Saturday, September 22, 2007

Recalling the Response of the Executive Council

What is the Executive Council?

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is an elected body representing the whole Church. In the course of the three years between convention, known as the "triennium", the Executive Council will customarily meet once in each of the nine provinces of the Episcopal Church.

The Executive Council has the duty to carry out programs and policies adopted by General Convention. It is the job of Executive Council to oversee the ministry and mission of the Church. The Executive Council is comprised of twenty members elected by General Convention (four bishops, four priests or deacons and twelve laypersons) and eighteen members elected by provincial synods.
The EC represents the whole Church. Membership is drawn from all four orders. Their "job" is "to oversee the ministry and mission of the Church."

What was the Executive Council's response to the Primates' Dar es Salaam Communique?

...We understand the requests made by the Primates from Dar es Salaam in February, 2007 as a good-faith contribution to that on-going conversation. Still, the requests of the Primates are of a nature that can only properly be dealt with by our General Convention. Neither the Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop, nor the House of Bishops can give binding interpretations of General Convention resolutions nor make an "unequivocal common commitment" to denying future decisions by dioceses or General Convention. We question the authority of the Primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion or to prescribe the relationships within any of the other instruments of our common life, including the Anglican Consultative Council...

...We have received from the House of Bishops of our Church a request to decline to participate in the proposed Pastoral Scheme; with an explanation for the reasons our bishops believe that the scheme is ill-advised. We agree with the bishops' assessment including the conclusion that to participate in the scheme would violate our Constitution and Canons. We thus decline to participate in the Pastoral Scheme and respectfully ask our Presiding Bishop not to take any of the actions asked of her by this scheme. We affirm the pledge of the bishops to "continue to work to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the Primates that are compatible with our own polity and canons"
I would hope that the House of Bishops have reviewed this response. It seems to me that they do not have the authority to take any action by themselves that would be contrary to this statement.

If they do, GC2009 could prove to be very interesting. The mind of the House of Deputies was thwarted by the forceful way B033 was pushed by the House of Bishops at GC2006. That damaged the trust. For the House of Bishops to now act unilaterally would further damage that trust relationship.

The House of Bishops cannot "give binding interpretations of General Convention resolutions nor make an 'unequivocal common commitment' to denying future decisions by dioceses or General Convention." The only option that leaves is to affirm what already exists; B033, no authorized rites for blessings, and a pastoral care plan for dissenting congregations that remains within the boundaries of the Constitution and Canons. Anything more must wait for GC2009.

If anything beyond the Executive Council's statement is adopted by our bishops, it will signal that the subtle move towards a more authoritarian structure of leadership, which we see evidence of in other parts of the Communion, is now emerging within the Episcopal Church. Such a structure would be contrary to who we understand ourselves to be as Christians, Anglicans, Episcopalians and Americans. Rather than alleviate tensions, it would cause a new crisis, and further damage to the Church and our witness to the world.


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