Friday, June 23, 2006

Bishop Joe's Summary of General Convention

Below you will find Bishop Joe Burnett's summary of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA. Enjoy!


TO Clergy, Wardens and Lay Leaders of the
Diocese of Nebraska
June 23, 2006 (Post General Convention issue!)
From the Bishop

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The following is a brief summary of actions from the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which concluded its nine day triennial gathering in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday evening, June 21. I will be offering some personal perspectives on these developments which will be sent to you in a separateemail as soon as editing is completed.

This convention was historic, of course, in that the Bishops elected—and the Deputies endorsed the election of—the first female Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada. Jefferts-Schori has promised to focus on mission in her nine year tenure as Presiding Bishop. Indeed, by far the overarching theme and work of the entire convention focused on global mission and reconciliation. Resolutions calling for the funding and implementation at all levels of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals(MDG) received wide support. Deputies and bishops also addressed issues of violence and poverty in areas of the world under oppression or torn by war and internal violence. Far reaching steps in domestic mission and evangelism, including supporting leadership training and raising funds for new church planting, were also embraced. Clearly worded statements apologizing for the Episcopal Church’s complicity in the historic sin of racism, and specifically in supporting slavery, also called for taking stock of ways in which the church might begin to make amends for past wrongs with living generations of those affected by these actions.

Blessed with the presence of many ecumenical and interfaith representatives,the church took steps to further its conversations and relationships under the auspices of its ecumenical office, and in particular approved an agreement for “interim Eucharistic sharing” (intercommunion) with the United Methodist Church, which includes recognition of the UMC as a member of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church in which the Gospel is rightly preached and taught, and encourages the development of a common Christian life between the two bodies. The agreement permits common, joint celebrations of the Eucharist (Holy Communion) between the two churches.

Deputies also concurred with bishops in adopting a resolution calling for equal representation of women and men on all decision-making bodies within the church at local, diocesan and national levels. This recommendation originated with the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, an international body.

The deputies also concurred with the House of Bishops in a mission initiative resolution for the New Orleans area that will gather data that can be used to advance evangelism elsewhere in the church.

Additional resolutions were passed that came from the special committee that considered resolutions in response to the Windsor Report, a document issued by an international panel of Anglican leaders in response to strains in parts of the world wide Anglican Communion following the consecration in 2003 of an openly gay bishop living in a partnered relationship. The convention affirmed the strong desire of this church to continue as a full and faithful partner in the world wide Anglican communion, while at the same time reiterating the historic separate and independent status of the churches of the Anglican Communion. The "Windsor process" to discern the nature and unity of the church, and the report's call for a listening process, were also affirmed. In particular, the convention approved a resolution that calls on bishops and Standing Committees to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the
consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on

Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops in opposing the criminalization of homosexuality, opposing state or federal constitutional amendments that prohibits same-gender civil marriage or civil unions and affirming the civil rights of gays and lesbians. Another resolution reiterates Episcopal Church support of gay and lesbian people as "children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church."

Deputies also concurred in creating a new task force to study aspects of church disciplinary canons. Proposed changes would have replaced the current court-oriented system with a multi-layered approach intended to focus on mediation and reconciliation which included a controversial provision that would subject certain lay leaders to the new canons. After hearing significant concern about the proposal,particularly about subjecting laity to ecclesiastical discipline,the legislative committee moved to refer the continuing work to the task force for continued revisions over the next three years.

Thank you for your prayers during these long and tiring days. Your deputies and alternates served you and the wider church well in their prayer, work, and
deliberation. We are glad to be home!

Faithfully in Christ,

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