I am attaching the YouTube link to our service at 9am on Sunday, October 2. Since many of our folks came to the outdoor service for the Blessing of Pets, which had only a very short homily, I was asked to post this one for those who missed the 9am.
The legislative process at GC can sometimes drive me batty. Time is limited for debate and those wishing to speak queue up at microphones using an electronic queuing system for fairness. Most speakers are well prepared, knowing they only have 2 minutes (and asked often to slow down in order to allow the translators appropriate time). Also often we hear basically the same thing said by multiple people and when that occurs where there is no one speaking to the opposite side, I tend to get impatient as the will of the house is pretty obvious. But in reality, deputies speaking from their heart or from their experience regarding a resolution and its possible impact are at the core of why we are here. It’s a process (a lot of process in the process) and the diversity of deputies here is delightful to see. I am also very impressed by the number of younger deputies this convention and their willingness to speak to the issues in front of us. So I will resist yelling ”get off my lawn”, and see what I can learn from all the variety of people and opinions.
In her brief remarks after being elected President of the House of Deputies, Julia Alaya Harris said it was a victory for ”church geeks” everywhere. YES! She was speaking to the House but also to a large number of people watching online. She described herself as a church geek who loves the legislative process, canons, prayer book, and other things that make our church in some ways unique, and she also wanted to lift up her fellow church geeks and honor their passion for all things church. Thanks Julia! We look forward to your leadership.
The most moving moment yesterday was the approval, unanimously, of the merger of the Diocese of North Texas (formally called the Diocese of Ft Worth) with the Diocese of Texas, from whence it had been carved out decades ago. The Episcopalians of this diocese have been through incredible trials and tribulations, finally ending up with the vast majority of clergy and churches leaving the Episcopal church to align with another entity. Deputy Kate Sherrod, who has been so steadfast in her fight for her diocese, her church and her people, spoke to the importance of this day for her and so many others. Recently the Texas Supreme Court, in a decision that goes against almost 100% of all other court cases across the country when churches have voted to leave the Episcopal church but learned they could not keep their buildings or money, decided the break away diocese could not only have ALL the stuff, down to prayer books and vestments, they also could retain the name of the Diocese of Ft. Worth. Katie was in tears as she testified to the heartbreak and hardship, along with the delight in their reunion with the Diocese of Texas. Her haunting words were prophetic to me, saying ”the cost of inclusion is a heavy one”. The resolution passed with a standing ovation as the deputies from North Texas and Texas stood on the platform. To quote Presiding Bishop Curry from his sermon on Friday, this is one way we make ”plenty of good room for all God’s children.”
The evening session included two LONG debates, one on a resolution accepting the recommendation of a study group reorganizing how our archives are managed. It’s way too much to get into on here, but who knew so many people would speak passionately on this topic? I voted to support the 4 years of work of the study group. The other resolution which took a lot of time (and will have to be finished with this morning) had to do with resolution A048, which was offered by the legislative committee I serve on. Based on recommendations of a Task Force formed at the last GC, the resolution proposes much needed changes to how the budget for the church is developed, while keeping the authority for approving the budget with the GC. The budget process is currently very convoluted and recognizing this, the Task Force was formed to come up with a better approach. They have done so and I support their work. Our own deputy, David Quittmeyer was part of that process as a member of the Program, Budget, and Finance standing committee and David also supports what the task force has offered.
On a personal note, I was moved to tears as the PHOD awarded the Presidential Medal to Louisa McKellaston. Louisa is a young adult who works for the Diocese of Chicago and is chair of my committee. In addition, Louisa and her amazing family lived across the hall from the Knights our first year at Seabury Western seminary. She was a young teen then and made fast friends with my two daughters who were adjusting to this move and needed a friend. I am so proud of her! She has suffered through the tragic loss of both her parents since the last GC, her mother was my classmate and an amazing person and priest who died very unexpectedly and far too young. Her brother, Ian, is a star with the Chicago Symphony, their whole family being musically gifted. So proud of you, Louisa!
Time for the morning session soon. More to come. Two days to go! Thanks for reading, if you made it this far!
I apologize for missing a post last night, but had internet issues in the hotel.
Speaking of, the opening legislative session for General Convention 80 started with a whimper as the WiFi in the convention center would not work for most deputies. Everything we do, including elections, runs on an iPad issued to each deputy. So we can’t do much without WiFi. We settled in for some opening remarks and mandatory approval of certain offices which do not require elections and broke early for lunch.
The afternoon session found the deputies dealing with an enormous consent calendar. Usually this calendar is used for resolutions with little controversy or concerns, things like correcting a word in the canons, and the like. Since GC is so much shorter this year, we were encouraged to put many more resolutions on the consent calendar. In fact the Rules of Order for the House of Deputies (HoD) default to the consent calendar for everything coming out of the various legislative committees, the committee has to vote to change that. The House of Bishops (HoB) do not have this requirement. The Rules allow a resolution to be moved off the consent calendar (if you don’t know, all resolutions on the consent calendar are approved or rejected by a single voice vote). It takes 1/3 vote of the HoD to move a resolution to the legislative calendar and debate it. There is great concern on the HoD that if we do much of that, we won’t have time in this shortened GC to address some pretty important resolutions, so although several resolutions were requested to be moved, only a very few got the 1/3 support.
