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Executive Council to meet October 26-28 in Dearborn, Michigan


Mission and ministry structures, relationships with Anglican Communion partners on agenda.

The Episcopal Church’s structures for mission and ministry, as well as its relationships in the wider Anglican Communion will be on the agenda when the Executive Council gathers for its fall meeting October 26-28 in Dearborn, Michigan, near Detroit, in the Diocese of Michigan.

The council, the church’s governing body between meetings of General Convention, is due to release a response to the first draft of a proposed Anglican covenant, meet with representatives of a number of its partners from around the communion, respond to plans to reorganize the staff at the Church Center in New York City and hear reports from a number of its task forces, including ones dealing with budget processes and the Archives of the Episcopal Church.

The shape of the meeting
The first two days of the meeting, which takes place at the Hyatt Regency hotel, will begin with committee time in the mornings, followed by plenary sessions in the afternoons.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, president of the Council, and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, vice president, will travel to Lansing, Michigan the evening of the 26th for the opening dinner of the Diocese of Michigan’s annual convention. Anderson, who is a General Convention deputy from the diocese, will attend the convention during the day on October 27.

The Primates and provincial secretaries of Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de American (IARCA), La Iglesia Anglican de Mexico, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, and the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, along with Bishop Edward W. Neufville of the Episcopal Church of Liberia and the diocesan treasurer, will all be present at the Council’s meeting. They will speak to the council during the afternoon plenary session on October 27.

The Episcopal Church has “covenant partnerships” with these churches and Jefferts Schori told ENS that she hopes the conversations during Executive Council will help “reaffirm our commitment to covenant partnerships, and work to discover ways to make those relationships more effective and helpful to all parties.”

Anderson agreed that the presence of the partners will “deepen the relationships,” adding that the time together will also allow for continued exploration of a proposed Anglican convocation in the Americas.

She and Jefferts Schori have appointed a group to consider the potential for a convocation that would better equip the member churches for “mutuality and interdependence in God’s mission.” The group would consult with the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Council of Latin America (Concilio Anglicano Latino Americano or CALA), and the Province of the West Indies.

Adding to the synergy of the meeting, the Standing Commission on World Mission meets in Dearborn immediately after the Council’s gathering. The Rev. Gregory Straub, the Episcopal Church’s executive officer and secretary of the General Convention, said that the coincidence will allow the covenant partners, council members and the standing commission members many opportunities to talk about mission and the details of the partnerships.

On October 28, the Council and Church Center staff attending the meeting will worship at Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn, with Jefferts Schori preaching and celebrating. Anderson will read one of the lessons and be a chalice bearer.

That afternoon, Michigan Bishop Wendell Gibbs and members of the diocesan leadership will join the Council for brunch. They will brief the Council on the diocese’s ministry, as well as that of Province V.

Following that brunch, the Council will meet in its last plenary session, during which it will hear reports from its four committees (Administration and Finance known as A&F, Congregations in Ministry known as CIM, International Concerns known as INC, and National Concerns known as NAC), as well as the task forces, and consider resolutions.

The Council meeting concludes with a dinner with the members of the Standing Commission on World Mission.

Covenant-development review process
Rosalie Ballentine of the Virgin Islands, chair of the work group assigned to write a proposed Council response to the draft Anglican covenant has completed its work and will present that proposed response to the rest of Council. The Council is expected to possibly edit and then approve the text while in Dearborn.

Responses from around the Anglican Communion are due by January 1, 2008. Responses received thus far are available here.

Ballentine’s group was convened as a result of Executive Council Resolution INC021, which authorized Jefferts Schori and Anderson to appoint a work group to draft the Council’s response. The group they appointed in July essentially expanded an International Concerns Committee subcommittee which earlier this year released a study guide on the first draft of a proposed Anglican covenant.

Comments that came to the Council by way of the questions asked in that study guide -- nearly 500 of them, Ballentine said on October 16 -- were considered in the work group’s effort to write a draft response for this October meeting.

Ballentine said that the group’s draft version of the Episcopal Church’s response to the first draft of the covenant represents an effort to “be true to all the constituencies in this Episcopal Church.”

The group met a number of times via telephone conference call and assigned a writing group from among its members to actually draft a response. That writing group met in early September in Boston to begin the process. After that group produced a document, it was circulated to the rest of the subcommittee for its input.

Saying “our work is not the final product; the final product is what the Executive Council adopts,” Ballentine has proposed that the Council receive and then discuss the group’s draft in a private-conversation session in Dearborn.

“We want to be sure that we’re all getting the same information and sharing the same information at the same time,” she said.

The drafting group will remain together to follow the covenant-development process, enable comments from the wider Episcopal Church and provide comments on behalf of the church to the Communion’s Covenant Design Group.

The Windsor Report, released in October 2004, proposed a covenant as a way for the Anglican Communion to maintain unity amid differing viewpoints. The Primates received and discussed the draft during their February meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. They then released both it and an accompanying report to the entire Communion, asking for comment from the 38 Anglican provinces by January 1.

Based on those responses, it is expected that a revised version of the covenant will be presented to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, to be followed by a final text that would be proposed to the 2009 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). If the ACC adopts the text, it would offer it to the provinces for consideration.

The Executive Council’s drafting and monitoring group come in response to Resolution A166 passed by the 75th General Convention in June 2006. The resolution calls for the Episcopal Church, “as a demonstration of our commitment to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion,” to support the process of the development of an Anglican covenant “that underscores our unity in faith, order, and common life in the service of God’s mission.” It also called for the INC and the Episcopal Church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council to follow the development processes of an Anglican covenant and report regularly to the Executive Council as well as to the 76th General Convention in 2009.

In a letter to the Episcopal Church at the close of its March 2-4 meeting in Portland, Oregon, the Executive Council said “responding to the draft covenant does not presuppose agreement with the terms and principles advanced in the draft.”

Briefing on Church Center reorganization
The Council will learn about the plan to reorganize the work of the program offices housed at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City. Beginning in the A&F committee, the Council will review any proposed changes to the triennial budget that may be required by the reorganization plan.

Mission Funding Task Force
The task force, called for in June by AF Resolution 32, is due to review progress on the Episcopal Church’s Mission Funding Initiative. The task force was charged with outlining and presenting a plan to “formalize the organization and operation of the initiative including representation by members of and reporting to the Executive Council,” according to the resolution’s accompanying explanation.

The Mission Funding Initiative was established in February 2005 during Council’s meeting in Austin, Texas

The Rev. Dr. James Lemler, director of mission for the Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Susan McCone, mission funding coordinator, explained to the Council in June the work they had done on strategies for major-gift giving to the initiative’s funds for communication, planting new congregations, funding future leaders, global ministry, and spiritual enrichment.

Archives of the Episcopal Church
A task force working with the Archives, now housed at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (ETSS) in Austin, Texas, will also report to the Council. The task force is to decide the best location for the repository of the records of General Convention and the Executive Council as well as other important records and memorabilia

A 2005 request by the seminary for a new rental agreement for the space the Archives occupies in the ETSS library building -- that would have quadrupled the amount the Archives reimburses the seminary -- prompted the on-going discussion.

Among other business on the agenda
The council will elect a member to succeed the Rev. Miguelina Espinal of the Dominican Republic. She resigned to become the Episcopal missioner with the Pastoral Leadership Search Effort (PLSE). The council has the prerogative in Canon I.4.2(c) to elect people to replace Council members elected by General Convention, until the Convention elects a successor.

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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