Deputies Finish Work

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

On a fast-paced final day of business for General Convention, the House of Deputies killed an attempt to amend the church’s Constitution in a way that would have sealed episcopal authority to decide on using alternative liturgies.

The move came as deputies acted on a raft of legislation on the last day of General Convention Friday. They passed dozens of resolutions, many procedural and a few of potentially larger significance.

The amendment proposal (A066) would have marked a first step in modifying Article X of the Constitution, which concerns the Book of Common Prayer. In a section that refers to trial and alternative rites, it would have put “other forms” of worship “under the direction and subject to the permission of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority.”

The amendment would have codified bishops’ discretionary authority over any number of alternative rites not found in the prayer book. The resolution had passed unanimously in the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music Committee and passed the House of Bishops, but died in the House of Deputies on Friday after the Rev. Ruth Meyers, the committee’s consultant, spoke against it on the floor.

In another step that could affect the work of bishops, deputies voted with bishops to have the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music explore the prospect of having presbyters celebrate the Sacramental Rite of Confirmation. Currently only bishops have authority to celebrate confirmations under a code unique to Anglicanism.

“This would undo part of what it means to be an Anglican Christian,” said deputy Scott Garno of Alabama.

But the House seemed persuaded by deputy Nina Pooley of Maine, who said her bishop, Stephen Lane, would like to use more of his time for other types of ministry when he travels his vast diocese as its sole bishop.

In budgetary matters, the House of Deputies approved a deal that a conference committee negotiated between the House of Deputies and House of Bishops.

According to the terms, any diocese that is behind on its assessments will for the first time be penalized, starting Jan. 1, 2019. Penalties will be meted out in the form of ineligibility for grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society unless approved by the Executive Council.

The budget deal also calls for a task force to research establishment of a stipend for the president of the House of Deputies.

“The House of Deputies is of the view that only persons who are retired or who have substantial economic resources are financially able to serve as President of the House of Deputies,” the budget resolution said. The need for a stipend is a fairness issue, according to the resolution. The deputies then sent the resolution back to the House of Bishops for consideration. The bishops approved sending the matter to a task force.

On geopolitics, deputies stopped short of calling for divestment from companies associated with Israel’s presence in West Bank territories. Instead they passed a resolution that authorizes $675,000 for peace-building initiatives in the Holy Land, including health care and education.

“We believe that the way to our liberation is through the heart of the Jews,” said deputy Susan Haynes of Northern Indiana, as she spoke in favor of the resolution. “Help these nations come together through a process of restorative justice.”

Some deputies felt the resolution did not go far enough.

“I speak against this resolution,” said deputy Gary Commins of Los Angeles. “It is fairly benign, banal, tepid, timid. … It does not address the realities of what currently exists in Israel and the occupied territories.”

In another measure, the House of Deputies rejected a proposal that would have empowered a supermajority of Executive Council to terminate the presiding bishop after a mediation process.

“Our presiding bishop cannot be free to do this work to speak prophetically if they are to do their ministry worrying about securing the approval of those whom they may find themselves speaking against,” said deputy Christopher Johnson of Colorado during the floor debate.

Image of Salt Palace Convention Center by jnshaumeyer, via Flickr •

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