Today's is a lighter reflection as I had less time to spend watching the deliberations. I'm enjoying writing these reflections as it forces me to engage with what's happening with church governance halfway across the country! Yesterday, I said that I'd spend more time watching the House of Deputies. I changed my mind this morning, mainly because I had less time and needed to simplify. The Bishops spent the bulk of their time today deliberating resolution A059 about constitutional matters related to common prayer, but before we get there, here a few highlights about the rest of the day:
After Morning Prayer and a few opening items, the Bishops began deliberating amended resolution A129 about racial justice which the Deputies passed yesterday (see here for my thoughts from yesterday). It's the same as the original resolution without the word "forensic" before "audit" as that word has ominous connotations (note that the title of the resolution doesn't change despite the removal of "forensic" from the text of the resolution itself). As I said yesterday, this is a good thing.
The Bishops then considered resolution C012 concerning Christian Zionism. The Committee recommended that the House adopt it, but Bishop Eaton of Southeast Florida moved to refer the resolution to an interim body, opining that it was perhaps too complicated to be decided by a resolution like this. Bishop Sutton of Maryland argued against the motion to refer, stating that Episcopalians in Maryland conflate ancient Israel and modern Israel. He has instructed his clergy to add a word to Eucharistic Prayer B:
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling of ancient Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son.
Personally, I've never heard of any personal or corporate conflation in this regard, but perhaps the context is different in Maryland. In any case, the motion to refer carried.
Amended resolution B008 about the Russian war in Ukraine sparked quite the conversation. If I remember correctly, the original resolution said one thing, then was amended to make it clearer that Russia was responsible, but then the original language of the resolution was re-substituted so as to acknowledge that in war, even the victims can and sometimes do commit atrocities. The resolution carried...which is fine, but I wish the Bishops would have passed resolution D032 which condemned the Patriarch of Moscow for his promotion of the war in Ukraine. They rejected this resolution either when I wasn't watching the livestream or as part of the consent agenda.
After a lengthy discussion, the Bishops passed resolution A127 calling for truth-telling about about The Episcopal Church's history with indigenous boarding schools. After what was recently uncovered in Canada, we need to do this work.
A resolution entitled "Building Community to Discern and Call Episcopal Leadership in the Episcopal Church on Navajoland" (substitute resolution D080) was unanimously adopted by the Bishops. I'm not familiar with this issue, but I encourage you to click "Explanation" on that link above and read about it. This seems like a positive move to me.
The following resolutions were passed unanimously with little to no debate: A096, A095, D026, A066, A024, D073, D093. I may have missed one or two as I had several phone calls during this part of the livestream.
Resolution D087 aimed to essentially cancel the General Board of Examining Chaplains. All of the bishops who talked about it giggled as if it were a silly resolution which was awkward to watch. I get the criticism of the General Ordination Examination, but have yet to hear of a decent alternative. I am sorry to report to those in the ordination process in West Missouri that they will still have to take the GOE. Blame the bishops!
The Bishops passed resolution A003 on Uniform Family Leave. Seems like a just decision to me!
Yesterday, I mentioned that the Deputies voted to pass resolution CO47 regarding a minimum standard of pay for vocational deacons. I've since learned from friends on social media and from the debate that the primary impetus for this resolution was to allow deacons to participate in the Church Pension Group's retirement options. Bishop Susan Snook of San Diego came to the microphone and said that her chancellor advised it wouldn't be legal as it doesn't meet California's minimum wage requirements. Bishop Andrus of California moved that it be referred to Committee, and the motion to refer carried by voice vote (with a couple of audible dissents). In my previous role as Chief Compliance Officer of a multi-state bank, we knew that HR changes that affected employees in multiple states were full of potential land mines, so we had a national HR legal firm review such changes before we rolled them out. I'm not sure whose responsibility it was in this case (the authors of the resolution? the PB's chancellor?), but the resolution and discussion has ramped up the hopes of many deacons.
The House of Deputies voted to elect Julia Ayala Harris as President of the House of Deputies. I have not followed this election and know nothing about the new President-elect or the other candidates, though I've heard good things about her from a couple of people who know her!
The Bishops considered a motion to pass resolution D076 which called for the Church to denounce crisis pregnancy centers and apologize for our previous support of them. Bishop Skirving of East Carolina spoke in opposition to the motion as he's seen some of these centers doing good work. The motion was tabled, which (I think?) means it will be taken up again later. What resonated with me is Bishop Skirving's comment (and I'm paraphrasing) that this resolution will accomplish nothing except for get people riled up about politics. It is certainly the shortest resolution I've seen so far, and it doesn't seem to be accomplishing much!
Resolution A126 passed with little debate and no opposition. I noted my concern about this resolution yesterday here, and still am left wondering what the point of this resolution is, especially considering the $100,000 price tag and the fact that the 1979 BCP is "memorialized." That said, both Houses are in step about the need to do this work, so we shall do it!
