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Bishop Hunn Calls for Church Culture Change

The Rt. Rev. Michael Hunn of the Rio Grande critiqued a church culture of fruitless meetings and wasteful spending, the disconnect between national church initiatives and the experience of local churches, and the failure to measure the effectiveness of its programs in a sweeping critique during the House of Bishops’ Monday legislative session.

Hunn’s remarks were in response to Resolution A062, which called for a Mutual Ministry review of the officers of the Episcopal Church and Executive Council. The proposal, recommended by the Governance & Structure Committee, set a deadline for the review to be completed no later than a year before the next General Convention.

Hunn, who serves as vice chair of the Governance & Structure Committee, dismissed the proposed ministry review as a “waste of time and waste of money,” saying it wouldn’t achieve the kind of churchwide cultural change the Episcopal Church needs.

“I don’t think good leaders stop every two years to ask if they’re being effective,” Hunn said of the resolution. “These days, business doesn’t stop to assess its leaders’ effectiveness every two years. It’s about 90-day goals and clarity of purpose, about constant and consistent gathering of feedback, making course corrections to stay on track.”

Targets of his six-minute speech ranged from the culture of rivalry between the House of Deputies and House of Bishops to the Executive Council’s penchant for acting like a “parish vestry.” At one point, he compared a churchwide lack of resource-sharing to the reality TV show Survivor.

Hunn was previously canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of North Carolina while Michael Curry was bishop, and later led Curry’s transition team after his election as presiding bishop. He then served as Curry’s canon for ministry within the Episcopal Church.

“We need to stop paying for meetings that don’t change the world or even our church. We need to stop funding grants that don’t move the needle,” Hunn said. “We need to stop creating desks at 815 2nd Avenue [the Episcopal Church Center in New York], which then compete with each other for money every three years. We need to stop measuring our importance by how much money our pet project gets in the budget and start measuring what we’re actually doing to grow the church.”

While the House of Deputies passed Resolution A062 via consent calendar, the Rt. Rev. Jeff Fisher, suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Texas and chair of Governance & Structure Committee, said the committee opted not to bundle the resolution with the consent calendar in the House of Bishops to allow Hunn to express his reservations.

Hunn’s remarks prompted applause among the bishops, who ultimately voted down the resolution.

The remarks set a tone for the legislative session Monday afternoon, with the bishops later slashing proposed allocations of money in two different resolutions. Resolution A111, which initially called for allocating $50,000 to develop resources and models for online/in-person hybrid worship, was scaled back to $10,000 under an amendment by Hunn. The resolution was approved as amended.

Another resolution (A130) earmarked $200,000 for the development of alternative hymn texts to address issues of “colonialist, racist, white supremacist, imperialistic, and nationalistic language,” but was pared back to $50,000 in an amendment by the Rt. Rev. Daniel Richards of Upper South Carolina. Bishops approved the amended resolution in a narrow vote.

Meanwhile, bishops shot down Resolution A131, which would have allocated $750,000 for creation of a new supplement to The Hymnal 1982.

“I don’t want to be the skunk at the garden party, but really?” said the Rt. Rev. Daniel Martins, formerly of Springfield. “When there is a need for other musical resources, they can be found. Most people with any knowledge or experience can find alternate music.”

“This seems to be not only money foolishly spent but energy and the intellectual resources of the church foolishly spent,” Martins added.

Other action taken Monday by the House of Bishops included:

  • Approval of Resolution A072, which would amend the definition of the Book of Common Prayer in Article X of the church’s Constitution.
  • Reconsideration of Resolution D006, rejecting Christian Zionism. Bishops voted down D006 on Sunday but ultimately approved a scaled-back version of the resolution on Monday.
  • Approval of Resolution A049, which continues the Episcopal Church’s dialogue with the United Methodist Church toward the goal of full communion.

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