Tangled Up in Blue: Sundries
This is the thirty-third post in a series on resolutions for General Convention 2015. See also the index of resolutions and the list of resources related to #GC78. For this post, see also some thoughts on resolutions dealing with matters political.
You know how it’s all crumbs when you get to the bottom of the cereal box? Well, Tangled Up in Blue has reached that point. Now I’m not saying that the resolutions are crummy! Just like those crumbs, which are still delicious (if a bit soggy), these resolutions are as delicious as the others. But these are bits and pieces, odds and ends. Some of the remaining resolutions are new ones on topics already covered. Others are one-offs, the only one on a particular topic. And then the others of varying shapes and sizes.
There are 238 resolutions coming to General Convention as of today, and 7WD has looked at 214. So in this post, we’ll both finish up all pending resolutions and set a record for resolutions-per-post.
I’m sure there will be further resolutions before the filing deadline, and I intend to blog all resolutions which pop up on the official list of resolutions. “Intend” is key here, because once I get to Salt Lake City, all bets are off.
Anyway, let’s look at some resolutions!
A300: Acceptance of Minutes. Full text. Likely vote: N/A.
This is only a test. No, seriously, it’s only a test.
A301: Acceptance of Minutes. Full text. Likely vote: N/A.
This is only a test. No, seriously, it’s only a test. This reminds me, I might not blog resolutions of a purely procedural nature. Because, boring.
B004: Commend Report on Relations With Church of Sweden. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but only if we see the report described in the resolution.
I believe this resolution will be ruled out of order unless it is amended, because it asks the General Convention to “receive the Report on the Grounds for Future Relations Between the Church of Sweden and The Episcopal Church.” Yet, we have not seen the report. A quick Google search didn’t turn it up. It’s not in the Blue Book. So unless it is distributed to Deputies and Bishops, we cannot take the action requested. That said, assuming the report is on the way, I am glad to know relations are continuing with the Church of Sweden. This is the state church of Sweden, which has maintained apostolic succession, though it is Lutheran. Makes sense for us to keep talking with them, and the resolution also asks our ecumenical office to continue dialogues. All good. But nothing will happen unless the report is distributed, and if it’s a long report, no one will have time to read it (which would be grounds for voting no, of course).
B007: Participation in the Bible in the Life of the Church Project of the Anglican Communion. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but only if amended.
The “Bible in the Life of the Church” project is fantastic. Run by Anglican Communion Office staff, it seeks to articulate ways to read the Bible that transcend the cultures and nations of the Anglican Communion and also to celebrate different ways of reading the Bible. NOTE: Forward Movement has done some work to raise up this project, and we provide the primary report as an ebook via Amazon (for only $1.99, because stuff can’t easily be free there). As is, this resolution encourages and commends, which could be less than helpful. The resolution encourages dioceses and congregations to use these materials, and likewise urges seminaries and dioceses to share any resources they have created. I’d like to see an additional step, which wouldn’t cost much. Perhaps churchwide staff or someone else could work actively to share and to collect the resources. With minimal investment this could be a high-impact global project that gets people reading the Bible alongside others around the world. Without a central person or group working in the Episcopal Church to share and to collect resources, I fear nothing will come of us.
While you’re thinking about it, go take a break from resolutions and visit the Bible in the Life of the Church website to learn more.
B008: Support Handgun Purchaser Licensing. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
Today we are reeling from news of yet another mass-casualty shooting. Lord know the United States needs better gun laws. I’d like my church to take an active role in reducing gun violence, but passing feel-good resolutions only allows us to bask in the glow of our own sincerity without actually doing something that would change the situation. This resolution has a narrower scope but is otherwise similar to C005, which I blogged about. Here are the things that would need to change in this resolution before I could vote for it (and others like it):
- Acknowledge that we are a global church, and that General Convention should not be speaking as the establishment church for the USA.
