TEC wars claim another casualty

 

TEC wars claim another casualty

Author: 

George Conger

The Episcopal Church’s political wars have claimed their highest profile casualty.  The President of the House of Deputies has announced that she will not seek reelection at this summer’s General Convention in Indianapolis.
In a statement released on 23 May 2012, President Bonnie Anderson said that after serving as president of the House of Deputies – one of the two co-leaders of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church – since 2006, she wanted to “to spend more time with my family.”
While Mrs. Anderson’s decision to step down has been couched in personal terms – many church watchers see her exit as the end move in the political battle between the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.  Declining income and membership, a bloated bureaucracy and committee structure and a clash of ecclesiological visions has prompted bitter in-fighting in the higher echelons of the church.
“My husband, Glen, is retired. I want to be with him more. Our amazing son, Justin, lives with us and reminds us every single day, by his very existence, that God is a generous miracle maker. I want to celebrate Justin’s life by being with him every day. I want to bake cakes with my grandchildren and go to all their band concerts, soccer games and school plays. I want to have leisurely phone conversations with my daughters. You get the picture,” she wrote.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she was “grateful for the service Bonnie Anderson has given to the Episcopal Church over many, many years.”
“She has been tireless in her advocacy for lay persons in the life and governance of this Church — a distinctive part of our identity. I understand something of the personal cost of her ministry, and pray that her retirement from this office will be a source of deep blessing for her and her family.  Well done, good and faithful servant,” the presiding bishop said on 23 May 2012.
An eight term deputy from the Diocese of Michigan, President Anderson’s decision to step down came as a surprise to many church watchers – but also comes in the wake of a series of battles over the polity and governance of the Episcopal Church.
While sharing many of the social and theological views of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, President Anderson has clashed publicly with the Presiding Bishop’s clericalization of the church – objecting to the centralization of power in the office of the presiding bishop.
The struggle between the competing visions of the church made a rare showing last January in a clash of budget priorities between the Presiding Bishop and President Anderson.
Meeting in Linthicum Heights, Maryland from the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church received a proposed budget from the presiding bishop and her Chief Operating Officer, the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls.  The presiding bishop’s budget asked that diocese’s contribute 19 per cent of their income to the national church, and projected a $5.9 million cut in income over the coming three year.  The cut in income projected income would be coupled with a matching cut in expenses.
President Anderson’s budget called for a 15 per cent contribution from the dioceses and forecaste a $19.3 million reduction in income and a matching cut in expenses – including personnel cuts at the national church offices in New York.
After three days of meetings, the Executive Council adopted a budget, but declined to state which budget it adopted, noting only that it had passed the information on to the church’s Program, Budget and Finance Committee for further action.
The following week President Anderson wrote in an email to the Deputies of General Convention that she had “received word from the General Convention Office that the Presiding Bishop, via the Office of Communications, had directed that office to forward a video message from the Presiding Bishop to all deputies. I had neither seen the video nor been consulted about it and so I told the General Convention Office to hold it.”
“In my nearly 25 years as a deputy” President Anderson said on 29 January she did not “ever recall” a presiding bishop “corresponding directly with deputies outside of the General Convention, without the knowledge of, or in collaboration with the President.”
She noted that she had spoken to the presiding bishop and expressed her disappointment “about what’s happened in the last few days and asked that we proceed toward General Convention with collegiality and a cooperative spirit even—especially—when we disagree. I also told her that I am concerned about the use of church wide resources to lobby General Convention on only one side of a legislative issue.”
President Anderson remains in office until the close of this year’s General Convention on 12 July 2012.