September 21, 2011

A Proposed Resolution for General Convention 2012

The 2012 General Convention of The Episcopal Church will need to deal with the Anglican Covenant. It can accept it, reject it, or do something else. As most readers of this blog know, I believe that our church should decline categorically to adopt the Covenant.

General Convention logoWhat, exactly, the General Convention says will matter, however. Moreover, the need to deal with the Covenant provides an opportunity for the church to take a stand against the injuries and indignities it has suffered in recent years at the hands of the people and churches of the Anglican Communion.

No doubt, many resolutions will be proposed to deal with the Covenant, but I know of no resolution that has yet been offered publicly. Below, I suggest such a resolution. The likelihood that it will be adopted, or even make its way to the legislative floor, is essentially zero. It may, however, get people thinking more deliberately about what sort of resolution might be appropriate and why. I believe it is important for us (and for the Communion) to understand our current situation and what has happened to our church along the way..

I will not attempt an explanation of all the provisions of this rather long resolution, but I should explain the 4% figure that occurs in the fifth resolved clause. The number is a generous calculation of the percentage of Episcopalians among the world’s Anglicans (3 million / 80 million, rounded up). The Episcopal Church has been bankrolling the Anglican Communion at a much higher level than this and has mainly been repaid with grief and abuse. Stewardship of our very limited resources demands an adjustment, whether the one I have proposed or one more or less drastic..

I invite your comments and discussions here and elsewhere. Figuring out how The Episcopal Church responds to the challenge of the Anglican Covenant should not be left exclusively to a committee, perhaps not even to convention deputies.

Proposed Resolution for General Convention 2012
Relation to the Anglican Communion
 

Whereas this Church, over most of its history, has experienced the Anglican Communion as a useful vehicle for consultation and coƶperation; and

Whereas churches, bishops, and bodies of the Anglican Communion have, in recent years, shown unjustified hostility to this Church by various actions, including, but not limited to
  • Declaring impaired or broken communion with this Church;
     
  • Declaring episcopal oversight of individual parishes of this Church by foreign bishops without consultation with the local ordinary;
     
  • Attempting the appropriation of financial, real property, and other assets of this Church while, at the same time, condemning this Church for availing itself of its only available recourse, namely, the civil courts;
     
  • Establishing competing ecclesiastical jurisdictions within the geographic boundaries of dioceses of this Church;
     
  • Encouraging the development of a church intended to compete with or replace this Church in the Anglican Communion;
     
  • Repeatedly making demands of this Church affecting its internal governance without warrant;
     
  • Failing to respect properly adjudicated depositions of clergy of this Church;
     
  • Removing, without consultation or recourse, members of this Church from Anglican Communion bodies to which they had been duly appointed;
     
  • Failing to accord the Presiding Bishop of this Church appropriate and unambiguous acknowledgment of her episcopal status;
     
  • Refusing to take communion with the Presiding Bishop of this Church;
     
  • Mistreating other ministers of this Church in discriminatory ways based on their gender or sexual orientation;
     
  • Requesting that representatives of this Church “voluntarily” absent themselves from meetings of Anglican Communion bodies;
     
  • Failing to acknowledge or demand redress for the aforementioned indignities, insults, and lapses of Christian charity against this Church and its members; and
     
  • Proposing a Covenant whose effect would be to limit the autonomy of this Church and to sanction interference in its internal affairs by the Anglican Communion;

Therefore,
be it

Resolved, that it is the understanding of this Church that membership in the Anglican Communion is not essential to its existence, its Anglicanism, or its Gospel mission in the world; and be it further

Resolved, that it is nonetheless the desire of this Church to continue its participation in the Anglican Communion, understood as a fellowship of autonomous, autocephalous churches whose history can be traced to the Church of England; and be it further

