General Convention is Coming!

How General Convention works, and some idea of what to expect from the 79th Convention of The Episcopal Church

Curtis Hamilton Ten-minute read.   Resources

Deputies and Bishops from 17 countries will soon meet in Austin, Texas for the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. The General Convention is composed of over 800 deputies from the 109 dioceses and (potentially) 300 or more active and retired bishops of the Church. They will deliberate for nine legislative days from July 5-13, with some committees meeting as early as July 3.

How General Convention Works

Below is a brief summary of how General Convention makes its decisions.

  • The General Convention is a bicameral legislative body (that is to say that it is managed by two separate bodies). The House of Deputies and the House of Bishops meet separately.
  • Resolutions for discussion may be submitted from various groups throughout the Church (certain interim bodies, Bishops, Dioceses and Provinces, and Deputies).
  • Each resolution is assigned to a committee of the Convention. In committee hearings, testimony is heard, the resolution is debated and perfected, and a recommendation from the committee is forwarded to one of the houses (house of initial action).
  • In order for the resolution to become an Act of Convention, it must be approved by both houses in the exact same language before the General Convention adjourns.

Items to Come Before the Convention

The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. As such, it takes action on numerous topics.

  • Legislation of concern to the Church — This is a broad category. It encompasses policy issues such as human trafficking, care of creation, and many more. It also includes issues in our church life such as gender equity, sexual misconduct in the church, and more.
  • Amending the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), the Constitution, and the Canons of the Church.

These above, along with Acts of Convention, describe both how the Church works and what it believes. Convention also deals with the following:

  • Adopting a triennial budget for The Episcopal Church — A budget for the Church for the next three years will be adopted. There are lots of clichés that could be used here (things about rubber and roads or treasure and heart come to mind), but this document does show what our missional priorities are for the next three years.
  • Electing candidates to offices, boards and other committees — These offices include President and Vice President of the House of Deputies, members of the Executive Committee of the Church, board of directors of the Church Pension Fund, and other groups.

In my opinion, the following are issues of high importance that will come before the General Convention. (These are in no particular order.)

  • Editing/Revising of the BCP — This includes the possibility of including liturgies for marriage for same-sex couples in the current BCP and the possible adoption of a plan for a revision of the entire BCP.
  • A proposal to provide a salary for the President of the House of Deputies.
  • Updates to the Canons regarding sexual misconduct by clergy and lay employees and leaders.

West Missouri Deputation Members

These are the members of the deputation:
Lay Delegates — Mr. Curtis Hamilton (Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City), Dr. Linda Robertson (St. John’s, Springfield), Ms. Amanda Perschall (Trinity, Lebanon), and Ms. Liz Trader (St. John’s, Springfield).

Clergy Delegates — Fr. Marshall Scott (St. Luke’s Health System, Deputation Chair), Mtr. Anne Meredith Kyle (Calvary, Sedalia), Fr. Tim Coppinger (EChO Regional Ministry), and Fr. Jonathan Frazier (St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City).

Alternate Deputies attending — Mr. Channing Horner (St. Paul’s, Maryville), Ms. Christine Morrison (Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City), Fr. Stan Runnels (St. Paul’s, Kansas City), and Mtr. Megan Castellan (canonically resident in West Missouri).

Deputies and Alternates not attending — Ms. Carole Pryor (St. Philip’s, Joplin), Mr. Grafton Cook (St. Mary’s, Fayette), Fr. David Kendrick (St. John’s, Springfield), and Fr. Jose Palma (St. Nicholas’, Noel).

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to speak with any member of the deputation. You can email me (see below) and I will be glad to forward your question or comment (with your permission) to the rest of the deputation.

Ways to Follow General Convention

There are several ways you can follow General Convention here in West Missouri.

  • The General Convention website has a veritable treasure trove of information available. This includes the “Blue Book” reports from interim bodies that give background on some of the resolutions submitted. You can also find links to documents that explain how General Convention works.
  • You can find the resolutions submitted to the General Convention at vbinder.net. This site will also give you status updates of resolutions throughout the convention.
  • There will be choice of Livestreaming channels available including daily summaries and press conferences. Many will be in both English and Spanish. Check the various websites for details.

