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Bishops Stuck on Hiring Power

During its legislative session Wednesday afternoon, the House of Bishops considered Substitute Resolution A004 (Amend I.4.1-8: Restructure Executive Council). The resolution is a rewrite of the canons regulating the most powerful governing body in the church, outside of General Convention. The text has material incorporated from various sources (see “Power to Fire?” for more details), and has already passed the House of Deputies, with some amendments.

The bishops’ Committee on Structure and Governance gave a report on the resolution before deliberation began. Bishop Clifton Daniel of Pennsylvania III, chair of the committee, told the House of Bishops that the committee had made further amendment to the resolution. It would allow the presiding bishop sole authority in hiring top executives for the Episcopal Church Center.

As it stands, the resolution would invest the power in both the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

Bishop Sean Rowe of Central Pennsylvania, a member of the committee, called the amendment  an “extraordinary action.”

If the House of Bishops were to adopt the committee’s change, the resolution would need to return to the House of Deputies for a vote, and it could die there.

Bishop C. Andrew Doyle of Texas asked whether there was “a difference of opinion about the changes that were made” or whether the bishops were unanimous.

Bishop Rowe said that there had been some disagreement, and he added that there might be an argument for simply letting the issue lie. “As a house we have gotten nearly everything we have asked for,” he said. He said this was a minority opinion among the committee, however, and did not reflect his own views.

Many of the bishops on the committee vigorously argued for keeping the amendments in.

Bishop Daniel expressed concern that without the amendments “the president of the House of Deputies could hold up employment” of church executives.

The House, however, was not of one mind on these amendments and debated the matter for some time, before Bishop Stephen Lane of Maine moved that the amendment be stricken.

The retired Bishop of Ohio, J. Clark Grew, argued strongly for removing the committee amendment. He said, “By returning to the language that the House of Deputies has already passed to us for concurrence, we not only accept a model of collaboration that is worthy of our church, but in concurring we also exercise that model ourselves.”

By the end of the legislative session, the bishops had not come to an agreement. They will take up the matter on Thursday morning.

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