A personal reflection on Day Two of the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Baltimore by the Rev. Charles Everson, Vocations Missioner, and Rector at St. Mary’s Kansas City. Fr. Charles’ is watching the convention on line from Kansas City.
Today’s is a lighter reflection as I had less time to spend watching the deliberations. I’m enjoying writing these reflections as it forces me to engage with what’s happening with church governance halfway across the country! Yesterday, I said that I’d spend more time watching the House of Deputies. I changed my mind this morning, mainly because I had less time and needed to simplify. The Bishops spent the bulk of their time today deliberating resolution A059 about constitutional matters related to common prayer, but before we get there, here a few highlights about the rest of the day:
After Morning Prayer and a few opening items, the Bishops began deliberating amended resolution A129 about racial justice which the Deputies passed yesterday (see here for my thoughts from yesterday). It’s the same as the original resolution without the word “forensic” before “audit” as that word has ominous connotations (note that the title of the resolution doesn’t change despite the removal of “forensic” from the text of the resolution itself). As I said yesterday, this is a good thing.
The Bishops then considered resolution C012 concerning Christian Zionism. The Committee recommended that the House adopt it, but Bishop Eaton of Southeast Florida moved to refer the resolution to an interim body, opining that it was perhaps too complicated to be decided by a resolution like this. Bishop Sutton of Maryland argued against the motion to refer, stating that Episcopalians in Maryland conflate ancient Israel and modern Israel. He has instructed his clergy to add a word to Eucharistic Prayer B:
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of ancient Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son.
Personally, I’ve never heard of any personal or corporate conflation in this regard, but perhaps the context is different in Maryland. In any case, the motion to refer carried.
Amended resolution B008 about the Russian war in Ukraine sparked quite the conversation. If I remember correctly, the original resolution said one thing, then was amended to make it clearer that Russia was responsible, but then the original language of the resolution was re-substituted so as to acknowledge that in war, even the victims can and sometimes do commit atrocities. The resolution carried…which is fine, but I wish the Bishops would have passed resolution D032 which condemned the Patriarch of Moscow for his promotion of the war in Ukraine. They rejected this resolution either when I wasn’t watching the livestream or as part of the consent agenda.
After a lengthy discussion, the Bishops passed resolution A127 calling for truth-telling about about The Episcopal Church’s history with indigenous boarding schools. After what was recently uncovered in Canada, we need to do this work.
A resolution entitled “Building Community to Discern and Call Episcopal Leadership in the Episcopal Church on Navajoland” (substitute resolution D080) was unanimously adopted by the Bishops. I’m not familiar with this issue, but I encourage you to click “Explanation” on that link above and read about it. This seems like a positive move to me.
The following resolutions were passed unanimously with little to no debate: A096, A095, D026, A066, A024, D073, D093. I may have missed one or two as I had several phone calls during this part of the livestream.
Resolution D087 aimed to essentially cancel the General Board of Examining Chaplains. All of the bishops who talked about it giggled as if it were a silly resolution which was awkward to watch. I get the criticism of the General Ordination Examination, but have yet to hear of a decent alternative. I am sorry to report to those in the ordination process in West Missouri that they will still have to take the GOE. Blame the bishops!
The Bishops passed resolution A003 on Uniform Family Leave. Seems like a just decision to me!
Yesterday, I mentioned that the Deputies voted to pass resolution CO47 regarding a minimum standard of pay for vocational deacons. I’ve since learned from friends on social media and from the debate that the primary impetus for this resolution was to allow deacons to participate in the Church Pension Group’s retirement options. Bishop Susan Snook of San Diego came to the microphone and said that her chancellor advised it wouldn’t be legal as it doesn’t meet California’s minimum wage requirements. Bishop Andrus of California moved that it be referred to Committee, and the motion to refer carried by voice vote (with a couple of audible dissents). In my previous role as Chief Compliance Officer of a multi-state bank, we knew that HR changes that affected employees in multiple states were full of potential land mines, so we had a national HR legal firm review such changes before we rolled them out. I’m not sure whose responsibility it was in this case (the authors of the resolution? the PB’s chancellor?), but the resolution and discussion has ramped up the hopes of many deacons.
The House of Deputies voted to elect Julia Ayala Harris as President of the House of Deputies. I have not followed this election and know nothing about the new President-elect or the other candidates, though I’ve heard good things about her from a couple of people who know her!
The Bishops considered a motion to pass resolution D076 which called for the Church to denounce crisis pregnancy centers and apologize for our previous support of them. Bishop Skirving of East Carolina spoke in opposition to the motion as he’s seen some of these centers doing good work. The motion was tabled, which (I think?) means it will be taken up again later. What resonated with me is Bishop Skirving’s comment (and I’m paraphrasing) that this resolution will accomplish nothing except for get people riled up about politics. It is certainly the shortest resolution I’ve seen so far, and it doesn’t seem to be accomplishing much!
Resolution A126 passed with little debate and no opposition. I noted my concern about this resolution yesterday here, and still am left wondering what the point of this resolution is, especially considering the $100,000 price tag and the fact that the 1979 BCP is “memorialized.” That said, both Houses are in step about the need to do this work, so we shall do it!
I was not present for the Bishops’ deliberations about resolution A125 which seeks to establish a voluntary Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice among dioceses and congregations. The motion passed and the resolution was adopted, and while I support the resolution, I have questions about the formula for the budget approved to enact it (“once the Coalition is constituted, it shall be funded with an annual draw on one-tenth of the trusts and endowment funds available for general use in the Episcopal Church’s budget”).
This wasn’t their last debate chronologically, but the Bishops spent a LOT of time on resolution A059 which proposed both constitutional and canonical changes around the definition of “The Book of Common Prayer.” This resolution has morphed more than any of the others considered by the Bishops this Convention, but the surprise was learning that Bishop Doyle of Texas had gathered a working group over night to devise floor amendment 031 as a compromise between the two competing sets of language being discussed. If they put a video clip of this portion of the deliberations on the website, I will re-watch the entire thing, maybe several times. The content of the resolution is what it is, and I’m sure others will more aptly describe it, but I’m more impressed by the way Bishop Doyle humbly handled all of this. He repeatedly translated what one bishop said so that others could understand, he respectfully schooled bishops who were being silly, he recalled what was most important about the entire issue (Jesus!)…it was a really something to behold. The language the working group developed (floor amendment 031, linked above) passed unanimously. I was especially moved by the comments made by multiple bishops (of all stripes!) about how the discussion on this resolution had been the best discussion they’ve had in this House in recent memory. It was collegial, loving, prayerful, and encouraging, and I will watch the whole thing again if I can!
I won’t be able to watch the morning deliberations because I have duties at church, but will get back to it in the afternoon!
For links to live video feeds from the convention, news, other information, and links to information sources, visit the diocesan General Convention webpage.
Disclaimer from Fr. Charles
I am watching the livestream of General Convention from Kansas City, and only when I can. I am not a deputy from this diocese. I am not a news reporter, and no one is fact-checking my comments. This is a reflection piece. It is not comprehensive as I choose to reflect on and offer commentary on the happenings at General Convention that suit my fancy. There are things I choose not to comment about that you might believe are very important. If you wish to read my thoughts, go for it. If you don’t, I won’t be offended. If you want news from reporters, click here!
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- 07-10-2022. Text added to the preamble to clarify that Fr. Charles is not in Baltimore, but observing convention remotely.