The members of the deputation look forward to serving you and the Church as a whole in this important work. We ask for your prayers as we prepare for and attend the General Convention in July.

Curtis Hamilton is a two-time deputy to the General Convention (2015, 2018). He has attended two other General Conventions (2003, 2012) as a visitor. He also serves as Secretary of the Diocese.

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General Convention 101



The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has produced a handy pictorial guide to General Convention. Click here or follow the link provided (below) to see an online version of the guide, which you can download and print if you wish.

Convention Digest

The 128th Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri.

Curtis Hamilton Eight-minute read.   Resources

The 128th Annual Diocesan Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

The 128th Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri met at the Adams Pointe Convention Center in Blue Springs on November 3-4, 2017. Below is a digest of events that took place and official actions of the convention.

Ordinations and Reception

The 128th Annual Diocesan Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

At the Convention Eucharist, Mr. Larry Ehren (Grace and Holy Trinity, Kansas City) and Ms. Karen Mann (St. Mary Magdalene, Belton) were ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons. The Rev. Jonathan Callison (St. Paul’s, Kansas City) was received into the Sacred Order of Presbyters.

2018 Plan for Ministry

The 2018 Plan for Ministry was adopted as presented. It is balanced and calls for just less than $1.9 million in both income and expenses. The income comes from diocesan assessments (67.29% of total income), investment income (27.32%), and other sources of income (5.06%). The investment income represents a draw of 5.0% from investments.

The Plan for Ministry as presented by the Diocesan Council called for the elimination of personnel costs from the Campus Ministries budget. An amendment was presented to restore this funding, but was defeated by the Convention.

Elections and Appointments

Counting the election votes at the 128th Annual Diocesan Convention of The Diocese of West Missouri Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

The Convention elected the following persons to various governance and programmatic bodies of the diocese.

Diocesan Officers (serve until the next Diocesan Convention ends): Curtis Hamilton, Secretary (Grace and Holy Trinity, Kansas City); Caleb Cordonnier, Treasurer (St. Paul’s, Kansas City); and David Powell, Chancellor (St. Paul’s, Kansas City).

Standing Committee (two-year terms): Mary Christiano (Christ Church, Springfield); Rob Walker (St. Peter and All Saints, Kansas City); Mtr. Anne Meredith Kyle (Calvary, Sedalia); and Fr. John Spicer (St. Andrew’s, Kansas City). After the Convention, the Standing Committee elected Fr. Jonathan Frazier (St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City) as President.

Diocesan Council (two-year terms): Walter George (Church of the Redeemer, Kansas City); Jillian Merrill (Trinity, Independence); Marsha Patterson (Christ Church, Springfield); Mickey Simnitt (Christ Church, Lexington); Mtr. Laura Hughes (St. George’s, Camdenton); and Fr. Ron Verhaeghe (St. Luke’s Health System). (Note: Bishop Field is also allowed by diocesan canons to appoint two laypersons to the Diocesan Council for two-year terms. As of the time of writing these appointments have not been made.)

Board of Examining Chaplains (three-year terms): Dr. William Stancil (Church of the Redeemer, Kansas City); Dean Peter DeVeau (Grace and Holy Trinity, Kansas City); and Fr. Russell Johnson (Trinity, Independence).

Bishop Kemper School for Ministry Board of Directors (two-year terms): Pam Davis (Shepherd of the Hills, Branson) and Fr. Jonathan Frazier (St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City).

Disciplinary Board (two-year terms): Mark Galus (Grace and Holy Trinity, Kansas City) and Fr. Stan Runnels (St. Paul’s, Kansas City).

