Posts Tagged ‘General Convention’

Rebranding Jesus

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

The recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church enthusiastically endorsed the Presiding Bishop’s priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation, and care for the earth.

While these priorities are uncontroversial, they are very different. Dealing with racism and the environment will take years of effort and are social issues for non-Christians as well as Christians. Evangelism, on the other hand, is a pressing need specifically for Episcopalians whose ranks have been declining for decades. And if our evangelism isn’t successful, there won’t be any church to care for the environment or work for racial harmony.

Episcopalians have always found it easier to start a social program than to convince people to join their church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is pushing the idea that we are members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. Whether that rebranding will help us to add to our rolls remains to be seen. —J. Douglas Ousley

Top Heavy

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Apparently it was a priority, since it was one of the first resolutions passed. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church (#GC79) meeting last week in Austin, Texas, agreed to pay the President of the House of Deputies for her work for the church. One estimate was a total cost to the church (in addition to money already being spent for staff and travel) of $300,000 a year.

The fact that she, like all other Presidents, had been working for free–the additional fact that the church was searching for money to plant churches and staunch its precipitous decline–the additional fact that the church already has a charismatic leader, the Presiding Bishop: all these facts were not enough to counter the “justice” argument that the chief representative of the priests and laypeople should get paid.

No doubt, there is much to be said for this move. But it seems to send a poor message to the church–especially to give the humble servant a $200K+ salary while churches are closing and many priests can’t be paid a full-time minimum stipend. —J. Douglas Ousley

Near-Terminal Decline?

Monday, June 11th, 2018

In a recent interview, New York Times’ columnist Ross Douthat discussed liberalizing trends in the Roman Catholic Church. (A Catholic himself, Douthat has just published a book on Pope Francis.)

Douthat remarked that, “…a big part of the case for liberalization…is historicist; we’re constantly being told that these changes are what the Holy Spirit wants now, what this age demands, what the signs of the times are pointing toward. And so long as that rhetorical argument is being deployed, it seems pretty reasonable to ask, if this is all the will of the Holy Spirit, etc., why an all but fully liberalized body such as the Episcopal Church isn’t showing all the fruits of the Spirit right now and instead appears to be in near-terminal decline.”

Now I don’t agree that our church is in near-terminal decline. But I would agree that it has been declining in membership for decades, even though it has many gifted clergy and laypeople, and it continues to draw numerous adult converts from diverse backgrounds. The church also faces headwinds that are hard to resist, such as a very low birthrate.

That said, is it too much to ask that the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church make evangelism and church-planting priorities in its work and in its budgetary decisions? —J. Douglas Ousley

GC 2018–Does Anyone Care?

Monday, March 12th, 2018

At a clergy luncheon today, I asked my colleagues what the issues were for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church that is having its triennial meeting this summer. My question was met with blank stares and a quick change of the topic.

Given the vast amounts of money spent on air fares, hotels, and meals for the Convention (16 delegates and alternates plus three bishops and staff just from the Diocese of New York alone), one would hope that the meeting would consider topics of importance to the Church. There will be some debate about liturgical revision, I know, and I’m sure there will be many political resolutions.

But it will be interesting to see if anything substantive is done to try to address the continuing decline in membership in the Church (and the resulting diminution in income and closing of churches.)

Outreach usually means service in our church. That’s to the good. But a shot of evangelism would be timely as well. —J. Douglas Ousley

Same Old

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Never has a modern General Convention of the Episcopal Church attracted so little media attention.

Other than the election by the bishops of a new Presiding Bishop (the “first black…”), some procedural and organizational changes, special funds to black social activist groups, and the usual medley of resolutions for global peace and justice, it’s not clear what was accomplished. Thousands of people, millions of dollars, and a gigantic carbon footprint: let’s hope there will be peace and justice in the church for the next three years. And maybe some new members. —J. Douglas Ousley

For Once, I Was Right

Monday, June 29th, 2015

I have an almost perfect talent for mis-predicting the outcomes of elections.

But I got last Saturday’s election right. In fact, I predicted a year ago that Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina would be a strong candidate for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. At the beginning of this year’s General Convention in Salt Lake City, the House of Bishops chose him to be our next PB.

The election was surprisingly lop-sided, indicating that our bishops recognize the need for a powerful preacher and charismatic personality at the helm. One person can’t do everything. But we can at least put our best bishop to the front of the line. Deo gratias. —J. Douglas Ousley

Not Breaking News

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church begins this week in sunny Salt Lake City. The Convention is always held in the summer and always in cities that are cheap to visit in summer months; a few years ago, the convention was in very sunny Phoenix.

The main interest seems to be the election of a new Presiding Bishop. I’ve already given my opinion on that in a previous blog. Some bishops are predicting that my first choice of a year ago, Michael Curry of North Carolina, will be elected on the first ballot.

What is equally interesting is how there is no other main interest! The world’s largest democratic body, meeting for almost two weeks at vast expense, seems to have nothing much to decide.

That’s especially disheartening when every recent year’s statistics register declines in membership and attendance at American Episcopal churches. May God save his church. —J. Douglas Ousley

More Candidates

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Last Friday, the Episcopal Church web site announced the official nominees for the upcoming election of the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

I will have more to say about this election in due course. As I have previously observed, the Episcopal Church identity or “brand” has become more confused during the reign of the current Presiding Bishop. It isn’t currently clear who of the four nominees is most liberal or conservative–not to mention, most competent. It is clear which one is a person of color and therefore would be the first non-white elected to lead the Episcopal Church. That Bishop Michael Curry is an engaging and charismatic pastor and preacher can only help his candidacy.

There are no women on the list and thus the rumor has already started that the current PB has changed her mind about not running for a second term and will have herself nominated from the floor. One may hope and pray that after eight years of decline, the bishops of our church will choose a new leader. Like the other presidential campaign of 2015, this one promises to be difficult and highly contested. —J. Douglas Ousley


Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

A large task force of Episcopal Church leaders has prepared a massive proposal of church restructuring that will be considered by the General Convention this summer. The House of Bishops is now getting ready to elect a new Presiding Bishop, who will serve for nine years.

The winds of change are blowing, which is just as well, since membership in the Episcopal Church declines every year, and dioceses pay less and less of the money they owe to the national church (about one-fifth of assessments aren’t paid.) Unfortunately, restructuring is can be a great substitute for the kind of change that actually increases membership and builds up the church.

Politicking to elect a new leader provides an excuse to avoid the harder work of deciding what a leader ought to say and do. Changing the structure of the church doesn’t necessarily help it define membership. People will be more likely to join us if they know what we stand for. —J. Douglas Ousley

Papabili–Cast Your Vote Here

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Do you have a pick for the new Bishop of Rome? If you’re not a cardinal, you can still vote. Just comment on this post.

You can either vote for someone you think will win–or for someone you want to win.

My own guess of who will win would be Cardinal Scola of Milan. —J. Douglas Ousley