General Convention Overview-Day 1

General Convention got underway with separate worship in each house due to COVID restrictions. Of course, Murphy’s Law was in effect and the early hours were plagued by internet and voting software issues.

And just in case you were wondering, Jesus was present.

photo from Deputy News (Scott Gunn)

We’ll start first with the House of Deputies, where after all the business of organizing the meeting and appointing officers was done, some not insignificant time was spent on a resolution meant to help the house not waste time. The Deputies then passed a rather large number of resolutions on the consent calendar, including A095 which sets funding for planting new churches. President Jennings and Bishop Curry also greeted one another using Facetime.

President of the House of Deputies, The Rev Gay Clark Jennings speaks with the Presiding bishop, The Most Rev Michael Curry via Facetime. (image from Deputy News- Scott Gunn)

Moving into meatier business, the Deputies first passed a resolution honoring those murdered and those who were present but survived the shooting at St Stephen’s Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama just last month.

The next major piece of business was aimed at making progress to undermine systemic racism by providing funding for the work of the Beloved Community group. A125 passed overwhelmingly which establishes the Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice as a voluntary association of Episcopal dioceses, parishes, organizations, and individuals dedicated to the work of becoming the Beloved Community and would commit to funding the work by drawing on one-tenth of the trusts and endowment funds available for general use in the Episcopal Church (which isn’t the same as as taking one tenth of the endowments).

The House of Deputies then heard powerful and moving testimony on Resolution A127, which calls for uncovering the truth of the Church’s participation in the system of Indigenous boarding schools brought forth the most powerful testimony of the day. In a voice vote, that sounded unanimous over the livestream, a substitute version that brought together several similar resolutions was passed just before the afternoon session adjourned.

The first real debate in the evening session was about resolution A126 which would have the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music to study the language of the BCP and report back on colonialist, racist and white supremacist, imperialist and nationalistic language and content and develop proposals for amending texts. The resolution passed overwhelmingly.

The remainder of the evening session was spent working on the legislative calendar, with some highlights being approving moving the diocese of Puerto Rico to Province II, where it would join nearby neighbors Cuba and Haiti and approving a resolution to translate Safe Church materials into Spanish, French, and Creole which is remarkable because how have we managed to not do this in the past couple of decades?!?

The session ended with a debate on linking possible locations of future General Conventions to the status of women’s reproductive rights in those locations. Given the many potential changes in such laws in the next 5 years, such a rubric may make choosing future locations quite difficult.

The House of Bishops, being much smaller and with most of the bishops having had many opportunities to gather and to get to know one another better, business moves quicker and a less formally.

The House of Bishops spent much of today debating and amending Resolution A059, which effectively expands the definition of “Prayer Book” to include other authorized liturgies beyond what is actually printed in the 1979 book. After long debate, it was decided to hold off voting until the evening session. But when the evening session began it was decided that further work was warranted to resolve issues between the resolution and the similar resolution B011. The House of Bishops then adjourned early to allow Bishops on committees to get some of their committee work done.

In between the afternoon and evening sessions though, a procession led by Bishops United Against gun violence, went to the site of a fatal shooting which occurred yesterday just a couple of blocks from the GC convention center, to be a witness and to offer prayer.

Bishops United Against Gun violence led a procession to the location of a fatal shooting which occurred just blocks from the convention center the day before General Convention began.

So day one is in the bag and an unusual General Convention is off to a reasonably good start though less than a quarter of resolutions were addressed so it looks like the pace will need to be picked up a bit. We’ll be back tomorrow to let you know what happened on day 2.

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