Committee 4: World mission

RESOLUTIONPALOOZA continues with a tour of the resolutions assigned to the committee on world mission.

The problems of the world are great. So too must be our response. Expressing feelings does little to change us or the lives of those on the other side of the world. The danger of passing resolutions that express feelings without the associated repentance on our part is that we convince ourselves we’ve done something important when we have not. My hope is that we’ll spend our time on concrete actions and in prayer.

A080 Create a Task Force on Countering the Colonial Mindset. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

The resolution rightly notes that the Episcopal Church has a “dual identity as a former colony and a colonizing power.” Colonialism is a serious challenge in our church, and sometime before General Convention I hope to devote a whole blog post just to this topic. So I agree we have a problem with our colonial mindset, past and present. However, I do not think a $150,000 task force is the answer. My hope is that groups of Episcopalians will organize resources and actions to call us to repentance and amendment of life. We don’t need to pass a resolution so we can feel like we’ve done something; we can just do something. There’s not a thing stopping folks from writing about our history and from developing resources to help us all learn and change.

 

A083 Affirm Anglican Connections. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution simply affirms that we like our Anglican Communion connections. It’s already true, so we don’t need to say it. In fact, in recent conventions, we’ve done this in 2018-A038, 2015-A019, and 2012-D008. I could go on. I love our relationship with sibling Anglicans, but we don’t need to vote to say that yet again. I won’t vote to support a resolution which merely affirms and encourages things, especially when we’ve done that on a particular topic again and again. Instead, plan a trip to visit our friends in another Anglican province. Or, as the resolution helpfully suggests, pray the Anglican Cycle of Prayer daily. (You can find it in Forward Day by Day, which my employer publishes.)

 

A085 Support for the Global Mission Advocates Network. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution commends and “strongly encourages” things, which as you know by now I cannot support, no matter how wonderful are the matters in question. The resolution does “direct” dioceses to support the work of the Global Mission Advocates Network, but I’m not sure the mandate is clear enough or appropriate to our polity. I’m a big fan of global missions, and while I do not know the work of GMAN well, they can do their thing without General Convention commending or encouraging their ministry.

 

A087 Collect Data on Meeting Sustainable Development Goals. Full text. Likely vote: NO, but I am open to persuasion.

If passed, this would direct the “Office of Global Partnerships to facilitate the creation of a churchwide data survey and to collect data on participation in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.” Generally speaking, I don’t think it makes sense for 1,000 bishops and deputies to micromanage churchwide staff. The folks who want to see this data collected could simply contact the staff and suggest it. Collecting this data will be done with a Survey Monkey or something similar, which is not complicated enough to require General Convention action. I like the idea of collecting and sharing data, especially this data, but I need to be persuaded there’s a reason for General Convention to get involved. What if we just trusted the staff to do their jobs? And if they aren’t doing their jobs, what if we held them accountable?

 

A088 Consult with the Office of Global Partnerships. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

More commending and strongly encouraging. We don’t need to use our time this way. While I am grateful for the work of the Office of Global Partnerships — as they have helped me personally — I do not see the value in resolutions like this that simply express feelings. Let’s have our feelings, and by all means, call up the OGP folks and thank them. Ask how you can help! Pray for them! All of those things are a better use of our time than resolutions like this one.

 

A161 The South Sudanese Anglican Diaspora in the United States. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This is more encouraging, thanking, acknowledging and so on. I am super grateful for our connections to our siblings in South Sudan, but the diaspora in the US and the folks still in South Sudan. Resolutions like this don’t change much. To raise visibility, we can tell stories in Episcopal News Service. We can visit our friends. We can pray for folks. And I hope we do all these things.

 

A162 Continuing the Task Force on the South Sudanese American Anglican diaspora. Full text. Likely vote: NO, but I am open to persuasion.

This task force has done some good work, as you can see if you read their Blue Book report. If passed, this resolution would continue the task force. Perhaps we need that, though I wonder if there’s another way to continue to work. We maintain an Office of African Descent Ministries at the churchwide level, along with an Office of Global Partnerships. Perhaps we could allow the staff to take leadership here, knowing that they are consultative folks who will involve other leaders in the ongoing work of maintaining good relationships with our Anglican siblings from South Sudan who live within the lands of The Episcopal Church. From what’s here, I’m not sure the task force as such needs to continue, but I may be wrong. Sometimes, I think getting interim bodies involved just adds red tape, when we could do the same work more easily and more efficiently by other means.

 

D026 Enable Episcopal Migration Ministries to More Fully Live Out its Mission. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

The problems of migration and immigration — including refugees and asylum seekers — are formidable. Episcopal Migration Ministries does fantastic work in a particular part of that spectrum of challenges, and much of that work is funded by US government dollars. This resolution seeks to expand the mission of EMM to work with more folks inside and outside the USA. Firstly, it wasn’t totally clear to me if EMM supports this expansion or not. If they do wish to grow their work, I know they can seek the resources they need. They are smart folks who are experts on the needs of migrant peoples, as well as effective ways to help folks. This resolution asks for $200,000, and I can’t tell what that money is for.

As a church, we can do more to welcome refugees and migrant peoples of all sorts both in the US and in all the other nations of our church. The problems are great. But it’s not obvious to me that this resolution will measurably address a vast constellation of problems.

