After a few days of rest and adjustment to the Eastern Time Zone, I’d like to let y’all know about some of the other major work we accomplished at the 79th General Convention. It was an incredible experience meeting people from around the country, the church, and the Anglican Communion.
First, as some background, General Convention is the governing body of the Episcopal Church. The Church has a bicameral legislature with a House of Bishops, made up of the diocesan and other bishops throughout the Church, and a House of Deputies, comprised of 4 clergy and 4 lay representatives from each Diocese called deputies. In addition to the 4 clergy and 4 lay deputies, up to 4 clergy and 4 lay alternates can join the delegation. I was Lay Alternate 1, which meant that I provided support for our deputation and was able to switch with a deputy to go on the floor and vote. Legislation coming before the General Convention is proposed by a Bishop, a deputy, a Diocesan convention, or a committee. In addition to serving as an alternate deputy, I was also one of the legislative aides to the Governance and Structure Committee.
Perhaps the biggest question going into convention was whether the church would begin the process of revising the Book of Common Prayer 1979 (“BCP ‘79”). Many people felt that in the nearly 40 years since the BCP ‘79 was published, the language we use for God and one another had changed dramatically. General Convention 78 in Salt Lake City had also provided trial liturgies for same-sex marriages, which were unavailable in the BCP ‘79. The House of Deputies passed Resolution A068, which would have authorized the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music (“SCLM”) to begin work on an entirely new Book of Common Prayer to be developed over the next 12 years. However, in the House of Bishops, Bishop Andy Doyle of the Diocese of Texas proposed a substitute resolution that “opened the door to liturgical revisions,” but also memorialized the BCP ‘79 indefinitely. In an effort to immediately allow parishes to access additional adaptations of our common prayers, Resolution D078, grants trial use to Eucharistic Prayers with expansive language.
The next major issue on the legislative calendar was related to whether same-sex marriages would be available in the 8 dioceses where they had previously been forbidden by their local diocesan bishops. Resolution B012 allows same-sex marriages to be performed in any church with the permission of the Rector or Priest-in-Charge. The “Communion Partners” Bishops have already begun releasing pastoral letters regarding this change which should take place beginning on the First Sunday of Advent 2018.
General Convention also authorized several other liturgical changes including trial use of Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, a return of Thurgood Marshall and Pauli Murray to the list of feasts, and several liturgies from the Latinx Tradition. The House of Deputies and the House of Bishops unanimously welcomed the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba back into the Episcopal Church. Legislation was passed to provide translations in the numerous languages of the Episcopal Church including Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole.
On the morning of Sunday, July 8, eighty-five bishops gathered as a Public Witness against gun violence. We heard from the family of Carmen Schentrup, who was killed in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Ash Wednesday of 2018.
Following the Public Witness Gathering, over a thousand Episcopalians visited the Hutto Residential Detention Facility where immigrant women are being detained during immigration proceedings. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry lead a prayer service invoking Jesus’ call to love one another and exhorting us to remember…
“We are here because we love this nation. ‘Cause if you really love somebody you don’t leave them the way they are. You help them to become their best selves. We are here to save the soul of America. Save the soul of America!”
Episcopal News Service provided a brief summary of the legislation General Convention passed in order to help us live out our call to care for refugees and migrants: Resolution C033 puts the church on record as respecting the dignity of immigrants and outlines how public policy should reflect that belief; A178 takes a forceful stand against family separations and treatment of immigrant parents and children; and C009, titled “Becoming a Sanctuary Church,” encourages Episcopalians and congregations to reach out to and support immigrants facing deportation, including by providing physical sanctuary if they choose.
Also, the tacos in Austin are incredible.
The next General Convention will be in 2021 in Baltimore, MD.