Commission on the Ministry (three-year terms unless otherwise noted): Kathy Alexander (Christ Church, Springfield); Cossette Hardwick (Christ Church, St. Joseph) (Bishop’s Appointment); Karen Horny (St. John’s, Springfield); Fr. Joe Behen (Church of the Redeemer, Kansas City); (two-year unexpired term); Mtr. Ezgi Sarabay Perkins (St. Andrew’s, Kansas City); Dcn. Beck Schubert (Hospice Chaplain); and Fr. Galen Snodgrass (Good Shepherd, Kansas City) (Bishop’s Appointment).

Adopted Resolutions

Resolution #6, submitted by the Northwest-Metro Deanery, called for a reduction of the parochial financial assessment scale for 2019 to specific targets. The convention amended the resolution to call for a reduction in “a significant and meaningful way to allow congregations to direct more financial resources to mission and ministry at the local level.”

Resolution #7, submitted by the Committee on Dispatch of Business, changed the Order of Business in the Rules of Order of the Convention in accord with a motion from last year’s Convention.

Resolution #8, submitted by Mtr. Megan Castellan (St. Paul’s, Kansas City) and Mtr. Susan McCann (Grace, Liberty), called on the Convention to “affirm our support for all immigrants and refugees in the United States, especially those persons who are DACA recipients (commonly known as Dreamers)”. It also called for media outlets and elected state and federal elected officials to be made aware of the support of the Diocese for Dreamers. A motion to amend by removing language regarding support for all immigrants and refugees in the United States was defeated.

Resolution #9, submitted by the Commission on Ministry (COM), called on the COM to research and study the feasibility of implementing a diocese-wide curacy program. Language calling for a report back to next year’s convention was added by the Resolutions Committee before they recommended the resolution’s adoption.

Approved at first reading

Resolution #3, submitted by the Standing Committee, called for a change in the number of consecutive two-year terms a member can serve from two to three. This is a change in the Constitution of the diocese and must be approved by two consecutive conventions. In order to adopt this change, next year’s convention must approve the same change in a vote by orders and the bishop must assent to this change. Implementing changes to the diocesan canons are also required, but need action by only one convention to be adopted.

Referred Resolutions

Resolution #1, submitted by Fr. Steven Wilson (Grace, Carthage) and Dean David Kendrick (St. John’s, Springfield and Dean of the Southern Deanery), would have called for a change to the canonical definition of a parish. The Convention referred this resolution to the Diocesan Council for action by a committee to be formed to consider a rewriting of the diocesan constitution and canons.

Resolution #4, submitted by the diocesan Campus Ministry Commission, would have called for a change in the diocesan constitution to allow for representatives of campus ministries to elect up to four delegates to the diocesan convention. The Convention referred this resolution back to Campus Ministries for further study, working with the Diocesan Council.

Resolution #5, submitted by Dean Peter DeVeau (Grace and Holy Trinity, Kansas City), Curtis Hamilton (Secretary of the Diocese), and the Northwest-Metro Deanery, would have called for the next convention to be approximately one-half day shorter, and held at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. The Committee on Resolutions divided this into two resolutions (one regarding the location of the convention and one regarding its length) and the convention referred both resolutions to the Diocesan Council for further study.

Resolution not adopted

Resolution #2, proposed by Fr. Stan Runnels (St. Paul’s, Kansas City) and the Northwest-Metro Deanery, would have called for a termination of the lease of an apartment the diocese maintains in Springfield.

Bishop’s Shield

During the Convention, Bishop Field announced that a Bishop’s Shield would be awarded on Saturday evening at the Bishop’s Ball, hosted by the Diocesan Youth Commission. The Shield was awarded to Ms. Duchess Wall (St. Peter & All Saints, Kansas City) for her decades-long work in youth ministry at the diocesan and local level.

Curtis Hamilton is the Diocesan Secretary and attends Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Work Group Reports — Finance Team

Gary Allman One-minute read.   Resources

Diocesan Treasurer, Caleb Cordonnier reports on the work of the Finance Team at the Diocesan Gathering Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

The key work of the Finance Team has been the review of the diocesan budget — more generally referred to as The Plan for Ministry.

