01 Dec Advent greetings and an update to our Constitution & Canons
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Upper Midwest Diocese,
Please watch my two-minute video greeting here before reading my letter below.
A Top Priority
One of my top priorities since my return to active ministry has been working on improving our diocesan governance structures. When our Diocese was formed in 2013, the Constitution and Canons that we drafted alongside the American Anglican Council provided us with a foundation to facilitate our mission of revival in the Upper Midwest. Today the Diocese comprises 22 churches, 12 of which didn’t exist then. As we have grown in the past nine years and faced recent challenges, it has become clear to our diocesan leaders that an update of our Constitution and Canons is needed.
Constitution and Canons are governing documents that operate as a kind of lived out theology of the Church. As the Church pursues her mission to seek and save the lost, these documents provide the needed structure for her life and her missionary endeavors. The Constitution provides a broad framework, while the Canons specify essential details.
I am so grateful that our Bishop’s Council initiated a review of our Constitution and Canons last year. They engaged the expertise of a trusted canon lawyer, Canon Phil Ashey, and his associates at the American Anglican Council. Since my return, I have assembled a task force including former Acting Chancellor Todd Johnson, supervisory Bishop Martyn Minns, and Canon Brenda Dumper. This task force is working closely with Canon Ashey, his associates, and the Bishop’s Council.
Overview of Revisions
These two goals are guiding the current work of revising our Constitution and Canons: 1) increasing the number and involvement of our lay leadership roles, including elected positions, and 2) creating increased accountability.
The revised Constitution will facilitate both these goals via a proposed tri-part governing body. A Standing Committee will function as the legislative branch, taking over the oversight functions of the Bishop’s Council, including providing leadership in the absence of a bishop. A Diocesan Council will assume the primarily executive functions of the Bishop’s Council, including budgets and reports. And an Ecclesiastical Trial Court will provide judicial guidance and accountability. Lay representatives will be key to all three leadership entities. I am enthusiastic about how these developments will help equip us for the next season of Gospel ministry.
Additionally, the Diocese has already implemented a change in pastoral oversight. The Upper Midwest was originally established with four active deaneries, three geographic areas–Chicagoland/Kansas City, Wisconsin, Minnesota–and the Greenhouse Deanery. The Greenhouse Deanery is distinct from the Greenhouse Movement, an independent, national 501(c)3 organization. The Dean represents each deanery in diocesan matters.
This summer the Bishop’s Council unanimously voted to transfer pastoral oversight of the Greenhouse Deanery’s clergy and congregations to the Dean overseeing their relevant geographic areas, which took effect July 31. Clergy, leaders, and congregations formerly in the Greenhouse Deanery were moved to either the Wisconsin/Iowa Deanery under Acting Dean Fr. John Mackett or to the Chicagoland/Kansas City Deanery under Acting Dean Fr. Michael Flowers. (You can view a full list of our diocesan churches here).
Next Step: Diocesan assembly
The next step of this revision will occur when the Diocesan Assembly gathers to vote on the revised Constitution. The proposed Constitution does not include the Greenhouse as a deanery within our Diocese.
Our Diocesan Assembly will take place on Saturday, December 17, 10am to 3pm at the Cathedral—Church of the Resurrection, in Wheaton, IL. The main goal of this assembly is to review and vote on the Constitution. Two lay delegates from each parish will attend and vote on the draft amendments. Delegates will receive all proposed amendments ahead of time and have an opportunity to send questions and gain clarification prior to the Assembly. All active clergy in our diocese will also attend as delegates.
A second assembly is scheduled for May 20, 2023, for the required second vote to ratify the Constitution formally. The revised Canons will receive a first and only vote at that time.
To be clear, this December’s Assembly is different from our annual Revive Conference, which will be held again in 2023. Previous Diocesan Assemblies have been held on the Saturday of Revive.
You are warmly invited to attend the Assembly as a non-voting observer. I will send an update after the Assembly concludes describing the results of the vote in greater detail.
I am excited for this opportunity to strengthen our foundations for ministry. Please pray for our delegates and the task force as they carry out this crucial work to support the ongoing growth of our Diocese.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Stewart Ruch III