[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Much happens each day during General Convention. In addition to Episcopal News Service’s other coverage, here are some additional news items from June 26, the second day of the June 25-July 3 gathering.
Persecuted Pakistani Christians need church’s solidarity, says Bishop Azariah
Bishop Samuel Azariah of the Church of Pakistan addressed General Convention’s Legislative Committee on World Mission June 26. He spoke about the persecuted Christian population in Pakistan, one of the world’s epicenters for terrorism where minorities are targeted by religious extremists for having different beliefs or affiliations.
He also spoke about the draconian Pakistani blasphemy law that identifies it as a crime to defile the Holy Quran, with a possible sentence of life imprisonment, while offenses against the Prophet Muhammad may be punishable by death.
Yet the Pakistani Christian community – 1.5 percent of 180 million people – remains steadfast in faith despite the daily persecution they face, he said.
Azariah commended proposed Resolution D035 urging continued solidarity with the Christian community in Pakistan and calling on the Government of Pakistan to ensure adequate protections for all religious minorities, “specifically with respect to the prevention of the abduction, forced conversion to Islam and forced marriage of young women from minority religious communities.”
Azariah told the world mission committee that prayer and advocacy are important, but he said that the partnerships with the Episcopal Church are “very loose and not well organized,” calling on Episcopalians to arrange mission trips and visit the Church of Pakistan. That sort of action, he said, is the kind of solidarity Pakistani Christians need during this difficult time.
Nominations made official
The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop formally nominated four bishops as candidates to become the 27th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church during a joint session of the houses of Deputies and Bishops at General Convention here on June 26. The nominations were accepted without comment from the floor.
On June 27, the House of Bishops will gather at St. Mark’s Cathedral here to elect the next presiding bishop. The candidates are Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry, Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas and Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop Dabney Smith.
After the election Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will send a delegation to House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings to inform her.
Jennings will refer the bishop’s name to the House of Deputies legislative committee on the Confirmation of the Presiding Bishop without announcing the name to the full house. That committee will recommend to the House of Deputies whether or not to confirm the election, and the deputies immediately will vote on the recommendation. Jennings then will appoint a delegation of deputies to notify the House of Bishops of the action taken, and the presiding bishop-elect will come to the House of Deputies.
Prayer Book revision planning proposed
The Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee has filed a resolution (A169) asking General Convention to “Direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to prepare a plan for the comprehensive revision of the current Book of Common Prayer” and present it to the next convention. The committee asks for a $30,000 allocation to fund this work.
“We are aware that [at] every convention we have attempts to revise the prayer book piecemeal, and we feel that it is time, as we say, ‘Surf’s up!’ It is time to begin the process of prayer book revision,” said the Rev. Scott Allen, deputy from the Diocese of Bethlehem, as he presented the draft resolution from the prayer book subcommittee to the full committee June 26.
The resolution directs that the plan to “utilize the riches of our church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship.” The funding would allow consultation on the plan for revision with members of various cultural and ethnic groups across the church, said the Rev. Devon Anderson, deputies committee chair. “It’s about bringing those communities in very early on.”
Several committee members questioned whether the process might proceed too slowly, while others expressed concern that initiating a plan leading to revision might be premature.
The Rev. Gary Meade, Diocese of West Tennessee deputy, noted that it was interesting to hear “on one hand urgency” and on the other a “sense of understandable reticence.”
“I think what we’re proposing offers up really a middle way,” he said. Having heard many people talk about the revision process leading to the 1979 prayer book as being “too drawn out and in some ways too chaotic,” he said, “if we could … encourage the commission to formulate a more orderly plan to move forward, maybe it wouldn’t be as urgent as some would like but perhaps it would avoid throwing out the baby with the baptismal water.”
Added the Rev. Jeremiah Williamson of the Diocese of Ohio, “My sense is that a lot of people in the church would prefer we do this really, really well as opposed to really, really fast.”
Talking about the structure of the church
Deputies and bishops met in a special joint session on June 26 for an hour-long conversation about The Episcopal Church’s structure and governance and how it can best support and enable mission at all levels.
“Structure, governance, polity, canons, rules of order – most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear these words,” Diocese of Minnesota Deputy Sally Johnson said in her opening remarks, made with Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Clifton Daniel.
They are deputy and bishop chairs of the Legislative Committee on Governance and Structure, which is in the process of hearing testimony on numerous restructuring proposals.
“What do rules and structure have to do with what God is doing in the world, and our place in it as individual followers of Jesus, or as The Episcopal Church, this particular incarnation of the body of Christ?” Johnson asked.
She and Daniel gave a brief historical overview of how The Episcopal Church’s polity and governance came into being, noting that the way the church organizes itself for mission has been evolving since the adoption in 1789 of its original constitution and canons.
“The great thing about The Episcopal Church is that we decide all these things for ourselves. And if we don’t like our previous choices, or they don’t serve us anymore, we can change them,” Johnson said. “It has never been static, it has continuously changed and evolved and so too, today, the goal of our considerations is how we might best change our structures and governance to give greater viability to our congregations and ministries.”
“Governance is about our identity and our mission,” Daniel said. “Who are we? What do we care about? What are we going to spend our time, talent and treasures on? Who decides and how will we decide?”
They asked diocesan deputations to split up into small groups with deputations seated nearby and discuss the structures, programs and activities of the church at all levels that support or enable their congregations and dioceses to more fully participate in God’s mission. The groups also discussed what changes in those same structures, programs and activities would better serve congregations and dioceses in mission.
They were invited to tweet their responses using the hashtag #gcgas.
— Episcopal News Service members Matthew Davies, Sharon Sheridan and Tracy Sukraw contributed to this digest.