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GC2012: Episcopal Church Deputies Vote for Reform, Go Out Singing

GC2012: Episcopal Church Deputies Vote for Reform, Go Out Singing

Michael Heidt in Indianapolis
July 11, 2012

The Episcopal Church's House of Deputies wept, laughed and sang after unanimously voting for the creation of a Task Force to reform their church's top-heavy governing structure.

After a roof-raising voice vote, resolution C095 passed to thunderous acclamation in the House of Deputies. The resolution proposes that the Episcopal Church appoints a Task Force of 24 persons appointed by the Presiding Bishop and House of Deputies.

In a side-swipe at the governing institutions of the church, the resolution states that the makeup of the Task Force is to "reflect the diversity of the church, and shall include some persons with critical distance from the Church's institutional leadership." How this critical distance will be achieved when Task Force members will be appointed by the church's institutional leader, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, was not discussed.

The goal of the Task Force is to investigate ways to "reimagine the church" and reform it so that greater emphasis is placed on mission and less on administration and governance. According to the budget submitted to the general Convention by its Program, Budget and Finance Committee, these two things currently take up 42% of the church's $111 million triennial budget.

In a 2011 presentation entitled "Becoming a Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society: An Adaptive Moment," the Episcopal Church's Chief Operating officer, bishop Stacey Sauls, warned bishops that spending too much on "overhead" goes against the Better Business Bureau's benchmark for good practice.

BBB recommends non-profits spend no more than 35% on overhead; Sauls said that the Episcopal Church is spending a sum closer to 47%. Repeating his warning to this year's House of Bishops at General Convention, Sauls stated, "We can't go on doing business as usual."

In line with its Chief Operating Officer's warning, the Task Force will attempt to turn this use of the church's resources towards mission and growth, in accordance with the "Five Marks of Mission."

The Marks of Mission are included in resolution C095 and ask the church to: Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; Teach, baptize and nurture new believers; Respond to human need by loving service; Seek to transform unjust structures of society and to Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

Immediately prior to passing the resolution, the House of Deputies was asked to move an amendment which would have mandated transsexuals onto the Task Force. In a surprise defeat for transgenderism, the motion was not carried.

The House of Deputies concluded business with prayer, in which the House chaplain prayed, "Dear Lord God, Father and Mother of us all." They then sang a hymn, "Sing a New Song," which asks singers to "weave a song of peace and justice," while shaping a "circle ever wider."

Whether a Task Force will be able widen the circle of the Episcopal Church to weave in the Gospel imperative of winning souls for Christ remains to be seen.

Resolution C095 now goes to the House of Bishops for final approval.


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