- Say what we, as a church, will do beyond express our feelings. Shall we canonically require all church property to be gun-free zones? Will do mandate toys-for-guns programs in all diocesan offices? Where are we leading the change?
- Articulate this hope in a way that suggests it is a Christian, as opposed to politically liberal, idea. Could we toss in a mention or two of scripture or maybe make a passing reference to prayer?
This is heart-breaking, because the Episcopal Church could have an important voice. We have no credibility if our “voice” consists of resolutions few will read or the work of a few lobbyists in one nation out of 16. We will gain credibility when we as a church take a costly stand. Let’s do it. We pray to the Prince of Peace, do we not?
B009: Conducting an Online Digital Evangelism Test. Full text. Likely vote: YES.
This is identical to D019, which I praised in a blog post about three great evangelism resolutions. Yes, yes, yes, with great enthusiasm. (NOTE: This resolution has been assigned to the legislative committee on which I serve. I promise to listen carefully and change my mind as needed.)
C033: Amend Canon III.9. Full text. Likely vote: YES.
This is an important resolution. In fact, A071 (blogged here) calls for this kind of resolution, which allows a member of the clergy to transfer from the Episcopal Church into one of our full communion partners (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or another Anglican Communion province, for example). Where as A071 just asked for a report and recommendation at the next General Convention, this resolution has actual canonical language we could enact immediately, I hope we will do that. Here’s why this is important (from my other blog post on this topic.)
Sometimes, for any number of reasons, a member of the clergy wishes to be transferred to another province of the Anglican Communion. Back in the day, we just kind of did it without much fuss. More recently, this became a political issue because of clergy who, for example, wanted to leave TEC and join the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). Suddenly, we began using clergy discipline procedures against clergy who sought a transfer. Now we find ourselves in a strange place. If I wanted to work in London, it’s quite likely that I would face “abandonment” charges in my effort to transfer out of TEC and into the Church of England. So we need to fix this. We need our canons to have a clear process for cases in which a cleric in good standing wants to move to another province of the Anglican Communion. We also need our canons to have a clear process for sanctioning clergy who leave our church under certain circumstances without using the phrase “abandonment” because that is ipso facto the wrong phrase; we are in communion with other Anglican churches, so serving there may require discipline, but certainly not abandonment.
These canonical changes seem just about right, with one proviso. The final section says
This provision shall not be used for Priests who seek to enter Churches Not in Communion with This Church or for those who seek transfer to another Province of the Anglican Communion while remaining geographically within the boundaries of the Episcopal Church. In such cases the provisions of Canon III.6.8 shall be followed.
You can see what they want to do here. The idea is that if you turn your back on TEC to work in the Church of Nigeria, which is not exactly our friend, then you shouldn’t get this easy way out. That should be a disciplinary proceeding in the eyes of the authors. However, this provision has unintended consequences. Suppose, for example, a cleric from the American cathedral in Paris wants to transfer to the Church of England, which also operates in Paris. By this provision, that transfer would require discipline. Or what about from TEC to the Church of South India, which has had parishes inside the United States for decades, happily co-existing alongside us in parallel? Personally, I’d be inclined to send any cleric on their way to nearly any church with our blessing, but I understand my view is not widely shared. So, anyway, we need to refine this language so that we don’t punish people needlessly who simply want to serve God in a new place.
C043: Amend Canon I.9. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
This one is identical with C021, C027, C029, and C034, all of which try to give provinces in the Episcopal Church a new lease on life with a new purpose. I blogged about these other resolutions and suggested that D011 (which I offer as proposer) is the way to go. D011 eliminates provinces but that need not end the vital connections which take place in regional gatherings. Provinces have served their purpose, and they offer a horse-and-buggy era solution to a Skype world. We can network and connect without them, and they add a needless layer of bureaucracy.
