From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Convention makes important decisions on ministry other

From "Mika Larson" <>
Date Sun, 10 Aug 2003 11:45:54 -0400


August 9, 2003

Convention makes important decisions on ministry, other issues

by Richelle Thompson
Beyond issues of sexuality, the deputies and bishops at the 74th General
Convention made significant decisions that will affect ministry,
administration, social justice, and outreach programs.

Based on the idea that ministry is grounded in the baptismal covenant,
the House of Bishops and House of Deputies passed a series of changes to
Title III canons, which govern lay and ordained ministry. 

The Standing Commission on Ministry Development (SCMD) offered more
sweeping changes in its original motion, including the direct ordination
of priests. But the elimination of the transitional diaconate was struck
down in earlier debate. 

The bishops supported 12 amendments designed to streamline discernment,
candidacy, and ordination as well as to promote the importance of
ministry and formation of all baptized members. Deputies later voted
overwhelmingly to concur.

The revised Title III also expands the discrimination clause, dictating
that "no person shall be denied access to the discernment process for
any ministry." 

The measure creates a single canon for ordination to the priesthood.
While what had been known as "Canon Nine" priesthood was eliminated, in
the House of Deputies, Ministry Committee Chair Canon Anne Robbins of
Southern Ohio emphasized that "there was no attempt to get rid of
locally ordained people." Under the new Canon Eight, she said, there
remains flexibility for both locally formed and seminary-trained

Other canonical changes include the clarification that all members of
this church who have received Holy Communion at least three times during
the preceding year are considered communicants. Those communicants 16
and older are considered "adult communicants." 

In response to an effort in the House of Deputies to recommit the Title
III changes back to committee for more review, Nigel Renton of
California urged approval. "This resolution has been worked on for many
months very carefully by the Standing Commission on Ministry
Development. It has been further adjusted and improved through the
wonderful committee work," he said. "If we don't pass it just because 5
percent is not right, that will be a mistake. We will have three years
to work with it, and if there are minor glitches we can correct them at
the next convention."

Social issues

The national church will continue dialogue on racism, with the
convention reaffirming its commitment to eradicating the sin of racism.
The measure also requires the completion of anti-racism training within
a year for all people seeking election of appointment to several
standing commissions, other committees of Executive Council, related
boards, and auxiliary organizations.

Other legislation calls for the development of a program to combat
racial profiling and to push for the repeal of mandatory federal
sentencing guidelines. 

A measure to continue dialogue on the ordination of women failed. The
original resolution requested $50,000 to conduct a national conversation
on women's ordination focusing on a report by the Task Force on Women's
Ordination, which visited the three dioceses of the Episcopal Church
whose bishops do not ordain women -- Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy.

A watered-down resolution gave thanks "for the work of the Holy Spirit
within our communion through the life-giving ministry of ordained

Scientific concerns

The convention grappled with the ethics of the emerging science of
genetics. They commended the study, "A Christian Response to the New
Genetics," and called upon provinces and dioceses to encourage local
education and discussion of biomedical ethics. The convention also
acknowledged the potential benefits of genetic testing while affirming
that it is not morally acceptable to engage in reproductive cloning.

Ecumenical matters

The convention authorized continuing dialogue with the Moravian Church
in America, which could lead to full communion. It also called for
continued and strengthened dialogue between Christians and Muslims. 

The Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations is to study and present
the Reuilly Accord of 1998 signed by the French Reformed Church, the
French Lutheran Church, and the Church of England and report back to the
75th General Convention in 2006.

Both houses agreed to encourage members of the church to develop a
personal discipline of daily prayer and study, weekly corporate prayer
and the habit of tithing. The convention also passed a measure urging
congregations to adopt a method of 50/50 sharing - that half of their
time and money be directed outside of the congregation.

Ad campaign approved

In communications, the convention approved the launch of a $1.5 million
national ad campaign. It also directed the national Church Center to
prepare materials in other languages, including Spanish and French, and
to provide closed captioning for the deaf. 

The deputies and bishops approved the selection of Columbus, Ohio, for
the gathering in 2006 of the 75th General Convention.

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