Executive Council hears reports on major-gifts effort, archives relocation, Episcopal Relief and Development
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council began its last meeting of the 2007-2009 triennium here by hearing reports about efforts to relocate the church’s archives, cultivate major donors, and respond to extreme poverty around the world.
The meeting at the Wyndham Portland Airport Hotel is taking place in the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. Council will hear about the mission and ministry of the diocese and of Province I on the evening of April 22.
Council began its meeting April 20 with an organizational plenary session, followed by private conversation. During the plenary session, Council members heard updates from the church’s Mission Funding Initiative, the committee investigating a long-term strategy for the Archives of the Episcopal Church and the work of Episcopal Relief and Development.
Its four standing committees -- Administration & Finance (A&F), Congregations in Ministry (CIM), National Concerns (NAC), and International Concerns (INC) -- met for four hours April 20 and will meet for another four hours on April 21. Also on the 21st, Council is scheduled to hear from Bishop Jonathan Hart of Liberia and received a report from John Colon, director of human resource management at the Episcopal Church Center. On April 21, Council will also spend another hour in its ongoing effort to participate in the church’s anti-racism training effort. Council will spend the majority of the last day of its meeting considering resolutions from its four committees.
As Council looks ahead to General Convention, both Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies and Council vice president, talked about the triennial gathering in their April 20 opening remarks.
Jefferts Schori told Council that the convention’s theme of “Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me” and the plan to have an intentional conversation during convention about the church’s mission means “we will come out of General Convention with a much clearer sense of who we are and how we’re meant to be engaged in God’s mission in this world.”
Anderson told Council that “we are united by our commitment to serving the transforming mission of God; mission is the bedrock of all we are, do and say as the people and God.”
Anderson, who appoints members of the House of Deputies to the convention’s legislative committees, also explained that she had heard from former first-time deputies that many of them felt so confused about how General Convention works that they chose not to run as a deputy again. For that reason, Anderson said that she did not appoint many first-time deputies to the committees. This way, she said, new deputies will be able to spend time learning about General Convention as a whole.
“It’s been my hope to create a pool of new deputies who actually know how General Convention works,” she said.
Anderson also noted that “legislative committees have gotten a reputation for being a status symbol. Actually, it’s a lot of work, so I have been trying to discourage that idea that it’s a status symbol to be on a legislative committee.”
The Presiding Bishop also told Council that the recent meeting of primates -- leaders of the Anglican Communion’s provinces -- featured a “shift in not just tone, but emphasis and focus” to concern about mission and the difficulties facing people in Zimbabwe and the Sudan. Discussions at the meeting also showed “evidence of room for conscientious dissent on each of the three moratoria and I think that represents some significant movement.”
“There are some hopeful signs of movement around the communion,” Jefferts Schori said. "I think our challenge is going to be how to encourage our own members to recognize that we’re interested in having a diversity of opinion in this church and that there is room for those who dissent with decisions of General Convention and those who feel pushed to one end of the spectrum.
“One of our biggest challenges is the fact that conservative members of this church now feel that they are on the extreme right end where they used to be closer to the middle. That’s a perception, but it’s a real perception [that] causes significant amount of distress and reactivity.”
Anderson also gave Council a final report on February’s Anglican Churches in the Americas Mutual Responsibility in Mission Conference and Jefferts Schori, who attended part of the conference, told Council that Central and Latin American Anglicans “are not on the [communion’s] radar screen.”
“This conference is a way of raising consciousness throughout the Americas and, I think, to the rest of the communion,” she said. “It’s a piece of our vocation in this hemisphere to challenge other parts of the communion to realize that Anglican Communion is not just the North American troublemakers and the folks in Africa and the folks in Asia. We’re much, much more diverse than that.”
During the April 20 session, the Council:
* heard a report on the work of Episcopal Relief and Development from President Robert Radtke, who said the agency has “grown exponentially over the last triennium.” The growth included increasing the number of people it serves from 1.1 million in 2006 to 2.5 million in 2009, and increasing the number of countries in which it operates from 32 to 42. He also reported that the Millennium Development Goals Inspiration Fund was within $193,292 of its $3 million goal, $2 million of which is meant to be spent anti-malaria efforts in Africa and Asia, and $1 million on health-related efforts in Latin America. ERD’s goals for the next triennium, Radtke said, include fighting extreme poverty worldwide through sustainable development and disaster relief, expanding its United States disaster preparation and response, increasing the engagement of the Episcopal Church in the agency’s work, increasing and diversifying its income sources, and increasing the agency’s visibility.
* heard the Archives Strategy Committee say that it will ask Council members to allow it to go forward with a plan to spend $9.5 million plus closing costs to buy the last vacant block in downtown Austin, Texas. Retired Diocese of Arkansas Bishop Larry Maze said that the committee has developed a “wonderful plan” not only to relocate the archives from the campus of the Austin-based Episcopal Church-affiliated Seminary of the Southwest but also to develop what he called a “mission research center.” He said that the committee has learned that the archives is more than a repository for artifacts and papers, but is “very often, the heartbeat of a church trying to understand itself -- where it’s been and where it’s going.” Episcopal Church Treasurer Kurt Barnes said that the gross rent from the parking lot currently located on the block is $570,000, which he said “will more than cover the carrying costs of this acquisition” until enough money is raised to construct the new building. “It makes me absolutely happy that this is a project that finances itself,” Barnes added.
* heard the Rev. Susan McCone, director of the church’s Mission Funding Initiative, say that her office believes that the estimated $30 million cost of the archives project could be paid for by “three to four, at the most, major donors, any one of which might have the potential to do the whole thing.” McCone said her office is already talking to four to five “extremely likely prospects.” She made her comments during a larger presentation on the funding initiative which is meant to be the Episcopal Church’s first-ever attempt to cultivate major gifts. The project has a $250 million goal. McCone said that she and her colleagues have identified 500 Episcopalians “with a verified giving capacity” of at least $1 million each, one quarter of whom each have a potential to give $500 million and 15 of whom are include on Forbes list of billionaires. She acknowledged that raising such amounts of money in the current economy is difficult, but she said it can be done. She also asked whether Council and the Episcopal Church have the “spiritual will to see this process through.” Currently the money raised is intended for funds aimed at congregational development, leadership in ministry, global ministry, spiritual enrichment and communications. The project’s executive director, the Rev. Charles Fulton, also told Council that his office’s efforts are not meant to interfere with parish and diocesan fundraising efforts. “This is not going to be an end run around local leaders,” he said.
The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1)(a). The Council is composed of 38 members, 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by provincial synods, plus the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies.
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