C045: Environmentally Responsible Investing. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
This resolution enacts a policy of divestment from fossil fuel companies, as it
calls on the Episcopal Church Pension Fund and the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund to adopt a policy to refrain from this time forward from purchasing any new holdings of public equities and corporate bonds of the world’s leading 200 fossil fuel companies as identified by the Carbon Underground.
By the way, this comes from the very resolution-happy Diocese of Massachusetts, which also offered a record-setting three memorials, including a memorial on this same topic (blogged here). I think divestment is a powerful way for Christians and churches to make our views known on public policy issues and to advocate for change through our financial means. I’m favorably disposed toward this particular target of divestment. However, I know nothing about the 200 companies listed by Carbon Underground, and I suspect the failure to include the list would get this resolution ruled out of order. We cannot vote for something unless we see what we are voting for. But more to the point, I don’t think 1,000 deputies and bishops should be setting investment policy. If anything, a resolution directing the Executive Council or one of its committees to do this work would make more sense. There the conversations can happen among church leaders, investment experts, industry analysts, and others, to put a policy in place that makes sense. Maybe we should divest immediately, maybe we should do it gradually. I’d love to see a resolution (like C013 or C047, if amended) which gets the right people working on this, and that group could even implement change through the Executive Council during the triennium. We simply lack the competency as bishops and deputies, to do this work along with over 200 other resolutions.
C046: Promote Multi-Faith Knowledge Among Lay and Ordained Leaders. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
we would like to see basic educational resources [about basic interfaith knowledge] creatively developed, similar to what was developed for Anti-Racism and Safe Church training, for all clergy active in ministry, and all diocesan and parochial lay leaders, with refresher education at regular intervals.
As I wrote elsewhere, I think interfaith engagement is important. I’m not sure what can be taught about the world’s religions in a Saturday morning three-hour training. Maybe we need to actually get to know our Jewish and Muslim neighbors and grow through mutual relationship. Maybe this is something that’s important but which cannot be legislated. Unless something changes, I can’t see voting for this. And if we are going to do it, we need to say more than “we would like to see” but rather to say who’s going to do the work and where the money to do it is going to come from.
C047: Promote Policies that Combat Adverse Climate Change. Full text. Likely vote: NO, unless amended.
The first resolve welcomes the release of an Environmental Protection Agency report, which seems to me outside the bounds of General Convention’s scope. Others may differ, clearly. The second resolve recommits to opposing environmental racism, something General Convention has already stated. We must not get into the business of restating past resolutions, partly because we could spend every convention saying what we’ve already said, and partly because doing this undermines our polity: once General Convention speaks, its actions remain in force until stated otherwise. The reason I’m not taking a pass on this resolution completely is the third resolve, which I would vote for on its own. It asks Executive Council and the Church Pension Group to
“assess whether the benefit of a divestment strategy would be in compliance with our values and issue a report thereon by the Summer of 2016 and we call on upon the Executive Council to facilitate church-wide dialogue on this subject following the issuance of this report and communicate the results of the dialogue to the 79th General Convention.”
If divestment is a useful thing to do, it would be good to know that. This is an appropriate use of our funds, to invest or divest based on our faithful engagement with public policy issues.
It does seem like there could be some energy (pun perhaps intended) around a study of divestment from fossil fuels. No harm in looking into something, so long as we do it as a real study and so long as we have the right people involved in the work.
C048: Increase the Minimum Wage. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
This one is either offensive or comical, you decide. This resolution encourages “The Episcopal Church”, e.g. no one in particular, “to engage in the work of increasing the minimum wage to $15.00.” What, exactly, does that mean? And here’s another one to ponder. I wonder if anyone who voted for this resolution at diocesan convention in Newark paused to wonder about Episcopalians outside the United States. Paying a Haitian $15/hour would be a bit like winning the lotto for that person. What good are US dollars going to do a worker in Taiwan? Perhaps the minimum wage is already higher in Paris. As I’ve said over and over again, I won’t vote yes for colonial-ish resolutions that pretend the Episcopal Church is only in the United States.
