Executive Council adopts series of statements, condemns Hamas attack, laments deaths in Gaza

By David Paulsen
Posted Oct 27, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] Executive Council, on the final day of its Oct. 24-27 online meeting, approved a statement on the conflict in the Middle East that condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre of 1,400 Israelis while also lamenting the thousands of Palestinians killed since then by Israeli airstrikes targeting Hamas in Gaza.

Ahli hospital damage

Palestinians on Oct. 18 inspect the destruction following the rocket blast at the Ahli Arab Hospital. The blast occurred in a parking lot and courtyard but appeared to have caused only minor damage to part of the medical complex. Photo: Associated Press

The resolution also acknowledged “the suffering from the lack of electricity, food and safe water and all of the violence that has occurred across Israel and Palestine” this month. Israel has declared war on Hamas, an armed militant group, and deployed soldiers to the border for a possible ground attack in Gaza, the Palestinian territory that is controlled by Hamas.

Executive Council, The Episcopal Church’s governing body between meetings of General Convention, approved several other resolutions responding to current events, including a statement on Azerbaijan’s aggression toward a disputed region of Armenia. Another resolution called for Episcopal advocacy in support of strengthening states’ hate crimes laws after an Episcopal church in Arizona was destroyed by fire and a suspect was charged with arson as a hate crime.

And while an Episcopal delegation prepares to attend the United Nations climate conference in November and December in Dubai, Executive Council voted to voice the church’s support for a related initiative known as the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Executive Council also voted to follow up on a resolution passed in 2022 by the 80th General Convention seeking to determine The Episcopal Church’s past complicity in the era of forced adoptions from World War II to the early 1970s. That research initially fell to a small group of volunteers who had been affected by the issue, both mothers and adoptees.

The new resolution approved Oct. 27 will establish a committee of Executive Council to take a more formal approach to confronting that history while gathering information on the “involvement of some dioceses with agencies that counselled pregnant women in some cases to place their infants for adoption through improper means.”

The committee, lasting through at least 2027, will be asked to develop “story sharing opportunities” for those affected by forced adoption and to pursue models for reconciliation. In addition, “Executive Council urges dioceses to examine their history and archives for their affiliation and support of these maternal and adoption homes during the forced adoption era.”

All resolutions passed by Executive Council at its meeting this week can be found online here.

This meeting of Executive Council was to convene in person in Panama City, Panama, but it was moved online to accommodate Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who is recovering from a Sept. 20 surgery to remove an adrenal gland and non-cancerous attached mass. Curry also was unable to attend Executive Council’s last in-person meeting, in June 2023, while he was being treated for episodes of internal bleeding.

Curry returned on Oct. 25 to chair the first plenary session of this week’s meeting. He thanked council members and the rest of the church for their prayers for his health. The rest of the meeting was chaired on Curry’s behalf by House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris.

Executive Council’s other 38 voting members are a mix of bishops, other clergy and lay leaders. Twenty are elected by General Convention to staggered six-year terms – or 10 new members every three years. The Episcopal Church’s nine provinces elect the other 18 to six-year terms, also staggered. Meetings typically are held three times a year.

Also this week, the Joint Budget Committee presented the latest draft of its 2025-27 budget proposal as The Episcopal Church looks ahead to the 81st General Convention, to be held in June 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. Executive Council is expected to vote on the three-year spending plan at its next meeting, in January, which also will be held in Louisville.

On Oct. 27, Curry concluded Executive Council’s online meeting in prayer, with a particular focus on the mass shooting two days earlier in Maine, in which 18 people were killed and 13 injured. Police are still searching for gunman, prompting lockdowns across several communities and affecting at least one Episcopal church.

“I would bid your prayers for the people of Lewiston and Maine and other communities that have been affected by this shooting,” Curry said.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.