Posted by: Titus Presler | July 28, 2018

GC2018: Convention approved new Standing Commission on World Mission– but it wasn’t funded, so it’s moot

This is the second in a series of blogposts on events and actions related to global mission at the 2018 General Convention, held July 3-13 in Austin, Texas.

Bottom line of the following fairly long article: General Convention approved but did not fund a Standing Commission on World Mission, so there won’t be one, at least right now, but the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) is in a good position to provide the missional overview and envisioning that an SCWM would provide.

As with the resolution exhorting the church to embrace global mission companionship (A207; see previous post), a resolution seeking to reestablish the Standing Commission on World Mission (SCWM) that was dissolved by the 2015 General Convention was initiated by the World Mission Legislative Committee at the 2018 General Convention.

The 27 members of the committee were disturbed by the relative lack of world mission vision and initiative coming from any canonical structure within the church, and they believed this lack stemmed from there no longer being a standing commission specifically tasked with examining and envisioning the church’s global mission.

Committee members were very aware that the dissolution of most of General Convention’s standing commissions – small groups of 12 specially appointed people to deliberate about different areas of the church’s work during the three years between conventions – was a result of the structural streamlining recommended in 2015 by the Taskforce on Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC), which also sought to reduce the church’s operating costs.  Instead of standing commissions, which by definition endure over long periods of time – there had been an SCWM for about 50 years – the 2015 General Convention put in place a number of task forces with specific time-limited mandates.

Knowing all this, World Mission Legislative Committee members nevertheless felt that global mission is a special case because the church’s international work tends to be eclipsed by its work within its own dioceses.  So a small subcommittee was asked to come back with a proposal, and I was the principal drafter of what was submitted as Resolution A208.

The committee was delighted to find that another initiative to reestablish the SCWM had been submitted from another quarter.  Because that resolution focused on the change in the canons that would be required, it was substituted for the committee draft, but with the specific commission mandate that we had articulated, and we were happy with that.

Significantly, the resolution was adopted by both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, so Resolution A208 is an official action of convention.  But: the $90,000 requested to fund the commission – travel and meeting expenses – was not included in the budget adopted by convention.  The net result is that as of right now there will be no Standing Commission on World Mission.

How can this happen? you might ask.  One could say that convention agreed that an SCWM would be helpful and useful, but in all the horse-trading that goes on among various priorities, not everything can be funded.  Moreover, the Program, Budget & Finance Committee explained that in its budgetary deliberations it rejected numerous requests to reestablish various standing commissions both because funds are limited and because it felt it should honor the streamlining decisions of the 2015 General Convention.  That is a reasonable argument, and I respect it.  The continuing membership decline of the Episcopal Church has financial consequences, one of which is we can no longer afford the generously funded structures to which we had become accustomed.

So what now?  There may still be an effort to secure funding for the SCWM that was approved in principle.  Equally important, the Global Episcopal Mission Network – the church’s voluntary and freestanding network of mission-activist dioceses, congregations, mission organizations, seminaries and individuals – is well positioned to provide much of the overview and envisioning that an SCWM would be tasked to do.

GEMN’s membership is substantial and growing.  Its annual conference is a major networking event for global mission, with speakers and workshop leaders who are recognized churchwide.  Its website (www.gemn.org) provides a wealth of resources, and its Mission Formation Program is well respected.  GEMN submitted a number of resolutions to this General Convention, and that advocacy role will grow.  GEMN hosted the Global Mission Reception at this convention, reviving the World Mission Reception that the Church Center used to host in the 1980s and 1990s, and about 150 people attended this inaugural event.  As president of GEMN and a former SCWM chair, I believe it is possible for GEMN to offer much that SCWM used to provide.  We don’t have a canonical role, but the current and future energy of the church is increasingly found in networks such as GEMN.  So I am hopeful.

