[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] The Committee on Churchwide Leadership held a rather lively discussion on the morning of July 7 of Resolution A149, which calls for reorganizing the board of directors of the College for Bishops.
Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.
The College for Bishops had been part of the presiding bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development until 2017. However, its status within the governance structure of the Episcopal Church changed in 2010. The House of Bishops unanimously voted to incorporate it as a separate nonprofit entity. A letter from Bishop Clay Matthews, managing director of the College for Bishops, was read during the hearing in which he explained that the college is now owned by the House of Bishops. It has a $6 million endowment, according to Matthews.
For more information about the College for Bishops, see the Episcopal News Service story “Teaching Bishops to be Bishops.”
The Task Force on the Episcopacy, mandated by General Convention in 2015 to consider the election, appointment, roles and responsibilities of the church’s bishops, submitted Resolution A149.
Opinions on the resolution range from advance it to table it, and shades in between. Much of the testimony centered on “diversity,” a word that does not appear anywhere in the resolution nor the explanation.
Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe offered background to the committee. He explained that when funding was cut in 2009, the bishops felt that College for Bishops was important to the life of the House of Bishops. The intent was to keep the college going. The house incorporated the college “and it was perceived as being an end run,” Rowe said. It is essentially “owned by HOB,” and this resolution is to provide wider ownership by the church. He later added, “If there had been conversations back then, we wouldn’t be here today.”
In the resolution, the college is “urged to amend its Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws” so that the board members are nominated jointly by the presiding bishop and president of the House of Deputies, elected by the House of Bishops, and confirmed by the House of Deputies at General Convention. An amendment offered by Paul Stephens, deputy from Mississippi, and adopted by the committee says that the nominees should reflect the diversity of the whole church.
Currently, the board is self-perpetuating, which in other words, means the people on the board, through a nominating committee, recommend new board members to fill vacancies. The resolution is seeking to change that method to an appointed board.
The Rev. Nina Ranadive Pooley, deputy from Maine, said, “Self-perpetuating boards tend to perpetuate themselves in their own image and fear appointed boards. It is easier to ask your friend because your friend might say yes.” Speaking to the recent work the board has done to increase its diversity, she added, “I know the board is moving forward with the best intentions.”
In his message to bishops urging them to dissent to this resolution, Matthews explains the “bylaws already make mandatory that all orders of ministry be represented on the board as called for in A149.” The college amended its bylaws earlier this year, according to a committee member who also serves on the Task Force for the Episcopacy.
The Rev. Marian Fortner, deputy from Mississippi, who was appointed to the board of directors in April, testified during the hearing, saying that the board is trying to diversify. Of the 20 board members, the presiding bishop is always the chair of the board, there are 12 bishops and eight other members. Fortner abstained from the voting.
Resolution A149 is on the consent calendar as amended for the House of Deputies for July 8.
— Sharon Tillman is a freelance writer for Episcopal News Service.