We Dream of a Diocese – Final Report

In February of 2012, the 41st Annual Convention of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast (CGC) passed, albeit begrudgingly, a resolution encouraging the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church to create a Task Force charged with restructuring the Church.  This resolution was combined with scores of others to create what became known as Resolution C095, “Structural Reform,” and passed unanimously in both houses.  That group, now known as the Task Force for Re-imaging The Episcopal Church, continues its work (you can read about their most recent meeting here).

Following on the heels of C095, the 42nd Annual Convention of the CGC was invited to pass a similar resolution committing, as a Diocese, “to a season of reform, restructure, and reawakening,” which it did, again, unanimously.  For the past eight months, I have had the pleasure to serve on the committee with some amazing people who have a heart for the Gospel and for the Church.  We’ve listened for the Spirit, to each other, to our shared history, and to the Church in seeking to present a plan to help the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast more fully live into its mission of “sharing Christ crucified and God’s reconciling love through effective ministry, leadership, stewardship and communication.”

As of this morning’s edition of The Coastline, our Diocesan E-Newsletter, our final has been made public.  While the broader Church will find nothing in it that is earth shattering, the structural changes proposed by our group are significant changes for a Diocese that is barely into its fifth decade of existence.  Below you will find the Executive Summary of our work, which is well and good, but the meat of our material and our rationale behind the recommendations are in the first five pages of our full report, which can be downloaded from the Diocesan Website.

I bid your prayers over the next three months as we prepare for the 43rd Annual Convention.  These recommendations will bring about both excitement and anxiety, joy and struggle, and as a Diocese in the early stages of a search for our next Bishop, it is our hope that our work will not bring about divisiveness, but help us come together around some common goals, a shared vision, and a desire to once again be The Episcopal Church in the Central Gulf Coast.

Executive Summary of Action Items for the 43rd Annual Convention The Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

We Dream of a DioceseThe recommendations from the Committee are based on feedback received from our Diocesan Survey as well as historical study and conversation across the wider Church and can be grouped in two general categories. Category I includes recommendations requiring Canonical changes. Category II contains those recommendations that suggest changes to existing Diocesan policies. In addition to a full summary of our work and the rationale for the items themselves, the full report includes a complete red line edition of the Canons to facilitate a thorough review.

I. Diocesan Constitution and Canons
1. Establishment of five Regions in the Diocese for the purposes of mutual ministry support, fellowship, voting representation, and increased opportunities for participation in governance. Each Region will be led by a Regional Convener, appointed by the Bishop for a three-year term.
2. Establishment of a Diocesan Council to oversee ministry, program, and budgetary planning, to serve as the legislative arbiter of the will of Annual Convention when that body is not in session, and provide direction to the various agencies, departments, and commissions.
3. Define the duties of the Standing Committee in accordance with those set forth in the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and realign other Diocesan agencies, departments, and commissions accordingly.
4. Clarify the use of electronic voting (telephone, internet, etc.).
5. Clarify the eligibility of retired or disabled clergy to serve as General Convention Deputies.
6. Provide, where possible, for parishes to have one additional Annual Convention delegate, provided the delegate is 16-25 years old.

II. Diocesan Policies
1. The recognition of the existing Best Practices for business affairs as prescribed by The Episcopal Church and the application at all levels of the Diocese, including the recommendation for the development of a similar protocol for human resources.
2. A recommendation assigning priorities in the ordination process and the subsequent deployment of ordinands from this Diocese.
3. Recommendations for a mutual ministry review and compensation guidelines for the Episcopacy and subsequent recommendations for all clergy.
4. Recommendations regarding the regularization of Vocational Deacons within the Province. Recommendations pertaining to the opportunities available to all such Deacons to obtain pension and health insurance benefits.
5. A proposal to expand Annual Convention voting rights to non-canonically resident clergy serving congregations in this Diocese.
6. A request to the Finance Commission to recommend the establishment of an Annual Reserve.
7. A recommendation that the appropriate Diocesan entities construct a process to encourage all congregations to achieve parish status.
8. The recognition of the need for a formal planning and evaluation mechanism as currently described in the Five Year Plan but suggesting a Three Year model as more practical,
9. A recommendation that the Diocese review the frequency and character of the Annual Convention.