Some Major Issues Before Convention

Diocesan Press Service. June 5, 1967 [55-3]

Among the major issues to confront deputies to the 62nd General Convention in Seattle, Sept. 17 - 27 will be the revision of church structures, ecumenical relations and Prayer Book revision.

The structures of the Episcopal Church - the General Convention, the office of the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, the Province and the diocese - have received attention from a number of commissions. As has already been reported, the Mutual Responsibility Commission has a number of far-reaching structural changes to propose to Convention. The Joint Commission on Structure of the General Convention and Provinces has, likewise, made a number of recommendations in this area. As the commission report states "Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that one cannot consider the structure of the General Convention or Provinces, making suggestions for their improvement, apart from the total structure of the Church".

Among other recommendations, the Commission has proposed a plan of proportional representation for the House of Deputies, with the number of deputies from a diocese depending on the number of communicants. The formula proposed would have the added advantage of reducing the size of the House from the present 678 to 482 thus reducing the cost of Convention and, hopefully, increasing its working efficiency. Such a reduction would also make it easier to hold more frequent Conventions, as has been proposed from several quarters. Proposals have also been advanced by the Commission for the seating of women in Convention, and for a change in the voting in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. Within the House of Bishops each member would have one vote on all matters concerning doctrine, discipline and worship, but in all other matters vote would be by jurisdiction, with each jurisdiction having one vote.

It has recommended that all domestic jurisdictions be considered dioceses, and that overseas jurisdictions be denominated missionary dioceses. Such missionary dioceses would, according to strategy recommended by the Overseas Department and overseas bishops, in due time become associated dioceses and, then, ultimately, parts of an autocephalous Church of the Anglican Communion.

A permanent staff person for convention sites, arrangements, etc. was also recommended.

As a result of action taken at the last General Convention, a study looking toward a more realistic alignment of dioceses, with a view to safeguarding the essential pastoral functions of the episcopate, as well as realistically appraising sound regional interests and centers was undertaken by a Special Committee of the Executive Council on Diocesan Boundaries with the aid of the Council's General Division of Research and Field Study. Out of this study comes a series of criteria for a viable diocese which the Convention will be asked to adopt and commend for use within the Episcopal Church. The Committee will also ask the General Convention to accept the concept of the metropolitan council. Such a council would provide a way in which several jurisdictions could minister jointly to an urban area which crosses diocesan lines.

The Joint Commission on Ecumenical Relations has asked the General Convention to commend the document, Principles of Church Union, and to make it a subject of study in each diocese. The Commission will also ask Convention to authorize participation in the drafting of a plan of union by the Consultation on Church Union. Finally the Commission has asked that it be established as a standing commission of the Convention.

The Standing Liturgical Commission has proposed to General Convention that it be appointed as the agency to revise the Book of Common Prayer, that it be given an allowance for consultants and for a coordinator. It has also asked that Convention authorize the trial use of the Liturgy of the Lord's Supper for three years and continue the trial use of the Calendar and the Collects, Epistles and Gospels for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, with amendments based on reports received. During a period of trial use a provision is made for adequate reporting and evaluation. The Commission has also asked that the Convention authorize the use of the Jerusalem Bible for Morning and Evening Prayer and the trial use of any of the translations now permitted for Morning and Evening Prayer for the Epistle and Gospel. Finally, the Commission is asking for sufficient authority and budget to carry out a needed translation of the Prayer Book into simple English.

The Joint Commission on the Church in Human Affairs will bring before the General Convention a series of resolutions concerning the Christian understanding of human sexuality. It is asking Convention of affirm that sex is of the nature of life and good, and to state that the civil law is not the proper repository for the church's teaching in this area. It has asked Convention to initiate the study of such issues as birth control, contraception, and homosexuality, with a view toward the creation of an educational program in these areas. Finally, in view of the increasing gap between the population and available food supply, the Commission has asked Convention to support efforts of population control in the United States and elsewhere and to make available to food-short nations, substantial quantities of food through an international pool. In another area, the Commission has called for a study of the issues raised by modern medical technology.

The 62nd General Convention must act upon several constitutional amendments which were proposed by the last General Convention. These include an alternate designation of the Church, as "The Episcopal Church" in addition to "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America" provision for the election of a successor to a Presiding Bishop who resigns, becomes disabled, or dies between General Conventions to serve until retirement not merely to the next Convention; provision to make it possible for a bishop, diocesan or coadjutor, to be elected bishop of another diocese providing that he has served no less than 5 years in his present jurisdiction and that he resign his present jurisdiction and, if a bishop coadjutor, his right of succession; provision for the ceding of territory of one diocese to another, a change in Article IX of the Constitution which would restrict the right to pronounce a sentence of suspension, or removal or deposition from the Ministry, on any bishop, priest or deacon to bishops. A like limitation would be placed on the power to admonish. Finally, a sentence of suspension must specify on what terms or conditions and at what time the suspension shall cease.