What We Agreed to Do: Congregations and Individuals

View from HOD platform This is the first of three posts I plan to write over the next week or so listing the actions of GC78. I’m focusing first on what General Convention urges or directs congregations and individuals to do. Sadly, this list is the shortest. My current count is –

  • 41 resolutions directing individuals or congregations
  • 49 resolutions directing dioceses
  • 65 resolutions directing the Episcopal Church, plus 25 related to the Title IV changes (the discipline canons), 15 related to liturgy and new liturgical resources, and 14 social justice positions that state a position but don’t ask individuals, congregations, or dioceses to do anything in response.

I may have missed a few Resolveds here or there, but this ratio should be fairly accurate. Since General Convention is the official legislative body of the larger church, it is appropriate that the bulk of the decisions relate to our common life. However, our common life together would be strengthened if General Convention developed more of a culture of action, encouraging congregations and dioceses to take particular steps in response to the actions of Convention. For example, many well-crafted and faithful social justice resolutions were approved by Convention as positions of the church, but did not ask anyone beyond 815 to do anything – not even pray or advocate. A092, for example, affirms support for full and adequate funding of social safety nets like Social Security. While it may be helpful to make a statement like this, our mission would have been strengthened by encouraging specific action in response to this position – like urging congregations to develop relationships with people who depend on these safety nets. Contrast this with A096, Affirm Relationship Based Social Justice, which encourages all Episcopal congregations to establish relationship-based, social-justice ministries through which relationships are developed between those who serve and those who are served, resulting in shared and transformational experiences and in a greater commitment to work for justice on all sides of the socio-economic divide. 

This is not simply a matter of semantics. This is a call to live what we say, to let our yes really be yes. If a matter is worth a resolution, it is worth a statement about how we are called to respond.

If you’re interested, here are several resolutions that made a bold statement for the church but don’t ask individuals, congregations, or dioceses to do anything.  Be aware that titles are assigned before Convention and can’t be changed, even if the discussion ends up leading the committee in a direction not reflected it the title.  A094 (Support Income Tax Parity), A170 (Develop and Continue Food System Advocacy), B013 (Peacemaking Through Political Action – focused on Israel and Palestine), C005 (Decreasing Gun Violence), C013 (Facilitate Dialog on Climate Change and Divestment Strategy),  C053 (Protecting Indigenous Subsistence Rights and Native Food Sources), D028 (Oppose Conversion Therapy), D032 (Disability Advocacy in Criminal Justice Work), D033 (Supporting Refugee Rights in Central America), D048 (Support for Certain Immigration Relief),  D069 (Birthright Citizenship), and D074 (Temporary Protective Status for Immigrants at Risk).

That being said, here is what General Convention currently asks of individuals and congregations. (Current versions and status of resolutions can be found here . The official journal is not yet available, so some of this may still be subject to change).

A011 – Recommit to Criminal Justice Reform and Advocacy – Encourages each congregation and Diocese to undertake at least one specific initiative aimed at addressing the destructive consequences of the mass incarceration system and includes a list of possible actions.

A020 – Affirm the Work of The Episcopal Church at the United Nations – Asks all Episcopalians to educate themselves about the work of the United Nations and the many ways in which our collective call as Christians to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” aligns with the work of the United Nations, and to support and partner with the United Nations and its programs and  agencies in pursuit of peace, reconciliation and justice for all people.

A021 – Continue Our Commitment of 0.7% of the Millennium Development Goals – urges all dioceses and congregations to continue to contribute 0.7% of their annual budgets to fund appropriate international development programs

A026 ,  A027  – support dioceses and congregations in their efforts to develop ministry among young men in Native American communities, develop models for young men in Native American Ministries and Native American campus ministries

A036 – Amend Canon I.18 Marriage – allows clergy to marry same sex couples beginning Advent 1 2015

A037 – Continue work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage – requests  dioceses and parishes use  the study materials on marriage provided in the last triennium

A049 – Make Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women a Focus of Foreign and Church Aid – commends the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women, including transgender individuals, to dioceses and congregations as a criterion for engagement in domestic and international projects

A051 – Support LGBT African Advocacy – encourage parishes and dioceses to build relationships with and learn from  Anglican African scholars who are already offering Biblical interpretations that affirm the dignity  and humanity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex people and to offer prayers for the safety of our (African) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex sisters and brothers, their families and communities, and for the scholars and activists who tirelessly work on their behalf

