General Convention Musings of Michael Hartney

3 July (General Convention Day 9)

And the party’s over … we recessed today at almost 6 pm, after a busy day.

Eucharist was at 8.30, with Bishop Michael Curry preaching.  A video of his sermon is on the Episcopal News Service website – he was, well, energetic!  Music was simple today.

The Legislative session began at 10.30 – 1.30, then 2.30 until 6.  Among the many resolutions acted up were:

– encouragement to begin a study towards a  revision of the Hymnal 1982 (We had already passed a resolution to begin the work towards a revision of the Book of Common Prayer.)  It is important to consider doing both volumes at the same time as the hymnal needs to complement the prayer book.

– despite considerable effort to convince the majority otherwise, the convention voted to continue investment in Israel and Palestine in an effort to bring the parties to the peace table.  I am with Bishop Tutu in this regard – only economic divestment will convince the Israeli government to stop the occupation.  Keeping the Palestinians from their land since 1948, and now behind a tall concrete wall is no way to encourage peaceful relations.  Money talks, and the American government provides Israel with millions and millions of dollars to support it military and social structure.  Stop the flow of money and change will happen, guaranteed.  Alas, many don’t agree with that and think that Israelis will eventually make peace with Palestinians and live happily ever after.  As they say, “how’s that working out?”

This convention was conducted with precious little paper.  Everything was published on Ipads and the web, quickly too.  No daily newspaper was published, and other advocacy groups printed few daily handouts.  Previous conventions handled everything with paper, lots and lots of paper.  Every deputy would end up with more than 500-600 sheets of paper (x 844).  Miraculously the deputies had no trouble managing an Ipad and had instantaneous access to everything.  I did not have a ‘connected’ Ipad, and relied on the website of General Convention.  With a little manipulation I managed without paper quite well, too.

The Rochester deputies are off for home tomorrow, Saturday.  Susan and I are staying on in the West to convene a family reunion next week.  The Singhs are driving home after some time in the West I understand.

It was a very good Convention, efficient, happy, prayerful, sometimes solemn/sometimes laughing.  As Presiding Bishop Elect Curry told us this morning at Eucharist: “Go! tell the message.  We are the Jesus movement.”

2 July (General Convention Day 8)

Alleluia.  The Committee that I assist completed its work this morning.  Beginning at 7 am somehow makes people pay more attention perhaps.  One of the most complicated matters was composing a new canon to accommodate clergy (Deacons, Priests, and Bishops) who left The Episcopal Church in recent years – and now have asked to come back.  In South Carolina, for instance, the ‘returning’ clergy have no records of their ordinations, exams, certifications, etc.  The departing Diocese won’t give them back.  Pretty petty actually, but then we have sued them for control of Episcopal Church property that they have claimed ownership over – so perhaps it is a tit for tat.  The new canon is complicated and requires returning clergy be sure they really want to come back to The Episcopal Church.  Well, we got it all done this morning.  63 resolutions, phew.

I actually got to the Eucharist (at 9.30) ahead of time today.  The music was provided by a very good Hispanic band.  They had one musician who played soprano recorder, flute, some kind of Mexican pipe, and unbelievable bassoon.  And the singers?  Well, the lead singer was phenomenal and she stole the show.  It was Hispanic music at its best: rhythmic, fun, happy music.  What a service.  Oh, the Eucharist.  It was presided over by the Bishop of the Dominican Republic.  All but the Hebrew Scripture, Gospel, and Prayers of the People were in Spanish, including all of the service music and hymns.  I sang along as best I could.  Sometimes General Convention can ‘stretch’ your horizon a bit and help you appreciate the Episcopal Church in its varied styles.

The House of Deputies agreed with the Bishops to begin to form a plan to revise the Prayer Book.  The 1979 book was authorized for its first reading at the Convention in 1976 – 39 years ago.  Revision had been in the trial use stage since the mid 1960’s, when the 1928 book was 40 years old.  It is hard to believe that I have lived long enough, and have been ordained long enough to consider a ‘new’ prayer book.  But lots has changed since the 1960’s – think cable television, cell phones, computers, etc.  Children born in this century have no idea who the President was before Bill Clinton.  It is a whole new world.