While I have your attention, go learn about EMM’s work. I was fortunate to go on a trip they hosted several years ago to learn about refugee resettlement work, and it was life-changing. If they have a partner in your local community, find out how your church can get involved. It is literally the Lord’s work.

 

D043 Support and Advocacy for Iraqi Christians. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution reaffirms and commends various things related to the very serious plight of Iraqi Christians. While they are suffering mightily, passing resolutions does little to change their situation. Instead, congregations and individuals can pray, give, and work for our Christian siblings in Iraq. We don’t need a resolution to get us going.

The final resolve of this resolution tells the Office of Government Relations “to monitor U.S. policy in Iraq, informing individuals and parishes on ways to engage with policies and legislation in support of sustaining Christians and other minority groups in Iraq toward a sustainable and secure future for all Iraqi citizens.” But, as I’ve said before, what General Convention says is true until we change it. Among other places, resolution 2018-D063 already told OGR to do the same work. We don’t need to use our limited time to repeat what we’ve already said.

 

D047 Response to the crisis in Sudan and support for the Episcopal Church of Sudan. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

Here is another resolution that addresses a profoundly worrying crisis by lamenting, saluting, asking, and requesting. The resolution also gives instruction to the Office of Government Relations to advocate for US governmental involvement in Sudan in particular ways. But we have already passed many resolutions giving similar instructions and mandates over the years. We do not need to repeat these. And the Presiding Bishop is always free to speak out publicly on behalf of the church without any need for General Convention action.

Our response to crises in the world must involve concrete actions, not simply expressing feelings. And the part of our church that gets into it with US governmental policy already has its mandate. So I do not see the need to pass this resolution and others like it, despite the disturbing nature of the atrocities we see. We could better use our time praying for Sudan and its people.

5 Responses

  1. Susan Brown Snook, Bishop of San Diego says:

    Hey, Scott, thanks for your work. Commenting on D026 Enable Episcopal Migration Ministries to More Fully Live Out its Mission – I think it’s helpful to clarify that EMM’s funding comes from the US government and is specifically limited to helping refugees only. These are people who have gone through lots of hoops to be declared part of a specific group and approved by the government to settle in the US with particular kinds of support. We have many refugees here in San Diego, with two wonderful congregations serving significant refugee groups. However, the vast majority of people who come to the US are not refugees. They are migrants – asylum seekers or undocumented workers. Here in San Diego, the numbers and the suffering of such non-refugee migrants is vast (there are many more migrants than refugees), and our diocese, like others, does what we can to alleviate their suffering. EMM would partner with our diocese and others to provide support for these ministries (note that San Diego’s and Rio Grande’s Border Ministries are both listed as supporters), but it needs money to add this work to its portfolio. I don’t think it’s true that EMM can “seek the resources they need” – their budget, like all other DFMS funding, comes directly from General Convention. (US government funding is limited to refugees only.) This is in fact the way for them to seek the resources they need. I agree that the resolution needs more specificity about how the money would be used, and perhaps the legislative committee could question EMM staff and proposers about that and add that detail to the text. Having said all that, I do serve on the TEC budget committee, and it will be a challenge for us to figure out how to balance the many worthy funding requests like this that come to us from Convention. Thanks for your blogging!

    • Scott Gunn says:

      Thank you for this. Writing about so many resolutions, there’s only so much I can say about each one, so I was a bit cryptic with my notes about their mission. Their explanation does make clear the fact that EMM’s current work is limited in scope by the fact that funding comes from the US government. What’s not clear to me from the resolution or the explanation is if this is an expansion that EMM wants, or if this is a helpful deputy trying to expand their work. If EMM supports this, the resolution and the explanation need to state that explicitly. And I’d want to know a lot more about how, precisely, EMM’s work will grow to serve more migrant populations in the US or elsewhere. I’m all for it, if EMM wants this. Or maybe it’s better to set up a separate agency? Or to partner with another group? If the main point of this resolution is to study all that, then this needs to be made clear. I can’t support this in its current form, which expresses (justified) outrage at the horrific state of care for migrant peoples around the world and which vaguely gestures to EMM to perhaps do more with more funding from different sources. But if this can be clarified — here, in the resolution, not at some future point in a budget committee, I’m all for it. EMM is fantastic, and I admire their work. We could do more as a church, and I hope we do.

      • Susan Brown Snook says:

        Agreed about the need for specificity for how the money would be used! I don’t think DFMS staff or departments are allowed to officially endorse or support resolutions, though. I would trust the legislative committee to ferret out whether EMM staff would be glad to carry out this additional mission.

  2. Emily Schnabl says:

    Thanks as always for your thoughts on these resolutions.

    I am in general have the same anti-task-force-proliferation mindset. I have a slightly different opinion about the S. Sudanese Task Force (with an admitted bias because St. Martha’s is the site of a rebuilding Dinka worshiping community here in the Omaha metro) IMHO, this is a task force that is building up planters and missioners that can revitalize congregations in buildings that need to be filled. I will ask our staff member who is the missioner here and has been active since his ordination what he thinks of the current task force and would be happy to forward on, with his permission, what he thinks.

    PS as an example, after 3 months of worship, they had 125 at a Dinka language Christmas Day service.

    • Scott Gunn says:

      Please share what you learn, if you can. I’m totally in favor of good work continuing. My only question is whether we need the red tape of a task force, or if one of the 815 offices could put together (with funding) an informal advisory group. Some other offices have done this would good success, I think. It allows good work to happen without the entanglement of church politics and red tape.

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