From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Meeting in the Dominican Republic influences decisions of Executive Council

Date Wed, 5 Feb 2003 13:50:43 -0500

February 5, 2003


Episcopalians: Meeting in the Dominican Republic influences 
decisions of Executive Council

by James Solheim

(ENS) Clutching their passports, sunscreen and Prayer Books, 
members of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council gathered in 
the Dominican Republic January 27-30 for a rare meeting outside 
the United States--and the setting made a substantial difference 
in some of the council's decisions.

Bishop Julio Cesar Holguin welcomed council members to the 
Iglesia Episcopal Dominicana and "a third world country" where 
he said about "20 percent of the eight million people live on 
less than $1 a day and the income of our middle class is below 
the poverty level in the United States." Despite the economic 
and political turmoil, the diocese has grown from 24 to 45 
parishes in the last decade.

At the opening Eucharist at Epiphany Church in Santo Domingo, 
council members encountered a clear challenge. "God knows why 
you are here," said the Rev. Jean Monique Bruno in his sermon. 
"He sent you for a certain purposeYou are not only here to 
carry out the policy of General Convention, to give orientation 
to the Episcopal Church, to work on the unfinished business of 
the Executive Council. But mostly you are sent by the Lord to 
teach us, to witness to the Gospel, to proclaim to this country 
that the Lord God has a plan for it."

Bruno added that "the Dominican Episcopal Church needs the vital 
support of your physical presence and the prophetic word to 
continue the work entitled to her by the Lord." He noted that 
Bishop Holguin had issued a pastoral letter last December, 
endorsed by the clergy, "in which we expressed our concerns and 
preoccupations for the degradation of Dominican society. The 
pastoral letter was an SOS launched to all sectors of society" 
but "mainly aimed at those in power to remind them of their 
duties as representatives of the people" and to "denounce the 
corruption" in society. He described an economy that is "very 
fragile and uncertain," unemployment, a justice system that 
doesn't work, drugs that are destroying the young, and lack of 
access to good education and health care for the poor.

Mercy, love and justice for all

The council responded in several ways. They passed a strong 
resolution saying they had "heard of the plight of a large 
portion of the Dominican population who are poor and who often 
times have their circumstances aggravated by corruption in the 
government and private sectors." The resolution exhorted 
"members of the judicial system to administer justice so that 
swift judgement can be provided to those who have been without a 
definitive sentence and imprisoned for far longer than can be 
morally justified. We ask the government authorities and 
judiciary to put into practice mercy, love and justice for all." 
Council member	Louie Crew of Newark said that the resolution 
was "our answer to the plea in the sermon."

In a move that could have long-term implications for the 
Dominican Republic and other churches in the developing world, 
the council voted to add $472,000 to the proposed budget for the 
next triennium for dioceses that receive grants from the 
Episcopal Church. They also added $258,000 for Native American 

Introducing her amendment, Becky Snow of Alaska said that seeing 
the church in the Dominican Republic had convinced her "to think 
about the importance of our support for overseas dioceses." She 
said that it did not make sense to cut the support for those 
least able to absorb the cuts. "There is no excuse for not 
supporting this work so integral to our church."

The Rev. Patrick Mauney, director of Anglican and Global 
Relations at the Church Center, told council that there had been 
no increases in support for those dioceses since 1991 "despite 
very significant growth."  He said that the grants "don't 
reflect current realities" and a thorough review "is way 

More accountability

Council also adopted a policy for more accountability in the 
granting process. "To be eligible for funding beginning in 2004, 
annual compliance with requirements of the canons is required," 
including financial audits, accounts of the work being 
supported, and diocesan reports based on parochial reports. "We 
must have a handle on how our money is used--and this is a 
beginning," said the Rev. Robert Sessum of Lexington, chair of 
the international concerns committee. Treasurer Ralph O'Hara 
said that accountability is a growing concern--in the church and 
the corporate world.

Council had to address a developing conflict over the use of 
funds in one of the dioceses supported by block grant. It 
adopted a statement that said: "The Executive Council committees 
on administration and finance and international concerns 
considered a report by the Rt. Rev. Clayton Matthews, bishop for 
Pastoral Development, of recent concerns regarding the 
management of the financial affairs of the Diocese of Ecuador 
Central, particularly the use of grant monies contained in the 
national church's budget for that diocese. After further 
discussion with Bishop Matthews and the Chancellor to the 
presiding bishop, the committees expressed support for the 
manner in which Bishop Matthews and the Treasurer were currently 
handling discussions with the bishop of the diocese and 
disposition of the grant monies, including the unusual, but 
appropriate, steps to see that clergy salaries and pension 
premiums in that diocese are paid directly by the national 
church pending the successful completion of an independent audit 
of the finances of the diocese."

