When you are reading this, I will be on a train returning from a visit with my East Coast family to celebrate my granddaughter Juniper’s 5th birthday!
Since I will have been away, I during my usual “blog writing time” I am “borrowing” a well-written, thorough summary of GC79 prepared by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. There are some very helpful links in their summary that will take you to pages with more detailed information for those of you curious about the real nitty gritty.
The 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church took place July 5-13, 2018, in Austin, Texas. Over the course of 10 days, the gathering worshipped, bore public witness and took on a legislative slate that included more than 500 resolutions.
While there is a great deal more conversation to come around many of the topics and happenings of General Convention, enjoy some of the highlights from the triennial gathering.
For more of the daily activity, we invite you to visit the 79th General Convention page, where you’ll find links to recaps from each day, the full photo album and our video collection (with more of those to come!).
As always, General Convention was filled with awe-inspiring, spiritually renewing worship. Every day featured music that lifted the spirits of all who heard it; thought-provoking, action-encouraging sermons; and the grounding liturgy that unites us all. Yet even among daily Eucharists that reminded worshippers they were in a special place, three stood out and were often heard in conversations in the convention halls.
A Liturgy of Listening
On the evening of July 4, even before the official start of General Convention, a very special service took place to bring to light the stories of those who have suffered sexual abuse and harassment at the hands of the Church. In the months prior to General Convention, survivors of these abuses were invited to submit letters and share their stories with Church leadership. More than 40 letters were received, and 12 of them were read at the Liturgy of Listening, each one in the voice of a different bishop. No absolution was offered at the service, as its intent was to focus on confession and lamentation. It was created as a first step in acknowledging the Church’s role in stories of sexual misconduct – those shared and not shared. In anticipation of need following the service, a pastoral response team dedicated to responding to the needs of those affected by the liturgy and #MeToo movement was on site throughout General Convention.
One of the themes to emerge and travel home from General Convention was the “Way of Love,” or practices for living a Jesus-centered life. Introduced at the Opening Eucharist in an electrifying sermon by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the Way of Love invites practitioners to follow seven simple rules:
- Turn: pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus
- Learn: reflect daily on scripture, especially the life and teachings of Jesus
- Pray: spend time with God in prayer every day
- Worship: gather in community for worship every week
- Bless: share one’s faith and find ways to serve other people
- Go: move beyond one’s comfort to witness to the love of God with words and actions
- Rest: dedicate time for restoration and wholeness
Every worshipper in the hall received a wallet card with the rules of living the Way of Love, and information was distributed to be able to download or order Way of Love materials.
Read/watch: Presiding Bishop Curry’s sermon
Read more: Presiding Bishop urges Episcopalians to embrace “Way of Love” for spiritual growth
Learn more: The Way of Love
An Episcopal Revival
Saturday night at General Convention was a party, indeed, with an Episcopal Revival and Texas Night hosted by the Diocese of Texas. The music was sensational, spiritual, uplifting and toe-tapping, with Presiding Bishop Curry sermon of love at the center. He spoke of the need for it, the key to it, the work of it and the power of it. “The key to following Jesus, the key to being his disciple, the key to life is love, is love, is love, it’s love….And the work of love is to work to make a world with the possibility of life for all. That is the work of love.” The crowd was riveted for the almost 45-minute sermon, moving only to jump to its feet multiple times when an “Amen” just wasn’t enough to express the feeling in the room. Spanish-language translator Dinorah Padro stayed word for word with Presiding Bishop Curry to bring the sermon to the room in two languages, even keeping pace with his energy and movement. The revival culminated in a truly moving moment when the bishops from the Diocese of Texas laid hands on Presiding Bishop Curry to bless and pray over him, with the crowd extending their own to join in before moving to prayer stations around the hall. At an event crowded with incredible music and worship that inspires, moves, uplifts and motivates, the Episcopal Revival found a whole new level.
Presiding Bishop Curry was not the only one preaching memorable sermons at General Convention. Gifted speakers from across the Church preached every day.
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (President, House of Deputies)
Andrés Gonzalez-Bonillas (Diocese of Arizona)
The Rt. Rev. Prince Singh (Diocese of Rochester)
The Rev. Winnie Varghese (Trinity Wall Street, Diocese of New York)
Brother Aiden Owen (Holy Cross Monastery, Diocese of New York)
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows (Diocese of Indianapolis)
If worship is the grounding force of General Convention, legislation is the heart of the gathering. More than 500 resolutions were submitted to General Convention for consideration and discussion on far-ranging matters. Legislative committee meetings began at 7:30a.m., and it was not uncommon to see them run as late as 11:00p.m. to prepare resolutions for presentation in the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.