Debate on several resolutions followed. Most of these were submitted from the Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning and Healing. This article on Episcopal News Services highlights the scope of these resolutions, please read it before you return…..I will wait… .
Thanks! There was great support for most of these resolutions. A125 had some questions about where the funding comes from, but no deputy disagreed with the intent and purposes of the resolution. Again, please read the article to learn more.
A127, submitted by the same Working Group, dealt with truth telling and accurate history of boarding schools for Indigenous children. Several deputies who are Native American testified to the horrors suffered in these schools by themselves or family members. It was quite moving, and to hear how they felt about finally shining a light on this terrible tragedy was inspirational. As noted in the article, the resolution would pledge more than $2.5 million over the next biennium to further The Episcopal Church’s commitment to investigating its role in Indigenous boarding schools; create a fact-finding commission to preserve and to provide a public platform to hear the stories of survivors of any such schools within dioceses’ geographic area; establish Indigenous community-based spiritual healing centers to address intergenerational trauma, and, to create educational resources regarding the church’s role in the schools. But it remains to be seen if this large allocation will fit in the budget which we will debate tomorrow.
The committee on liturgy, prayer book, and music is always quite busy. We dealt with resolution A126 which calls for a review of the BCP and Hymnals with regard to “the colonialist, racist, and white supremacist, imperialistic, nationalistic language and content,” as well as discerning any cultural assumptions they may contain. Testimony on this resolution was also profound. It may surprise you to learn how much of the BCP and Hymnal contain such language and how easy it would be to make some minor adjustments to accomplish this goal. One Deputy who opposed this resolution used the ”prayer for a nation” from the 1928 BCP to, in his mind, support making no changes. That prayer thanks God for ”giving us this land” (a quote from Scripture when Israel was about to enter the Promised Land), a prayer that is offensive to many Indigenous people. Our church has long decried the concepts of Manifest Destiny or the Doctrine of Discovery, it’s high time our language reflected just that.
Day 2 began with a much smaller consent calendar being approved, and then we moved to elections. Highlights – Joe McDaniel, Jr. from our diocese (Central Gulf Coast) easily won election to the Executive Committee. This is a big deal y’all, and Joe has now a 12 year term to continue to make a difference at a high level. We also elected a new President of the House of Deputies, Julia Ayala-Harris. She is a 1st generation Mexican American and amazing gift to our church, she’s been involved at all levels of church governance, and I was delighted she won. She is a lay person from Oklahoma, which means we will elect a clergy person as VP tomorrow.
I am headed back for the afternoon and then evening sessions. All the days at GC are very long, but at least there aren’t as many days as usual. Maybe we’ve learned something from this shortened GC? Time will tell…
Well, after writing a post earlier and having it lost in the internet ether somewhere, here goes a 2nd attempt.
I arrived in Baltimore for General Convention (GC) 80 late last night, storms in the area delaying our arrival a bit. This is my 6th GC and my 2nd as chair of the deputation from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. It is an honor to serve in this capacity. While I do have a lot of experience, obviously, at GC, this one will be so different and we are all curious as to how things will work.
Due to the ongoing threat of COVID 19, this GC has been reduced to 4 days, less than half of what we typically have. A lot of work has been done using Zoom and Microsoft Teams as legislative committees have worked on resolutions submitted and assigned to them since January, offering online ”hearings” for any interested parties to attend and comment.
To be honest, I hope this pre-convention committee work does not become the norm. I found it really difficult to attend every meeting, as life and work often would get in the way. When you are physically at GC, you have 100% commitment of time and energy to the work to be done, and while this lends itself to GC being exclusive to those who can afford, in time and money, to attend, I missed not just the opportunity to see and work with people in person, but also the ability to attend meetings and hearings of committees I am not on (I am a member, with Bishop Russell, of the Committee on Governance and Structure – try to stay awake as you read that title). I do not think TEC (The Episcopal Church) did a very good job of promoting hearings on resolutions by the various committees, several times I tried to find when a hearing was taking place (on Zoom) only to be unable to find the information needed. Clicking on a resolution which I knew had hearings coming soon often just displayed ”no meetings scheduled”. I know this is new to everyone and while I hold out hope we do not attempt this same approach at future GCs, if we do we MUST do a better job of advertising to all when hearings are occurring so those interested can ”attend”.
The other possible detriment to this reduced time is that most resolutions will be on the consent calendar, meaning they would be adopted (or rejected) in mass without any debate or discussion. Some of the resolutions we are dealing with are pretty important, involve lots of TEC budget money, make bold statements to the wider church, and change some important aspects of how we ”do” church, and I think many of these are worth the time of the over 800 deputies to discuss and perhaps improve.
That’s enough rant for now. I am headed to registration. Many thanks to Dwight Babcock, our diocesan administrator, for securing us rooms in the Hilton, which is adjacent via SkyWalk to the convention center, AND, more importantly, basically next door to Camden Yards, the Orioles ballpark. Some of us are attending the game tonight and I cannot wait! I have been to Camden once before, with 35 youth from the coast of Mississippi (seems like eons ago, they are all in their 20s and 30s now!) and next to Wrigley Field, it is my favorite MLB park. Go O’s!
Please comment if you have any questions or comments regarding GC, I would love to hear from you!