I was not present for the Bishops' deliberations about resolution A125 which seeks to establish a voluntary Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice among dioceses and congregations. The motion passed and the resolution was adopted, and while I support the resolution, I have questions about the formula for the budget approved to enact it ("once the Coalition is constituted, it shall be funded with an annual draw on one-tenth of the trusts and endowment funds available for general use in the Episcopal Church’s budget").
This wasn't their last debate chronologically, but the Bishops spent a LOT of time on resolution A059 which proposed both constitutional and canonical changes around the definition of "The Book of Common Prayer." This resolution has morphed more than any of the others considered by the Bishops this Convention, but the surprise was learning that Bishop Doyle of Texas had gathered a working group over night to devise floor amendment 031 as a compromise between the two competing sets of language being discussed. If they put a video clip of this portion of the deliberations on the website, I will re-watch the entire thing, maybe several times. The content of the resolution is what it is, and I'm sure others will more aptly describe it, but I'm more impressed by the way Bishop Doyle humbly handled all of this. He repeatedly translated what one bishop said so that others could understand, he respectfully schooled bishops who were being silly, he recalled what was most important about the entire issue (Jesus!)...it was a really something to behold. The language the working group developed (floor amendment 031, linked above) passed unanimously. I was especially moved by the comments made by multiple bishops (of all stripes!) about how the discussion on this resolution had been the best discussion they've had in this House in recent memory. It was collegial, loving, prayerful, and encouraging, and I will watch the whole thing again if I can!
I won't be able to watch the morning deliberations because I have duties at church, but will get back to it in the afternoon!
I am watching the livestream of General Convention from Kansas City, and only when I can. I am not a deputy from this diocese. I am not a news reporter, and no one is fact-checking my comments. This is a reflection piece. It is not comprehensive as I choose to reflect on and offer commentary on the happenings at General Convention that suit my fancy. There are things I choose not to comment about that you might believe are very important. If you wish to read my thoughts, go for it. If you don't, I won't be offended. If you want news from reporters, click here!
The day began with the Holy Eucharist which is the "source and summit of the Christian life". The Bishop and Deputies worshipped separately, but Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's pre-recorded (and amazing!) sermon was piped into both Houses. Afterward, the deliberations came to a crashing halt when it became apparent that there was a wi-fi outage, making it impossible for anyone to vote. The Bishops' connection came back up first, giving them more time to deliberate and do their work.
Note that anytime a resolution is referred to a committee for further study, or a House adopts to take no further action on a resolution, for the purposes of this General Convention, the resolution is not passed and is essentially dead. Identical resolutions must be passed by both Houses in order for the resolution to be enacted, but that process won't begin until Sunday or so. For now, each House is organizing itself and plowing through the resolutions in the order it wishes.
First, the House of Bishops voted to refer resolution D058 to Committee. This resolution called for a revised liturgy for Good Friday, and would have required the use of a Bible translation in that liturgy that translates a certain Greek word in John 18 a particular way because of perceived anti-Semitism. The Good Friday liturgy as used in the Roman Church before 1959 contained a reference to the "faithless Jews" (Latin perfidis), along with archaic and unhelpful prayer for the conversion of the Jews. There is nothing of the sort in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. While I applaud the resolution's authors' intentions of trying to address rising anti-Semitism in this country (and one of the authors is a former priest of this diocese), I think this resolution was a solution in search of a problem, and would have introduced new prayers into the BCP that portray a doctrine of salvation that is not consistent with the teachings of the Church from the earliest days. Frankly, the notion of the General Convention micromanaging the translation of one Greek word in one particular Bible passage for a specific liturgy was a non-starter for me, especially given that we have fourteen approved Bible translations, two of which translate said Greek word in the suggested manner. It is no surprise that the Bishops unanimously referred this resolution to Committee without debate.
The House of Bishops voted to approve a floor amendment for resolution C023 which sought to add the commemoration of the Rt. Rev'd Barbara Harris, the first female bishop consecrated in both The Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion, to our Church's calendar of saints. This has been a controversial resolution since its inception as Bishop Harris died a little over two years ago, and there is a standard of waiting until at least 50 years after a person has died. The amended resolution that passed changes the focus from Bishop Harris as a person to the act of her consecration as the first female Bishop. Thus, the date of the commemoration was changed from her date of death to the date of her consecration, and so on. I support the amendments made to the resolution, and assuming the House of Deputies concurs, I look forward celebrating Mass on February 11, 2023, the 34-year anniversary of her consecration to the episcopate. I never met Bishop Harris personally, but it is said that at the end of an awful debate on homosexuality at the 1998 Lambeth Conference - which included 738 male and 11 female bishops - she was overheard saying (with a raspy, smoker's voice), "If assholes were airplanes, this place would be an airport." I'm a fan of both Bishop Barbara Harris and her consecration as the first female Bishop.
