October 11, 2010

Another Revised Convention Resolution

Along with the revised Resolution 2 to be presented this weekend at the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh—see “Pittsburgh Standing Committee Responds to Concerns”—a substitute for Resolution 1 was also sent to deputies via e-mail today.

The resolution was originally presented as follows:
Resolution 1.

Resolution on Episcopal Church Asking and Local Parishes

Resolved,
that the Diocesan Convention strongly encourages all parishes to give or work toward restoring their commitment to the missions asking of the Episcopal Church for leadership, program and ministry.

Explanation:
St. Paul’s letters reveal the early practice of individual churches giving tithes to support Christian churches and ministry in other places (1 Cor. 16, 2 Cor. 8). In addition, the tithe of a church to Christ’s mission outside itself provides a godly example for each member in their own personal tithes. And finally, our diocese wishes to support the program and ministry of the Episcopal Church, which has been deeply involved in such ministries as hurricane relief to the Gulf Coast, service to the poor of inner cities and earthquake relief to Haiti, and which has covenants to support missionaries in Mexico, Liberia and the Philippines.


Sponsors: The Rev. Canon Dr. Harold T. Lewis, Calvary Episcopal Church

The Rev. Jeffrey Murph, St. Thomas Memorial Episcopal Church
According to the e-mail from the diocese
The revised Resolution 1 encourages parishes to restore their commitment to the missions asking of the Episcopal Church. The original language of the resolution itself has not changed, however a new rationale statement is offered by sponsors Harold Lewis+ and Jeff Murph+.
Whereas this statement is substantially true, it is not literally true, as can be seen in the substituted resolution:
Resolution 1.

Resolution on Episcopal Church Asking and Local Parishes

Resolved,
This 145th Diocesan Convention strongly encourage all parishes to give or work toward restoring their commitment to the missions asking of the Episcopal Church for leadership, program and ministry.

Rationale: The Diocesan Convention of 1996, in a decision reflective of the divisions rife in the diocese at the time, passed a resolution to allow parishes to redirect to other recipients funds normally earmarked for The Episcopal Church missions asking, reflecting divisions rife in the diocese at the time. With a new sense of unity and commitment to the Episcopal Church, it seems altogether fitting and proper for us to express our tangible support to the Episcopal Church as well. Moreover, St. Paul’s letters reveal the early practice of individual churches giving tithes to support Christian churches and ministry in other places (1 Cor. 16, 2 Cor. 8). In addition, the tithe of a church to Christ's mission outside itself provides a godly example for each member in his or her own personal tithes. And finally, our diocese wishes to support the program and ministry of the Episcopal Church, which has been deeply involved in such ministries as hurricane relief to the Gulf Coast, service to the poor of inner cities and earthquake relief to Haiti, and which has covenants to support missionaries in Mexico, Liberia and the Philippines.


Sponsors: The Rev. Canon Dr. Harold T. Lewis, Calvary Episcopal Church

The Rev. Jeffrey Murph, St. Thomas Memorial Episcopal Church
I will comment briefly on what this resolution is all about below. First, I want to make some remarks about the substitute text itself.

To begin with, the resolution has changed. Though the meaning is the same, the new text is gratuitously different. (I count 6 distinct changes, and I see no pressing reason to have made any of them.)

The explanation has been helpfully expanded, as not all readers would have understood the background from the original explanation. Again, however, there are gratuitous differences. (Why has the “Explanation” become a “Rationale”?) The most obvious quirk of the new justification is the repetition of the phrase “divisions rife in the diocese at the time.” (Perhaps the prefixed words “reflective of the,” in one case, and “reflecting,” in the other, are meant to mitigate the impression that the paragraph has been badly edited. Suffice it to say, the paragraph is badly edited.) Even ignoring the repetition, the first sentence is a mess. Better would be something like the following:
In a decision reflective of the divisions rife in the diocese at the time, the Diocesan Convention of 1996 passed a resolution to allow parishes to redirect funds normally earmarked for The Episcopal Church missions asking to other recipients.
Another symptom of bad editing is the presence of both “The Episcopal Church” and “the Episcopal Church” in the text. I could go one, but what’s the point? (Sorry if this seems petty, but surely someone could have cleaned up this mess!)

Now to the substance of Resolution 1. As the rationale suggests, more than a decade ago, a diocese that harbored much hostility to The Episcopal Church voted to allow parishes to pay to other charitable causes that part of their assessment that otherwise would have gone to support the general church. Eventually, the diocese itself chose not to send money for the support of The Episcopal Church, although some parishes continued to send money directly, bypassing the hostile judicatory.

I had assumed the practice of diverting money from The Episcopal Church would end when the diocese split in 2008, but some of the parishes that stayed in the diocese were among those that were not supporting the church. I believe that, if parishes are going to be in The Episcopal Church, they have an obligation to help pay for the church. That said, I think there is movement toward undoing the errors of the past. No doubt, some of the money being paid to organizations would be sorely missed if suddenly diverted to the general church. Parishes are going to have to work this out.

That this resolution does not demand an immediate end to the diversions acknowledges, I think, that the transition to normality may not be as simple as it sounds. Significantly, the resolution is sponsored by what are viewed as a very liberal and a very conservative priest. Surely, that is a plus and a characteristic that will make the resolution difficult to defeat (or even speak against).
Too bad that the explanation of the resolution is not better written.

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