenge one another, and to trust that we all – whatever our roles -- are acting out of good motives.
We then heard a report from the Joint Standing Committee for Finances for Mission (FFM) about issues related to the budget. Committee Chair Del Glover explained that FFM’s work is to make sure we have the resources to do mission, and that the more clarity we have on mission, the better decisions we can make. Council adopted the budget.
Task forces reported on work on the Anglican Covenant, on a strategic plan for Executive Council, and on the results from a recent survey of Episcopal Church Center Staff dealing with personnel practice.
With closing remarks from the presiding officers, we moved into the closing worship. During that service R. P. M. Bowden, long time member of Executive Council from the Diocese of Atlanta, was remembered with thanksgiving, and all the members of Council present made donations and/or pledges to the Haitian Solidarity Initiative.