Two years ago, as we prepared for our Annual Parish Meeting, there was a buzz of excitement. The rector had been around about three years, and she and the parish finally both felt like they knew one another. More than that, they were able to work together to create a vision and mission for the parish. With renewed vigor, everyone was ready to set out in the direction of that vision. The vestry and other committees had worked hard to get the organizational structure of the church in line with the new direction and everyone was ready to unveil all their hard work at the meeting so that the year could begin on the right foot.

Everything went according to plan in the beginning. The meeting was called to order, quorum was declared, and we began the body of the meeting. However, when it came to the report of the budget, a parishioner stood up during discussion and proposed staffing amendments to the church office. A new welcome minister was needed, they said, and a second children’s minister. Oh, and don’t forget that part-time policy worker who can help influence city legislation. Somewhere between an argument for donuts for Sunday School and the need to support public education, the renewed vigor for mission and vision were lost. Shoulders slumped. The rector and vestry who had been so excited just hours before were swept away in a haze of uncertainty and restlessness.

…anyone else’s heart skip a few beats while reading that? Does it, perhaps, sound familiar? Let me put your heart at ease. This didn’t actually happen…well, not yet, anyway. But it might. At the very least, it raises some significant questions for us at this gathering of The General Convention of the Episcopal Church. No less than 8 staff positions have been proposed through resolutions coming to GC79. You can find them here: A005, A013, A022, A031,[1] C041, C047, D010, and D022. They are all admirable requests, ranging from someone at the national office to oversee church planting networks, to reinstating the Women’s Desk, to an Indigenous Theological Education Coordinator. They cover a vast expanse of the Church and the Church’s interests and ministries. Every single one of these staff positions could have a lasting impact on the Church.

But, are we the vestry, or are we the parish? Should staffing suggestions at the national level come from the floor of General Convention? We have structures in place to govern the Church from day to day just like a church office and vestry might govern a parish. We have a leader who has helped clarify our mission and a staff going about the work of bringing that mission to the forefront of our church. This kind of event can set an unhelpful precedent for the future of the Church. If One Person, One Vote comes to fruition, the need for the staff position at the Washington Office as mandated by resolution C047 goes away, and yet we have a resolution which states the need for that position. Does it then take an act of General Convention to dissolve that position? Who knows where this kind of action leads 2, 5, or even 15 years from now.

So, who gets to decide which staff are necessary to that work? Do the proposed staff positions further the work of being a loving, liberating, life-giving people? Do they fit into evangelism, racial reconciliation and justice, or creation care? They’re hard questions to ask to be certain, but I think they are necessary ones. And perhaps the hardest one of all is, where will the money come from? According to PB&F, perhaps three of these positions are included in the draft budget. With all the other resolutions on the floor that come with price tags, we’re looking at a brewing turf war. Hard questions must be asked.  Are these good ideas? Are they absolutely imperative to the mission of God in the Church as we have received them? That’s the only way forward, both for funding and for the integrity and renewal of our Church.

[1] The caveat to this metaphor is that Executive Council has proposed this particular staffing request, which acts as the equivalent to the vestry in a parish setting.

 

Posted by Eileen O'Brien