However, in addition to reviewing what is being spent the team is also looking at how funds are raised. In particular, the team has been reviewing the Project Resource 2 initiative from the Episcopal Church Foundation and the College of Bishops. At the Diocesan Gathering, Fr. John Spicer (St. Andrew’s Kansas City) and Mark Gallus (Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City) discussed new approaches to raising diocesan funds.

Mark Galus and Fr. John Spicer report on the work of the Finance Team Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

Project Resource provides the tools to inspire radical generosity and engage faith communities in this life-changing work. Project Resource is an initiative:

  • adapted to enable an entirely new culture in all aspects of financial development: spiritual, organizational, and managerial.
  • designed to train leaders how to return to their diocese to lead others within the diocese’s culture, geography, and cultural realities as they develop leaders and raise money.
  • configured to teach effective use of model documents archived online for easy teaching access.

Project Resource provides teaching, focus, and resources such that a team may return to their diocese equipped to teach and lead locally in areas of resource development. Project Resource does this by:

  • gathering the best resources, which not only deal with raising money, but which gets at societal shifts, organizational change, and leadership challenges.
  • providing diocesan teams time to interpret the content, session by session, within the realities and particularities of their own diocesan, cultural, and regional situations.
  • Empowering each team to leave with a working plan, with measurable objectives, tailored specifically for their own diocese.

Project Resource seeks to change churches’ culture and systems around financial development in the worldwide Episcopal Church. It seeks to instill and install effective financial development in diocesan teams of leadership.

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

Work Group Reports — Goals Team

The Goals Team presents their work at the Diocesan Gathering. Fr. Chas Marks at the microphone. Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

The Goals Working Team of the Diocesan Council emerged from the Council’s retreat in January 2017. There we worked together to find specific principles that would guide us in restructuring the Diocese of West Missouri so that we might more effectively pursue the mission of the Church in West Missouri to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Out of that retreat came four “tests for success” for diocesan programs.

  1. Do they empower parishes to fulfill their part of our mission and ministry?
  2. Do they help make the Diocese more a parish of the whole?
  3. Do they direct our resources more outward than inward?
  4. Do they allow the Bishop to be more of a bishop than a CEO?

It is the Goals Team’s task to come up with some specific goals for the diocese as a whole that are consistent with both our mission as a church and the tests for success. Under the chairmanship of Fr. Chas Marks, we have met many times in person and remotely over the past year (about once a month).

Our Bishop has rightly said that a diocese is a “parish of the whole”. It is Episcopal membership of the diocese which makes the churches the local delivery points of the diocesan missions and ministries. If the churches are going to be the ‘hands and feet’ of our diocese, then they need to be coordinated and empowered to work successfully in their particular mission field. And for that, the Goals Team agrees that assessment relief is essential for our churches to be able to think beyond their current financial limitations. With the recent Diocesan Convention asking for a “significant and meaningful” reduction in parochial assessments, the Goals Team’s work becomes even more important in determining what is most important for the common work of the diocese.

Because of the geographic distances between the people of the Diocese, finding ways to bring us closer together in collaboration and communion is absolutely crucial if we are to be more a parish of the whole. Technological developments are making it more possible for us to have remote meetings from the Diocesan office and St. John’s in Springfield. While the technology is being improved in Springfield, the Goals Team also believes that a remote location should be established in the Central Deanery. The more we can see each other face to face and talk to each other, the better we can plan together and work together.

The Goals Team also believes that we as a diocese should dream together of what it might look like for the people of The Diocese of West Missouri to come together for fellowship and communion (which is actually the same word in the New Testament).

When it comes to the outward directing of our resources, the Goals Team commends the substantial support which the diocese already extends to Nourish KC (formerly Episcopal Community Services) and the Council of Churches of the Ozarks. These two organizations do much to alleviate the physical and spiritual needs of the people they serve. And the Diocese’s $60,000 support should continue. At a time when Americans seem increasingly divided, the Goals Team believes that the work of the Diocesan Diversity and Reconciliation Commission should be supported by a paid staff position.

As for the 4th test of allowing the Bishop to focus less on the administrative work of the diocese, the Goals team agrees that the diocesan constitution and canons are long overdue for revision. We look forward to that work being undertaken in 2018.

