By Joe Thoma
Bishops on July 11 unanimously concurred with the House of Deputies in approving Resolution C095, which calls for creation of a task force to restructure The Episcopal Church over the next three years.
The restructuring resolution was the only one to date to pass unanimously in both houses.
In discussing the restructuring, “the conversation in both houses was with a sense of real necessity,” said Bishop Greg Brewer, Central Florida. “We have to do this, and we trust this group to make this happen. I was very, very encouraged by that. I support these efforts to restructure.”
The resolution calls for a task force of 24 members -- including some with “critical distance from the Church’s institutional leadership” – to be appointed by September 30.
The task force is to study and recommend reforms to Episcopal Church structures, governance and administration.
In presenting the resolution, Bishop John Howard, Diocese of Florida, described the “herculean” effort that went into the resolution.
“This is not just the work of The Episcopal Church or the General Convention, but is the work of the Holy Spirit,” Howard said.
The purpose of the restructuring is to more faithfully engage with the work of that spirit,” Howard said. “To fundamentally, even perhaps radically, change the ways in which we do church.”
The resolution had passed “to much acclaim,” in the House of Bishops on July 10, he said.
Several bishops stood to speak for the resolution.
Bishop Ian Douglas, Connecticut, pointed out that the Church had undertaken two previous restructuring programs, in 1835 and in 1919.
“I do believe the Holy Spirit worked through the General Convention in 1835 and in 1919, there were special committees that proposed the new structures,” Douglas said. “I believe the Holy Spirit is working through this resolution and, if I didn’t believe it, the fact that the House of Deputies voted unanimously is proof to me.”
Bishop Skip Adams, Central New York, said that his diocese was having similar restructuring discussions.
“We plan on using this as a model for our ongoing dialogue within the diocese,” he said. “We recognize that in order to accomplish the Holy Spirit’s movement, we must be doing the same thing on the local level and that will enable this to happen for us in concert with who God is calling us to be and become.”
Bishops also approved, without debate, the $111.5 million Episcopal Church budget for 2013‐2015.
The budget is structured around the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion as directed by the 76th General Convention. Those marks are:
1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers.
3. To respond to human need by loving service.
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society.
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
The Draft Budget supports the following priorities:
* Block grants for new work in each of the Five Marks of Mission.
* An increased rate for reducing the debt resulting from the renovation of the Church
* A grant from unrestricted assets to create and sustain a professional Development
* Restoration of funds for the work of Formation and Vocation.
The narrative portion of the budget pays service to the proposed restructuring: "The backdrop for our budget work was a larger conversation about the need for adaptive change as The Episcopal Church encounters pervasive and rapid change in the culture and the economy."
Framers said the budget supports that change in the following ways:
* Block grants for new work involving partnerships between congregations, dioceses
and The Episcopal Church.
* Funding for a conversation on restructuring the church.
* Adequate resources for sustaining the ministries of The Episcopal Church as we
consider new ways of working together.
The Proposed Five Marks of Mission Budget is funded by an annual asking of 19 percent throughout the 2013‐15 triennium.
Bishops also approved legislation that:
* Moved the Church toward full inclusion of persons with disabilities (D068);
* Condemned the practice of “wage theft” (C077);
* Reaffirmed its commitment to the network of Jubilee Ministries (D063);
* Called for allocation of funds to prevent the “pipeline from school to prison” for some children in challenged communities (B024).