Bishop's Reflection on General Convention

Bishop's Reflection on General Convention

Dear Friends in Christ:

Grace and peace to you. It is good to be home again, after twelve days away for General Convention. I trust that you have been getting all the up-to-the-minute information and analysis you may have been looking for from the combination of the Diocesan and Episcopal Church websites, and the several postings there. Our Deputation blogged and posted photos (many thanks!); Episcopal News Service had good continuous coverage, and the General Convention part of TEC website has a complete and detailed list of resolutions and actions. These—and NOT the Wall Street Journal and New York Times editorial pages—are the best sources of information about what actually happened at Indianapolis. (For a helpful correction to Ross Douthat's confused piece in the last Sunday’s New York Times, see Diana Butler Bass’ response on Episcopal Café. As for a response to the gross distortions, errors, and untruths cobbled together by Jay Akasie in last Friday’s WSJ, see the Bishop’s Blog by Bishop Kirk Smith, Diocese of Arizona, and the links he provides there.)

General Convention is normally a time of some very hard work, and for me, this one was particularly so, as I was the Bishop Secretary to the cognate Committee on Ministry. We were assigned over thirty resolutions on which to make recommendations to the Houses of Bishops and Deputies. For the first several days, the pressure was on to move through that portion of the list related to matters with funding implications, or needing additional review by the Committees on Constitution or on Canons. For me, that meant each morning began with a half-mile walk from the hotel to the meeting room via the Bishop’s Secretariat, in time to be organized and ready for our 7:30 meeting start. Committees often met in the evening, and sometimes in the afternoon as well. Add in the House sessions, daily Eucharist, other Committee meetings with Hearings of interest, as well as other special events, and often there was hardly time for a meal before the end of the day—which often came quite late.

Some of the intense busyness of General Convention is certainly of our own making, and could be eased if we simply did not attempt to consider so many resolutions in such a format. Under our current system, any one of the many Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards of TEC, or any Bishop, or any Diocesan Convention, or any Deputy can submit a resolution, requiring Committee attention, and a public Hearing, and some eventual action by the two Houses (together comprising over a thousand voting members). The result is hundreds of resolutions, and many hours of work; and, as the flood of resolutions before the Houses grows, weariness increases, and time for careful consideration becomes increasingly scarce. Did I mention that we also have elections, and special reports, and addresses by honored guests? And also—in the House of Bishops, at least—small and large group discussions on matters of relationship and process and other concerns of the House, since this gathering at General Convention takes the place of our usual Fall meeting.

It may not be the best, nor only way to do the work we really need to do as a Church. To more appropriately make use of our resources, especially the invaluable resource that is the many committed, faithful, talented persons who gather in this way every three years, this way of governance must be reconsidered. We can certainly do better—and will, I pray, in the future.

Meanwhile, what did this 77th General Convention accomplish? Quite a lot, actually. Here are a few of the actions that stand out for me:

The headline-grabber in the secular press was, of course, the approval of resolution A049, a provisional liturgy for same-sex blessings. The practical effect in this Diocese is that a third liturgical option will be added to the two that have been available to priests in charge of our congregations since February 2010. This action will happen Advent I (December 2). At that time, I will no longer require all of the preliminary steps that have accompanied these liturgies; I will, however, still expect to receive your reflections on the actual experience of these liturgies, as this will aid the Church’s work going forward. These are pastoral resolutions given to our clergy; it is up to the priest in charge of each congregation to decide if they are to be available in that church.

One accomplishment that was especially important to me as the initial proposer was the passage of resolution B019 on peace in the Holy Land. I will have more to say about this later; for now, please remember to name the Christians of the Holy Land in your congregation each Sunday.

Resolution C095 establishes a special task force to look at reform in all levels of structure, governance, and administration, with the expectation of concrete, specific action at the next General Convention. More about that later, too.

Resolution D016 calls for the relocation (not sale) of the Episcopal Church Center, out of NYC.

Resolution D025 establishes a Development Office for TEC.

And we approved a balanced budget for 2013-15, based on the Five Marks of Mission.

I will have more to say about these things, and about many of the other actions of this General Convention soon, with special attention to those items that call for some follow-up on the part of dioceses and congregations. On the whole, it was a good Convention; exhausting, but good. I am grateful for your prayers during the past two weeks. And I am very glad to be back home in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California!

Yours in Christ,

No comments (Add your own)

Add a New Comment


Comment Guidelines: No HTML is allowed. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Thanks.

© 2013 The Episcopal Diocese of Northern California.

Designed by: Element Fusion