Diocese prepares for General Convention
Pre-Convention Report -- May 20, 2012
Rev. Charlie Holt, 407-444-5673 or
Rev. Danielle Morris, (407) 843-8448
The Deputation of the Diocese of Central Florida and Bishop Gregory Brewer have met to study, discuss and review many of the Resolutions for General Convention. With over 250 Resolutions, the Deputation and our Bishop will concentrate efforts on six key pieces of legislation.
On July 5 thousands of Episcopal Church clergy and lay leaders will meet in Indianapolis, Indiana for the 77th General Convention. At the time of this article there are over 250 resolutions which have been filed for consideration although many of the resolutions are dealing with the same subject and will be combined and refined into a single resolution within a legislative committee. Still, the final number is staggering. Even though the Diocese of Central Florida will send 10 deputies and 1 Bishop, there is no way for our deputation to be able to follow all of the legislation and issues some of which have the potential of radically affecting the Episcopal Church.
Your deputation has been meeting, along with Bishop Brewer, to review study and discuss many of the resolutions that could impact the Churches within our Diocese. Together we have identified six key areas where we will focus our attention and energies: Same-gender blessings, The Anglican Covenant, Title IV Disciplinary Canons, Open Table Communion, Organizational Structure of the General Church, and Evangelism, Education, and Stewardship. We realize that in some of these areas our deputation will be in a minority position but we feel our voice must be heard.
In 1996 Congress passed the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows states to ignore gay marriages performed elsewhere. Joining more than 30 other states, Florida included, North Carolina recently approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman. Only four states, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa, allow gay and lesbian marriages.
Our diocese has consistently gone on the record in favor of traditional teaching of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion that marriage is between a man and a woman. While it is expected that some form of a liturgy for the blessing of a same-gender blessing will be approved this year, we can have a witness in opposing such an innovation and seek to protect our diocese’s autonomy to uphold the Church’s traditional teaching as well as the state law of Florida.
The Anglican Covenant
It is also anticipated that we will be in a substantial minority position on whether the national church will uphold the Anglican Covenant. The crux of the debate on the Anglican Covenant will center on whether to defer commitment to the Covenant or reject it outright. We will be advocating for the Anglican Covenant and against its rejection.
Title IV Disciplinary Canons
We are concerned about preserving our bishop’s and Diocese’s constitutional jurisdiction by diligence to issues around the Title IV Disciplinary Canons. Our Diocese is on the record in stating that the revision to these canons made three years ago vested unconstitutional authority in the office of Presiding Bishop. We will seek to bring the canons back into conformity with the Constitution of the Episcopal Church.
Open Table Communion
Canon 1.17.7 states: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.” Yet, in an attempt to be more inclusive, the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council in the Diocese of Eastern Oregon recently voted to offer open communion without the communicant being baptized. They have submitted Resolution C040 which would change the canon and delete altogether the Baptismal requirement. If passed this would mean that anyone, Christian, Jew, Moslem, Pagan or any other religion would be able to receive communion without being first Baptized. This is in direct violation of the Canon and the 39 articles.
All Baptized persons of any denomination are invited to the table to receive. However, we feel that to have a full understanding of what it means to receive the body and blood of our Jesus requires religious instruction and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Both occur at Baptism and later at Confirmation. Therefore, your deputation is against this Resolution.
Organizational Structure of the General Church
There is broad agreement across the church that the present structures of our national church are not serving the membership and the mission of the Church well. Most are simply financially unsustainable in their present configuration and often times do not meet the needs of various Dioceses. We believe that the one of the main problems with the church’s structure is the siphoning of resources to bureaucratic structures on the national level that could most effectively be used by the people in the local congregation. One of the principles that we will advocate is one called “subsidiarity.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.
Education, Stewardship, Evangelism
The State of the overall church is not good. We have declined in membership and overall revenues at an ever accelerating pace. One sobering statistic found in the State of the Church report: “The five-year trend (2006–2010) shows an 11% decrease in active membership and a 16% decrease in average Sunday attendance. The 10-year trend data in the chart below (in the report) provides a longer view of what has occurred in the life of the domestic dioceses of The Episcopal Church over the past decade. In that period the Church has seen a 16% decrease in active membership and a 23% decrease in average Sunday attendance.”
The church can no longer do business as usual. Stewardship, Evangelism and Education are all areas where our deputation has expertise and positive track record to offer the wider church. Bishop Brewer will be serving on the Evangelism Committee, Phyllis Bartle on the Stewardship Committee and Charlie Holt on the Education Committee.
Stewardship, Evangelism and Education should be fundamental priorities for the larger church that will sadly gain little focus or attention at this year’s General Convention and the Convention will likely wrestle with the symptoms rather than the cure.
Focus on the Gospel
We see, as our primary task, to advocate a cure for our national church challenges which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The energy and focus of our church has been dominated by a conversation on sexual orientation and ethics while we have neglected to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples of all nations (especially our own). Our deputation will go to General Convention 2012 with a message to the larger church. “Keep the main thing, the main thing.” By God’s Grace we will renew a focus on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission to again make the Episcopal Church a Great Church.