[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The Governance and Structure Committee on July 5 struggled with the question of how to ensure that the geographical areas covered by the Episcopal Church’s nine provinces receive adequate representation on Executive Council under a proposed resolution submitted for its consideration.
Resolution A075 proposes to ensure “diverse representation on Executive Council” by including representatives from the provinces but allowing the election of the representatives to be held at General Convention rather than as part of provincial elections.
Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.
“I’m troubled by all elections going through one centralized committee,” said Colorado Deputy Lawrence Hitt II, a committee member. “I don’t think it’s healthy for the church.” Currently, two representatives to Executive Council are elected by each of the nine provinces.
The resolution was submitted by the Task Force to Study Provinces. The task force was enabled by a resolution to eliminate provinces that was presented at the 78th General Convention. Resolution D011 charged the task force with studying the potential effects of eliminating the provinces and to consider what structures might replace them that would support the ministry and mission of the church.
In its report to the 79th General Convention, the task force said that restructuring how representatives to Executive Council are selected is an effort to refocus the energy of the provinces “on the mission of the church and relax their focus on the polity of the Episcopal Church.”
The Very Rev. Craig Loya, Diocese Nebraska deputy and a member of the committee, said that if representatives are elected at General Convention, “it’s unlikely that anyone from Nebraska would ever be elected. My issue is not who is elected from Province VI but that someone from our neighborhood is elected.”
Several committee members also shared their thoughts about whether the provincial system is even effective anymore. “Is the current provincial system viable?” asked North Carolina Deputy Joseph Farrell. “If we don’t agree on the concept, I don’t see how we can move forward.”
Earlier in the day, the Governance and Structure Committee held a joint hearing with the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality Committee, which is considering additional resolutions submitted by the Task Force to Study Provinces. The joint hearing was scheduled to allow members of both committees to hear comments on overlapping issues.
During a general discussion, members of both committees grappled with a series of proposed resolutions relating to provinces, including their purpose, representation and funding.
The Governance and Structure Committee made no immediate decision on whether to approve those resolutions before it, including Resolution A075. Subcommittees were formed to review the resolutions in more detail and report back to the entire committee on its recommendations.
Other proposals included Resolution A076, which would remove representatives from each province from the process of selecting a location for General Conventions because “approving the site of General Convention does not seem to relate to the mission of the church.”
Resolution A072 asks dioceses over the 2019-21 triennium to “review, consider and align with whichever province best serves their identify and needs.”
In its report, the task force concluded that key advantages to the province system are they foster collaboration throughout the church, they facilitate the preparation of deputies for the General Convention and they enable small ministries to find individuals and resources to carry out their mission. “To remove this structure would jeopardize these advantages,” the task force reported.
The task force said that “the pattern of having some type of structure connecting the diocesan level with the church is important. Rather than invent something new, the recommendation is to look at what already exists and maximize what is working, as well as shifting what may not be working in each of the provinces.”
It also suggested a shift in emphasis from provinces helping to maintain the structure of the church. “The energy in the system needs to support the mission of the church, not be used in maintaining the structure,” the task force said. “The task force sought to focus the work of the provinces on supporting the mission of the church rather than on maintain parts of the system focused only on the organization of the system itself.”
This shift in emphasis led to the proposed resolution to amend how provincial representatives are elected to Executive Council.
— Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.