Thursday, October 19, 2006

Diocesan Convention Preview

On Saturday, the faithful will gather at Grace Cathedral for the 157th. Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California. We will hold elections for various diocesan bodies, hear reports, adopt a budget, and debate a number of resolutions. This will be the first Convention over which Bishop Marc Andrus has presided, and his address to Convention is much anticipated.

If he is looking for some models in this regard, perhaps one of the more compelling addresses of this type was delivered by Bishop Jeffrey Steenson of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. His address was remarkable for its prayerfulness, lucidity, and charity. While I disagree with Bishop Steenson on a number of important matters, I'm much impressed by his commitment to walk in love; even if, ultimately, it means "walking apart." People like Bishop Steenson give me hope that it will not come to that.

Hopefully, our debates on Saturday will exemplify the same patience and forbearance as Bishop Steenson. We have a number of resolutions to consider, including three that implement or respond to actions of General Convention 2006:

1. a resolution dissenting from B033, which implicitly calls for a moratorium on consents to gay or lesbian bishops-elect;

2. a resolution to implement General Convention's call for a process of study and reconciliation with respect to slavery and its consequences in church and society;

3. a resolution to implement the Windsor Report's call for a Communion-wide process of listening to the voices of gay and lesbian people, a process in which the Diocese of California is uniquely qualified to participate.

We also will debate a resolution on immigration policy and one on socially responsible investment policy. The latter will be a substitute resolution that incorporates and goes beyond an earlier proposal that focused on disinvestment from companies doing business in the Sudan. Surprisingly, our diocese has operated without any policy on socially responsible investment, despite the leadership of our national church in pioneering such policies. In addition, a resolution in support of a diocesan governance review, which implements our bishop's call for greater accountability, participation and transparency in decision-making, will be presented.

I expect all the resolutions to pass, although not without substantive debate and possibly amendment. We also have contested elections in the clergy order for Standing Committee and in the election for members of the diocesan Board of Directors (BOD). This is the first time in memory that we've had a competitive election for the BOD, which is charged with the management of diocesan assets, and the first time in memory that a cleric is running for a seat on that board. I think this is illustrative of some distrust of the BOD, as that body has tended in the past to operate under the radar without much accountability.

The following is the substitute resolution on socially responsible investing:

Socially Responsible Investments

Resolved, that the 157th Convention for the Diocese of California acknowledges The Episcopal Church’s leadership among religious investors in shareholder activism and social and economic witness; and be it further

Resolved, that the diocese concurs with the Executive Council’s October 2001 resolution and adopts a policy of divestment from any company with operations in the Sudan until such time that there is peace and justice in that country and directs the Treasurer to divest from any such company currently held in the diocesan investment portfolios; and be it further

Resolved, that the Board of Directors be directed to develop and recommend investment and proxy voting policies in which direct investments are made with reference to the Executive Council’s Social Responsibility in Investments policies; and be it further

Resolved, that the Board of Directors will recommend a Socially Responsible Investment policy to the Standing Committee and Diocesan Council for adoption by the 158th Diocesan Convention.

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