The most lasting impact of the 76th General Convention is likely to be an increase of initiative and energy in local congregations and dioceses. The sharp budget cuts in the three-year budget of the General Church will have a painful impact on some faithful staff members, but will shift the focus for mission to the local church, rather than the local church waiting for initiatives from the General Church.
The emphasis on local ministry is a proper expression of the principle of subsidiarity, whereby mission should occur at the level closest to the people who are called to engage in that mission.
Local mission is also enhanced by resolutions which the secular press has incorrectly interpreted as necessarily damaging our worldwide relationship and as following the agenda of a gay and lesbian lobby. Instead, what the Convention did is to reaffirm that the ordination process is under the control of local bishops and dioceses, while stressing that access to that process is open to all baptized persons.
The Convention also invited local churches and dioceses (as well as churches elsewhere in the Communion) to collect liturgical and theological resources regarding same-gender blessings. Recognizing the unique pastoral needs of those dioceses in jurisdictions where same-gender marriage or civil partnerships are legal, the Convention affirmed that a generous pastoral response is needed.
The emphasis on the local did not deter the Convention from adopting both a denominational health plan for the whole Church and a mandatory lay employee pension plan, both of which, in the long run, will strengthen the local church.
–(The Rt. Rev.) Peter James Lee is Bishop of Virginia