The Rt. Rev'd Martin Field, Bishop of West Missouri (resigned), was not elected to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops.
Subject to confirmation by the House of Deputies, the House of Bishops has nominated the Rt. Rev'd J. Neil Alexander as the tenth Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer. While this is largely a ceremonial position, it gives me great comfort that the custodianship of the prayer book is in such good hands!
The Bishops then began to discuss resolution A059, which, among other things, would have changed the constitutional definition of "The Book of Common Prayer," ostensibly to regularize some of the liturgies that have been approved for trial use for years. This resolution has been concerning to me and many of my clerical friends as we made vows to uphold the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church", and it would have the unintended effect of including any liturgy approved by General Convention as liturgically and theologically binding on the clergy. Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island proposed a substitute resolution, and a long discussion ensued about clarifying the differences between the two. Ultimately, the substitute resolution passed 60 to 57, and after dinner, the Bishops voted to postpone the vote on the final resolution to give plenty of time for discussion. Stay tuned for more.
Meanwhile, the House of Deputies approved resolution C047 that establishes a minimum compensation for vocational deacons of $25 per month. Vocational deacons generally are not paid in The Episcopal Church, nor are deacons in the Roman Church (with the rare exception being when they act as administrator of a parish without a priest). This is the first I've heard about this issue, so I haven't had time to process it and form an opinion. It will be interesting to see how the Bishops respond.
After their dinner break, the Deputies debated resolution A126 which instructs the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to examine all the language of the Book of Common Prayer, The Hymnal 1982 and other approved liturgical material in regard to the colonialist, racist and white supremacist, imperialist and nationalistic language and content and develop proposals for amending texts. The resolution includes an allocation of $100,000 for implementation and passed overwhelmingly by voice vote. In 2018, the 79th General Convention "memorialized" the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for various reasons, so as the text is essentially not changeable, at least for now, I'm not sure what this resolution seeks to accomplish.
Resolution A129 would require a historic audit on the origins and sources of the financial and all other assets of The Episcopal Church that are directly tied to the enslavement of humans, the slave trade, and historical and current racial injustices, in order to tell the story of our history, with an allocation of $150,000.00 for this work. This resolution passed unanimously, and I support it, primarily because I've become aware that we need to have this conversation at St. Mary's. Mary Troost donated the land and most of the money for our building, and much of those funds were likely earned off of the back of slave labor at her husband's plantation. This is work we need to do, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
I will admit that I didn't catch all of the work conducted by the House of Deputies as I wasn't able to be bi-locate, even virtually. Tomorrow, I will spend more time with the Deputies.
General Convention always seems so bureaucratic and political. It is. But it's important work. Our system of church government has its flaws, but it seems to me to be better than the alternatives. Please pray for the Bishops and Deputies as they seek to faithfully govern our little corner of Christendom by the power of the Spirit!
Click here for the St. Mary's GC80 Hub.
The General Convention is the primary governing and legislative body of The Episcopal Church. With the exception of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and Canons, it is the ultimate authority in The Episcopal Church, being the bureaucratic facility through which the collegial function of the episcopate is exercised. General Convention comprises two houses: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. It meets regularly once every three years.
The 80th General Convention is being held July 8, 2023 through July 11, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. This year's convention is being held a year late due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the schedule is much shorter than normal with fewer people due to continued concerns about COVID-19. There are a multitude of other pandemic measures, some of which make sense to me (daily testing requirements for all bishops and deputies, masks, no eating or drinking on the floor, etc.) and some of which do not. For example, the Deputies and Bishops are worshipping in separate rooms rather than together, and even more bizarre, the President of the House of Deputies will not allow singing during the worship services while the Bishops are permitted to sing.
There are about as many resolutions for the Convention to consider as there were four years ago, but with half the amount of time to get the work done. This piece gives a great overview of all of this. Many of the controversial resolutions have been slated as “reject” or “take no action,” and otherwise referred them to one of the church’s interim bodies for further study.
While it's impossible to predict exactly which resolutions will come to the floor at this stage, I will provide commentary throughout the Convention on my thoughts on the various acts of Convention.
Please join me in praying for our Bishop and Deputies: Amanda Perschall, Alexandra Connors, Curtis Hamilton, Spencer Orr, Christine Morrison, Mtr. Anne Kyle, Fr. Jonathan Frazier, Fr. Chas Marks, Fr. Larry Ehren, and Fr. Sean Kim.
Fr. Charles Everson's love for music and liturgy led him to a suburban parish as a simple chorister, and as of late, to St. Mary's as a priest. He feels called to share the love of Jesus Christ with a broken world in desperate need of hope and reconciliation.