Resolved, that it is the understanding of this Church that its continued membership in the Anglican Communion is incompatible with the concurrent membership of other churches that claim jurisdiction over any area within the geographic boundaries of any diocese of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, that it is the understanding of this Church that no person, committee, commission, church, or ecclesiastical body not part of this Church has any authority over this Church, its dioceses, its clergy, its parishes, its missions, or its members, except insofar as such authority has been granted by this Church in accordance with its Constitution and Canons; and be it further

Resolved, that this Church provide no more than 4% of the administrative expenses required for the maintenance of the Anglican Communion, which limitation does not include funds required to support travel of members of this Church for participation in Anglican Communion meetings; funds directly supporting evangelism, relief, and development; or other expenditures as may be authorized by the General Convention of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, that because this Church believes the so-called Anglican Communion Covenant to be contrary to Anglican theology and tradition, it declines to adopt the Covenant and urges other churches of the Communion to do the same; and be it further

Resolved, that it is the understanding of this Church that its membership in the Anglican Communion is unaffected by its failure to adopt the Anglican Covenant; and be it further

Resolved, that nothing in this resolution is intended to modify or to abrogate any bilateral agreements made by this Church, its dioceses, or its parishes insofar as such agreements are consistent with the Constitution and Canons of this Church




Update, 9/28/2011: I have now posted a revised (and, I think, properly formatted) resolution here.

19 comments:

  1. An interesting proposal, Lionel. You're right. It won't make it out of legislative committee but it certainly promises to stir conversation and even, I suspect, heated debate.

    That being said, I agree with the 4% contribution to the Anglican Communion and, of course, with the rejection of the Covenant/Contract.

    If we are able to accomplish that much in Indianapolis, I will be well pleased.

    What we need is a strategy to get these two things passed. I suspect that the rejection of the Covenant/Contract will be an easier task than the reduction of our contribution to the Anglican Communion.

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  2. If we can get a deputy to sponsor it, then the committee will have to at least think about it a moment. I intend to be in Indianapolis, and for one, will seek to testify as a member of NACC.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  3. Lionel,

    If you reformat this in proper GC style (subjunctive voice and all) I'll be one of the sponsors

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  4. Mike R.,

    I took my best shot at getting the style right. Point me to a proper model, and I’ll change the style. I’d like to get a bit more feedback first, though. Surely, I haven’t got the substance perfect!

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  5. President Anderson indicated to us at the NNECA Conference in St. Louis this year that she is inclined to refer resolutions related to the Covenant to a regular committee rather than to a special committee. My guess would be World Mission, since that's where she assigned the Covenant resolution Dan Martins brought forward in 2009. It's hard to say what the committee would do in terms of sending an affirmative or negative resolution. The latter option seems odd to me, but who knows? I would be surprised if the committee would choose not to send anything on, given the level of interest not only in the Episcopal Church but also in the wider Communion. Some have suggested that another resolution to commend the Covenant for continued study and reflection would be a form of "soft rejection" and without the hard more confrontational edge that a direct rejection might have. My own preference, like yours, is for clarity--though as you know, Lionel, if I were on the floor (which as C-5 I almost certainly won't be) I would at least at this point be inclined to vote for a different expression of clarity than the one you would advocate. I suspect but don't know that your opinions will run nearer the majority's than will mine on this . . . .

    Bruce Robison

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  6. Fascinating how the ways of doing things are so different even in two nations and Churches as close as ours! For example, the preamble would be out of order in Canada. (We don't do preambles.) And we would never have a series of clauses that said "be it resolved... and be it further resolved....." That's not a criticism, just a comment about how different we are even if we are so similar in other ways.

    To content:

    In the first clause, (we Canadians would simply number the clauses - how bizarre) the suggestion that being part of the Anglican Communion is not essential to our Anglicanism is in effect a mirror of the claim by groups such as ACNA and AMiA that non-recognition by the Instruments of Communion does not imply that they are not Anglican. It's problematic.

    In the third clause, there is the anomaly (and it is an anomaly) of Europe to consider. The anomaly of both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church having concurrent jurisdiction in South America was resolved by the creation of the Province of the Southern Cone. But that has not yet been addressed in Europe. So clause 3 has to take that into account.