The House of Deputies worked hard this afternoon – staying in session from 2.15 – 7.30.  One of the problems reducing the length of General Convention is that there is less time for rest.  Computerization of many things has helped, but people still need to talk and discuss things  and that takes time.

I am one of the wonks who enjoys the parliamentary back and forth.  Today we had a committee move to refer a resolution to a different committee, but the other committee had already used words from the resolution in one of their own.  The House had to vote not to refer, then entertain a motion to discharge the original committee.  It took some time to get the motions correct  but it all worked out.

Eucharist tomorrow is Bishop Curry’s first sermon as the Presiding Bishop Elect.  He is a fiery preacher so I know he will bring his best game.  There will be lots of applause and happiness – as he is a very popular choice as the next Presiding Bishop.  The music?  Well, I am sure it will be good, too.  You can tune in and watch it live: 8.30 (MST) on the General Convention Media Hub.

1 July (General Convention Day 7)

Most General Conventions the committees have completed their work by this time.  But now that Convention is a day or two shorter, and the Formation and Education for Ministry committee combines education and ministry, the committee I help got a lot busier.  We had 17 resolutions to deal with this morning, and only managed to deal with 4 – mostly because they were complicated canonical changes.  The most complicated was regarding how to receive back into The Episcopal Church those clergy (Bishops, Priests, and Deacons) who left the church to join so-called ‘continuing’ Anglican churches in the USA.  Most of their ordinations records and other official documents are not available – as the ‘continuing’ church will not release any of that information to us.  So, these ordained persons have to build their professional folders from scratch.

Worship today was honoring a Japanese American, Hiram Kano.  Preludial music was provided by a Japanese drum band from here in Salt Lake City.  It was loud, very loud.

The highlight of the day was consideration of the Marriage Services and changing the canon regarding marriage.  The House of Bishops had approved both resolutions yesterday and the House of Deputies considered them today.  The first authorizes for trial use two services for marriage.  One uses the Book of Common Prayer 1979‘s service, changing pronouns to allow for same sex services.  The other is a slightly re-written service that has been available with permission of the Bishop since 2012.  The resolution allows opposite gender and same gender couples to use either service.  The resolution specifically recognized that some Bishops and Dioceses will not allow same gender marriage services – and that they would not be forced to do so.  The marriage canon changes the Declaration of Intention’s wording – something that I particularly welcome.  Its antiquated language didn’t even make sense for opposite gender couples, in my opinion.

The voting on these two resolutions was done in a solemn way.  No celebrations or applause was allowed.  We prayed before each vote in very intentional ways.  As is usual with controversial matters, the votes were taken by ‘orders’ (Lay persons of each diocese and clergy persons of each diocese voting separately).  As there are four each in each order it counts as yes when it is 4-0, or 3-1.  2-2, 1-3, 0-4 are all considered no votes.  As there are 109 dioceses present and voting … 55 was required in each order to prevail.  The votes were in the high eighties and nineties in favor for both resolutions.

The Episcopal Church has come a long way since 1976 when we began to openly say that ‘homosexual persons’ were children of God and entitled to every right that baptized Christians enjoy.  Slowly over the last 40 years we have come to this place – complete acceptance of the LGBTQ community and a marriage rite that is inclusive.  In 40 more years, 2056, people will look back on these years and reflect on how much the church changed.

It has been quite a week … first the Supreme Court rules to make same general marriages the law through the United States, a new Presiding Bishop is elected, and now the church has a new marriage rite for all couples.  God is good, all the time.


