This layer of denominational structure serves little purpose today other than to ensure geographic diversity on certain committees. … This change will free up resources currently spent on maintaining an outmoded structural model.They also argue that eliminating provinces will allow certain bodies that now require representatives from provinces, such as the Joint Nominating Committee for the Presiding Bishop, to be made smaller. They confidently assert that “we can ensure continued geographic diversity without rigid lines.”
I am skeptical of these largely unsupported claims. I don’t believe the existence of provinces constitutes a significant drain on church resources, and promises to achieve geographic diversity are not completely credible where there is no mechanism to assure it. Moreover, the existence of provincial groupings does not preclude dioceses in different provinces from working together for some particular purpose. The Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Northwestern Pennsylvania—the dioceses were once one—have consulted about possible efficiencies that might result from working together.
Rather than making an abstract argument for the existence of provinces, I want to make an argument from personal experience.
|Province III Logo|
In the time leading up to the diocesan split, informal representatives of Pittsburgh were warmly welcomed at Province III events. Generally, our connection to the province helped maintain an emotional connection to the wider church that would have been difficult to maintain with the more distant Episcopal Church Center. Even had my diocese been a “normal” one, the provincial connection would have helped counteract the sense of isolation and independence that so easily develops at the diocesan level.
Province III has sponsored a number of useful programs, but, perhaps most useful, is the provincial synod, particularly in years in which the General Convention meets. (You can visit the Province III Web site here.) This year, for example, attendees were briefed on issues to come before the General Convention in a meeting attended by the Presiding Bishop and other church leaders. Such an event is more easily staged by an organization with an ongoing existence than by an ad hoc group, as would be necessary in the absence of the provincial system.
Finally, it is worth noting that other organizations have taken advantage of the provincial organization to segment the work of their own groups. Episcopal Relief & Development and Daughters of the King both rely on a provincial structure.
For these and other reasons I hope that the General Convention will reject the call to eliminate provinces within The Episcopal Church. I suspect that, if General Convention does eliminate provinces, some provinces may even continue to exist informally. In any case, if anything is going to save our church, it isn’t going to be the elimination of provinces.