Don’t restructure for mission, restructure through mission

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley has written an opinion piece on the restructuring of the Episcopal Church for Center Aisle, a publication and, this time around, a website, offered by the Diocese of Virginia.

Stanley is not impressed by proposed legislation requesting that the church convene a Special Convention (something the House of Bishops can do on its own if it so chooses). She writes:

A special convention apparently would not have the authority to make any changes. Article XII of the Constitution says that “no alteration or amendment of this Constitution shall be made unless the same shall be first proposed at one regular meeting of the General Convention and be sent to the Secretary of the Convention of every Diocese, to be made known to the Diocesan Convention at its next meeting, and be adopted by the General Convention at its next succeeding regular meeting.”

These resolutions ask for $100,000 for implementation of the special commission, but there is no mention of where the money for a special convention – in the neighborhood of $2 million, according to the Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory Straub, executive officer and secretary of the General Convention – would come from. And that $2 million? That’s just the cost to the General Convention budget. It doesn’t include the costs to the dioceses, or to the deputies who have to pay their own way.

Her own preference for finding our way forward is embodied in Resolution A073, and you will need to read the entire essay to find out why. But here is a snippet that begins with a quote from the explanation supporting the resolution:

“Structures are important and necessary, but they must be flexible enough not to inhibit the proclamation of the Gospel by faithful Episcopal communities, and they have to be re-evaluated as mission conditions on the ground shift. By creating these stations for mission enterprise, and then by studying them, we will know what structures to create to recognize and encourage the growth of new and redeveloped faith communities.”

The resolution calls for $1 million in funding in the next triennium – far less than the cost of a special convention – so that dioceses can apply for a matching grant of up to $20,000 to help develop the Mission Enterprise Zone.

Amid all the calls the restructuring, instead of setting up a new special commission to study what could be done and calling a special convention to recommend canonical changes, perhaps the Church would be better served by implementing A073, which focuses on the actual doing of mission.

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