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Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presented the following opening remarks to the Executive Council, currently meeting in Phoenix, AZ, through June 12.
10 June 2014
Good to see you all; welcome to the desert. When I landed in Phoenix Saturday evening It felt like coming home – to see those multi-colored mountains, dry air, and fascinating plants! The culture in this part of the world really is different – people retire here from all across the U.S., others come to work here from around the world, shorts and sports shirts frequently count as formal attire, and you can’t predict a person’s political stance on one issue if you know it on another. The Episcopal Church is thriving here – Bishop Smith tells me they’re working on their 10th new congregation in the last 13 years. Susan Snook has started a vibrant one, which you’ll get to sample this afternoon. Carmen Guerrerro has started three Latino congregations, and members of the most recent one visited Susan’s congregation on Pentecost.
We’ve got a number of significant issues at this meeting, all of which are related to how best to use the gifts we have as resources for churchwide mission. All of you have been involved in dreaming and prioritizing about the budget for the next triennium, and that work will continue here.
We’ll consider several items of a more immediate nature, including Navajoland, as well as responses to pressing issues of justice like human trafficking, peace in the Middle East, and environmental and climate concerns. Executive Council is going to respond to UTO’s grant initiatives, we’ll hear updates on our Communion-wide covenant relationships, and begin to evaluate efforts centered on the first Mark of Mission. We’ll do some of our regular work of due diligence related to audit and governance issues, and will review policy in several areas.
I want to point to the fact that as a Church, we are making progress toward a far more interconnected and networked structure. We are focusing strategically on those areas where only the churchwide structure is able to support particular local mission efforts. Support for Navajoland and the renewing dioceses are examples, so is the sustainability work in Province IX. I believe and expect those efforts toward sustainability will increase in the future. We are bound to one another, and the health and growth of each part of the body of Christ is the concern of the whole.
We are accounting for the costs of affiliated agencies in the budget work for the next triennium, so that we can be appropriately supportive. I still hope that TREC will consider how, as a whole Church, we can best support the local work of dioceses – and sharing resources is an essential part of that. But we need to think beyond the percentage asking from each diocese. Do current geographic boundaries make the most sense for a sustainable future for each mission unit – otherwise called diocese? Dioceses have always had these conversations about local parishes and congregations, and they make considered decisions about how to allocate personnel, financial, administrative, and building resources for the good of the whole. As a whole church, we’re being called into similarly strategic perspectives and decision-making.
We will engage several other aspects of sustainability here: new curricula to teach Asset Based Community Development; a partnership of the Development office that’s called Project Resource; and a developing network with Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers, Forma, and the Episcopal Service Corps. I would encourage us to understand a sustainability focus as essential to our use of the Five Marks of Mission – as the whole body supporting the whole mission of God.
I want to offer a couple of updates. You may remember that we reported on the positive review of our application for ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) status at the United Nations. It became official at the beginning of May, earlier than advertised. This is the result of a lot of hard work, much of it bird-dogged by Lynnaia Main. It will give us new access to networks of information, conversation, and deliberative decision-making for global good.
Executive Council asked that I investigate the situation of stateless persons in the Dominican Republic, most of whom are of Haitian descent. There is some good news about that, as the Dominican Republic has passed a law providing relief to some. I will visit later this year to encourage continued work on this issue, as not all the injustices have been fully resolved.
A word about the MDGs, the timeline for which ends in 2015. We have made good global progress in some areas, and attained some of the goals already, but there is still much work to be done. The global development agenda is being reframed for after 2015, so that it will apply to poverty in all nations, not only developing ones. This is why we’ve had a separate initiative on domestic poverty, because the MDGs are not meant for first-world contexts. That framework will be further tuned in sessions this August, and presumably adopted in September 2015. This will be part of the discussion in the World Mission committee.
This evening we help to inaugurate a photo exhibition related to the work of Episcopal Relief & Development, celebrating 75 years of healing a hurting world. It’s an opportunity to give thanks for the ways in which Episcopalians continue to partner with others here and across the world. God’s mission is indeed being served.
Finally, I want to celebrate developing strengths across this Church exemplified in events like the Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace gathering in Oklahoma City in April; the continued growth of Episcopal Service Corps; and the Young Adult Advocacy gathering in Washington, DC last month. I also want to celebrate growth in partnerships across the Anglican Communion, some of which has been facilitated by Bible in the Life of the Church project and Continuing Indaba. These are signs and implements of reconciliation. All of these have been facilitated by churchwide budget support. I give thanks for one particular reconciliation effort within The Episcopal Church. In a moving visit to Nashotah House, we celebrated the ministry of Deacon Terry Star, who was largely responsible for that invitation to visit and made that visit into reality. God is at work all around us in the communion of saints.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Episcopal Church
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