    In clause 5, I understand the frustration that leads to the 4% rule. The trouble is that if it is adopted as a norm that each Church contributes to the Instruments according to its proportion of total membership, then both England and Nigeria will quickly be unable to do so. It's annoying that TEC contributes so disproprtionately to its size, I understand that (though some would also say it has way too many bishops proportionately, too). But this clause is likely to be see as a kind of economic power play, however much that is not the intent.

    I think it would be very useful to have a clear motion rejecting the Covenant rather than simply defeat a motion to adopt it. And, as others have suggested, simply stringing it out for a while by postponing the decision, whilst it has its attractions, is ultimately a dishonest way of operating.

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  7. The first clause is not intended to resign from the Communion but to assert that that is possible.

    I did think about Europe but did not know quite how to handle it.

    With the financial problems TEC is experiencing, I believe there is a widespread belief that we spend too much on the Anglican Communion, which seems to be an ever-expanding bureaucracy. At the risk of sounding like a Tea Party type, there is something to be said for starving the beast. In reality, I doubt that England has many more Anglicans than the U.S. Its claimed numbers are, to put it mildly, inflated. (One can blame this on establishment, I suppose.)

    There is something to be said for defeating a one-line resolution adopting the Covenant or (preferably), a one-line resolution rejecting it. I think there is more business to take care of, however.

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  8. The Tea Party vs Liberals demanding that the rich must pay more than their share because they are rich and have an obligation to the poor was exactly what I thought of when you mentioned the 4%(Only about 1-2% of the US population are millionaires). Be careful with this idea. I can see a lot of ACNA preachers begging TEC to do it so they can yell about hypocrisy.

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  9. Chris H.,

    The issue is not one of avoiding the moral obligations of wealth. We have been financing our persecutors. Neither masochism nor self-loathing is a virtue.

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  10. On clause 1, my point was that ACNA et al claim that they are really truly Anglican notwithstanding the fact that no-one who counts (like the Instruments of Communion) agree with that assertion. It's one thing to say that a Church can resign from the Communion, but it's another thing to say that it would remain Anglican in the usual sense of the word. Being officially Anglican may not be essential to the mission of a Church. I can agree with that. And there would certainly remain vestiges of Anglicanism in any Church that withdrew from the Communion. But to say that such a Church would still be Anglican lends credence to claims of ACNA to be Anglican. I don't think we can have it both ways, refuting ACNA's claim whilst simultaneously making a parallel claim.

    On Europe, maybe a parenthetic comment such as "(notwithstanding the anomalous overlapping jurisdictions in Europe)".

    On funding the persecutor, I am very sympathetic to the point. The key issue is how to make that point without giving others ammunition to say you sound petulant about it. (I don't think you do sound petulant, but others will make the claim.) Perhaps another way to get at it would be to request a review of financial support to the Communion from the perspectives of financial sustainability, compatibility with the mission priorities of the Episcopal Church, and effectiveness of the programmes and agencies being funded.

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  11. Alan,

    I hope to say more about this later, but let me make a quick response to your last comment.

    “Anglican” is used in at least three ways. It can mean (1) related by history to an autonomous Church of England, (2) in the Anglican Communion, or (3) embracing a particular theology whose most important theologian is Richard Hooker.

    The Episcopal Church is Anglican by all three of these definitions. ACNA, in my opinion, fails to be Anglican by definitions (2) and (3). Were The Episcopal Church to leave the Anglican Communion, it could still be distinguished from ACNA by criterion (3).

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  12. I'm sorry but it still doesn't ring true. Liberals complain and want to punish rich conservative parishes that don't pay their full share to a liberal diocese or TEC and those churches could, have, and do say that funding them is funding their persecutors. Nor are all parishes expected to give the same amounts, or even expected to give only according to ASA(at least in this diocese), it depends on wealth/income. We have some small churches with a couple of rich members who pay more than larger congregations. If TEC wants to belong to the Communion, then the money goes. Compared to some countries, TEC does get a lot of seats at the table for the price.

