Highlights of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church inIndianapolis, Indiana, July 5-12, 2012
The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church met in Indianapolis, Indiana July 5-12, 2012. The General Convention is the national body of the Episcopal Church. It consists of a House of Bishops, which includes all active and retired bishops, and a House of Deputies, which consists of four lay persons and four clergy from each diocese, each area mission, and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. The Convention meets every three years. The deputies from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast were: Lay Order- Mr. Vincent Currie, Mr. Scott Remington, Ms. Sally Greene and Mr. David Quittmeyer; Clergy Order-The Rev. Thack Dyson; The Rev. Steve Pankey, The Rev. Canon Dr. Beverly Gibson, and The Rev. Martha Kreamer. The Rt. Rev. Philip M. Duncan, II is a member of the House of Bishops.
All of us worked hard for several months in preparation for the General Convention. This preparatory work included meetings at the diocesan office in Pensacola and the Province IV Synod at the Kanuga Camp and Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Bishop Duncan and your Deputies also read and summarized The Blue Book of the 77th General Convention. This 753 page publication contained the various proposed resolutions that came before the General Convention.
The House of Bishops (165 members were present) and House of Deputies (850 members were present) meet separately and both must concur to adopt legislation. The General Convention alone has authority to amend the Book of Common Prayer and the Church’s Constitution, to amend the Canons (laws) of the Church, and to determine the program and budget of the General Convention, including the missionary, educational, and social programs it authorizes. The General Convention elects twenty of the forty members of the Executive Council, which administers policy and program between the triennial (three year) meetings of the General Convention.
This recent General Convention dealt with a considerable amount of legislation (450 resolutions). While the blessing of committed same sex relationships garnered much of the media’s attention, other work that will significantly affect the future of the Church was also transacted. Also, the General Convention had the largest contingent of young people ever to attend the Convention (40 were present). Known as the “Official Youth Presence,” this group of young people from throughout the church had seat and voice in all legislative sessions in the House of Deputies. Their enthusiasm and maturity were inspiring.
The following is a summary of the work of the General Convention:
The most pressing matter that came before the General Convention had to do with the restructuring of the Church. The General Convention has called on the Episcopal Church to re-imagine our structure and to look for ways to be more mission minded and a better steward of our resources. This was a large amount of the legislation and the future of the church will be changed for the better if this plan is implemented. The proposed budget for the next three years was conceived and approved with this in mind. Based on the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission (1), the budget for the Episcopal Church in the 2013- 2015 triennium was adopted unanimously on July 11 by the 77th General Convention. The budget is balanced at $111,516,032, compared to $111,808,350 for the current triennium.
In connection with the Anglican Communion, the General Convention reaffirmed its commitment to building relationships within and throughout the World Wide Anglican Communion.
In other matters, the General Convention acted as follows:
· The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of Ohio was elected President of the House of Deputies. Byron Rushing of Massachusetts was elected Vice President of the House of Deputies.
· Anglican Covenant: The General Convention affirmed the commitment to building relationships across the Anglican Communion, especially through the Continuing Indaba program of listening and sharing, but declined to take a position on the Anglican Covenant.
· Eight bishops received approvals to their consent process: Atlanta, New Hampshire, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island, Texas (Suffragan), Virginia (Suffragan), Western Louisiana, and Western Massachusetts. Related, General Convention approved a change in rules so elections held close to General Convention no longer need to go to General Convention for the consent process. Rather, the Standing Committees of the Diocese and the bishops with jurisdiction will approve Episcopal elections as is the present system between General Conventions.
· Israel-Palestine: General Convention supported a resolution on positive investment in the Palestinian territories.
· Executive Council elections: The House of Deputies elected seven lay and two clergy members: Lay members elected for six-year terms are: Joseph S. Ferrell of North Carolina, Anita P. George of Mississippi, Fredrica Harris Thompsett of Massachusetts, Karen Ann Longenecker of the Rio Grande, Nancy Wonderlich Koonce of Idaho, and John Johnson of Washington (DC). Lay person Elizabeth L. Anderson of Connecticut was elected for three years. Clergy members elected for six-year terms were the Rev. Susan B. Snook of Arizona and the Rev. James B. Simons of Pittsburgh.
· Resolution A030: established how clergy who want to leave the Episcopal Church for another part of the Anglican Communion can do so without renouncing their Holy Orders.
· Resolutions A033 and C049 enact a series of revisions to Title IV, the clergy discipline canons, to fix some errors while maintaining the underlying principles of the canons.
· Resolution A036: commends the 11-year relationship of full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and asks the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee to address areas where Episcopal and Lutheran practices differ, especially who can preside at Holy Communion and the role of deacons.
· Resolution A049: This piece of legislation dealt with the provisional blessings of committed same sex relationships. A liturgy for provisional use was adopted. It contains a local option allowing diocesan bishops permission to grant approval for use of the provisional liturgy in his/her diocese. It is effective on the first Sunday in Advent, 2012 (December 2). The resolution states that, under existing canons, clergy can decline to preside at a blessing liturgy and says that no one “should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities” for objecting to or supporting the 77th General Convention’s action on blessings.
· Resolution A050: This legislation authorizes a task force to study marriage. It calls for the creation of a 12-member task force to study marriage, as well as issues “raised by changing societal and cultural norms and legal structures.”
· Resolution A054: Approved new rites and prayers as a pastoral response to people caring for animals, including the death of a pet.
· Resolution A122: Called for the Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church to study the current budgeting process and matters of financial oversight and make recommendations to next General Convention.
