Friday, September 01, 2006

The Church Faces a Foreign Policy Challenge

Thanks to Lionel Deimel and Christopher Wells for this excellent reflection on lessons learned from General Convention 2006.

The Church Faces a Foreign Policy Challenge

Because it differed from typical legislative business, responding to the Anglican Communion posed a challenge to the 75th General Convention. Typical business is conducted without much explicit concern for a wider communion of churches, but in June the General Convention found itself engaged in the ecclesiastical equivalent of conducting foreign policy. The interactive character of this activity usually makes it an executive responsibility.

In the United States, for example, the State Department and the Office of the President, not the Congress, manage foreign affairs. This arrangement puts diplomatic expertise at the disposal of those who must act expeditiously, consistent with expressed legislative and electoral preferences. Despite similarities between American and Episcopal Church polity, however, the Presiding Bishop is not our president, and neither the House of Bishops nor the Executive Council is our State Department. The Episcopal Church conducts much of its “foreign policy” legislatively.

Ideally, to respond to a foreign policy challenge, a government develops a consensus regarding the status quo and articulates long- and short-term objectives. Analysts devise possible responses, consistent with resources and constraints, and evaluate their advantages and disadvantages. Decision makers then choose the plan seen as most likely to advance the nation’s goals, including idealistic ones such as promoting international peace and justice.

Did our church engage in an analogous intellectual—and spiritual—exercise in the run-up to and during the convention? Yes, but we could have done better, and the coherence of the process degraded as the convention wore on.

Read the rest here

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