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Breaking: A special convention to restructure the church?

Breaking: A special convention to restructure the church?

UPDATED: Report on plan from ENS

Neva Rae Fox’s helpful summary from today’s House of Bishops meeting begins as follows:

In the morning session, Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, gave a presentation about structure of the Episcopal Church, “Becoming A Domestic And Foreign Missionary Society: An Adaptive Moment.” The presentation sparked much conversation among the HOB


Specifically, we’ve learned, that Bishop Sauls’ presentation included proposals for changing the size and meeting frequency of General Convention, among other changes. The bishop passed out a model resolution for bishops to consider presenting to their diocesan conventions. The resolution would call on the 2012 General Convention to create a special committee to work on resolutions that would restructure the church. These resolutions would be presented at a special General Convention to be held before February 2015.

We will try to present more on this story as it develops, and hope that Bishop Sauls’ presentation will be made public.

UPDATE: Sauls’ plan:

…The Rt. Rev Stacy Sauls on Sept. 20 offered the bishops a “model” resolution for each diocese to submit to the 77th General Convention in 2012 for consideration.


The model resolution would call for a special commission to 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….”

“This is a way of engaging the laity and clergy on the ground, not a bishop-centric thing,” Sauls told ENS after his presentation. “We are asking the laity and clergy to have this conversation.”

Sauls’ presentation, he explained, stemmed from conversations and discussions going back to the 2004 formation of the Budgetary Funding Task Force. It began with the question: “Why reform?” From there Sauls used eight separate slides to list the church’s 75 commissions, committees, agencies and boards — those he could readily identify, he said — and another five slides to list the 46 Episcopal Church Center departments and offices, all of which have multiple reporting structures.


As it stands in the current budget process, governance is funded first, Sauls said, and then asked, “What would happen if we reversed that priority, starting with mission?”


Based on that, he continued, what if, in creating a hypothetical annual budget of $27 million, $19 million of that budget went toward mission and the remaining $8 million toward overhead? (The current budget is closer to $35 million, he said.)

Such a budget, he continued, could be funded by the church’s investment and rental income and by a one-percent contribution of congregational income, based on full participation.

“One percent could fund mission and ministry at the church-wide level and leave more [money] for local mission and ministry,” Sauls said.


Depending on how you look at it, he said, the fact that General Convention takes 7.6 percent of the church’s resources is a major or a minor cost. Sauls went on to explain the estimated “total cost.”

General Convention costs the church $8.3 million plus another $353,000 to church center departments and $3.5 million to dioceses to send its deputation and bishops — a total of $12.2 million every three years, not including the costs to individuals, he said.

Reducing the frequency of General Convention to every four years would save 25 percent and every five years would save 40 percent, Sauls continued, adding that the length and size of the meeting, how business is presented and ongoing work also could be restructured to reduce costs.

If given an extra $1 million dollars, the Church Center could deploy 40 additional appointed missionaries, or 85 Young Adult Service Corps volunteers, Sauls said. And if the church center and the diocese split the cost of a YASC volunteer 50/50, they could deploy 170 volunteers.

“We are entering a period of leveraging our resources through partnership, but won’t have resources to leverage unless we do things differently,” he said.


Sauls then asked the bishops to talk at their tables about their own definition of what mission means and practical suggestions for reform. He also asked them to consider whether they would be willing to submit the resolution to their dioceses for support.

Read it all here.


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Lots of good comments here. I think one of the most troubling areas, and a potential source of a large money drain, are what Chris mentioned … all the “boards and conferences and committees and commissions.” Why does everything have to be done in person? Why not shared space/ministry/resources with TEC’s full communion partners? The choice to become “leaner,” as Elizabeth well puts it, is not actually a choice…it has to happen.


The ELCA just voted to have the Churchwide Assembly every three years starting after 2013 from the current two year cycle.

I think that the ELCIC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) and the Anglican Church of Canada have moved towards sharing office space for their national office and also towards holding their General Synod / National Convention together in the same place at the same time as a way to deepen the full communion between their churches.

Caolin – please sign your name next time you comment – thanks ~ed.

James Papile

Kudos to Bp. Sauls and the HoBs for putting this on the table. Yet however much the desire is to make this effort “grassroots” without the wholehearted support of the HoB it’s not going anywhere. What are the odds?

Adam Wood

Some good idea here but… Making General Convention LESS frequent? Good lord! It already takes forever to get anything done. That change would slow the Church down to a crawl, and make it completely unable to deal with things in real time.

Peter Pearson

Wow, imagine what the church would be if we stopped complaining about the fact that people are walking away and started being more daring about what we’re doing to BE CHURCH in an authentic and credible way. Imagine if the buildings did not take so much of our efforts and we just worked out of house churches and store fronts. Imagine if we worked on the 12-Step model of attraction rather than promotion and more actively worked to be a church that people would actually want to belong to. Imagine what it would look like if we stopped living on the fumes of what used to be and threw ourselves into creating what might be for the sake of the Kingdom. Now that’s something I could get excited about and all it would take is a little imagination.

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