A054 – Adopt Resources and Liturgical Rites from I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing – rites for blessing and marrying same sex couples, beginning Advent I 2015

A072 – Develop Awareness of Five Marks of Mission – encourage dioceses and congregations to use materials that instruct persons about the Five Marks of Mission, and dioceses and congregations adopt the practice of intentionally and publicly stating how each of their activities relates to the Five Marks of Mission

A073 – Update Model Policies for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct – not later than December 31, 2016, the Guidelines for the Protection of Children and Youth of each diocese conform to the Updated Model Policies with due regard to applicable local laws on the subject matters of the Updated Model Policies

A076 – Commend Use of Christian Formation Certifications – commend to all dioceses and congregations the use of Christian Formation Certifications as a way to encourage professional development for both paid and unpaid Christian Formation leaders and to deepen the Church’s commitment to the value and status of lay Christian Formation leaders

A078 – Reaffirm the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation – dioceses and congregations adopt The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation and annually review the ways in which their Christian Formation ministries reflect and embody The Charter

A096 – Affirm Relationship-Based Social Justice – challenge all Episcopalians to hear in a bold way the call of both Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi to befriend and be with the poor, and that we come to know that the future vitality of The Episcopal Church is grounded in our mutually affirming relationships with our brothers and sisters who are poor; encourage all Episcopal congregations to establish relationship-based, social-justice ministries through which relationships are developed between those who serve and those who are served, resulting in shared and transformational experiences and in a greater commitment to work for justice on all sides of the socio-economic divide

A158 – Task force to Review and Revise policy on substance abuse, addiction, and recovery – adopt the following policy on alcohol and other substance misuse and encourage dioceses, congregations, seminaries, schools, young adult ministries, and affiliated institutions to update their policies on the use of alcohol and other substances with the potential for misuse

A179 – Commend Memorial V – encourage Deputies and Bishops to circulate Memorial V in their communities, congregations and dioceses for study and reflection

B018 – Support for Sudan and South Sudan – strongly urge TEC dioceses and parishes to consider prayer partnerships and  joint work with bishops, dioceses, and church organizations in Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan to support them to reduce and resolve the current conflicts, help refugees, hold war criminals accountable, and improve people’s living conditions

C018 – Pursue Justice, Peace, and Security in the Holy Land – urge Episcopalians to demonstrate our solidarity by making pilgrimage to Israel and the Occupied Territories and learning from our fellow Christians in the region

C019 – Establish Response to  Systemic Racial Injustice – Episcopal church understands and affirms that the call to pray and act for racial reconciliation is integral to our witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to our living into the demands of our Baptismal Covenant

C020– Ministry to People with Mental Illness and Their Families – calls upon dioceses, congregations, schools and other entities of the Episcopal Church to explore and adopt best practices for the vitality and increased capacity of their mission and ministry in the inclusion, support, and spiritual care for persons with mental illness and their families; ioceses, congregations, schools and other entities of the Episcopal Church increase understanding about mental illness by providing educational material and training

C028 – Disclosure of Criminal Records – all discernment, search, and nominating committees for bishops and rectors in the Episcopal Church use resources available to them including knowledge of unrestricted criminal convictions in evaluation of candidates in thoughtful ways and make certain that all members of such committees be made aware of any issues which may impact the character and competence of candidates

C037 – Sponsoring and Supporting Scouting Units – commend that vestries and clergy in charge of congregations sponsor or continue to sponsor scouting units (packs, troops, posts and crews), especially those units recently displaced by decisions from other denominations to cease sponsoring scouting units as a consequence of the BSA’s recent change to a non-discriminatory membership policy concerning sexual orientation

C045 – Environmentally Responsible Investing – urges all dioceses and parishes of the Episcopal Church to engage the topic of divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment in clean energy within the coming year

C048 – Increase the Minimum Wage –  confirms that “it is the policy of The Episcopal Church and its dioceses and congregations to provide employees with a living wage

C055 – Church-wide Day of Prayer – commit the Church to continual prayer for the cessation of all violent acts against believers

D014 – Question Ordinands about Addiction – Sponsoring Clergy, Vestries, Commissions on Ministry, Standing Committees, and Bishops interviewing and evaluating Nominees, Postulants, and Candidates for Ordination explore directly issues regarding substance use in their lives and family systems

D015 – Encouraging Advocacy for Hunger Relief – That dioceses, parishes, and faithful Episcopalians are urged to pray and discern whether they are specifically called to advocate changes in public policy to help poor and hungry people