Oh, and here’s another thing. There’s a really easy way that would get me to vote for a resolution like this and which would actually make a difference. Let’s set a minimum wage in The Episcopal Church and put some canonical teeth in it. Let’s require great benefits for all our employees. Too expensive, you say? Then why are we voting for a pie-in-the-sky idea we don’t care to invest in ourselves?
C049: Fossil Fuel Divestment and Clean Emergy [sic] Reinvestment. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
Here’s a short resolution, with just one resolve, “That the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church encourages all dioceses and the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes to engage the topic of divestment from fossil fuels and clean energy reinvestment within the coming year.” OK, not a bad idea. But, a question: Has Newark done this work in its own diocese? There’s nothing about this in their explanation. I’d be more likely to vote for a resolution like this if a diocese reported its own success in engaging a process and then urging others to do the same. As it is, it reads a bit like picking on CEEP, the easy target of divestment fans everywhere, because it’s easier to tell someone else to divest than to do it yourself.
D012: Celebrate National Association of Episcopal Schools 50 Years of Service. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
NAES is awesome. They do great work. But I cannot support General Convention commending organizations for doing great work. Otherwise, we’d spend out time passing hundreds more resolutions about various organizations with fans in the House of Bishops or House of Deputies. I will visit their booth and congratulate them, but I will not vote for this.
D014: Question Ordinands About Addiction. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
This resolution asks “That Vestries, Committees on Ministry and Standing Committees interviewing aspirants for ordination ask one or more questions regarding substance use” and encourages referrals for those found to have issues. It also asks the convention to adopt a statement of fact (what does that accomplish?) that seminarians are more likely to have alcoholic parents than the general population. I’m not sure what this resolution would achieve, even if passed. Addicts can lie easily, and a committee of amateurs will not probably not know. “Are you addicted to alcohol? No.” Resolution fulfilled, but nothing achieved. Our current ordination process involves background checks and interviews with mental health professionals. This is where we should learn about addiction issues (which should not, in and of themselves, be a barrier to ordination!). Sometimes our process fails, but I don’t think making a vestry ask a question is going to make anything better, and it could make things worse.
D017: Change the Resolution Filing Deadline. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but only if amended.
As a person blogging every single resolution going to General Convention, I have some thoughts about the filing deadline! I do think it should be earlier. And I know deputies and bishops who have not yet read all the material. This resolution asks for the filing deadline to be ten days before the first legislative day, although “Exceptions will be made for any newly occasioned resolutions.” So I like this idea, but I think the implementation is wrong. How, exactly, will we make exceptions and for what reasons? This is the sort of thing that needs to be cleared up on a resolution involving rules for General Convention.
I’d like to see three things change about resolution filing. First, it should be harder to file. The process should be easy (as it was this year — yay, General Convention Office!). But under the proposed rules of order, a Deputy with three signers can submit a resolution; it’s a proposer plus two endorsers right now. Those numbers made sense when General Convention was a few dioceses in the eighteenth century. We should require 10 or even 20 deputies to propose resolutions, which can be done electronically now. If an idea has merit, it will not be difficult at all to muster that many signatures. Second, the basic filing deadline should be earlier, maybe 30 calendar days before convention, which would give the GCO time to translate all the materials into Spanish and possibly other languages. Third, we could have a late filing procedure that requires something like 40 or 50 deputies for really important ideas that come up at the last minute. And, remember, under our current rules, resolutions can be originated in legislative committees, so there is a way for resolutions to pop up at the last minute when needed.
If this resolution is amended, I’d gladly vote for it. More bishops/deputies required. More time to read and translate. High bar for late resolutions. Those would be good ideas, I think.
D018: Curb Gun Violence. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
This resolution urges us to contact public officials to urge more stringent gun laws. Yes, a great idea, but I cannot support this resolution. See my remarks above for resolution B008.