Full texts and outcomes of all resolutions can be found on the General Convention Virtual Binder. Some of the notable legislative decisions made at General Convention (in alphabetical order):
The $134 million budget once again reflects the priorities of reconciliation, evangelism and creation care. The budget was presented in a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies before being further discussed in the respective houses.
In one of the more moving moments in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, both houses voted unanimously to pass Resolution A238 and invite the Episcopal Church in Cuba to return to the Church as a diocese after more than 50 years apart. The celebrations that erupted upon the announcement of vote results were deafening, and emotions ran high when Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, bishop of Cuba, took to the dais to speak. Upon completing her remarks to the House of Deputies, Cuba’s delegation marker was raised and Cuba took its place. The Diocese of Cuba will be a part of Province II.
Among the legislation pertaining to governance, one decision of note was General Convention’s passing of Resolution A072, giving dioceses approval to review the province where they currently reside and explore options should they wish to be affiliated elsewhere.
The topic of immigration at General Convention focused primarily on the issues surrounding the dignity of immigrants and the separation of families, thereby producing an overwhelming agreement. Three resolutions were passed, including Resolution C033, which “puts the church on record as respecting the dignity of all immigrants;” Resolution A178, which takes a stand against the separation of families, and Resolution C009, “Becoming a Sanctuary Church.” (Photo by the Rev. Dr. Jeanine Driscoll)
As expected, the conversation surrounding the Israel/Palestine conflict was emotional, conflicted and deeply felt. Fifteen resolutions were submitted on the subject, and only six reached agreement between the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. While all agreed the violence is an “escalating humanitarian crisis,” the House of Bishops voted against the controversial Resolution D019 that would put in place a “human rights investment screen,” citing it to be tantamount to “divesting” from Israel. However, both houses passed resolutions calling for the resumption of humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees (Resolution B021) and upholding the status of Jerusalem as a shared Holy City (Resolution B003). While the houses may not have been in agreement on specific steps to take regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, they were united in the desire to see violence end, the people of both nations safe and a peaceful path forward found.
Resolution B012 was passed in both houses, giving all Episcopalians the ability to be married in their home churches with “full access to two trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples approved by the 2015 meeting of General Convention (via Resolution A054).” Resolution B012 was heavily amended and passed between the House of Bishops and House of Deputies multiple times before the final version was approved. It gives clergy access to the trial use marriage rites for all couples (previous iterations gave them access under the direction of their bishop); requires that if a bishop “does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples” because of a theological position, he or she may invite another bishop to provide pastoral support to couples and clergy involved; and authorizes that the trial use of marriage rites will continue until the next full revision of the Book of Common Prayer.
The #MeToo movement was a central concern at General Convention, with a particular focus on the voices of women. What began with the Liturgy of Listening followed throughout the gathering, with multiple resolutions passing both houses on subjects ranging from allowing infants on the floors of the Houses to changes to the Title IV canons. In addition, the House of Bishops adopted a covenant acknowledging the #MeToo movement and committing to seek change.
Prayer Book Revision
A substitute version of Resolution A068 was adopted to provide a path to develop new liturgies with “expansive and inclusive” language while continuing the use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The revised resolution now encourages dioceses to “create a liturgical commission to collect, reflect, teach and share resources [to be developed within the dioceses] with the Task Force for the Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision (TFLPBR).” The approach was put in place to address the unmet needs of Episcopalians without proceeding to a full Prayer Book revision, as it was determined the direction of such a revision still needs to be further clarified.
In addition to the liturgical development and continued prayer book usage, Resolution D078 continued the Church’s progress toward greater inclusivity with the allowance of all congregations to use alternative language for the [Eucharistic] Prayer A, B and D from Rite II in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
Salary for the President of the House of Deputies
While no specific salary was named for the president of the House of Deputies, Resolution B014 passed to provide “director and officer’s fees” as compensation for what was previously a full-time, unpaid position.
SOCIAL JUSTICE / PUBLIC WITNESS
Despite the record-setting legislative workload, those in attendance at General Convention found time to stand in public witness against gun violence and the treatment of immigrants.
