2018 General Convention Blog

The Episcopal Church Budget

July 12, 2018

Having emerged from the “black hole” known at General Convention as PB&F (Program, Budget, and Finance Committee) I am happy to report that the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies adopted, without amendment, the budget for the next triennium for The Episcopal Church. 

The Budget adopted is a missionary document. It takes our Presiding Bishop's priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation and justice, and care of creation and places them at the center of our life together. In addition, it rearranged the structure of the previous budget, including staff positions and program areas to better align with these three priorities. It holds the foundations of our polity, governance, legal, and administrative framework as the framework upon which we build our mission. 

The budget at General Convention is first set forth by the Finance for Mission (FFM) sub-committee of Executive Council, the interim body of individuals who govern The Episcopal Church between General Conventions. FFM consults with staff and publishes drafts to solicit feedback on the budget. Several months before General Convention, FFM turns the budget over to the Program Budget and Finance Committee which is charged with presenting a balanced budget to General Convention. 

At General Convention, we hold hearings and take resolutions passed by both houses asking for funds and weigh the resolutions against one another for incorporation in the budget. This year, we had requests for over $15 million to be included above and beyond the $134 million dollars already in the budget. Proposed were 40 task-forces to address various projects over the next three years and significant requests for prayer book revision, racial reconciliation, and evangelism. We heard moving testimony from a number of people regarding funding in the budget, and engaged in grace-filled debate as we worked towards the final budget.

The budget adopted this year holds assessments for the Dioceses at 15% of normal operating income. Some of the major new additions to the budget include funding of our readmission of Cuba into The Episcopal Church, funding for the position of the President of the House of Deputies, increases in the areas of racial reconciliation, creation care, and formation programming, and the funding of a new staff position in evangelism. 

My experience on PB&F was a Holy one, centered in prayer and focused on the mission and ministry of our Church. I am enriched for my time with PB&F at this General Convention and thankful to the Diocese of Oklahoma for electing me. 

So Many Stories

July 12, 2018

In addition to participating in decisions which affect the Church in various ways, coming to the General Convention is always a reminder of what a rich, broad, diverse denomination The Episcopal Church is. For those of us whose experience as Episcopalians is centered primarily on our local congregations, it’s easy to forget that the larger Church is made up of people from a great variety of backgrounds, whose own experiences and perspectives may be wildly different than my own.

In the early days of General Convention, much story-telling happens in the legislative hearings, in which committees invite people to offer testimony on resolutions that might be forwarded to the House of Deputies or the House of Bishops. Later, when the Houses themselves consider resolutions, there are opportunities again for members of those Houses to speak. In those addresses, people don’t just express opinions or take stands. Many of them share stories from their own lives, and so many of those stories are so powerful and moving.

We’ve heard heartwarming stories of people who were in need, or who were hurting, and the Church was there for them, making God’s Grace available to them and inviting them into the Christian community. We’ve also heard heartbreaking stories from people hurt by the Church, some excluded in specific ways, some wounded by the actions of people in the Church, including leaders.

Whenever you tell your story to someone, in a sense you make yourself vulnerable to them. I’m amazed at the ways people have opened themselves up to others, sharing their stories in front of a few dozen strangers in committee hearings, and also doing so in the hall where the House of Deputies meets, in front of close to 1,000 people. They’ve bravely revealed their stories and their hurts and their hopes and their fears. What a gift to others, to open yourself up and share with others what’s on your heart.

Then we who hear those stories get to choose what to do next. I don’t always agree with the views people express, but I’ve been so moved by the stories I’ve heard. Those stories remind me of the many ways God moves in people’s lives, and the many opportunities the Church has to care for those in need.

Despite the vitality we enjoy in the Diocese of Oklahoma, it’s always eye-opening to see what’s going on in other parts of the Church: around the country, and in the international parts of The Episcopal Church. What a Holy privilege we have to share the Church with people who may have different backgrounds but who share a love for the same God we worship in our own local contexts.

What We're Doing at General Convention

July 11, 2018

My grandson, Clark, is at St. Crispin’s this week. I wrote him to explain what we were doing at General Convention. The headline issues were Prayer Book revision – generally for adoption of gender-neutral language – and the expansion of gender-neutral marriage liturgies, which enable same-gender marriages. These are important issues. The House of Bishops and the House of Deputies passed the resolution for expansion of gender-neutral marriage liturgies and a resolution allowing Prayer Book revision to move forward, if cautiously. 

But there are many, many more resolutions. We welcomed The Episcopal Church of Cuba back into The Episcopal Church. That reunion will hopefully begat a fuller restoration of the relationship between our two countries. We addressed injustices at home – gun violence, immigration treatment, and biases against persons based on gender, sexual identity, and race. We considered steps to address global warming and to improve our environment. We heard this evening, July 11th, compelling testimony about the need for greater deaf and disability accommodations within our church. We also addressed injustices abroad, such as the conflicts between Israel and Palestine and between Sudan and South Sudan. 

Raising these issues tells us that loving Jesus and one another means working to make the world a better place. It is hard work and often complicated and uncertain.  But work that must be done. Work that might make Clark’s world a better place.