D020: Amend Canons I.4.3(a), I.4.3(d), and I.4.3(e), regarding a Chief Executive Officer of Executive Council. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but I think there’s a better resolution.
In the spirit of TREC, this resolution creates a CEO position, accountable to Executive Council, to manage staff at the churchwide level. You might compare this one with the TREC resolution, A009, or two others from deputies, D006 and D010. I helped write D010, and I think it’s a better model partly because it goes further to untangle many roles beyond PB/ED/COO/CEO that have byzantine overlap at present. As I’ve said before, we need to clarify officer roles, because our current system is massively dysfunctional. There are lots of ways to do that, and I think this resolution offers one model — if it were more thoroughly implemented. TREC has another, and Episcopal Resurrection has offered D010.
I’m really glad for all these models, because they will provide terrific source material for the structure committee to come up with a great leadership structure for our church.
D021: Reevaluate the Denominational Health Plan Mandate. Full text. Likely vote: YES, if amended.
In 2009, we approved a denominational health plan (which should really be called a health plan for USA clergy), and we re-upped in 2012, despite some concern by some that the plan was expensive. And, indeed, the plan is expensive if you compare to plans that offer worse coverage. Since then, of course, we have the Affordable Care Act, which has created some decent, low-cost options for health care in the USA. Oh, and another issue just to get out there is that, as an insured pool, the Episcopal Church stinks, especially among clergy. We clergy tend to be older than the wider population and we are less healthy. That means we cost more to insure.
Taken together, I do think it makes sense to do what this resolution requests, which is at essence, that we
instruct the Church Medical Trust to reevaluate the Denominational Health Plan mandate previously approved by General Convention (GC 2009-A177 and GC 2012-B026), with consideration for the impact that the Affordable Care Act and the subsequently created Health Insurance Exchanges have had on health insurance costs and coverage.
The landscape has changed. We’ve learned some things about costs and our inability to have a truly national plan (and that’s what it is; we do not provide coverage for clergy in nations outside the USA). I think a thorough study of the whole situation is a great idea, and perhaps changes could even be made in the triennium if approved by Executive Council. Speaking of which, this resolution needs a timeline for the study and it needs to leave room for varied outcomes. For example, it orders the Medical Trust “to implement a plan with minimal variance in premium costs from diocese to diocese” but that may not be possible. So we need some timelines, some flexibility, and also a way to get stuff done before 2018, if possible. Then I would vote for this.
D022: Response to Anglican Covenant Process. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
The Anglican Covenant was all the rage in 2012. Now it’s essentially dead. Archbishop Justin Welby doesn’t seem to be keen on focusing on the covenant. The Church of England rejected it along with others. The leading churches of the so-called Global South movement have not acted, which is a tacit veto. Only 11 of the 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion have adopted it, and they’ve had five years to do so. So it’s not going anywhere. I’m not sure why anyone feels the need for the Episcopal Church to respond at all. But if we’re going to, I think resolution A040 (blogged here) is the way to go.
Resolution D022 emphatically rejects the covenant’s language, saying,
That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion, neither the present nor any desired future nature of which is properly described by the Anglican Communion Covenant.
Other than rubbing salt in a wound, I don’t know what that does. I actually think A040’s approach is more helpful, in that it seeks common ground.
That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church affirm our common identity and membership in the Anglican Communion as expressed in the preamble and first three sections of the Anglican Communion Covenant.
I urge you to go read the Anglican Covenant and form your own opinion here. My general sense is that with our action on same-sex marriage, which I fully support, we need to double down on whatever we can do to increase rather than decrease engagement with the Anglican Communion. So I won’t vote for this harsh rejection, which is neither necessary nor helpful.
Oh, one more thing: I think we’ll need copies of the Anglican Covenant if we’re going to adopt one of these resolutions. A legislative body cannot be expected to act on material to which it does not have ready access. Internet links won’t cut it, because there is no provided internet in the legislative rooms.