We are grateful for the contributions of the members of the Goals Team, which includes members of the Diocesan Council, but is by no means limited to them. If you would like to participate in our work, or have any concerns, please feel free to contact Fr. Chas Marks

The Very Rev. David Kendrick, Southern Dean and Goals Working Team member.

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Work Group Reports — Metrics Team

The Metrics Team spotlights how Episcopal churches are changing and being challenged in West Missouri and analyses church and diocesan reports that highlight changes in priest deployment, number of churches, membership, attendance, and financial trends.

The Rev. Ted Estes and Amanda Perschall Five-minute read.   Resources

Work Group Reports — Metrics Team Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

The Metrics team presented the following data through graphs, explanation, and dialogue during the November 2017 Convention.

Metrics Team members are: Mary Ellison, Fr. Ted Estes, Krista Heuett, Collin Larimore, Fr. Jerry Miller, Fr. Patrick Perkins, Amanda Perschall, David Powell, Thomas Rose, and Fr. Galen Snodgrass. Fr. Estes and Ms. Perschall are co-conveners of the group.

Priest Deployment – Graph 1

Priest deployment (graph 1) has changed significantly over the last 17 years. In 2000, there were 52 congregations and the majority of these churches (71% – 37 churches) were served by at least one full-time priest. Part-time priests served seven churches (14%). Eight churches were served in regional ministries (15%). By 2017, the number of churches has reduced to 48 with the deployment of priests shifting to about a third in each category. 15 churches are served by at least one full-time priest (31%). 18 churches are served by a part-time priest (38%). 15 churches are served by a regional ministry (31%). These shifts in deployment reflect a changing dynamic in how our churches are staffed and function.

During this same 17-year period, the diocese closed seven churches and opened three. Conventional thinking might suppose that the majority of churches closed were located in rural areas with shrinking populations. This is not the case. Four Kansas City Metropolitan Churches (Holy Spirit, Cambridge, St. John, & All Saints) and two Springfield suburban churches (Ascension & Good Shepherd) were closed. Only Trinity Church of Marshall is considered rural, although it has a population in excess of 14,000 and a four-year college. Three churches have been opened since 2000, St. Thomas a Becket, Cassville; St. Matthew, Ozark, and St. Mary Magdalene, Belton. The first two of these are in a regional ministry and the third is served by a part-time priest. Cassville is rural and the other two suburban.

Trends in Diocesan membership and finance are similar to those in The Episcopal Church (TEC). (the abbreviation TEC will be used to indicate The Episcopal Church, comprised of 110 dioceses). ASA (Average Sunday Attendance) is the average attendance over 52 Sundays for a church, diocese or the TEC. According to Episcopal Church Domestic Fast Facts 2016: TEC ASA has declined -11% and TEC Active Baptized Membership has declined -8% over the last five years. Episcopal Church Plate & Pledge Income 2011-2016 reports that TEC’s average pledge has increased +11% ($359) from $2,395 to $2,754 and the overall plate and pledge reported has increased +1% over the same five-years.

Trends for The Diocese of West Missouri from 2011 to 2016 show a -17% decline in ASA and Diocesan Active Baptized Membership shows a -12% decline. Diocesan Average Member Pledge shows an increase of +19% from $2,432 to $2,901 in the last five years. When compared to the -9% decrease in the total Diocesan Plate and Pledge from $7,552,159 to $6,881,371, the increase in average pledge suggests that there are fewer pledging units but that they have increased the amount they are pledging. However, the increase in average giving is not sufficient to maintain the total of plate offerings and pledges received five years ago.

The Metrics team surveyed 15 Bishop’s staff members regarding their job descriptions, Mission Statements, goals, objectives, priorities, methods of tracking progress, and other pertinent issues. The data collected have been shared with the Goals Team for use in developing goals and aligning activities and measures to assess progress toward those goals.

