First Impressions of General Convention from a New Deputy

Inspired by many of my Convention cohorts, I thought I would add my musings to our Deputation blog. I will not attempt to fully summarize the day’s business, as I have found both the main General Convention and House of Deputies website to be excellent resources. I commend them to any seeking detailed accounts of our legislative calendar.

First, please allow some points of personal privilege. I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend Convention, an opportunity that would not be possible without the support of others. Thank you to the Diocese of Rochester for allowing me to represent us in this capacity. I have worked to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Convention “Blue Book” and faithfully engage in the work of Convention. So far, so good! Thank you to the wonderful people of Incarnation, Penfield for providing coverage and leadership in my absence. It is a gift to focus my energies here at Convention, confident that all is well in the parish I am proud to serve as Rector. Chiefly, I am grateful on every imaginable level for the love and care of my wife and best friend, Jenny. This is the longest time we have spent apart since we met in 2009. Thank you, Jenny, for being such an incredible mother to Jonathan and Abigail, and allowing me the chance to spend this time learning and engaging in the life of the Church. Here’s a picture from Father’s Day spent bouncing around in the Bounce House we had on hand to celebrate Sunday School Recognition at Incarnation:

Now, on to the task at hand – General Convention! We officially begin our business tomorrow, Thursday, at 8:00 am, but arrived in Salt Lake on Tuesday around 11:30 am (thanks again to the amazing Jenny Streeter for driving Paul Frolick and me to the airport at 4:00 am). My first impression is probably best summarized as: big. General Convention is just big. The Salt Palace, our main gathering space, is…well, palatial. I can certainly appreciate why there is so much energy around reducing the size of Convention. I’ll be curious to see how debate works in a house of nearly 900!

Tuesday was spent registering and acclimating to our new home for the next 11 days. We are blessed by the presence and ministry of Saint Kristy, a member of the Bishop’s staff, who is providing hospitality throughout our stay. Again, what a gift to focus on being a deputy, and not standing around in long lines waiting for a sandwich or coffee. Thank you, Kristy! I spent most of Tuesday evening reviewing the Virtual Binder, our I-Pad based software containing all the documents and schedules of Convention. Everything is updated in real time, so even on Tuesday I found items that had not been included in the previously published blue book reports. Since this was our only light day, I convinced Paul to accompany me on a pilgrimage I have been planning ever since I learned I would be coming out West.

In-and-Out

Today started with Committee Hearings at 7 am. I sat in on Committee #7 – Social Justice and International Policy, chaired by our own Bishop Prince Singh. During these hearings, deputies and visitors are invited to address the committee in support of or against a particular resolution. The testimonies were, in my opinion, thoughtful and poignant. I was particularly struck by testimony around Resolution A051. I confess that, when slogging through nearly 700 pages of blue book materials, I did not pay careful attention to this resolution. In this hearing, I listened as members shared their first-hand accounts of prejudice and hate, but ultimately their stories of hope.

We moved on to addresses from the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies. While they have different styles and ways of articulating their perspectives, both strike me as deeply faithful women whose love for our Church is apparent and heartfelt. We are fortunate to be so ably led. More orientation followed, including the rules for debate and process around presenting amendments. It is clear that our leadership in the House of Deputies has worked diligently to make our sessions more efficient through the use of technology. Perhaps like me, you have found that sometimes agencies like ours can introduce technology simply for the sake of introducing technology. My observation today was that technology is being used wisely, for example in helping us register into a queue to organize speakers. I’ll say more about this after seeing the process in action.

A delicious lunch catered by Kristy nourished us in preparation for the day’s main event: the presentation of the four candidates for Presiding Bishop. Each candidate was introduced with a self-produced video and opening remarks. Questions followed on a variety of topics and the session concluded with closing statements. In total, we spent nearly 3 hours listening to the 4 candidates. It was long, perhaps too long, a comment I am sure the committee will receive. That being said, I am so glad this opportunity was offered, apparently the first time deputies have been afforded the chance to hear from the nominees. I love being a parish priest, but being a parish priest means that I am most often the one leading discussion. I cannot tell you what an absolute treat it was to listen to four of our strongest leaders share their vision of who we are and who we are yet striving to become. I went into the presentation with a favored nominee, and while he is still my first choice, each one offered a glimpse of vitality, charisma and character. I would be happy to call any of them my Presiding Bishop, and pray for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit as the House of Bishops discerns our next leader.

The day ended with another round of committee hearings. Susan Woodhouse and I spent our time at an open hearing for Committee #5 – Governance and Structure. This is the committee that will present some of the more contentious resolutions, including suggests of combining the House of Deputies with the House of Bishops (unicameral vs. bicameral) and decreasing diocesan deputations to General Convention by 25%. There was a surprisingly small number of deputies and visitors who offered testimony, causing some committee members to question whether additional opportunities should be offered. The committee will pass its decision along to the Secretary of Convention to share with the full House of Deputies during tomorrow morning’s session.

On that note, it’s 11:54 Salt Lake Time, so I better close now if want this to truly be a Wednesday post! Thanks for your time in reading, and your prayers for all of us gathered here to serve the church. Looking forward to President Jennings calling us to order for Day 1 in 8 hours!

Blessings and peace,

Chris Streeter, Clergy Deputy

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Denise Junker on June 25, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Great job, Chris. This is very well written. I love the pictures and included links. I’ve been wanting to follow up on these resources. I’ll be as busy following you, Paul, Lance, and Michael Hartney as you will be at convention! … Oh, ok, not _that_ busy! Keep having fun while doing great work.

    Reply

  2. Posted by tod timmel on June 25, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    so glad that you are finding this a constructive experience…..and sweet that you obviously are missing your family….that speaks volumes…
    Tod

    Reply

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