From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Executive Council addresses Church Center move, Mexico crisis

Date Tue, 18 Jun 2002 18:03:19 -0400

June 18, 2002


Episcopalians: Executive Council addresses Church Center 
move, Mexico crisis

by James Solheim

(ENS) At its meeting on the campus of the University of New 
Hampshire in Durham June 10-13, the Executive Council heard 
encouraging reports on the potential move of the Church Center 
to the campus of the General Theological Seminary (GTS) in New 
York City, but also wrestled with news of an alleged 
misappropriation of funds in the Anglican Church in Mexico.

In a simple resolution that could have a dramatic, long-term 
impact on the church, the council authorized an expenditure of 
up to $1 million "toward the shared costs of continuing the 
pursuit of the DFMS/GTS project, contingent on the satisfactory 
completion of phase I." According to Russell Palmore of 
Virginia, the financial analysis is very positive but both 
parties are still weighing some aspects of their investment in 
the project.

The second phase calls for hiring "the project architect, 
project manager, public relations support and such other 
assistance as may be required." The GTS board has already 
approved its matching $1 million for this phase.

"The committee thinks that the project, in the long term, 
makes economic sense. The mission and program opportunities and 
long-term benefits to both parties outweigh the debt load and 
real estate risks," Palmore told the council.

Treasurer Ralph O'Hara shared with council the figures 
provided by the financial analysis, based on a substantial 
renovation and lease of the property at 815 Second Avenue and 
the construction of new offices in partnership with GTS on the 
Ninth Avenue side of the seminary campus. Both parties would 
participate in creating a conference center on the 10th Avenue 
side of the campus. He said that initially the church was 
assuming a high load of debt, due largely to the seminary's 
contribution of the land underlying both offices and conference 
center, but that he and committee members were monitoring the 
equation that balances risks and rewards.

"I'm comfortable with how we are moving," Presiding Bishop 
Frank T. Griswold said. In an interview at the end of the 
meeting, he said that he and the council saw "a clear and 
positive desire to press ahead but with prudence" because there 
are still outstanding issues. "My concern from the beginning is 
what best serves the mission of the church, what is the wise and 
prudent move given the resources of the church. We are obliged 
to keep the fiduciary issues at the forefront in our 

Crisis in Mexican church

Council members were also greeted with news of a festering 
crisis in the Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico. The church's 
House of Bishops released a statement June 11 saying that it had 
"discovered a shameful mismanagement of funds in the Dioceses of 
Northern Mexico and Western Mexico, which has led us to a grave 
crisis as an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion."

The bishops and the Mexican church's Executive Council 
decided "after the careful examination and study of the results 
of the audits recently carried out, to intervene in the 
financial and administrative areas of both dioceses." They also 
decided to "withdraw recognition of Bishop Samuel Espinoza as 
Primate of this church, and to withdraw and suspend the 
episcopal authority and privileges of Bishops German Martinez 
Marquez and Samuel Espinoza."

Based on the reports, the Executive Council expressed 
"sincere sympathy" with the Mexican church and affirmed them "as 
they seek to remedy the situation" and as they "seek to conduct 
and cooperate with appropriate investigations of the alleged 
misappropriations" and remedy any "financial weakness found in 
the financial structures of their dioceses." The resolution also 
called for an "ongoing review" of the Episcopal Church's 
procedures "to ensure sound fiscal dealings with all dioceses 
and institutions, domestic and foreign, with which we have 
covenant and other financial relationships."

Since the five Mexican dioceses formed an independent 
province in 1997, the Episcopal Church USA has been supporting 
them financially through a covenant that provides the majority 
of the operating costs, about $700,000 a year. Those funds and 
others designated are "custodial," held in trust by the American 
church but under direct control of the Mexicans, the council was 

"You don't have the tight controls that used to exist when 
these provinces were still part of the Episcopal Church," the 
Rev. Pat Mauney of the Anglican and Global Relations office told 
 The Living Church in an interview. "I think it 
underlines the complication of monitoring fund transfers between 
provinces." He expressed a deep concern for the vulnerability of 
the church. In addition to the two bishops under suspicion, two 
other bishops are retiring. "There are big changes around the 
corner," Mauney said.

"We have great concern for our brothers and sisters in the 
Province of Mexico and every hope and expectation that they will 
resolve the issues themselves, allowing their mission to go 
forward," said Griswold in an interview.

Setting budget priorities

An attempt to produce some priorities for program and budget 
development provoked a spirited discussion among council members 
who sought to balance the church's traditional commitment on 
social issues with an emphasis on spiritual issues in line with 
the 20/20 theme of church growth. The final resolution 
identified six "areas of energy in the life of the church which 
need to be expanded" and which should "inform our mission and 
budget over the next triennium."

Included as priorities were: reaching out to youth and 
including them in "the thinking, work, worship and structure of 
the church"; "reconciling and engaging those who do not know 
Christ"; revitalizing, transforming and starting new 
congregations and ministries; reaffirming the church's 
commitment to diversity at every level of the church, "promoting 
justice and peace for all of God's creation and reaching out to 
the dispossessed, imprisoned and otherwise voiceless" in our 
society; and reaffirming partnership with the rest of the 
Anglican Communion and ecumenical and interfaith relations.

Griswold said that "reconciliation will be the dominant theme 
of the Minneapolis General Convention," as seen in the light of 
the church's mission. "That allows us to use the vocabulary of 
justice and holiness, too often perceived as opposites."

In other action the council:

 heard the Rev. George Werner, president of the House 
of Deputies and vice chair of the council, describe his 11 years 
in the Diocese of New Hampshire. He also sketched the process 
for choosing a site for the 2006 General Convention, concluding 
that Columbus, Ohio, had superior facilities and would be the 

 were welcomed by Bishop Douglas Theuner to the 
Diocese of New Hampshire which is celebrating its 200th 
anniversary this fall. "This is a growing diocese, small but 
wonderful," he said in an evening program that highlighted 
ministries in the diocese and the province. 

 participated in anti-racism training that uncovered 
some sharp criticism of the Church Center's hiring policies and 
practices, asking that council receive regular updates on the 
affirmative action personnel practices in the future;

 opposed "unilateral military action against Iraq for 
the sole purpose of overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein 
and supports efforts to implement UN resolutions on weapons 
inspections and military sanctions rather than the use of force 
to address the problem";

 commended former Senator John Danforth, an ordained 
priest from Missouri, for his efforts as the president's special 
envoy to bring a ceasefire to the Sudan and stop the religious 
persecution by the Khartoum government, including the imposition 
of Islamic law in the south where most of the Christians live;

 recognized the need for "publicly acknowledged 
church communities where sexual minorities are welcome to 
participate fully in the life of the community respecting their 
dignity as children of God and their right to 


--James Solheim is director of Episcopal News Service.

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