D030 – Establish Parental Leave Policy – Strongly urges all dioceses, congregations, and other church-related offices and agencies/contexts to establish and make available parental leave policies for birth and adoptive parents, both clergy and layin their employ

D034 – Affirmation and Support of Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 – dioceses and congregations be urged to seek education from available community D/deaf/hard of hearing and disability organizations on supporting full inclusion of disabled persons in all aspects of public life

D035 – Support Christians in Pakistan – call upon the congregations and members of The Episcopal Church to learn about the realities of the Church in Pakistan and the oppression of religious minorities in that country, and to pray purposely and specifically for the Church of Pakistan (United)

D041 – Encourage faith communities to develop both corporate and personal opportunities to pray for peace in the Middle East, for an end to the humanitarian and refugee crisis in Syria, and for the continued witness and presence of Christian communities there

D044 – Removal of Confederate Battle Flag – Episcopal Church strongly urges all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions, to discontinue the display of the Confederate Battle Flag (I wasn’t there, but my son told me the entire deputation from Mississippi stood at the microphone to speak in favor of this)

D045 – Support for Men’s Ministry – encourage and support dioceses and congregations in their efforts to develop and expand Ministry to Men and to mentor and raise up the next generation of young men throughout the Episcopal Church

D057 – Re-commit to the Spirit of Sanctuary – recommit to the spirit of the New Sanctuary Movement by supporting congregations so they can assist immigrant individuals, unaccompanied minors, families, and communities by being centers of information, services and accompaniment, and by supporting families facing separation in the absence of comprehensive, humane immigration reform

D058 – Dominicans of Haitian Descent – all Episcopalians pray for Dominicans of Haitian descent and all other stateless persons in the world that they may find homes where they are welcomed and afforded legitimate residential, educational, work status, and legal documentation of their personhood for themselves and their children

D071 – Call for the Ratification of the UN CRPD – acknowledge that the United States of America is the last developed nation member of the United Nations that has yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and recognize that other countries in which The Episcopal Church exists have ratified the treaty; urge all members of the Church in the United States to contact their Senators and advocate for ratification of the treaty

D073 – Supporting Home and Community Based Services – urge dioceses and local congregations to discern ways in which they can provide practical support to individuals and families affected by a lack of adequate home and community-based services and supports (for persons with disabilities)

D077 – Uniting Families – strongly urge dioceses and congregations to develop programs and partnerships with local agencies that emphasize the value of strong immigrant families and provide assistance with psychological, financial, and spiritual needs so as to assist immigrant families with their needs as they struggle to adapt to their new home country

D079 – Education for Undocumented Families – strongly urge dioceses and congregations to provide resources and education for undocumented persons and their families to learn about their legal rights, including their rights regarding certain immigration relief such as asylum

Lots to discuss here, starting at my congregation this Sunday at 9:30. Let’s get to work! Photo from HOD Platform on Twitter


  1. The General Convention is not the will of the Episcopal Church and thus has no real moral authority over rank and file. Until the Episcopal Church recognizes that it lacks truly deep relational Christianity within its own dioceses and provinces, the GC will continue to express an unenforceable but more importantly unrecognizable vision for life in Christ that doesn’t resonate with the few Sunday attendees it has left. We make pronouncements, pat ourselves on the back, and tell ourselves that we matter as an institution when we matter little to ourselves and less to the world in and around our parishes. GC, TREC, and all of the “work” they do is the continuing realm of the distant, strange and ideological. D077 is the perfect example! Who is going to do this work when our churches are barely capable of doing this for the people in their own parishes? D077 is a godly idea that can never be disputed, but the transformative work that reorientates parishioners in average parishes to this work is falsely presumed as being done with capacity to make D077 even slightly viable.


  2. Wonderfully helpful, Grace! I believe many of us will use this as our “cheat sheet” as we teach our congregations . . . A blast to see you at GC!


  3. In some cases, as in the Immigration related Resolutions, there are people already doing a lot of work in their parishes. They don’t need the Resolution to call for them to do something. But they are very grateful for TEC to pass a Resolution that supports their efforts. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes when I’m talking with a legislative aide, or with an immigrant family in my parish, to be able to say, “Our Church says this about TPS for immigrants at risk…” or similar statements on related issues. It is very empowering!


    • I do see the value in having a position on an issue that is claimed by the larger church. But I think our positions would be strengthened by encouraging more action.


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