The day ended with a celebration with the Diocese of Utah – in the Mormon Tabernacle (where the famous choir sings).  They are on tour, in NYC actually, but we were treated to a 250+ voice local choir and a variety of other musical groups.  One of them we had heard at Eucharist this week, Lux Singers of Salt Lake City.  this a capella group is absolutely wonderful – some of the best singing one could ever imagine (pitch, nuance, dynamics, diction … all top notch).  They were spectacular.  The evening dragged on quite a bit: the Japanese Drummers from this morning, again, Mexican Dancers, Navojo Dancers, a mediocre Baptist Church choir, and a young person’s choir from the Hispanic Roman Catholic Diocese.  But the climax of the evening was when those 250 voices stood to sing, accompanied by a small orchestra (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and harp).  There were at least 100 men in the choir!  The tabernacle is a lot smaller than it looks on television – but the acoustics for 250+ voices were worth the wait.  They ended the performance with a short piece by John Rutter (an Anglican) The Lord Bless You and Keep You, and the organist played a postlude on Hyfrydol.

Up tomorrow before six for my committee meeting at 7.  No rest for weary.

30 June (General Convention Day 6)

Whew.  Another early morning … the sub-committees of Formation and Education for Ministry began meeting at 7 am.  I managed to get to the room to have things all ready for them about 6.20.  And, as usual I greeted Lance Robbins who was sitting outside the hotel doors enjoying the morning silence.  He gets up pretty early!  The committee managed to pass on to the full House of Deputies about two dozen resolutions, or so … so it was a pretty productive morning for them.

Worship featured two choirs from our historic Black colleges: Saint Augustine’s in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Voorhees College in South Carolina.  The young college students sang their hearts out in wonderful Black choral tradition.  It was rousing.  At the postlude I stood next to the pianist and I swear he had ten fingers on each hand – unbelievable.  The sermon was a faculty member from the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta – and she was good.

Many of us from the Diocese have been recruited to assist with distribution of Holy Communion.  Today, both Susan and I were asked to step up to help.  There is something special about offering the Sacrament to these friends at General Convention.  One of those approaching my communion station was Bishop Ian Douglas (one of the nominees for Presiding Bishop).

The Houses of Bishops and Deputies spent the morning discussing the Five Marks of Mission in a joint session – then progressed through legislation in the afternoon.  Everything came to a halt though when Spanish translation of things to be voted upon was not available.  The Episcopal Church includes several dioceses in Central and South America – and their deputies have simultaneous translation – and all documents in Spanish.  As their materials were not translated yet, we adjourned a bit early.

Tonight was the convention gathering of Seminary graduates.  Mine, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, held their dinner in an opulent hotel (compared to ours) a short ride on the street trolley away.  Our new Dean was introduced and welcomed.  It was good to see old friends … and I do mean that.  My friend, the retired Rector of Calvary Church Pittsburgh, and I were the oldest alumni there.  Thankfully, one of our professors was there too: Bishop Jeffrey Rowthorn, who has written several hymn texts in The Hymnal 1982.  His wife, Anne, was there as well – she is an author of several books on Ministry, and a Priest herself.  Though Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry is an alumnus he did not show up – a disappointment to many of us.  Other bishops were there, though.  Susan and I have a very good time.

Tomorrow the House of Deputies contemplates the resolutions regarding church re-structure.  It is a bit byzantine and archaic, to say the least, but good structure is important.  Things have become a bit top-heavy, and the resolutions streamline things quite a bit.  If you are interested in such things, look up the resolutions on this blog or on the General Convention website:

Oh, and don’t forget you livestream the sessions and the liturgy every day, too.

29 June (General Convention Day 5)

The morning began with my Committee meeting at 7.30 am. There was 100% attendance by 6 Bishops and 32 Deputies … pretty good for the 7th day of meetings. There is so much work to accomplish that we are going to meet at 7 am tomorrow morning. Perhaps it will be necessary to begin at 6 on Wednesday, just kidding.

Worship was accompanied by a wonderful a capella choir of men and women. Their blend and professionalism was stunning. However much of the nuance of their wonderful singing was lost in the cavernous worship space with its seating for 5K. Thankfully, I sat right in front of them and got to enjoy it enormously. An Archbishop of the Armenian Church preached, reminding us of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in 1915. The Turks literally starved the Armenians … hence the popular phrase that I grew up with: “The starving Armenians.’ More than a 1,000,000 of them died.

