Day One – Martha Kreamer+

Paul and I arrived in Indianapolis early, in order for Paul to help with registration, while I toured the exhibit hall. We enjoy this incredible, amazing phenomenon that is General Convention, and we are so grateful for the passion and hard work that goes into it. But it is a busy time! I’ll try to give you some idea of the way our days flow!

The House of Deputies [HoD] was called to order at 8:00 AM on July 5th, with the bow-tied, ever colorfully-clad Canon Gregory Straub being re-elected by acclamation, followed by a standing ovation. The Very Rev. H. Scott Kirby was elected to fill the post of Vice President for the duration of this convention, replacing his predecessor, who was elected bishop and could therefore no longer serve in the HoD.

In attendance today were some 816 deputies. Your CGC deputation was seated front and center, 2nd from the podium, which offered an up-close-and-personal view of the very busy desk, with some 10 staff people handing the details of keeping the agenda flowing, timekeeping, counting votes, networking, translating, informing the media, running the video on two large screens (for those deputations who were not seated so close to the front as we are) and recording the business accomplished. Luke Jernigan, recently ordained in our own diocese, was seated on the dais as assistant recording secretary.

Once the house was organized, canonical procedures called for two representatives from each house to inform the other house that we were organized and ready for business. President Bonnie Anderson appointed CGC deputy Vince Currie to perform this honored task, following which we were duly greeted by the Bishops.

A bi-lingual Spanish and English Eucharist was held afterwards, with trumpets, trombone, and euphonium, and impeccable soloists enhancing the sound of 1000 + voices, lifted in the glorious praise of God.

Legislative committee hearings were held after lunch, and the day’s business then dispatched in the afternoon session, from 4:30-6:30 pm. Two resolutions were passed that called for funds which are not in the current proposed budget: C100 was a restoration of $300, fund the Episcopal Youth Event [EYE.] Several youth spoke eloquently in favor of this funding as both an evangelism opportunity and a leadership training tool.

The second [A073] called for $1,000,000. To establish grants to dioceses to establish Mission Enterprise Zones. Both resolutions must also pass the House of Bishops in order to be adopted.

At 6:30 PM most of the deputies gathered to process the day in the bishop’s suite, before dispersing to legislative committee meetings at 7:30. The business of the day was over at 9:30 pm. Please keep us in your prayers, as you are in ours! Blessings, Martha+

PS In case you missed yesterday’s inspirational opening address by the Presiding Bishop, I recommend reading it. Here is the link:

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Here’s my prayer for #GC77.

Draughting Theology

Why is it that the best advice we can get is often the simplest?  Why is it that the simplest advice we can get it the hardest to accept?

This morning marks the opening of Legislative Committee meetings for The 77th General Convention (#GC77).  The calendar already shows times and dates for several contentious topics including The Anglican Covenant, Open Table (Communion prior to Baptism), and Structural Reform.  Anxiety has the opportunity to strike early, strike hard, and hang around straight through the 9 days of business that remain.  People have their pet topics.  Some Dioceses only elect activists.  A few folks will be grabbing for the power they thought they had in the 1970s.

But I propose another way.  I hope we listen to the advice of Sunday’s Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us…

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Standing Commission for Small Congregations

By: The Rev. Steve Pankey

General Convention is rapidly approaching, and I’m doing all I can to make sure I arrive in Indianapolis having fully reviewed “The Blue Book.”  Tonight, I’ve taken out a huge chunk of text, and one report stands out among all others as I consider life in The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.

The Standing Commission for Small Congregations report begins on page 511 of The Blue Bookand I commend it to your reading .  Their mandate is “It shall be the duty of the commission to identify and recommend to General Convention policies, priorities, and opportunities to affirm and strengthen the health and development of small congregations.”

It is late, so you’ll have to forgive me for quoting large sections of text, but three items are of note:

  • A reality of The Episcopal Church is that more than half its  congregations are considered small congregations, with an average Sunday attendance (ASA) of fewer than 70 persons. These congregations are equally divided between rural and urban settings.
  • The Commission was charged with planning with the General Convention Office to make the mission, ministry, and vitality of small congregations a major emphasis of the 77th General Convention. This was exciting for all who felt some attention for small congregations was long overdue. Much time was spent talking about this and planning how to showcase small congregations. After presenting our ideas to the Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements, and getting approval, the unfortunate reality of funding became apparent: there is no funding. No funding was attached to Resolution 2009-A113, so there is no money to carry out the charge. There will have to be a much scaled back presence at General Convention, and the message that cannot be made too strongly is that if a resolution asks for action, it is useless unless funding is attached.
  • General Convention actions can be insensitive to the realities of small congregations. Economic justice actions appropriate for large congregations often have a devastating effect on smaller places and smaller budgets. Lay pensions, changes in health insurance, and pension policies often are not affordable in small church budgets. Small congregations which find paying for a priest difficult will either go without or cut back lay employment, relying instead on volunteers. At General Convention it would be helpful for small congregations to be kept in mind when considering legislation.

I’ve said elsewhere that my seminary experience prepared me to work as the Rector of a Parish that no longer exists.  Given the disparity of voice: the majority of our parishes are small but the majority of our parishioners are in large congregations, what is the way forward?  I don’t have any answers, but I applaud the work of this group and pray that they get the credit and awareness they deserve.

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This comes from the personal blog of Steve Pankey. I hope it gives you some insight into what’s on my mind as I prepare for General Convention.

Draughting Theology

For the past couple of years, I’ve taken part in a silent protest against the outdated, racist, inefficient, all around poorly constructed Alabama State Constitution.  The activity is quite simple and, at least according to this article, can affect change.  In Alabama, many governmental activities that shoud be accomplished local level, require amendments to the State Constitution. For example, a small municipality outside of Decatur was trying to amend its storm water sewage fees and the ENTIRE STATE had to vote on a constitutional amendment to make it happen. Proponents of a new constitution have vowed to vote “no” to every proposed amendment. The effect, over time, is to cripple local governments who in turn put pressure on the State to rewrite the constitution. The “gum up the works” plan worked in Louisiana, but the problem here is that there is often one amendment that, for reasons of justice…

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Welcome to the central repository for information coming out of the 77th General Convention from the Bishop and Deputation of The Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.  Over the course of Convention, videos will be posted, articles produced, and information shared.  We invite you to follow along and to engage us in conversation through comments.

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