Resolution B008, which calls on Episcopalians to start all meetings in 2013 by asking how that meeting affects or involves people living in poverty, is still under consideration by Social and Urban Affairs. The editorial in the July 6 print edition incorrectly stated that the resolution had “emerged unscathed” from that committee. We believe the question at the heart of B008 would encourage us to be more intentional about mission.
What if every meeting, whether at the parish, diocesan or church-wide level, and no matter what the purpose, began with this agenda item: “How will what we are doing here affect or involve people living in poverty?”
That’s the proposal for 2013 you’ll find in Resolution B008, submitted by the Rt. Rev. J. Michael Garrison, assisting bishop, Southwest Florida, and endorsed by the board of directors (on which Bishop Garrison serves) and staff of the Association for Episcopal Deacons.
B008 will be considered by the Committee on Social and Urban Affairs. As it proceeds through the process, a few eyes will undoubtedly roll. A reference or two to naivete will emerge. After all, one well-meaning resolution won’t necessarily change the way we go about our routine business. It’s hard to imagine a parish task force on Sunday-morning parking spending time with a question about poverty as the first order of business.
But the proposal backed by the deacons should not be lightly brushed off. It goes to the heart of who we are as Christians. It addresses, quite literally, the priorities of our community of faith. It tests us on the question of how forcefully we are following Jesus’ call to help “the least of these.” It encourages us to be intentional about mission. Already the Dioceses of Indianapolis and Atlanta have adopted proposals similar to B008.
Economic justice is a pervasive theme at this General Convention. From guidelines for tipping hotel room attendants to a recommitment to the Millennium Development Goals, our Church is applying its spiritual principles to the dollars and cents of how resources are distributed and shared.
Indeed, mission has been the high ground claimed by competing proposals for the triennial budget. But for all our talk about the importance of mission, it may take something like B008 to bring this issue of mission home to our everyday lives.
Should we follow the guidance of this proposal, how often will we be able to come up with a satisfactory answer to the question at its heart? If the answer is, “only when we’re meeting as an outreach commission,” then we’re falling far short of our job description as Christians.
Vocational deacons are enjoying a renaissance in many parts of our Church. The Diocese of Virginia began ordaining such deacons in 2011 for the first time in its history. Perhaps it’s the diaconate that will help our Church raise the issue of economic justice to the level it deserves. After all, deacons focus on connecting the church to the broader community, especially the needy and poor.
B008 raises issues not only about the poor, but also about us: When we conduct our church business, is poverty a priority or an afterthought? That’s a question that’s potentially uncomfortable, which is why it’s so important.