Summary of the Executive Council Call Meeting
by The Rev. Lillian Davis-Wilson,
Clerical Representative to Executive Council
On July 22, 2020 a virtual meeting of the Executive Council was called to keep members updated on changes brought on by the Pandemic.
Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry opened the meeting with prayer and asked for changes to the agenda. Ms. Julia Harris, Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Mission Within the Episcopal Church, added resolution MW30, Safe Church Training. Ms. Jane Cisluycis, Chair of JSC on Governance and Operations, withdrew resolution GO17, Proposed By-law Amendments. Changes were accepted and the agenda approved as amended. When asked if there were any changes to the June minutes, The Rev. Mally Lloyd, chair of Finance requested a clarification change. There being no objections, the minutes were approved as amended.
Ratification of the Executive Committee actions: Approval of UTO 2021 Grant Focus and Criteria, Financial support to the Dioceses of Atlanta and Georgia for Dismantling Racism, Awards for 202-21 School year, Grant use under COVID-19 Conditions, and Authorization for the COO to seek RFP's for the interim relocation of TEC archives, were ratified. The election of the new member to the Executive Committee was held, Canon Dr. Steven Nishibayashi was elected on the second ballot.
Love and prayers were the focus of the opening remarks of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. He reflected on the varying degrees of the COVID-19. He asked the Executive Council to keep the world, the medical caregivers, researchers and our leaders in prayer so they will be wise, just and loving, in their leadership. He asked us to encourage everybody to be gentle, as these are tough times psychologically and probably a little bit claustrophobic. Because everybody’s a little bit on edge, tired, and weary as we’ve only just begun. He quoted Shirley Chisholm, "we all came over here on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now and we’ve got to figure out how to row together." So, pray for the whole human family.
He inform us that, the Lambeth Conference of bishops has been postponed until 2022. The bishops will be meeting next week for two days. They had to add an additional meeting in September because they have a lot of business to take care of. The focus will be, “Communion, Human and Divine: Holy Eucharist and Racial Reconciliation”. This was intentional because these are two concerns that the church and our bishops have been wrestling with and facing in a variety of ways. He begged our prayers for them.
Lastly, he encouraged us as a church to be mindful of the conflation of difficult realities to deal with all at once: the COVID-19 virus, schools trying to figure out, do we open or not, the politics of a face mask, the reality of racism and white supremacy, and re-imagining police. He said everybody is trying to figure out what is the right thing to do. You've got all that going on. It’s as though you’ve already got a fire and then you just take the gasoline of a presidential election and throw it on top of the fire. That’s what the fall is going to look like, not to mention that we’re about to enter into hurricane season. Put all of that together and you have a cacophony of human chaos. He takes seriously the power of prayer, and he knows we do too. He thinks we’ve got to ramp up our prayers during this season in particular, not just here in the United States, but around the world. The tensions and the divisions are real and they’re deep. But we need not fall victim to them. So we will need to be praying and we’ll need to be speaking to make a Christian voice for the way of love, justice, compassion, human decency, and adult behavior as values and norms by which we live as human beings.
He said, "I’m beginning to see, that may be one of the great evangelism challenges facing the church in the coming months. It may well be a challenge to the basic values of this country, the very soul of this nation... I’m talking about how we live together. Dr. King really was right. 'We will either learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will perish together as fools.' The choice is ours, chaos or community. I believe we must choose community and we must lift up our voice and help our countries, our cultures and our society choose God’s beloved community, God’s dream."
President Gay Jennings followed with her opening remarks. She Greeted everyone and said, she was glad to be with everyone today. She graciously thanked everyone for their continued commitment to stepping up our work and meeting schedules during the pandemic. She especially thanked everyone, for their Zoom stamina. She entered into a new phase of Zoom life being at home. She had more time for her favorite pastimes, building spreadsheets of deputies. This spring, her spreadsheets made it clear that nearly all of the deputies to the 80th General Convention have been certified.
Even though we are still considering alternatives if the pandemic prevents us from meeting next summer as planned, our deputies can now begin to gather—on Zoom, of course. These first meetings are especially important to Jennings because, as has been the case in recent years, nearly half of our deputies are first-time deputies. Our online gatherings foster our ability to welcome new people to the community of the House of Deputies. We began a series of webinars for deputies and alternate deputies to hear from fellow Episcopalians about the ministry of governance to which we have been called.
Our first guest was the only Episcopalian in the church who has received more media attention in the last year than our Presiding Bishop: former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Thanks to Deputy Brian Grantz, who is dean of the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend, She was able to spend an hour with Mayor Pete on Zoom. Deputy Grantz introduced Mayor Pete, who he says has sat “in the same seat on Sunday morning in the fourth pew from the back, every Sunday for 10 years. She remarked,” Obviously, he is a true Episcopalian if he sits in the same pew every week!"
After his opening remarks, Grantz was able to ask Mayor Pete questions submitted by deputies from across the church both in advance and during the webinar. We got to hear his story of coming to The Episcopal Church, his thoughts on how faith communities can help rebuild trust and equity in our political and civic institutions, and how Truman and Buddy, the famous rescue dogs with their own Twitter account, are doing. The video can be viewed on the House of Deputies Facebook page, on the House of Deputies website, or on the Deputy News YouTube channel. She is grateful to Egan Millard of Episcopal News Service for his story about the event, and she commends that to you.
Grantz said, Perhaps my favorite moment in our time with Mayor Pete was when I got to ask him my own question: Why does it matter when church bodies like General Convention pass resolutions advocating on national and global issues? Does it matter? Here’s what Mayor Pete said, and it warmed her heart, “It does matter. It matters to me. It matters precisely, I think, because it comes from outside of the traditional political space. It matters because there’s a kind of moral authority. … When there is an expression about the moral values that religious faith leads a certain community toward, that have consequences, that should … affect the way that leaders in either party respond. That’s a powerful way to cut through some of the noise. Because it doesn’t originate from one political party or the other.”
President Jennings stated that she appreciated Mayor Pete’s reminder that our witness for gospel justice, our ministry of advocacy matters. She hopes that his words are empowering to deputies, to all of us here at Executive Council and to Episcopalians across the church as we continue seeking ways to confront the pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism.
In September, deputies and alternate deputies will gather for another webinar. Vice President Byron Rushing will host a conversation with two former deputies, Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of Indianapolis and Bishop Deon Johnson of Missouri. In November, we will hear from our newly appointed theologian of the House of Deputies, Professor Scott MacDougall of Church Divinity School of the Pacific. MacDougall will talk with us about the work of church governance as theological work. Our structures, he says, are relational theology embodied. “What a critical responsibility it is to be in the position to theologically enact what it means to be church,”
While I suffer from Zoom fatigue as we all do, I have renewed gratitude for the ways that our newfound online skills are allowing us to gather, to build the community of deputies, and to think deeply about our call to the ministry of governance. Thank you all for answering that same call, especially in these extraordinary times.
Bishop Curry called on the Chair of Finance, Mally Lloyd and the Treasurer and CFO, Mr. Kurt Barnes for the financial update. Mally Loyd stated the JSC on Finance has met four times since the June 8th Council meeting. The financial position is strong and they believe we can get through 2020 without further reductions to the budget. FIN 105, 2020 budget adjustments was moved and approved. Ms. Julia Harris for JSC on Mission within the Episcopal Church moved MW 30, Safe Church Training and Material and spoke to it. The resolution was adopted. A motion to adjourn was moved, seconded and adopted. The Rev. Kurt Weisner, Chaplain offered a closing prayer, and the meeting was adjourned.