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Bishops Reconsider Mission Funding Endorsement: TLC 7.09.09 July 9, 2009

Posted by geoconger in 76th General Convention, Living Church.
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First published in The Living Church.

The House of Bishops voted to reconsider its endorsement of Resolution A069: Funding the Mission Funding Office. At the close of the business session today during General Convention in Anaheim, the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Johnson, retired Bishop of Western North Carolina, asked the house to reconsider its July 9 vote endorsing the multi-year $5 million program to create a major fund development program for The Episcopal Church.

The Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, added that there had been no debate when the resolution was adopted the previous day. Prudence required that a “massive fundraising project needed some discussion.”

The explanation for the resolution proposed by the Standing Committee for Domestic Mission and Evangelism stated the 75th General Convention in 2006 had created a task force to build up the church’s grant and major gift programs. A069 would build upon the work of the task force to “expand staff capacity to develop relationships and cultivate donors.”

Bishop Johnson told The Living Church that question of reconsidering the resolution “came up in our table groups” at the start of the meeting. “I’m not opposed to A069, but I think we felt that we needed more information as it is a big project” with “significant” funding and administrative needs, he said.

However, the Bishop of New York, the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, said the motion to reconsider A069 was a healthy move for the house, as “sometimes good ideas get passed through” the legislative process and do not the attention deserved.

In other action of the house, bishops endorsed Resolution A004, the amended convention calendar, and Resolution E001, affirming the election of Dr. Gregory Straub as secretary of the House of Deputies.

Resolution A008, Program for Formation for Newly Elected Bishops, was adopted after a friendly amendment was proffered by the Rt. Rev. Andrew Smith, Bishop of Connecticut, with a single vote in opposition, while A165, Women and Money, was discharged with no objections on the recommendation of the Church Pension Fund committee, as it was redundant.

A resolution recommitting The Episcopal Church to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) elicited strong support, but also sparked debate over its proper wording. D019 called for an increase from .07 percent to 1 percent of the non-governmental revenue of The Episcopal Church be set aside to support the MDGs.

The Rt. Rev. Robert O’Neill, Bishop of Colorado, rose to offer his support for the increase in support for the MDGs, saying the $1 million set aside by The Episcopal Church had served as seed money to raise a further $2 million to serve the poor. It was a “work worthy of our calling,” he said, an act made “in love, to love, for love” that showed The Episcopal Church at its best.

While expressing his support for the MDGs, the Rt. Rev. James Adams of Western Kansas voiced concern over the financial implications of the increase, noting that many small parishes were struggling to meet the .07 mark and would not be able to go any higher. “I really fear that we just can’t do it, and will put churches in the position of having felt that they failed,” he said.

Increasing giving was “about leadership”, the Bishop of San Diego, the Rt. Rev. James Mathes, said. The mark of .07 “had been the UN goal,” he explained, and should be seen as a floor for giving.

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of California, offered an amendment that would split the giving equally between advocacy and programs such as Nets for Life, the anti-malaria campaign. By investing in advocacy, Bishop Andrus argued, the church could multiply the effects of its giving — a view supported by the Bishop of Wyoming, the Rt. Rev. Bruce Caldwell, and the Rt. Rev. Kirk Smith, Bishop of Arizona, who told the house that the advocacy work of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation had been critical in getting his diocese on board with the MDGs.

However, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Smith of Connecticut rose in opposition to Bishop Andrus’ amendment, arguing that “if we want to do advocacy, we should find another way to fund it.” The Rt. Rev. Leo Frade concurred, saying “taking away money” from anti-Malaria campaigns “will kill many people.”

Bishop O’Neill said he was “sympathetic to advocacy work” but malaria was a preventable disease that “killed 3000 children a day.” Funds should not be diverted from that important work, he told the house. The Andrus amendment was put to a vote, and was defeated. The amendment as a whole was adopted on a unanimous voice vote.

Bishops also endorsed Resolution D016 on establishing shared ministries with the church’s ecumenical partners, which recommended the creation of guidelines for Episcopal-Lutheran, Episcopal-Presbyterian and other shared congregations. The Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop’s deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations, noted that while Lutherans had voluminous canons governing the organizations of these congregations, The Episcopal Church had none.

The Rt. Rev. Gladstone “Skip” Adams, Bishop of Central New York, said guidelines would be most “helpful with shared ministries with Lutherans” in his dioceses, and “especially with Presbyterians where the politics conflict.” The resolution was adopted with a single vote in opposition.

The Rt. Rev. Edna “Bavi” Rivera, Provisional Bishop of Eastern Oregon, offered resolution C051 on behalf of the Committee on Social and Urban Affairs, calling for support for wounded soldiers, and the establishment of Episcopal Veterans Fellowships for each diocese. The resolution passed without debate or opposition.

A resolution entitled Strengthening Small Churches: A113 brought by the Committee on the Church in Small Communities was strongly endorsed by the Bishop Suffragan of New York, the Rt. Rev. Catherine Roskam, who noted her diocese had the largest number of small congregations of any domestic diocese.

Bishop Sisk told the Living Church that while New York had a reputation of an urban diocese it had over 100 small and rural congregations. He had backed the resolution as there is “always a lot more to learn from the experience of others” in small church ministries, he said. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Following the Small Church vote, and Bishop Johnson’s motion for reconsideration, the House was prorogued until 9:30 Friday morning, July 10.

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