Then There Were Two

By Zachary Guiliano

Two major structure proposals came before the House of Bishops Wednesday afternoon: Substitute Resolution A004 (Amend I.4.1-8: Restructure Executive Council) and substitute resolution A006 (Amend I.1.2: Restructure Standing Commissions and Interim Bodies of General Convention). The two resolutions had already passed in the House of Deputies.

Bishops began deliberations on the resolutions by hearing statements from several members of the committee, who chose to address particular aspects of the proposed changes.

Bishop Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles spoke first, saying she “felt deeply grateful for the work of TREC” (the Task Force on Reimagining the Episcopal Church). She mentioned that “some of our conversations were very difficult,” a point echoed by others. She mentioned several proposals that failed in committee, such as a unicameral house and reducing the sizes of Executive Council and General Convention.

Bishops from the committee highlighted the reduction of standing commissions to only two: the Liturgy and Music, and Constitution and Canons. The desire was for a lighter, more responsive church, able to respond to new situations and challenges, rather than a church burdened with commissions that “feed legislation” to General Convention, as Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island said.

At one point, Bishop Daniel Martins of Springfield suggested an amendment: “No standing commission or taskforce may initiate any resolution for consideration by the General Convention that would have the effect of creating work for itself during the ensuing triennium.”

He thought this would help “simplify and unclog” the process and offered an example: “It would still allow the SCLM to draft a liturgy for the changing of a church boiler, but it would prevent the SCLM from proposing a resolution that would ask [itself] to draft a liturgy for the changing of a church boiler.”

Bishop Martins’s amendment failed.

Bishop Miller of Milwaukee proposed two amendments, one that would specify that the chair and vice chair must represent separate houses, and another that would add the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations to be added to the list of permanent standing commissions.

The bishops approved the first amendment, but voted down the second.

They later reconsidered the first amendment and had it removed, as they did not wish the legislation to return to the House of Deputies. They were persuaded by an admonition from Bishop Stacy Sauls that, if the resolution returned to the deputies, there were “a lot of people” ready to restore material. “That might be ill-advised,” he said.

Bishop Miller of Milwaukee rose in frustration, asking whether it was the desire of the committee that the House of Bishops pass the resolution without discussion, “simply to make sure something is done.”

“We spent 20 minutes doing nothing,” he said.

The chair of the committee, Bishop Clifton Daniel III of Pennsylvania, responded: “I believe the resolutions deserve debate, examination, consideration, and conversation. … I think we need to go through these very carefully.”

After passing the resolution unamended, the bishops took a short break. They planned to take up deliberations on A004 later in the afternoon.

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