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[ENS] Bishops approve Title III revisions

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Thu, 07 Aug 2003 23:27:53 -0700

August 7, 2003

Bishops Approve Title III Revisions

By David Skidmore
Episcopal News Service

In the wake of marathon debates over sexuality and Anglican order, the
bishops still had energy to spend two hours dissecting the churchs Title
III canons on ministry late Thursday afternoon.

By unanimous vote, the bishops adopted the omnibus resolution (A111) from
the Standing Commission on Ministry Development (SCMD) that overhauls the
canons governing lay and ordained ministry. Presented with a resolution
heavily amended by the legislative committee on ministry, the bishops
proposed 16 amendments to seven of the nine canons in the title, adopting
12 of them dealing with access to ministry (Canon 1), Eucharistic ministers
(Canon 4), criteria for nomination for ordination as deacon (Canon 6),
letters of agreement and assignment of deacons (Canon 7), postulancy
requirements and standing committees role (Canon 8), notification of the
election of rectors and letters of agreement, rectors control of church
facilities, and limitations on ministry for retired priests (Canon 9).

The SCMD revisions are designed to streamline discernment, candidacy and
ordination, promote the importance of formation of all baptized members,
clarify the types and functions of licensed ministries, and create a single
canon for priesthood. Although the most controversial measure direct
ordination to the priesthood was rejected by the bishops earlier in
convention, the SCMD resolution will have major implications for the chief
forces guiding ministry development: diocesan commissions on ministry,
standing committees and bishops.

The most heavily debated changes dealt with the guarantee of access to lay
and ordained ministry, membership time requirements for consideration for
ordination, deacons in charge of congregations, and the role of standing
committees in recommending candidates for ordination.

In the Canon 1 section guaranteeing access to ministry, the bishops had
trouble with the phrase in section 2: no person shall be denied access to
or the exercise of any ministry. ... They amended it to read no person
shall be denied access to the discernment process or any ministry."

Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island noted that the canons original
language could unnecessarily tie a bishops hands in barring persons from
ministry in a congregation based on confidential information.
The bishops chose more leniency in the nomination procedures by removing
the restriction on the length of time a person must be a member of the
Episcopal Church before being accepted into the ordination process for
deacon. The current canon states at least three years.

On the provision barring deacons from being in charge of congregations,
Bishop Bertram Herlong of Tennessee proposed loosening the restriction to
permit deacons to head congregations under direct supervision of a bishop
or the bishops designee. Bishop Charles Bennison of Pennsylvania
supported Herlong, arguing that if the canons permit a lay pastoral leader
to have that responsibility, it should also be open to deacons.

Other bishops questioned whether the provision would apply to transitional
as well as permanent deacons.

Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori of Nevada opposed the move, arguing that
deacons are ordained for service in the world. They should not have their
primary ministry centered in the parish, she said.

On a show of hands, the Herlong amendment was narrowly defeated.

The role of standing committees in recommending persons for postulancy and
candidacy was curtailed when bishops approved an amendment by Bishop John
Howe that struck language directing standing committees to make a
recommendation regarding ordination. Among those supporting the change was
Bishop Richard Shimpfky of El Camino Real who noted how his Commission on
Ministry was often very, very frustrated when the Standing Committee took
an opposite position on recommending a candidate.

When other bishops noted the change would present a conflict in other areas
of the title, Howe accepted a friendly amendment directing standing
committees to certify canonical requirements of candidates met in
accordance with sections 6 and 7 of Canon 8.

Other amendments adopted including lengthening the time period from 30 to
60 days in which a rector of vestry must notify the bishop of the selection
of an assistant priest and extending the rectors authority over parish
property and facililties to include access to all records maintained by
and on behalf of the congregation.

The resolution now goes on to the House of Deputies for concurrence. 

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