As council members gathered they were aware of "rumors of war" 
in Iraq. Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold repeated his concern 
that "the rhetoric is inflammatory. People are prickly and on 
edge." The Rev. George Werner, president of the House of 
Deputies and vice chair of the council, said, "We're in a time 
of dread."

Council unanimously endorsed Griswold's public statement on 
Iraq, "The challenges of global citizenship," released January 
30, commending it to the whole church.

Controversy over GTS decision

Even before adopting the agenda, however, the council, on a 
resolution by James Bradberry of Southern Virginia, voted 
decisively to go into "private conversation" to deal with what 
he called "the issue of whether we have relevance as a council 
in the future." Some council members were confused, others were 
angry, over issues surrounding the decision they made at the 
last council meeting in Wyoming, asking a committee to create a 
letter of agreement that would further the possibility of a move 
of the Church Center to a new facility on the campus of the 
General Theological Seminary in New York.

"There were two bodies of opinion over what happened in 
Wyoming," said the Rev. Stephen Lane of Rochester in an 
interview. "One was that the negotiating committee was told to 
bring a letter of agreement to the January meeting of 
council--and the presiding bishop supported that decision. But 
others think that the committee was told to continue the process 
seeking the letter until or unless they ran into obstacles they 
couldn't surmount. The presiding bishop's memo of December 4 
became that obstacle and the committee members said they 
couldn't continue." 

As a result, some council members were feeling "a sense of 
betrayal," Lane said, because it appeared that the presiding 
bishop short-circuited the process and ended any further 
consideration in what Bradberry said was a "unilateral 
undermining" of the council's role. "And then the seminary 
jumped in and said that it was over," even before the council 
could respond, said Lane, while others thought the process had 
reached one of its possible outcomes. 

When it came time for the council to vote on the resolution to 
"discontinue" the joint exploration, there were a dozen 
abstentions, a sign that "many still thought the decision had 
been taken out of the hands of the council," Lane said.

Asked if the trust levels between the management team and 
council had been damaged, Lane said that the expansion of the 
council's executive committee will make it easier to keep open 
the lines of communication and consultation between meetings of 
the full council. "It's a great idea and will prevent people 
from getting disconnected."

Mission-driven budget

During a presentation of the $125,441,000 budget, Griswold said 
it was a "constricted budget" based on a projected shrinkage of 
$10-12 million in the face of economic realities--but $2 million 
will address 20/20 energies to build increased membership and 
participation in the life of the church. For example, the budget 
provides funds for a national identity campaign, drawing on a 
series of ads produced by Grace Cathedral in San Francisco that 
reach out to "seekers" but also "reinforces a sense of who we 
are corporately." Dan England, the church's director of 
communication, showed a sample of the ads and council members 
responded with enthusiasm. "People are asking, Where's our 
church? So we decided to test the waters for this national 
campaign," he said.

O'Hara said that the budget represents a "very fine and 
exciting" effort to support priorities established by the 
council. Pat Mordecai, chief operating officer of the church, 
said it responds clearly to the energy of the church and its 
efforts to reach out to youth, revitalize and transform 
congregations, reaffirm commitment to diversity, promote peace 
and justice, reach out to those who do not know Christ, and 
reaffirm partnerships with other members of the worldwide 
Anglican Communion.

In other actions the council 

*welcomed Bishop Lloyd Allen of Honduras who made a presentation 
on the five dioceses of Province IX in Latin America who are 
"ready to reclaim their place" in the church;

*thanked Tom Hart, director of the Office of Governmental 
Relations in Washington, DC who has resigned to accept a new 
position with an agency that will address issues of trade, debt 
and HIV/AIDS in Africa;

*expressed dismay over the bombing of the chapel at the Ahli 
Arab hospital in Gaza, an institution of the Episcopal Diocese 
of Jerusalem.

*heard presentations by Episcopal Church missionaries Drs. Anita 
and Michael Dohn, who are working in preventative medicine, and 
Bob and Ellen Snow who are working on the diocesan staff.

*approved a final draft of the council's Blue Book report for 
General Convention.


--James Solheim is director of Episcopal News Service.

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home