Tomorrow marks the official beginning of the streamlined, essential-business-only General Convention. There are currently 413 proposed resolutions to be worked through in the next 4 days, so clearly some number (probably a large number) of these will never make it to the floor. Hopefully, the truly essential work of the church will proceed, and we will be ready to address any important issues which may get overlooked in this shortened gathering.
A number of those submitted resolutions are being tabled for consideration by the next General Convention in 2024. Among them are a trio of resolutions that would affect the Pension Fund (A162, A163, & A164); one to develop a fund to pay the pension and benefit obligations for the smallest 20% of congregations, one to study the impact of lowering the assessment from 18% of total compensation to 15%, and one to study in what ways the costs of benefits and pension impacts the ability of historically non-white and small congregations to call clergy.
Perhaps of most interest to members of the church are proposed changes to the liturgy. Perhaps the most interesting resolution in this regard is A059, which doesn’t seek to change or add to any liturgy but instead redefines “Book of Common Prayer” to include not only the book approved in 1979, but also other liturgies “approved by General Convention.” This resolution would go a long way in clarifying what liturgies are authorized for the whole church (without the need of diocesan episcopal approval) but also by what authority all these new liturgies are made valid. There are also some proposed changes to the calendar of commemorations and Lesser Fasts and Feasts (A007-A014), a new inclusive language revision of BCP Prayer C, and an alternative liturgy for Good Friday that is less negatively inclined to our Jewish brothers and sisters.
There are two resolutions related to electing bishops, one (A079) would require background screening and medical, psychological, and psychiatric evaluations be completed prior to election for all candidates (currently they can be done after the election has occurred) and would mandate screening for addictions. The second, A080, would shorten the time allowed for consents to be given to episcopal elections from 120 days to 90 days.
There are also several resolution relating to ecumenical relations. A093 asks the church to deepen its understanding of the proposed communion agreement with the Untied Methodist Church. It had been expected that the agreement itself would be up for consideration, but the UMC is currently in the midst of a breakup over questions of full inclusion on LGBT+ persons. A091 commends study of a full communion agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. A202 doesn’t call for any action but celebrates the ongoing dialogue between the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches. A092 expands the full communion agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to include our respective Canadian counterparts. And A137 would establish a communion agreement with the Church of Sweden.
A095, if passed, would continue efforts to launch new churches by funding support resources as well as direct grants to new starts. A096 similarly offers support for revitalization of existing congregations. (Editorial comment: the actual funds requested don’t really go far enough in addressing these two important needs).
And, of course, the General Convention will be debating a proposed budget of just over one hundred million dollars for 2023-24. The budget resolution is A228. A helpful narrative form of the budget is also available for those whose eyes go blurry at the sight of a spreadsheet.