D023: Continuing the Work of TREC. Full text. Likely vote: YES, but only if amended.
This resolution would continue the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church into the next triennium, with mostly the same membership. I do think the word needs to continue, and I am grateful for what TREC accomplished. However, I think we’ve learned some things and should appoint new members to the task force, along with some carry-over members for continuity. Also, if we’re going to continue TREC, we need to give a clear mandate for why we are doing that. This just keeps it going but without saying why.
D024: Affirm and Support Ministry to Appalachia. Full text. Likely vote: NO, but I could easily change my mind.
This resolution asks for funding for Episcopal Appalachian Ministries, which has been funded through the churchwide budget; it looks like that funding has been cut in the proposed budget. As nearly as I can tell from the website of EAM, they do networking and make grants. The amount they are requesting is pretty low, only $120,000 for the triennium. So perhaps they do great work and we should fund this. I wonder, though, why the funding was cut? I note that the EAM “executive coordinator” is the proposer of this resolution. I wonder how much support there is? From the website, I couldn’t get much of a sense of EAM. Based on what I could see, and on this resolution, I would vote no. However, I would love to learn more about their work and their need for funding. Perhaps this makes sense. Or maybe they need to do some fundraising and seek money outside the churchwide budget. In this series, I haven’t allowed myself an “I dunno” vote, but on this one, I’ll be listening and deciding as more information materializes and as committee action works on this resolution.
D025: Abolish the Death Penalty State by State. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
This resolution should be ruled out of order, I believe. We’ve passed loads of resolutions over the years condemning the death penalty and calling for its abolishment. The explanation wrongly says the last time we affirmed our opposition was 1991, but in fact we passed A082 in 2000 reaffirming our opposition. Once General Convention speaks, that holds true until otherwise stated. There is no reason to pass this resolution.
D026: Interpretation of “man & woman” and “husband & wife” in the Book of Common Prayer. Full text. Likely vote: NO.
This is a short resolution:
That the 78th General Convention declares that the terms “man and woman” and “husband and wife” in the services of The Book of Common Prayer, “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,” “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage,” and “An Order for Marriage,” shall be equally applicable to two persons of the same gender, and that those terms may be modified when used in these services to be gender neutral.
The intent is to open the prayer book marriage liturgies to same-sex couples. It’s a worthy idea, but I think there are better ways. The explanation says
In the 1970s, when the ordination of women was before the Convention, and prior to the last revision of the Prayer Book, General Convention applied an analogous understanding to the interpretation of the 1928 Prayer Book, making the terms “man” and “he” equally applicable to “woman” and “she”.
Well, yes, that’s part of the story. But we also passed a first reading of the “new” prayer book in 1976, at the same convention which approved women’s ordination. So we set ourselves firmly in a new direction, which would not relegate women to second-tier liturgical status. In the meantime, we fudged because you can’t change the prayer book instantly.
Our situation is somewhat parallel now. We should not, in my view, consign same-sex couples to “separate but equal” liturgical status. We can solve this by approving Form 2 of the marriage liturgical material from SCLM as “trial use” or even approve it on a first reading of prayer book change. Our failure to do this perpetuates needless conflict among our formularies and liturgies.
The prayer book marriage rite is geared toward husband-wife marriages, and changing the pronouns doesn’t alter that. We need a liturgy that works for all couples, not one that works great for some couples and feels like an add-on to others. There are better ways to achieve same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church, as I’ve noted in previous blog posts (especially here and here).
A personal note
Dear reader, let us celebrate. You have made your way through Tangled Up in Blue, which has looked at all 238 (!) resolutions and five (!) memorials coming to General Convention thus far. And I have written a veritable book. There will be more blog posts with further resolutions, but we have reached this time to celebrate. Thanks for reading all this, and I am grateful for comments here and on social media. Keep them coming. I hope to meet many of you in Salt Lake City. Look for the very tall priest with very tired fingers.