After my last post about what General Convention 2015 agreed that congregations and individuals were asked to do, I received a few comments (in writing and elsewhere) to the effect of “Who cares? Passing resolutions is not ministry.”
I agree. The prayerful work of General Convention is just a lot of words if we don’t remember what was decided and follow through. It is useless to congratulate ourselves for thoughtful conversation if those conversations don’t lead to action in some way.
But I also disagree. We rely on scripture, tradition, and reason for authority. The councils of the church (like General Convention and diocesan councils) are a manifestation of tradition. As messy, wordy, and human as these councils can be, they are still vehicles through which the Holy Spirit works to guide and direct our common life.
In particular, resolutions from General Convention can help us work together on a common task (like D025 below, working together to end the death penalty), help us learn from others (like A081 – TEAC ministry grids), call and equip us for mission (like A012 – Mission Enterprise Zones), and create room for experimentation (like D050 – Authorize “An Order for Celebrating Holy Eucharist” for a principal service).
So here is a list of resolutions that give particular direction and guidance to dioceses. I’ll post later a much longer list of resolutions directing The Episcopal Church, along with separate posts about liturgical and canonical changes.
There’s a lot of good stuff here – things we don’t want to forget for the next three years. Hopefully someone (or someones) in each diocese (not just bishops and diocesan staff) will come up with a check list and encourage the appropriate groups to follow through. If we actually do the things we say we’re going to do over the next three years, our church, our parishioners, and the world around us will be transformed.
A001 – Restructure for Spiritual Encounter – That Diocesan Councils and Commissions on Ministry, in collaboration with their Bishop, encourage and support diverse ways for ordained clergy to make a living inside and outside the Church.
A011 – Recommit to Criminal Justice Reform and Advocacy – Challenges The Episcopal Church at every level to commit mindfully and intentionally to dismantling our current mass incarceration system, with several specific suggestions for how to engage this issue and asks dioceses to report back to GC in 2018 – Note that this particular resolution changed quite a bit over time. You might be interested to read the original wording here.
A012 – Continue Funding of Mission Enterprise Zones – Dioceses are encouraged to apply for one of more Mission Enterprise Zone matching grants to facilitate and support the development of Mission Enterprise Zones including New Church Starts. Mission Enterprise Zones are defined as defined as a geographic area, as a group of congregations or as an entire diocese committed to mission and evangelism that engages under-represented groups, including youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high-school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement. Note that extra money was added to this proposal in the budget process, so I think we’re serious about this.
A013 – Continue Financial Support for Global Missions, Young Adult Service Corps, and Episcopal Volunteers in Mission – call upon every diocese to explore the opportunities for global mission work and encourage as many people as possible to apply for, attend, and complete a mission assignment as made available by these programs. These are transforming, life-changing ministries. We are all missionaries!
A018 – Affirm Interfaith Engagement – Urges dioceses and provinces to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Statement on Interreligious Relations; encourages dioceses and provinces to include an interreligious component in their Christian formation programs for the laity such as Christian education for children, youth and adults; for clergy development, dioceses and provinces include interreligious competency in continuing education programs, encourages Diocesan Bishops to appoint and Diocesan Conventions to authorize the financial support of a Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer (EDEIO) who will be responsible for insuring engagement with the Statement on Interreligious Relations and the development of programs to increase interreligious literacy and engagement.
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.
A024 – Direct Dioceses to Examine the Impact of the Doctrine of Discovery – Reaffirms and renews the directive to all dioceses, made by the 76th and 77th General Conventions, to examine the impact, including acts of racial discrimination, racial profiling, and other race-based acts of oppression, that the repudiated Doctrine of Discovery, as well as the related Doctrine of Manifest Destiny, has had on all people, especially on people of color and indigenous peoples. Hopefully we’ll be able to say in 2018 that everyone has done this work.
A029 – Protect Human Trafficking Victims – This resolution calls for a collaborative effort to protect victims and for that effort to provide resources for every diocese to conduct an educational campaign to make the public aware of the impact of human trafficking on Indigenous and immigrant peoples, both worldwide and within the dioceses of The Episcopal Church, such as Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota, and to inspire action by individuals, congregations and dioceses to protect victims of human trafficking.
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.
A044 – Maintain Centrality of the Eucharist – Directs the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority in each Diocese to discern and implement ways in which small congregations within their Diocese who are without benefit of clergy may receive Communion on a regular basis. Note the original text here offered more specific suggestions for how this might be accomplished. The final version left this intentionally vague.
A049 – Make Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women a Focus of Foreign and Church Aid – Commends the principles of achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women, including transgender individuals, to dioceses and congregations throughout the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society as a criterion for engagement in domestic and international projects, whether through direct aid or involvement of personnel.
A051 – Support LGBT African Advocacy – Encourages parishes and dioceses 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 – Authorizes a revised version of “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” beginning Advent I 2015 (here, pages 77 to 86). Authorizes for trial use “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” (here, pages 87 to 96, a revision of the 2012 blessing liturgy that includes a pronouncement of marriage) and “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2” (here, pages 97 to 105 – a revision of the 1979 Prayer Book liturgy that eliminates gender specific language) beginning Advent I 2015. Bishops will make provision for all couples to have access to these liturgies. Trial use is only available with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop. Provisions for remarriage after divorce apply equally to all couples. The updated materials will be available via Church Publishing by Advent I. Note that the Blue Book materials also included an updated version of the 1928 Rite, “The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony,” which was not authorized for trial use.
