Executive Council reiterates commitment to covenant talks, lists concerns with current draft

Communion's interdependence grows from 'mutuality, not regulation,' council says
January 29, 2009

The Episcopal Church's Executive Council said January 30 that the church "remains committed to the Communion-wide process of conversation towards an Anglican covenant."

"At the same time, TEC wants to emphasize that matters of moral authority and interdependence amongst churches result from mutuality, not regulation," the council wrote its response to the St. Andrew's Draft of the proposed covenant.

"Care needs to be taken that our conversations around an Anglican covenant do not draw us necessarily toward a hierarchical model of a church union or even the perception of Anglicanism as a singular global church," the response said.

Council's response came on the second day of its three-day meeting in the city that houses the temporary offices of the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

During the January 30 meeting, council also heard a presentation on the 2010-2012 proposed budget, which it will be asked to approve January 31. Treasurer Kurt Barnes told the council that even after the budget drafters made cuts "everywhere" and tried to protect those programs "where the beneficiaries are the most needy," expenses are $10 million more than the $159.5 million in anticipated income.

The council must present a balanced budget for the upcoming three-year period to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) no less than four months before the next meeting of the General Convention. PB&F can then refine that version before it proposes a budget to convention. More information about the budget is below.

Covenant response 'does not implicitly commit' church to approval

Council's covenant response reiterates the Episcopal Church's stance that participation in the covenant development process "does not implicitly commit" the church to ultimately approving a covenant. And it makes clear that only the General Convention can sign the church onto such a document. It predicts that such approval would not come until at least 2012 and not until at least 2015 if such approval was deemed to require changes to the Episcopal Church's constitution.

The Anglican Communion's Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates asked all 38 of the communion's provinces to respond to the St. Andrew's Draft by March 2009. The Joint Standing Committee asked the provinces to say could if they could commit "in principle" to the covenant process, what provincial process is required for adopting such a document and what changes to the St. Andrew's Draft would give them the greatest chance of being able to adopt a covenant.

The communion's Covenant Design Group meets in London in April and may issue another draft of the covenant. If so, that draft is expected to be reviewed by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) during its May 1-12 meeting in Kingston, Jamaica. The ACC could decide to release the text of a covenant to the provinces for their adoption.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the Executive Council during its fall meeting in Helena, Montana, that she would "strongly discourage" any effort to bring such a request to the 76th General Convention in July. The council, at the Stockton meeting, agreed, saying that such a decision would need the full three years between meetings of General Convention to "prayerfully engage the faithful of all the dioceses of the Episcopal Church as to their discernment in respect to the covenant" and listen to other provinces "as they discuss and wrestle with the generalities and particularities of an Anglican covenant."

In response to the Joint Standing Committee's question about what changes are needed in the St. Andrew's Draft, the council offered nearly five pages of section-by-section comments. It raised the most concern over the process (that begins to be described in Section 3.2.5) to be employed when any proposed or enacted measures at the provincial or local level "are deemed to threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission."
Calling it "the most problematic section," the response said the process that involves consultation, mediation, and communion-wide evaluation is "overly juridical." The council said that from the time an Anglican covenant was proposed in an appendix to the 2004 Windsor Report, there has been a movement "calling for the beginnings of inter-Anglican canon law or, if not that, inter-Anglican processes for negotiations and settlement of disputes and concerns." Council summed up its comments by asking, "How does the covenant help us look like Christ?" and asked how it helps Anglicans recognize Christ in each other.

The council's covenant response group drafted the response as it did in October 2007 when the council responded to the first covenant draft, which has since become known as the Nassau Draft. The council's two responses have come in part as a result of the Episcopal Church's commitment in 2006 (via General Convention resolution A166 to follow the covenant development process.

The council said its response was informed in part by comments from dioceses that used its St. Andrew's Draft study guide. In April 2008, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson asked General Convention deputations to lead discussions of the draft and relay their impressions to their bishops before they attended the Lambeth Conference. She asked that those reactions also be sent to the Executive Council to inform its response. Thirty-one of the church's 110 dioceses replied.

The Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas, a council member who serves on the response group and is part of the Episcopal Church's ACC delegation, told ENS that the response "follows the voice of our response to the Nassau Draft in that it tries to represent the breadth of views and perspectives" of the members of the Episcopal Church.

"And we hope that the Covenant Design Group finds it as useful and helpful as our response to the Nassau Draft was, because clearly the Covenant Design Group took very seriously our response and the responses from the other churches," he added.

Budget constructed in unprecedented times

Saying that the world economy has not been in this sort of financial crisis "since the time of the Depression," Barnes said "we must take very, very serious action. We are not forgetting the concept of abundance, but we also cannot forget the concept of being good stewards for all those who come after us."

Those actions begin with the understanding that the Episcopal Church's investment funds lost 33 percent in 2008, Barnes said. The value of the church's endowment funds at the end of 2007 was $363,218,308. Even if the council agrees to increase the draw on the endowment from 5 percent to 5.5 percent as proposed, that income line would still be down by about $7 million from the last triennium. Because the draw is based on a five-year average of the income, "we'll be dealing with the 2008 result for the next five years," Barnes said.

The budget also assumes that diocesan giving, the other major source of income, will increase by one percent in 2010 and by two percent in each of the remaining two years of the triennium, Barnes said.

"We continue to struggle with dioceses who do not contribute their fair share," A&F Committee chair Josephine Hicks said. Barnes said that if all 110 dioceses paid the full 21 percent request, there would be $8 million more revenue annually.

Hick said that initial spending requests for the 2010-2012 triennial budget "far exceeded" what could be funded in a balanced budget. "If the church ever has more money than it knows what to do with, that will be the problem," she said. "We continue to be faced with the problem of having exciting things that we would like to do that we don't have the money to do. So we've made some really tough choices."

Choices in addition to the proposed 9 percent non-staff costs cut include a salary freeze for Church Center staff in the first year of the triennium. That freeze would save nearly $1.4 million.

Jefferts Schori told the council that the budget allocates approximately 60 percent to mission and ministry, and 10 percent each to costs for General Convention and communications, and 20 percent to administration and finance.

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.

Related Topics: