In 1996, members of the Executive Council and Church Center staff visited dioceses around the country. As indicated by those visits, improving communication was identified as a priority for the church. In response, the 1997 General Convention called for development of a communication strategy in Resolution B-015a. Based on discussion with The Episcopal Communicators, Church Center staff and a Membership Survey, the Communications Committee of Executive Council prepared a Communications Strategy which includes a report on what has been accomplished as well as ideas for enhancing communication. The 2000 General Convention passed two resolutions, B-029and D-050, that call for a continuation of efforts in this area. Our strategy included an Executive Council home page, with agendas, reports and contacts, to facilitate the discussion of ministry and a review of the Diocesan Communicator position to illustrate the importance of this ministry. In 2003, General Convention passed Resolution D-069 establishing a Standing Commission for Communication that can now oversee the development of Communication Ministry between conventions. For those with limited resources, we used the Communication Resources page to identify free services providing e-mail lists, message boards, web pages and other helpful online resources.
Online Resources for Families
At its April 2000 meeting, Executive Council passed a resolution calling for the identification of resources that could be used to provide education and guidance to parents regarding the harmful effects of Public Media. Media & the Family and the Entertainment Software Rating Board are a couple of web sites we identified that provide information about media products. There are many other resources on the Internet that provide information and services that can benefit parents of children from birth to college. I have provided the Family Health & Education and the Family Spiritual Growth web pages to list of some helpful sites I am familiar with and would appreciate any suggestions for additional resources that could be shared with the membership.
Sharing Ministry Resources
As a result of Diocesan Visitations in 1996, a directory of Exciting Ministries was published listing many of the ministries witnessed by Executive Council members and staff. At this time, council members and staff are continuing efforts to update the list of local ministries and provide ways that information can be accessed online. The Diocesan Outreach Ministry page provides links to several local ministry web pages already available online. We also collected and shared information on Public Media Resources used around the church by video at General Convention. To follow up on these efforts to share existing resources and expertise, we should look for additional ways to enable deputies to identify resources and share ministry information at future conventions.
One of the most important decisions of General Convention was to affirm the Provincial structure in Resolution B-005 and approve the funding of Provincial Coordinators to support communication and ministry at the regional level. This is a critical connection for sharing information, networking ideas and identifying resources. The Provincial Directory page provides links to web pages that support provincial ministry. For sharing information about Provincial activities and ministry, anyone can view messages at the Provincial Message Board and by joining the list, you can also post information. Following the example of Coalition 14, there is also the potential to use the Provincial structure to fund and support ministry at the regional and diocesan level. The development of a challenge process for the distribution of resources for ministry would allow greater accountablity, a more immediate response to needs and would facilitate a better understanding of the various ministry challenges we face. Some of the possibilities for funding ministry through Provinces were discussed by Executive Council.
As the church considers blessing relationships other than marriage, there are many sexuality issues and questions that should be addressed. The church needs to provide guidelines identifying the possible exceptions to marriage in order to promote stability and avoid creating an alternative that could be used simply to evade legal and financial commitments. In Resolution A-032 passed by the House of Deputies in 1997 and Resolution D-039 passed by both houses in 2000, General Convention took positive steps to define some of the responsibilities expected in relationships that include sexual activity, but there is more clarification needed to provide guidance and protect the vulnerable. These issues were not fully addressed in Resolution C-051 passed in 2003. Other related actions in the Aglican Communion include the 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality and the recent Primates' Statement. In an effort to explore possible answers to theological and pastoral questions, a proposed resolution for 2006, Common Ground in Areas of Human Sexuality has been drafted and your comments and suggestions are welcome.
Members of the church can take an active role in helping to identify legislation relating to issues of concern and bringing it to the attention of our public policy staff. Action alerts are released by the Episcopal Public Policy Network providing information about specific legislation where the Episcopal church has taken a position based on General Convention actions. There are additional groups such as the Episcopal Peace Fellowship that are also working to influence public policy and I welcome web site addresses and other information regarding these groups. The Episcopal Policy Network provides a Web Page of Links to the web sites of various political resources and organizations. To compliment these efforts, those who are politically active should consider identifying themselves as Episcopalians in correspondence with their representatives and also contact other Episcopalian Members of Congress regarding issues of concern.