Legislatively today it was a strong day. I hear that the Bishops passed on the liturgies for same-gender marriages … and we will see it in the House of Deputies soon for concurrence. Something happened today though …

A female deputy spoke about a resolution to study marriage and report to the next Convention. Her point was: “I am a straight, heterosexual woman, who is in love with my boy friend of many years.” Their’s is a monogamous, lifelong commitment she said. And she said that she neither intended to have children nor be married. What she wanted the church to do was say that her relationship was something other than ‘living in sin.’ She teaches Sunday School, attends church every week, and is a Deputy from her diocese. Does the church have anything to offer her relationship other than condemnation? or just ‘looking the other way’? I don’t know. I have never thought about it much I guess. In my 40+ years of ordained ministry I have not been asked the question before. I am told that it is more and more the case with the 20-something generation that this question is relevant. I must admit that it is challenging. Can two persons be in a life-long, monogamous relationship and not be married? Gay and Lesbian couples have been doing it for generations – and now they can be married legally. But what about heterosexual couples, and homosexual couples for that matter who choose not to be married but remain in life-long, monogamous relationships characterized by love and fidelity? It surely is something to think about. And I will.

28 June (General Convention Day 4)

Sunday, the Lord’s Day. The largest worship crowd came today, undoubtedly they were from Utah congregations who drove in, too. The Presiding Bishop officiated and preached – and she was quite good using the bible readings to her advantage. She likened The Episcopal Church to an ‘old dame’ that had to get up and walk (see the reference in the Gospel to Taliatha cum). Music was by a choir of about 50 or so, brass accompaniment and organ – quite festive. Maybe 3500 in attendance.

The House of Deputies didn’t get very far today. Elections to the Church Pension Fund and Executive Council were quite time consuming, despite the electronic voting system. I suppose it would have been worse had it been paper ballots – but that is hard to imagine. Then a simple resolution about the possible locations of the 2021 Convention got quite personal: Anaheim, Saint Louis, Louisville, Minneapolis or ? I forget. An amendment struck Anaheim and substituted Detroit … and then the rush began. People wanted to nominate their favorite city: New Orleans, etc. Finally it was referred back to committee.

My committee Formation and Education for Ministry meets again on Monday morning, 7.30 am. They have 9 more resolutions to consider, 62 so far. This is way more than most, if not the most, any other committee. Combining education and ministry together at this Convention is a mistake … but they didn’t ask me about the change. I’m just saying.

But, hey, it’s almost Monday and time to begin the fun again!

27 June (General Convention Day 3)

Today the House of Bishops elected Bishop Michael Curry to be the next Presiding Bishop. As Bishop Curry has been a guest of the Diocese of Rochester at our Convention before – many of us know of his extraordinary preaching style. He will be an exciting preacher and promoter/public face of The Episcopal Church. The suspense while the House of Deputies waited on the closed door election of the Presiding Bishop by the House of Bishops was palpable. And then it was announced that he was the choice of the Bishops, overwhelmingly. The next nine years we are in for ‘quite a ride’ with him at the helm. ENS_MichaelCurry_1

The Formation and Education for Ministry committee continues to work tirelessly. Another 9 resolutions were referred to it today, bringing the total number of resolutions to 62. Each requires a posted hearing notice, a hearing, and committee deliberation. It has seemed endless. Thankfully, we have tomorrow off from committee work. We meet again at 7.30 am on Monday.

Tomorrow is the big Sunday morning service & United Thank Offering Ingathering of all of the monies from all dioceses of The Episcopal Church. The service will be well done, as they all have been. Today’s service was themed along Native American music and preaching. Ute tribe drumming brought us in, and they drummed us out too.

The legislative session today still is barely moving along. That is typical for these early days of Convention as committee work is completed and ready for consideration by the Deputies. You can follow everything at And, you can live stream worship and legislative sessions at the media hub

Convention has a life of its own. So many Episcopalians in one place is a wonderful thing.

