The spirit of restructuring the Church took over Friday, first in the Committee on Structure and then in the House of Deputies, with both voting to make the “nimble” move of selling Church headquarters at 815 Second Avenue in New York.
Early in the morning, the Structure Committee radically cut back resolution D016, Church Center Location, chopping all mention of further studies and delays. By the time it was done, D016 was short and sweet:
Sell 815. Now.
Eight hours later, Deputies took up the resolution, debated briefly and then acted itself:
But not quite so fast.
The Rev. Gay Jennings of Ohio, chair of the Deputies committee, presented the motion.
“It was Committee 6’s considered opinion,” she said, “to sell the Episcopal Church Center and to relocate. It acknowledged there would be a short-term economic impact, but believed there would be a long-term economic impact, thereby freeing money for mission.”
Structure ordered the sale before the next General Convention.
“Furthermore,” Jennings said, “other places are more economical … especially in the central part of the United States, making headquarters more accessible to more Episcopalians.”
Deputy Byron Rushing of Massachusetts supported the order. “I want to praise the Committee on Structure for taking a strong positive stand on an issue that has been before this convention for – a long time. And has been discussed … in Executive Council for a long time. … If by any chance no one wants to buy  in the next three years, I think we can be nimble enough for Executive Council to come back and say, ‘Sorry.’ They had their chance to study it. We are giving them three years to sell it.”
The Rev. Canon Dr. Neal Michell of Dallas, a member of Structure, summed up the situation by relating what his bishop often says: “My bishop says he knows for sure that the early apostles were Episcopalians. The reason he says that is that Jesus tells them to go into all the world to preach to Gospel, and they went into the upper room for a committee meeting.
“On our committee,” he said, “it was deemed that we had studied this and studied this and studied this ad infinitum. It’s not longer business as usual. There is a spirit here to be more nimble and to not be encumbered with real estate is in that spirit.”
Michell added: “We almost ended the resolution with ‘comma, dammit.’ It is the will and understanding of this committee and, I trust, of this Convention.”
The Rev. Dr. Francis Hubbard of New Jersey said, “815 Second Avenue is the relic of our delusions of being an established Church from an imperial era. Constantine has left the building. Unfortunately, Constantine has left us the building. It is time to sell the building and be a missionary church in a missionary era. … Leave the empire to other would-be imperialists.”
In the end, Deputies chose to remove the deadline for the sale after concerns were raised that the Church would take too large of a financial loss if the building were sold too quickly in uncertain economic times.
But the order from Deputies stands:
D016 as amended now goes to Bishops.
–Lauren R. Stanley