Days 4 & 5 at General Convention

I decided to take a sabbath from blog posts on Sunday…the inherent problem there is that now I’ll need to squeeze two days worth of action into this single post! I will attempt to keep it brief. As with all my posts, I would note that I will address only a small portion of the legislative calendar. Please do consider exploring the General Convention website if you would like a detailed accounting of the day’s activity. I have been most impressed with how quickly they are able to give progress updates, and will not duplicate their fine work.

The Sabbath began with a 7 a.m. peace walk against gun violence, which drew several hundred participants to the Salt Palace. I’m grateful that our Bishop took part in this event and encouraged us to take part. Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry was the final speaker, and as usual, he did not disappoint. He knows when to bring it, and on Sunday morning, he brought it.

10 a.m. worship drew almost double the crowd of previous days. We are told that the worship space can hold 5,000, and I would estimate 3,500 in attendance, perhaps closer to 4,000. That’s a lot of Episcopalians in one room! The service was exceptional – from the choir and brass to the wonderful preaching from our Presiding Bishop. I ended up sitting near the back of the space with a seminary classmate who was entertaining his 9 month old daughter, which naturally made me miss Abigail. I also had the chance to see and chat with the dean of Virginia Seminary and am very much looking forward to the seminary reunion on Tuesday evening.

The House of Deputies met for a 4 hour session Sunday afternoon. Several resolutions came to the floor, but much of our time was spent putting the electronic electing system through its paces. Human error threw a few wrenches into the works, causing the House to proceed to other business. A good bit of unexpected debate arose around possible locations for General Convention 2021. Deputies began offering amendments to include some of their “favorite” cities, which opened a can of worms. One comment of substance asked whether dioceses which are not paying their full apportionment to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (The Episcopal Church) should be eligible to host General Convention. In the end, this resolution was wisely referred back to the original committee for further deliberation, but it did allow the House to sample the process around secondary amendments. A quick caucus for Province II, and we were dismissed for the evening.

Amendment

Monday, June 29th, was Day 5. I attended the 7:30 a.m. meeting for Committee #5 on Governance and Structure. One resolution is scheduled for today, paving the way for some of the more contentious resolutions tomorrow and Wednesday. I’m glad to have spent the bulk of my committee time following this one committee rather than jumping from hearing to hearing. I feel that I have a sense of the trajectory and journey this group has walked during their time in Salt Lake, and am grateful for the service they are offering to us. Worship was once again splendid and helped make the 2 hour legislative session feel blessedly brief. During session we finished electing members to several governing bodies.

The 4 hour afternoon session saw matters starting to heat up a bit – a taste of what is yet to come. Resolution D003 proposed an amendment to our constitution to allow for dioceses to merge or otherwise reorganize themselves in the absence of a Bishop. While this may seem a minor tweak, it paves the way for other resolutions Committee #5 (Governance and Structure) will be bringing to the floor. If this had not passed, several resolutions would have required amending before coming to the House of Deputies. For more on this governance debate, I commend an excellent article in today’s Deputy News titled “Promoting Diocesan Collaboration”.

Many resolutions followed (again, I would invite you to explore the GC website for details), but I would highlight Resolution A037 from Committee #20 – the special legislative committee on marriage.  This resolution had already been passed by the House of Bishops; the House of Deputies was being asked to concur. Amendments were presented, but some voiced concern that if we add too many changes, it might not make it through the House of Bishops a second time. I cannot say whether or not this was a valid concern, but I believe the resolution is strong as presented and saw no great benefit in any of the minor amendments suggested. The House voted to concur. At the same time the House of Deputies was debating A037, the House of Bishops was voting to send Resolution A036 to the House of Deputies. Now we’re cooking! This amendment proposes a constitutional change to the marriage canons. Glad it made its way successfully through the House of Bishops, and looking forward to debate in our House.

Well, it turns out this wasn’t so brief. Thanks on behalf of the Rochester deputation for continued prayers.

Blessings and peace,

Chris Streeter. Clergy Deputy

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