26 June (General Convention Day 2)

      Today was quite a day. The Formation and Education for Ministry Committee convened at 7.30 am. I had to be at the Secretariat at 6.45 to file an important form for the the committee … and I have learned a ‘secret’ door to get into the meeting room area from the tech crew at the Convention Center whenever it is locked. About 8.05 the cheers from across the hall in another meeting room announced the Supreme Court decision regarding same gender marriage in the United States. I have been coming to General Convention for a long time … and it is a long time since 1979 when the Convention declared that homosexual persons were children of God, deserving of God’s love. Lots of faithful souls have struggled to make this day possible … and the Episcopal Church has been there all the way. I give great thanks to God for that.

Worship was very good today, as it always is at General Convention. A jazz band + the church organ were the musical accompaniments today. And they didn’t play separately, but together. Including the Widor for a postlude which was quite spectacular!

The House of Deputies today slogged through more ‘getting started’ motions. Sometimes you have to be a real Episcopal-wonk to appreciate these things. But I really do. Whenever the Constitutions and Canons are cited I rush to look up the reference, for instance. And when that happened today it was the Stewardship Committee who quoted the Canon that gives Rectors use of the buildings and furniture as a basis for memorial gifts record-keeping (or something like that). After lots of back and forth the House voted the whole thing down anyway. I was grateful. They just didn’t seem to grasp the plain reading of the Canon.

The evening tonight began with a celebration with the Utah LGBTQ community in a celebration rally near their statehouse. It was quite fun seeing all those Episcopalians there with the local residents! Then we adjourned to the Diocesan hospitality suite where the entire deputation shared much joy and support for the long and arduous road that LGBTQ persons have traveled to this day. All of us who were there tonight would agree that it was one of the most memorable times of sharing that we have been graced to have had. Our Diocese has been at the forefront of the LGBTQ community’s progress in the Episcopal Church. Many of the saints of that journey were not with us tonight … but we remembered them all, with tears and joy.

25 June (General Convention Day 1)

Well, the day began at the Secretariat door at 6.50 am. I turned in forms necessary for my committee when the door opened. The committee began its meeting at 7.30 am – a football field or so away, maybe two football fields away, or maybe it is three! Most of the conversation in committee this morning was regarding the canonical requirements that clergy must pass to be ordained, specifically the academic study. An amended resolution eventually resulted, but it took quite some time to get there. The first legislative session convened next … mostly housekeeping things to get the balls in the right court. Worship was next. Lots and lots of people. If you haven’t looked at the General Convention Media Hub (see elsewhere in the blog for the link, or go online and look) you should. You can live-stream the worship (and just about everything that we are doing here in Salt Lake City, except committee meetings). Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori presided and preached. Music was nice – soprano cantor, flute and electronic organ with a big sound. Distributing Communion to 1500 or so persons is quite a challenge, but they have figured it out from many conventions. It didn’t take much longer than it might at most of our churches actually. Susan and I sat close to the musicians … and we were joined there by Bishop Ian Douglas (one of the PB nominees) and his daughter. And then at lunch when we sought out a quiet table in the Convention Hall spaces … we sat with Bishop Douglas again. Is this an omen? The legislative committee met again in the early afternoon, then a second legislative session. But this session was all about the rules of order. You have to be a complete wonk to appreciate all of that … and I must admit that I kept up with all of it. But it was mind-numbing at times. But you have to have rules of order to run a large assembly like the House of Deputies, and the previous rules needed substantial simplification and change. No time for dinner then … so it was back to my legislative committee until well after 9 pm. One of the issues debated in committee tonight was the woeful funding provided to the national effort on anti-racism training across the church. It was only $2000 for 2013-2015. $2000! I think that the committee will recommend it to be increased to $120,000 for 2016-2018. That’s quite a jump, but given the tragic circumstances around the nation in the last six months … anti-racism training would seem to be an apt focus of the Episcopal Church.
Being here in Salt Lake City is always a family reunion of our big Episcopal Church family. I saw Bishop Gene Robinson today. He and I were at Sewanee together as undergraduates and have remained friends. And I have attended so many General Conventions I know lots of people (Lay and ordained). It gives me hope, too, that our church will be OK in the decades to come because there are lots of new persons here (more than 50% of the House of Deputies has attended two or less Conventions for instance). I started coming to General Conventions when I was in college, when I was 20 – and I have not missed many since (two actually: one while in Seminary, and another when Susan and I got married).
Up early again tomorrow morning … legislative meeting begins at 7.30 am, and I have to be at the Secretariat to turn in another form at 6.50.

