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!