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INDIANAPOLIS, IN: General Convention tackles budget, structure, mission

INDIANAPOLIS, IN: General Convention tackles budget, structure, mission
Central Florida Episcopalian: Around the Diocese

By Joe Thoma and Matt Townsend
July 5, 2012

As Diocese of Central Florida deputies, Bishop Greg Brewer and other Episcopal Church leaders meet in Indianapolis July 5-12 for the triennial General Convention, the conversation in opening days has centered on using a shrinking budget to maintain and build programs for outreach, evangelism and administration.

Under consideration are plans for budget and administrative restructuring, with the Church's Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance voting after its first working meeting July 4 to build its proposed 2013-2015 budget around a "template" proposed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The committee decided to use Jefferts Schori's Five Marks of Mission budget proposal (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/sites/default/files/pbf_budget_template_5...) as its working template for the 2013-15 triennial budget. The Five Marks of Mission, as espoused by the Anglican Communion:

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

To teach, baptize and nurture new believers

To respond to human need by loving service

To seek to transform unjust structures of society

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

"Program, Budget and Finance made that decision without commitment to any of the specific line items within the Five Marks of Mission proposal," said the committee's statement. "Program, Budget and Finance made its decision because the Five Marks of Mission budget provides a clear missionary framework for budgeting and is based on updated information regarding income," it said.

Through hearings, and after input from the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, the committee will continue to amend income and expense lines for the final budget presentation on Tuesday, July 10. Several deputies and visitors spoke up at the working meeting and in committees for retaining certain areas of funding already in the budget or proposed for the next triennium.

Some favored projects include: Working on the Evangelism Commmittee, Bishop Greg Brewer, Central Florida, said he favors Resolution A073, which is a proposal to establish "diocesan mission enterprise zones" for mission and evangelism that engages "under-represented groups, including young people, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high-school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement."

Bishop brewer said: "I thought this sounds perfect for our diocese, especially in working to elevate Spanish-speaking congregations."

Resolution A109, which relates to the church's "covenant relationship" funding, or block-grant funding for overseas province and dioceses, including Liberia, Brazil, Philippines, Mexico and the Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America.

"Until the past triennium, The Episcopal Church has always fully honored its financial commitments as stated in its covenant and bilateral agreements ...," the resolution says. "In several instances, our mission partners were not informed of reductions and were surprised by unilateral actions of The Episcopal Church. Such actions, without consultation and in apparent violation of some of the agreements, may damage our relationships with our mission partners."

Continued funding for Episcopal Relief and Development, whose "Nets for Life" anti-malaria project helped save the lives of more than 100,000 children in 2011, ERD says.

Campus ministry is "an important symbol" of the church's support of young people and should continue to receive funding at the national level, said Jean Pierre Seguin, president of the student vestry at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "These are important places where students can grow."

Dianne Aid, president of the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice, spoke on behalf of continued funding for the Jubilee Network, which reaches out to marginalized communities. Churches, other ministries and organizations that are designated "Jubilee Centers" are eligible for grants through the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund. Jubilee Centers include the Episcopal Counseling Center at the Diocese of Central Florida.

Also during the July 4 meeting, an argument for reducing some areas of the budget came from the Very Rev. David W.T. Thurlow, a deputy from South Carolina. He said that just as Resolution A015 calls on the federal government to be more transparent in accounting for spending, The Episcopal Church should release information about legal costs for battles over property rights.

Thurlow, rector at St. Matthias, Summerton, S.C., said that the General Convention has reaffirmed transparency and accountability is essential in governments abroad and at home, as well soon be deliberated in Resolution A015.

He also called for a curtailment of the recently expanded disciplinary rules and procedures for clergy enacted on the national level - called Title IV canons. Critics say the new rules remove procedural safeguards for clergy. The result, they say, is overreaching "presentments," or charges of the kind recently leveled against seven bishops - including Central Florida's retired Bishop John W. Howe -- for filing an amicus brief in support of a group in the Diocese of Fort Worth that is breaking away from The Episcopal Church.

"I'm asking that we defund certain areas, particularly the Title IV Canons; it's nice to see that it's down over 25 percent of what it was three years ago. But we all know that Bishop Salmon [retired Bishop of Dallas] and other statesmen of the church have recently been charged for publically expressing his views that counter that newer understanding that we are a unitary form of government. For that, he is now under Title IV Revision which must be reviewed in a court of law. I would ask you to defund that nonsense. It sends a very negative message to the world at large when we are engaged in these things with one another."

"I also ask for transparency and accountability when it comes to how much money has actually been spent on the legal costs that continue to escalate." "We members of this convention are responsible for knowing exactly where the money is going," he said.

"The cost of this is money that should be going to pay for such things as anti-malaria nets," Thurlow said after the hearing.

Same-sex blessings

Debate regarding same-sex blessings in the church began once again the evening of July 4 as the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music Committee considered Resolution C105 at General Convention. Though many committee bishops and deputies expressed support for the resolution, which calls for revision to the Constitutions and Canons of the church to acknowledge that certain jurisdictions now recognize same-sex marriage, deputies from the Diocese of Central Florida were among those to voice opposition. The Rev. Jim Sorvillo, rector at Church of the Ascension in Orlando, said the resolution conflicts with established Canons in the church.

"They are wanting to change the language of the Canons to bring them in line with current states that are approving same-sex marriage," Sorvillo explained.

"That language flies in direct opposition to the current language of the Constitution and Canons." He added that this resolution was also in conflict with the Instrument of Unity, which is Lambeth Conference of 1998. "They should not move forward with this until it's resolved through the Committee on Constitution and Canons," Sorvillo said.

The Rt. Rev. Daniel Martins, Bishop of Springfield, shared the Central Florida deputation's concerns about the resolution. "I believe that marriage is instituted by God from Creation as something between a man and a woman. So anything that would revise our Canons contrary to that I would be opposed to," he said.

"This is all part of a larger complex of resolutions and proposals, so it runs the gamut from resolutions we haven't even discussed yet," Martins said, "to the study of marriage, to any number of other constitutional amendments of canonical changes."

Martins described the resolution as one of the more radical ones on the agenda. "I think the goal of many is to get to what they call 'marriage equality' as quickly as possible, and this is a way of advancing that cause."


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