A072 – Develop Awareness of Five Marks of Mission – Encourage dioceses and congregations to use materials that instruct persons about the Five Marks of Mission, such as Marked for Mission (for youth and young adults); 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 need to conform to the Updated Model Policies.
A076 – Commend Use of Christian Formation Certifications – Commends 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.
A080 – Affirm Confirmation as Formation – All dioceses engage in similar conversations on confirmation with attention to diverse cultures and their contexts, and report back to the Office of Formation and Congregational Development and the 79th General Convention on their findings.
A081 – Commend the Use of TEAC Ministry Grids – Theological Education for the Anglican Communion (TEAC) Ministry Grids, modified as needed for the Episcopal Church, provide an excellent framework for outlining ministry competencies for all four orders. Given the rapidly changing cultural landscape and contexts for ministry, these grids are commended to all dioceses as instruments for guiding the ongoing formation of leaders in the Church; given the variety of models of formation being developed across The Episcopal Church, the Standing Commission on Ministry Development also commends these grids as a framework for effective assessment of those preparing for ordination.
A112 – Encourage Support for YASC and EVIM – Encourage dioceses, seminaries, and parishes to recruit and support both Young Adult Service Corps members (YASCers) and Episcopal Volunteers in Mission members (EVIMs).
A158 – Task force to Review and Revise Policy on Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery – Adopt the following policy (described in the resolution) 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. Note that this resolution gives latitude to dioceses and congregations to decide whether or not to serve alcohol at church-related events. This says to me that a conversation about the mindful use of alcohol is expected in local contexts.
A159 – The Role of the Church in the Culture of Alcohol and Drug Abuse – In addition to calling on the church to “confront and repent of the Episcopal Church’s complicity in a culture of alcohol, denial, and enabling,” this resolution directs dioceses to work in partnership with The Episcopal Church Medical Trust, Recovery Ministries of The Episcopal Church, and community-based organizations in order to address most effectively prevention, intervention/diversion, education, advocacy, treatment, and recovery, including developing a list of trained therapists and consultants who are available to assist clergy and laity in this education process.
A176 – Humanitarian Relief in Liberia – challenges Dioceses of The Episcopal Church to create diocesan partnerships with the church of Liberia and other initiatives that working together will address the humanitarian and economic development that will bring about the financial sustainability of our brothers and sisters in the Church of Liberia.
A179 – Commend Memorial V – encourage Deputies and Bishops to circulate Memorial V in their communities, congregations and dioceses for study and reflection. This is well worth reading – a call to reach out to the world around us rather than wait for people to come to us.
A184 – Acknowledge and Affirm Faithful Reconciliation Efforts – Acknowledges and affirms the faithful efforts by dioceses to reconcile with and welcome those individuals who have left The Episcopal Church and wish to return, and commends continuing actions to that end.
B007 – Participation in the Bible in the Life of the Church Project of the Anglican Communion – Dioceses of The Episcopal Church are encouraged to make their parishes, clergy and lay leaders aware of the resources and findings of the “Bible in the Life of the Church” project (which seeks to deepen engagement with Scripture across the Anglican Communion).
B008 – Support Handgun Purchaser Licensing – Dioceses of The Episcopal Church are encouraged to advocate for handgun purchaser licensing in their local contexts.
B018 – Support for Sudan and South Sudan – Strongly urges 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.
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; dioceses, 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.
C031 – In Support of Diocesan Mergers – encourages Dioceses to explore opportunities for collaboration, and possibly merging, with contiguous Dioceses, to better carry out their common mission.
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.”
D007 – Amend Canon III.2.1 and Canon III.12.4a – In each Diocese there shall be a Commission on Ministry (“Commission”) consisting of Priests, Deacons, if any, and Lay Persons. The Canons of each Diocese shall provide for the number of members, terms of office, and manner of selection to the Commission. Any Diocese may agree in writing with one or more other Dioceses to share a Commission on Ministry. (Working together with other dioceses is the new part).
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 – Dioceses, parishes, and faithful Episcopalians are called to advocate changes in public policy to help poor and hungry people.
D025 – Abolish the Death Penalty State by State – This resolution reaffirms the church’s longstanding call to end the death penalty and directs that this resolution be forwarded to the bishops in all states where the death penalty is legal, encouraging them to appoint task forces of clergy and lay persons to develop a witness to eliminate the death penalty, and requests that these bishops report back on their actions to the Standing Commission on Justice and Public Policy.
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 lay, in their employ.
D034 – Affirmation and Support of Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 – Dioceses and congregations 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 Christian in Pakistan – Calls upon the congregations and dioceses of The Episcopal Church to enter into direct partnerships with the Church of Pakistan (United) including visits to provide active engagement and support for the persecuted Church.
D045 – Support for Men’s Ministry – Encourages and supports 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.
D050 – Authorizing “An Order for Celebrating Holy Eucharist” as a Principal Service – A bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority may authorize a congregation to use “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist” (BCP pp. 400-405) at a principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist, if the Eucharistic Prayer is written and submitted in advance of its use to the Bishop.
D077 – Uniting Families – Strongly urges 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 urges 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.