Below are two texts: the original text of A208 with its explanation, which details much of the rationale, and the brief final version, which was adopted but not funded:

A208 Establish a Standing Commission on World Mission

Original version

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 79th General Convention recognize that mission engagement with the peoples and cultures of the world beyond the United States of America is inherent in the purpose of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society as it seeks to participate in God’s mission of reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention lament how inward concerns of the church and inter-Anglican conflict have reduced the Episcopal Church’s engagement with sisters and brothers in Christ around the world, yet rejoice in how many global relationships have continued or been renewed; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention recognize that dioceses, congregations and freestanding mission organizations carry out much of the church’s global mission work alongside the Global Partnerships Office, Episcopal Relief & Development, the United Thank Offering and other agencies of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and that the Global Episcopal Mission Network assists with networking and mission formation; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention recognize the important monitoring of DFMS’s global mission work that is carried out by the Executive Council’s Standing Committee on World Mission; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention amend Canon I.1.2(n) to establish a Standing Commission on World Mission; and be it further

Resolved, That the mandate of the Standing Commission on World Mission shall be to identify the global mission work carried out by the DFMS, dioceses, congregations and mission organizations throughout the church, to consult with them to envision future directions for the church’s global engagement, and to develop policy proposals for consideration by General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on World Mission shall include six laypersons, three clergy and three bishops appointed by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies to serve staggered six-year terms, with half of the membership initially appointed for three-year terms; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to give consideration to the appropriation of $90,000 to fund the work of the Standing Commission for the 2019-21 triennium.

Explanation

The 78th General Convention removed many standing commissions, including the Standing Commission on World Mission, from the interim bodies of General Convention. This action was taken in view of financial constraints and the streamlining recommendations of the Taskforce for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC). It also occurred at a time when inter-Anglican conflicts had eliminated or reduced many missional relationships around the Anglican Communion.

The legislative Committee on World Mission of the 79th General Convention believes strongly that the General Convention needs the in-depth understanding and creative visioning that is brought to world mission issues by a standing commission whose members are experienced in world mission and who are focused on the church’s multi-faceted engagement in the global dimension of God’s mission.

Such understanding and visioning is especially urgent as many missional relationships are being re-energized, many dioceses and congregations would like to expand their companionships around the world, and freestanding Episcopal mission organizations are multiplying in education, healthcare and sustainable development.

The legislative committee is grateful to Executive Council’s internal Standing Committee on World Mission for its report in the Blue Book for the 79th General Convention. Yet we recognize that the many responsibilities of Executive Council mean that such an internal committee must focus on responsible monitoring and may be limited in its ability to undertake creative visioning.

The legislative committee also recognizes the contribution of the Global Episcopal Mission Network that brings together DFMS agencies, dioceses, congregations, freestanding mission organizations and seminaries for mutual learning and mission formation. Yet we recognize that, beyond generating resolutions, such a freestanding network has no direct avenue for offering in-depth reflection to General Convention.

The requested budget of $90,000 will fund three in-person meetings of the commission during the 2019-21 triennium, including one in a diocese of the Episcopal Church outside the USA.

 

A208 Establish a Standing Commission on World Mission

Version adopted by General Convention, but not funded.

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That Canon I.1.2(n) be amended as follows:

(3) A Standing Commission on World Mission. It shall be the duty of the Commission to:

 (i) Identify the global mission work carried out by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, dioceses, congregations and mission organizations throughout the church.
(ii) Consult with the above bodies to envision future directions for the church’s global engagement.
(iii) Develop policy proposals for world mission for consideration by General Convention.
(iv) Discharge such other duties as shall from time to time be assigned by the General Convention.

And be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance to appropriate $90,000 to fund the work of the Standing Commission on World Mission for the 2019-21 triennium.

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Funding? Crowd sourcing! Becky Michelfelder Now back in Southern Ohio Rector St. Stephen’s, Columbus, Ohio

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Thank you Titus. As someone working cross-culturally in Spain this is important for me and my family. I am wondering though: what if a number a of people from various dioceses just volunteered to carry out this work without funding from 815? I would think that there are many parishes and dioceses that would be willing to fund the modest travel expenses for people to meet for this valuable service.

    Dr. Duane+ Miller
    The Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer
    Madrid, Spain


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