24 June (General Convention Day -1)

It was quite a long day. As I am a Legislative Aide I have to be at our committee room 15-20 minutes prior to the committee’s meeting (to arrange the room, make sure the microphones are working, get hearing sign-up sheets out, etc.). The meeting began at 7 am … so I was at the room @6.15 am. And it was locked. Nice. I had to wait until 6.30 to get someone with a key, and it all worked out ok. The Formation and Education for Ministry committee heard testimony on six resolutions this morning – and they met again tonight, hearing 10 more. Interestingly tonight were two resolutions about support for Latina ministry. Apparently Latina women have been discouraged culturally from ordained ministry – something new to me. Two women made very emotional and strong statements about the welcome that the Episcopal Church has given them. It was quite moving. Also the Bishop of the continuing Diocese of South Carolina spoke about the process of welcoming back clergy who had left the Episcopal Church during the division in the Diocese. A resolution was considered about regularizing the process to accept them back when they want to make that decision.

The late morning was a joint session with the House of Bishops to hear addresses by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. You can read their statements here and here

The afternoon was taken up with a ‘Search Committee-like’ interview with the four nominees to be the next Presiding Bishop. It took a long time, and I am not sure we learned much. Since only the Bishops actually vote for the Presiding Bishop I wonder why the Lay and Clergy Deputies took so much time to listen to them. The Bishops vote, in closed session, for Presiding Bishop and the House of Deputies merely consents. But, hey, they didn’t ask for my opinion anyway.

Tomorrow Convention officially begins … worship is at 8 am. Onward!

23 June (General Convention Day -2)

General Convention actually convenes on Thursday, hence this is Day -2.
Those who are deputies and 1st Alternates registered today, if they have already arrived. Legislative Committees held their first meetings tonight, 5.30 – 7. Many of them will begin hearing testimony on proposed resolutions tomorrow morning beginning at 7 am. As I am a Legislative Aide it is my responsibility to register everyone wishing to speak on a particular resolution, beginning at least 15 minutes prior to the meeting time. Phew. That means I have to be at the meeting room by 6.45 am!
The physical distances between rooms here in Salt Lake is gigantic. I think that the entire Village of Watkins Glen would fit inside the Salt Palace Convention Center with room to spare. There are easily enough chairs in the Convention Center for the entire population of Schuyler County to be seated (and that would only take 18,500 chairs).
Today the Exhibit Hall opened, too. There hundreds of vendors and church suppliers have displays. It is really a tremendous cross-section of the Episcopal Church – truly exciting actually. I visited with many friends there from past Conventions as well.
Speaking of past Conventions … I have been to a lot of them. I truly love them – and began attending General Conventions when I was in college, and now I am approaching retirement. Seeing persons from across our wonderful church in one place is invigorating and exciting all at once. We have a wonderful church and sometimes we lose sight of that from our local perspective and lens. I wish every parishioner could experience a little bit of General Convention at least once.
It has been a long day … so that is enough for today.

22 June – Midnight Eastern Time.

Arrived on time, etc. Checked into hotel. A night’s sleep tonight, register tomorrow and attend my Orientation Meeting at 2 pm.

22 June And we are off

… thousands of Episcopalians, many of them friends and acquaintances, are enroute to Salt Lake City. I arrive tonight and will be updating the blog’s musings as often as possible.

MEH GC 2012During the General Convention I will post musings from time to time regarding each day’s activities. They will be my musings and my own opinion and not in any way speaking for the Diocese of Rochester, Bishop Singh, or the Diocesan Deputation.SBH MEH Bach b minor
The one to whom I am ultimately accountable.


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