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  13. Chris H.,

    Your point is well taken. I have no sympathy for dioceses that do no pay their share to The Episcopal Church or for parishes who shortchange the diocese. (Dioceses differ as to whether the assessment on parishes is intended to be required.)

    The Anglican Communion is different in that there is no formal agreement (so far as I know) as to what churches should pay. (In fact, even the notion of Communion membership is fuzzy, something the Anglican Covenant makes even fuzzier.) Please correct me if I am wrong.

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  14. I think this is excellent and should be introduced at General Convention. It is time for the Episcopal Church to defend itself and to publicly state the wrongs inflicted upon it over the last few years.

    I understand some trepidation concerning reduced funding. I attend a mainstream parish in an extremist diocese that pays its diocesan assessment while the diocese pays nothing to the National Church. We believe in “following the rules” and I believe can criticize our diocese without being called hypocritical. But it is a great point that there is no formal agreement as to what churches should pay the Anglican Communion. Perhaps some reference to the opportunity costs lost in sending money to an organization openly hostile to the Episcopal Church is in order.

    But I think the time has long since passed to worry about extremist reaction to our funding or anything else. When have extremists done anything like the passage of B033 at General Convention 2006? When have they ever done anything like the Episcopal Church did in voluntarily absenting itself from the Anglican Consultative Council?
    A couple of minor points:
    1) I think you meant “may” instead of “my” in “…or other expenditures as my be authorized…”
    2) Nice use of the term “autocephalous!

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  15. Dallas Bob,

    Thanks for the copyediting. You are, of course, correct. I made the change.

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  16. I am inclined to consider the Covenant and the funding of our adversaries as separate issues warranting separate resolutions, although I grant that they could wind up in the same committee at GC 2012.

    Were I a delegate, I would happily support Bruce's suggestion to kick the can down the road another three years, especially since Ruth Gledhill has leaked that ++Rowan may well retire next year. I sense enough resistance to his Grand Idea: it may collapse of its own weight, encumbered by all the many objections you have placed on it, Lionel.

    The 4% problem is intriguing. Wouldn't it be worthwhile to understand what all that support funds? I believe our delegates would gleefully support an investigation into how God's Kingdom is advanced on Earth by our support. New chasubles for Henry Orombi and Robert Duncan, perhaps? Sorry, just being snarky this morning.

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  17. I'll just note for the moment that we don't do preambles, either. The Resolution format is available at the GC website -- see the directions for submitting resolutions. They all begin, Resolved, the House of ____ concurring, That...

    That being said, you can include what you've got as Whereases in an "Explanation" following the Resolution itself. The Explanation does not form part of the Resolution.

    I would lose the first resolve as it gets off on a negative foot. I would rather just affirm our membership and participation in the Communion but clearly state the the Covenant is of little help in accomplishing Communion cohesion, but has itself become just one more area of disagreement.

    I also find resolve 3 to sound petulant and exclusive. It also risks putting a question the answer to which we may not find pleasant!

    I would in addition lose the money paragraph -- it sounds like blackmail.

    If the real point is the Covenant -- stick with that. The more you add to a GC resolution the more likely it will be amended beyond recognition.

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  18. Tobias,

    Thanks for the information about form. I was not aware of the guidelines, but I thought that my text could be rearranged as necessary.

    For those who might be interested, you can read “Resolution Guidelines for the 77th General Convention” here.

    The “money paragraph” is intended to sound like good stewardship, not blackmail. Since the resolution doesn’t demand anything from the Communion, I am proposing a cut, not threatening anything.

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  19. I have revised my resolution. Putting it into the proper form also gave me the opportunity to fine-tune it based on feedback and second thoughts. (It will still be too strong for many readers.)

    My post with the revised resolution can be read here.

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