So General Convention is the every-three-year meeting of the Episcopal Church’s national church governance bodies: the House of Deputies (made up of eight deputies — four clergy and four lay — from each of our 110 dioceses) and the House of Bishops (made up — self-explanatorily — of bishops.)
We meet for nine days of legislation which includes everything from approving a budget to issues of church structure, liturgy, social justice and public policy. Anything that is decided must be approved by both houses (think Congress and Senate) with all legislation wending its way through a bicameral legislative committee process.
The whole enchilada is marinated in prayer and corporate worship — including a daily Eucharist — and adjacent to a bustling Exhibit Hall full of things to buy, organizations to learn about and causes to consider.
This is the 78th General Convention — the first was 1785 — and this year we meet in Salt Lake City. There is a very comprehensive “Media Hub” available online which will include live-streaming options (for the first time.) Kind of an Episcopal version of CSPAN.
While arguably all of our collective work is important, there are a number of higher profile issues to watch for over the course of #GC78 (that’s the Twitter hashtag, by the way, in case you want to follow events on Twitter.) The two committees wrangling those are Structure (which will be dealing with a boatload of resolutions focused on restructuring our church governance — ostensibly to make it more nimble and mission focused) and Marriage (which will be dealing with — among other things — resolutions calling for an end to barriers for Holy Matrimony for same-sex couples in the Episcopal Church.)
Other important legislation includes gun violence protection, enhanced tools for dismantling racism, opposing “conversion therapy” for LGBT people, divestment from Israel in the service of Middle East peace and adding more diversity to our “lesser feasts” list of notable saints of the church. It is — to say the least — a VERY full legislative agenda.
We will also be electing a new Presiding Bishop in SLC as Katharine Jefferts Schori’s nine year term is coming to a close. More info on the candidates and process here. (The election is Saturday, June 27.)
Finally it is with some irony that we will find ourselves in Salt Lake City — the source of so much of the energy and funding that helped pass Prop 8 back in 2008 — when the Supreme Court issues its 2015 ruling on the pending marriage cases. There is a Decision Day Rally already planned for downtown SLC and we plan to be very much a part of the action when the decision comes down.
All Saints Church has a long history of being actively involved with the work of General Convention — that could be a whole blog of its own. (And might be!) Here’s a rundown of who’s doing what from ASC this year in SLC:
- Jim White: Long time ASC and diocesan leader, Jim is the chair of our deputation from the Diocese of Los Angeles and so in addition to serving on the Structure Committee (mentioned above as one of the busiest, highest profile at this convention) he will also manage our nightly deputation debriefs and our presence on the floor.
- Mel Soriano: Vestry member Mel is also a member of the Board of Integrity — the Episcopal Church’s 40 year LGBT Caucus — and so will be managing all-things-communication for Integrity from #GC78.
- Susan Russell: Susan is the first clergy alternate to this convention and so will be monitoring legislation and subbing in on the floor as needed. A member of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage she will be focused on the work of the Special Committee on Marriage and also helping drive Integrity’s overall legislative strategy.
- Christine Mackey-Mason: Chris is managing “all things logistical” for Integrity, including volunteer coordination, housing, etc. — and helping make the 6/29 Integrity Eucharist happen.
- Vivian Varela: Vivian is managing the Integrity booth in the Exhibit Hall and will help provide a warm, welcoming presence — in English y Espanol — to visitors.
- Rick Felton: Rick will be in SLC in his role as Executive Director at TENS-The Episcopal Network for Stewardship
- Charleen Crean: Our parish deacon Charleen is serving as 4th clergy alternate — and after many years of active ministry this is her first General Convention.
- Cathy Keig & Gloria Pitzer: Finally, Senior Warden Cathy Keig and Rector Search Committee co-chair Gloria Pitzer will be attending #GC78 to continue the nationwide process of finding the next rector of All Saints Church. Equipped with copies of the parish profile they’ll be busy meeting, greeting and networking.
So do please keep ALL the work of General Convention in your prayers. The next two days will be full up of set up, registration, orientation and preliminary meetings. Thursday, June 25 is the first Legislative Day: you can find the whole schedule here. Watch for updates and reflections on this blog — and know how grateful we all are to be part of a parish which so expansively embraces the work of the church beyond our walls as we take God’s inclusive love out into the world!