Deputies hold spirited debate over requirements for lay leaders

Spirited debate took place in the House Deputies Thursday morning over whether to require “any person accepting any office in this Church … to have completed instruction in the history, structure and governance of this Church and in the duties and responsibilities of their office.”

            Despite the Education Committee’s recommendation to reject this canonical change, deputies still ardently argued over an amendment that was offered that would have added that those serving the Church “have made a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to their responsibilities of their baptism by any of (a) confirmation at or after age 16, (b) reaffirmation, or (c) reception.”

            What stirred the debate was the question of how much instruction and training could be required for those who volunteer for Church positions.

            Deputy Thomas O’Brien, Southeast Florida, offered the amendment because, he said, there is a “difference between membership and leadership. Membership and leadership are different. … By requiring teaching on Anglican polity, there is recognition that being a communicant is not sufficient for leadership. … It sets standards that [Church leaders] are people who have had faith formation and who also understand Anglican polity.”

            O’Brien’s amendment generated the debate.

            Deputy Jean Chapman, Maryland, said the amendment was “not only redundant to existing canons … but it also detracts from the point of A041, which is to encourage and uphold education and formation as necessities for leadership.”

            The Rev. Ruth Myers, Chicago, cited the Book of Common Prayer, which on page 412 states “the expectation of that mature affirmation of faith.” The amendment, she said, “goes beyond that expectation. We affirm our commitment to that baptism every time we say the Creed in the Daily Office or at Eucharist. … I believe that is sufficient.”

            Deputy Richard Wilson, Fond du Lac, pointed out that C041 requires the completion of instruction in the history, structure and governance of the Church. “It is not realistic,” he said, to be “calling for people to have completed instruction. … I’m still learning an awful lot.”

            The debate generated several comments on Twitter as well, including one from the Rev. Scott Gunn, Rhode Island. “Why are we asking to teach history, structure and governance of TEC, but not theology?”

            In the end, A041 failed.

           – By Lauren R. Stanley

Categories: GC2012