Bishops Against Gun Violence Daily Witnesses Every day before the start of the first legislative session, the Bishops Against Gun Violence hosted a daily witness liturgy. Each worship featured a specific area of gun violence, and the witness included prayer, scripture and a reflection. Both the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple and the Rt. Rev. Sam Rodman led witnesses, with Bishop Hodges-Copple speaking on the topic of gun-related suicide, and Bishop Rodman reflecting on police shootings. Following each service, the bishops distributed 96 wooden crosses, each cross representing one person killed each day by gun violence (the national average estimates 96 people die each day). As the crosses continued to be distributed after each day’s witness, they served as an increasingly visual representation of the number of people who were killed by gun violence during the 10 days of General Convention.
Bishops Against Gun Violence Rally in the Park
On Sunday, July 8, bishops, priests, deacons and laity gathered in Brush Square Park for a public witness against gun violence. Organized by Bishops Against Gun Violence, when gathered the member bishops formed a sea of red and orange, wearing stoles created especially for the occasion, and despite the early heat, the park was crowded with witnesses. The family of Carmen Schentrup, one of the students killed February 14 in Parkland, Florida, spoke at the gathering, sharing their struggle with grief, the role of their faith and urged everyone in attendance to work to make a difference in preventing gun violence. Abigail Zimmerman, a 14-year old advocate, also spoke. Zimmerman, along with her classmates, organized a walkout at her school and continues to work for reforms to gun control. “I encourage all of you to make change happen,” she said. “Educate yourself, your friends. Vote. Join organizations devoted to common sense gun legislation. Write letters. Do whatever you can to make a difference. Change must happen and it must happen now.”
Prayer Vigil at Hutto Detention Center
Following the public witness against gun violence in Brush Park Square, a large contingent of those gathered continued their social justice witness with a trip to Taylor, Texas, to the Hutto Detention Center. Hundreds of immigrant women are being detained in Hutto, though it is unclear whether they are among those who have been separated from their families. Episcopalians gathered to worship, pray, sing and bear witness. As those gathered sang, some say there were indications they were heard by those detained inside, though the detention center was hundreds of yards away from where the faithful crowd was gathered. (Photo by Nicole Baxley)
OTHER NOTES AND MOMENTS
Four joint sessions between the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies were held at General Convention: one was the presentation of the 2019-2021 budget, and the other three were TEConversations. TEConversations were sessions that presented information and speakers on a specific topic, followed by a designated time of discussion. Designed ultimately to be a series of nine conversations that can be used in congregations, the first three presented at General Convention focused on the “three pillars of the Jesus Movement”: racial reconciliation, evangelism and creation care. All of the conversations were hosted by North Carolina’s own the Rev. David Crabtree, and the Rev. Dr. Lauren Winner (St. Paul’s, Louisburg), was a panelist on the evangelism program.
Pauli Murray, Thurgood Marshall and Florence Li Tim-Oi Become Permanent Saints
Three “widely commemorated” figures in the Episcopal Church are now permanent saints: the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, Thurgood Marshall and the Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi were added on July 13 to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts calendar. Read more.
General Convention in the News
If the influx of clergy collars wasn’t enough to tip off the residents of Austin the Episcopal Church was in town, the local news made sure of it, as the Church was in the news on several occasions throughout General Convention, both for its Presiding Bishop and its public witness:
Presiding Bishop Curry on ‘Fox & Friends’
Episcopal leaders, shooting victim parents rally against gun violence
Episcopal bishop leads immigration policy protest at detention center
Bishop Michael Curry speaks at Hutto Detention Facility
See more news coverage…
Media Hub Opens Window on General Convention
The opportunity to witness General Convention as it happens has never been greater than it was at the 79th gathering. The Episcopal Church and Episcopal News Service combined communications-team forces to offer livestreams of special events, worship services, legislative sessions and more on the new Media Hub, with in-depth reports following hours on ENS later. All events on the Media Hub are still available for on-demand viewing, and far more stories than we can contain here are available on the ENS website.
The GC Pigeon
Folks at home might have wondered if the Texas heat had gotten to General Convention attendees with all of the talk about the “GC Pigeon” in conversation and on social media. The truth is that a chance occurrence became a local sensation and much-needed source of levity that carried through the ten grueling days. During opening remarks to a joint session of both houses, a pigeon flew through the House of Deputies at seemingly definitive moments, as if it had something to say about the proceedings. Within minutes, the “GC Pigeon” had a Twitter account (@gc79pigeon), and a star was born. Read more: Identity of @gc79pigeon revealed (spoiler alert!!
Thank you, Diocese of North Carolina! In the weeks to come, we will be exploring these resolutions in more detail. Stay tuned…
Let us pray –
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed
for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one:
Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and
obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit,
that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your
Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council