· Resolution A158: This clarifies the status in the Episcopal Church of pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who had been ordained by other pastors and not by bishops.
· Resolution A167: Calls for the creation of an “HIV Welcoming Parish Initiative” to help congregations to become more engaged with people living with HIV/AIDS.
· Resolution B009: Allows with the bishop’s permission the continued use of the lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer rather than the Revised Common Lectionary.
· Resolution B019: Affirms positive investment in the Palestinian Territories. It also calls on the church to support “the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian study on peace with justice in the Middle East.”
· Resolution B021: Amends the canons to provide a mechanism for addressing disagreements in the pastoral relationship between a diocese and its bishop.
· Resolution B023: Declares solidarity with the poor and indigenous people who bear great burdens because of climate change, with special mention to the Inupiaqs of Kivalina people of Alaska.
· Resolution B026: Gives dioceses and parishes an additional three years to provide parity in health insurance cost-sharing between lay and clergy employees. That deadline now is extended until Dec. 31, 2015.
·Resolution B028: Urges Congress to modernize the nation’s refugee resettlement program.
· Resolution C029: Affirmed baptism as the normative entrance into Holy Communion.
· Resolution C095: Church structure: Calls for the creation of a special task force of up to 24 persons to meet in the next two years from all levels of the Church to study reforms to structure, governance and administration. There will be a special gathering from every diocese to hear what recommendations the task force plans to make to the 78th General Convention. The final report is due by November 2014.
· Resolution D016 – Selling “815”: A declaration of the will of the General Convention to move the Church Center headquarters away from the Church Center building currently located at 815 2nd Avenue, New York City. No arbitrary deadline to effect the sale has been set at this time. Real estate market conditions will drive the timing of the actual sale.
· Resolution D023: Affirms that all Episcopalians are called to be evangelists to help grow the church.
· Resolution D025: This establishes a Development Office to solicit major gifts and other resources.
· Resolution D049: Creates a pilot student loan fund for seminarians who agree to three years of ordained service in under-served areas of the Episcopal Church.
· Resolution D055: Urges the government to enact stricter controls on the use of carbon-based fuels.
· Resolution D059: Urges a halt to the Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s practice of detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally without filing any charges against them.
· Resolution D066: Develops a network of retired Episcopal executives to assist dioceses and parishes. It is modeled on SCORE which provides counseling and mentoring to small businesses.
· Resolution D067: Urges passage by Congress of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors).
· Resolution D069: A “social media challenge” calling upon every congregation to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) in its current and future forms.
· Resolution D081: Directs the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations to initiate dialogue between the Episcopal Church and the Mormon Church in anticipation of General Convention 2015 in Salt Lake City.
· ResolutionA135; a compilation of several other resolutions that responds to issues of poverty and injustice. It commits the church over the next three years to “teaching, preaching, organizing, advocating, and building mutually transformative relationships with those who are poor to focus our hearts and the mission of our congregations and dioceses on reducing poverty and increasing economic and racial justice.”
· Resolution A144: Requires the tracking of the ratio of women to men in bishop election processes, along with racial and ethnic minorities, and encouraging dioceses to strive for greater diversity in candidates.
· Resolution B017: Calls on the church to support the Diocese of Jerusalem’s Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza with fund-raising and advocacy after the United Nations Relief and Works Agency cut its financial aid, slashing the hospital’s budget nearly in half.
The Rt. Rev. Philip M. Duncan, II, Bishop of the Central Gulf Coast
Mr. Vince Currie, Mr. Scott Remington, Ms. Sally Greene, Mr. David Quittmeyer, The Rev. Thack Dyson, The Rev. Steve Pankey, The Rev. Canon Beverly Gibson, The Rev. Martha Kreamer
(1) Five Marks of Mission: To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; To teach, baptize and nurture new believers; To respond to human need by loving service; To seek to transform unjust structures of society; To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
The last few days have been amazing. Everyday starts with an inspirational Eucharist Service to set the tone for the day. We have been blessed with words of wisdom which inspire and excite. The services focus on different concerns or celebrations of the Church. The music is awesome. We have been blessed to experience the beautiful diversity in language and music we Episcopalians share.
I have attended several committee meetings which have been extremely interesting. In each meeting complex and far reaching topics have been discussed. The Small Congregations meeting illustrated once again that small congregations everywhere have many of the same challenges as the small congregations in our Diocese. There are no simple answers, just lots of hard work and FAITH. I attended a workshop on Lay Leadership in small congregations presented by the Commission on Small Congregations which stressed the importance of knowing what the mission of any congregation is no matter what size the congregation is. It also discussed the need to help each member of the congregation discover and develop his or her gifts.
The Legislative Sessions have been filled with lively and thoughtful debates on many of the resolutions. There were some far reaching decisions made which will help shape the Episcopal Church for years. It was thrilling to watch the whole process and to be a small part of it. I will take home a new sense of wonder at how so many diverse people found ways to come together to do God’s work and spread the Good News of God’s love. I hope that in the end those who are concerned about some of the decisions made will find peace in the fact that I believe God still loves all of His children.
Lynn Ferren, First Time Lay Deputy
There were some technical problems with the Bishop’s video, namely, you couldn’t hear anything. I am addressing those issues during meetings, and will attempt to get it all fixed by this evening. Thank you for your patience.
With unanimity, the House of Deputies passed C095, “Structural Reform.” The legislation can be found at http://www.generalconvention.org/resolutions it goes on to the House of Bishops.
Please continue to pray for your deputation and your Church.