The Metrics team’s charge is to work closely with diocesan stakeholders in developing and implementing appropriate measures for the work of the diocese. The goal is to provide meaningful data that guides programming and provides assurance that resources, efforts of personnel, and funding at the diocesan level are targeted, effective, and prioritized in alignment with diocesan goals. The next stage of this work will focus on the goals established for the diocese in the current process.

Sources of Information include: Individual Parochial Reports 1998-2016, The Episcopal Church Annual 2000 & 2016, Domestic Fast Facts 2016 and Fast Facts Trends 2012-2016, Average Sunday Attendance by Province and Diocese 2006-2016, Baptized Members by Province and Diocese 2006-2016, Domestic Plate & Pledge Income 2011-2016, Average Pledge by Province and Diocese 2006-2016, and Staff Surveys.

The Rev. Ted Estes is associate rector of Grace Church, Carthage, member of Diocesan Council, and co-chair of the Metrics Team.
Amanda Perschall is an active member of Trinity Church, Lebanon, member of Diocesan Council, and co-chair of the Metrics Team.

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Work Group Reports — Tools Team

Channing Horner Five-minute read.   Resources

The charge to the Tools Team was to explore the most effective methods and tools to best advance programming and communications throughout the diocese, thereby ensuring that all parishes and congregations, independent of size and/or resources, will be able to have access to programming, information, and Christian formation. The goal is to give people the feeling that we are one “parish of the whole” by expanding our interests, experiences, information, and Christian formation to lead us to increased interaction within the diocese.

We began by listing pertinent existing instruments and programs within the diocese of which we were aware and then moved to listing possible additions or enhancements to those items that we believe could contribute to the desired feeling of oneness within the diocese.

We recognized that we are in the midst of a transition in the means of communication, which can seem chaotic at times. We also recognized that no single tool, in itself, will be adequate. Nevertheless, we believe that useful communication, in whatever format, has a consistent message, is timely, and is received at predictable intervals.

Current means of communications from the diocese to the churches is primarily electronic, with some churches producing print versions for members without electronic access. The other key communication route is what we came to call “organic” — serendipitous conversation, networking, and personal relationships.

Our recommendations began with the suggestion to rethink the ways we “do” Gathering/Convention, exploring alternatives to provide more opportunities for interpersonal interactions. Specifically, we recommend reinstating the hospitality room or some equivalent, as that is a means through which many friendships began. Having benefitted as a team from becoming better acquainted within a smaller group, we suggest that there be activities designed for small group interaction, possibly based on an overall theme. Finally, we urge scheduling that will encourage broad attendance, recognizing that job obligations often make weekday meetings impossible.

To enhance two-way communication, we believe it is important to review and encourage the people from each church who are registered to receive and disseminate the electronically distributed information. We also need a stronger emphasis on having the communications contact person (or another person) provide information back from the church to the diocese as a whole.

In terms of communication from the diocese to the local churches, we believe it would be beneficial to review the frequency at which the current communications are sent out, and the recipients are polled to determine, what actions they take to distribute and share this information. Questions need to be asked, as to what may be done to assist them further in sharing this information with their members. We also recommend that the recipients be polled on the content of the current communications so that the diocese ensures that the information sent out closely serves their, and their members’ needs.

The team’s opinion in advance of obtaining the feedback mentioned above is that it would be beneficial to provide a weekly diocesan bulletin, sent to at least the priest, the senior warden/bishop’s warden, the secretary/office manager, and the designated communications contact. That bulletin could include information about upcoming events and brief reports of past events.

The transition to Digital Faith has reached the limits of its expected adoption. We recommend further information be published on its capabilities in order to encourage further participation and so that all the churches may have an awareness of its potential.

As we move more thoroughly into electronic means of communication, we believe that all such instruments should be as readily navigable and user-friendly as possible. We also know that they need to recognize generational differences via format, style, and content while being streamlined, consolidated, and condensed. In all cases, they need to provide effective, user-friendly ways to contribute.

We strongly encourage consideration of our recommendations in planning wherever appropriate, be it at the diocesan level or locally.

Channing Horner is Senior Warden at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Maryville.

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