Every single witness who spoke at the Structure open hearing last night passionately called for the Church to change its structure and, if necessary, its governance in order to save the Church.
Salli Hartman, deputy from Washington, quoted Henry Ford to begin her statement: “Henry Ford said, if you asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse. Change is hard and it takes effort,” she said. “Let’s develop a vision … define a vision … and give a chance to get all of the stakeholders involved.”
Deputies, bishops and visitors called for the Church to be nimble, to be creative, to take chances and to dream. Most called for a special commission, echoing the proposal first put forth in the fall by the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer.
The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander of Atlanta urged the Church to “come up with something that works. … I believe, dear friends, that we have a structure designed for a different church in a different era. We have got to come up with something that meets the needs of our Church in a different age. … Tinkering with old structures simply will not do. We can’t have any idols; we can’t have any golden cows.”
The open hearing called for testimony on 61 resolutions, all related to proposals calling for restructuring. Many of the resolutions ask for a special commission or task force, and some call for a special convention to focus exclusively on restructuring.
The Rev. Canon James Pritchett Jr., Western North Carolina, was enthusiastic for a special commission. “Our people are hopeful for, our people are hungry for, our people are longing for creative, significant, adaptive change. That kind of extraordinary change will not happen in business-as-usual meetings.” Pritchett also supported C057, which calls for a constitutional convention to effect changes in the Church. “If we can effect those two things,” he said, “then we will give hope to so many Episcopalians who have begun to despair of our ability to get this done.”
The Rev. Mary Ann Hill of Oklahoma warned that “if we refuse to change, or hold on to things because of sentimentality, we might as well put on the T-shirt saying, ‘We’re squandering our children’s future now.’ But it will hurt those outside the Church,” she said. “The world needs us. If we don’t change, the world will be hurt. If we don’t change, we’ll become a footnote in church history, and that would be a tragedy.”
The Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray of Mississippi called for the “radical comprehensive reform of the Church. … I ask you to dream a bit. Imagine a General Convention that was primarily an instrument of renewal and recommitment in the Church, instead of … fear and anxiety. Imagine a General Convention that saw as its primary value renewal of the Church.”
But all this change will come with a price, many warned. “Our favorite thing is going to be on the table. It is going to be hard,” Deputy Lynn Schmissrauter of East Tennessee said. But, she added, if the Church tries something and it doesn’t work, “we’re not going to get all wadded up about it. The tomb is empty and we want to act like a church that really believes it. We want to act like we really believe in the Risen Lord.”
–Lauren R. Stanley, Penelope Davenport, John Schwartz, Eric Gregory, LeighAnna Feeser