Deputies and Other Diocesan Participants Reflect on General Convention

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Reflections from (click on names to go directly to their contributions):

 

The Rev. Martha Overall

The Ven. William Parnell

The Rev. Blake Rider

Mr. Michael Wood

 

For Bishop Dietsche's Reflections on GC, click here

 

The Rev. Martha Overall
Clergy Deputy


Thank you to the Diocese of New York for electing me to be a Deputy to General Convention; it is a unique honor and privilege.  Our church involves more of the faithful in its governance than almost any other.  For that reason, and others, I am particularly eager to put into practice what was discussed.
  
Our Diocese has not suffered the severe decline in numbers of many other dioceses.  The committee on evangelism was very frank in its assessment of the decline and in suggesting what we need to do to grow; so I chose to follow that committee.
  
Three of the foremost actions I plan to implement at St. Ann's relate to the debate over "open communion", clarity about baptism and strengthening stewardship.  There was a spirited discussion of the so-called "open table", meaning allowing persons who have not yet been baptized to receive Holy Communion.  Some Dioceses permit it.  In other dioceses, some churches permit it.  Many young people especially testified in favor of open communion.  It was emphasized that being denied communion is hurtful.
  
In the committee, a substitute resolution surfaced, which would have reaffirmed baptism as the means of entry to the church and to communion, but at the same time acknowledging that in some places the unbaptized receive. 
That resolution was rejected.
  
I realized that, while our leaflet at St. Ann's welcomes all baptized persons to receive Holy Communion, it does not extend a similar welcome to people to become baptized.  Now, right after we invite the baptized to Holy Communion, we invite the unbaptized to be baptized.
  
The discussion also gave me a sense that, at least to some people, we have not been sufficiently clear as to what baptism means.  So, for clarity's sake, we are going to make posters with the Baptismal Covenant (in English and Spanish, because we are St. Ann's) so that people know what they are signing on to, and so that all who come to our various programs know what we stand for.
  
Third, I am eager to share a resolution that was passed setting forth expectations for Steward Leaders.  Those expectations include: sharing a personal stewardship story and living publicly the holy habits of tithing, daily personal prayer and study, Sabbath time and weekly corporate worship; having an informed theological position about social, ecological and economic justice; articulating the tension between our current consumer culture and following Christ; and understanding our central call to steward the well-being of the entire created order.
  
We elected the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings as the new President of the House of Deputies.  She is a dynamic leader who helped to found CREDO, and whose husband says that she loves to go to church meetings.  For Vice-President, we elected the remarkable Byron Rushing, an inspiring lay preacher, a founder of the Episcopal Urban Caucus and a patient and gracious trainer of new deputies.
  
My ministry includes caring for transgender persons, who often suffer painful discrimination at the most critical times of their lives; so I was heartened when we affirmed full inclusion of transgender people in our church.  I was happy to hear Bishop Gene Robinson say that God sent transgender persons to the church to teach us what full inclusivity really means.  All in all, I am grateful that this church belongs to you and me.  Amen.

On this day the Lord has acted;
   we will rejoice and be glad in it.

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The Ven. William Parnell
Archdeacon for Mission


One thing which impressed me greatly, and which may get overlooked, was the involvement of both the Official Youth Presence, selected from each Province and with seat and voice, as well as Deputies in their late teens – 30s who represented various dioceses. The eloquence they demonstrated on a variety of issues was amazing and their witness was critical on a number of issues that came before General Convention. They certainly were a major voice within the House of Deputies. I hope the House of Bishops had a chance to hear from them as well.

A second thing that needs to be noted is the role of our own Diane Pollard who chaired the Program, Budget and Finance Committee which was responsible for creating the churchwide budget for the next triennium. Diane did an amazing job of presiding over this and deserves commendation from everyone. Also worth noting that Diane was elected to serve on the Nominating Committee for the next Presiding Bishop (who will be elected in 2015).  Also, the Revs. Matthew Moretz and Yamily Bass-Choate were elected to the Board of General Seminary.

 

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The Rev. Wm. Blake Rider
Rector, Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie
Alternate Clergy Deputy


I was surprised to have been elected an Alternate Deputy and was thrilled to have been at this particular General Convention, my first. I think that I ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ and will return to General Convention as often as possible.

The highlight for me was when the Convention - unanimously in both the Deputies and Bishops - created a Task Force to study the structure of the  Church, and to bring to the 78th General Convention in 2015 a set of concrete and determinative proposals to re-imagine the Church.  I spent most of my time sitting in the Committee hearings and working sessions that struggled with that issue.

Debate on the call for restructuring the church was intense, as is most debate in the House of Deputies. When 800 people vote by 'voice' it is always a pretty loud exercise.  The "ayes" were plenty loud enough - but when the call for 'those against' was meet with utter silence, I (and most in the room) was stunned.  The House erupted into sustained cheers and standing applause - both of which are utterly forbidden by our Rules of Order. It was an amazing moment.  We then sang together a hymn that was unfamiliar to me – but I don’t mind learning a new hymn!  Set to the familiar tune of "Come thou font of every blessing" we sang of our hope to "sing a new church into being". 

There is an unrelenting momentum among some to reform the structure of the Church. I support the position that TEC is far too "top heavy", too bureaucratic, and not 'nimble' enough. I don’t claim to be smart enough to have a ready-made blueprint for ‘the fix.’  Fewer standing commissions? Fewer staff? Better management of 815 to make it a profit center, rather than a financial liability? Outright sale of the building? Relocate the PB and staff to another city? Do we need fewer Dioceses? Only three Lay and Clergy Deputies each, rather than the current four? Term limits for Bishops?

There were so many ideas in the air.  A task force of 24 people from across the Church will be called to study these and other issues, and then convene a larger gathering from across the entire church. This larger group will consider the proposals and help tweak them (presumably) into proposed amendments to the governing documents of the church.  At the 2015 Convention, we will consider those proposals and also elect a new Presiding Bishop.  Buckle your seatbelts, its liable to be a bumpy ride.

The individuals called to this larger gathering in response to the Task Force will be four from each Diocese:  A bishop, a member of the clergy, a member of the laity, and a fourth individual:  being someone younger than 35 years of age.  This recognition of the need for the Church to engage and listen to the voices of young adults is very heartening to me –I was a young adult once. 25% of the group that will first hear and wrestle with the proposals to restructure the church will have been born since 1978.  I think that’s a good thing. Several Dioceses had both lay and clergy deputies who were under 30.  There was also a large presence in the House of Deputies (with voice, but no vote) of high school seniors.  The presence and engagement of these young voices in the councils of the church move me to a place of great hope.

At the Convention I also was able to meet old friends and make new ones.  Friends from Oklahoma: where I grew up and went to university: ran into three fellow graduates of Oral Roberts University –each of us now priests and Deputies or Alternates. Friends from Texas: where I was one of few “the liberal voices” on the floor of  Convention in the 1980’s, and where I was called to the priesthood and ordained. From Virginia Theological Seminary. Even from Tunisia, where I lived for four years in the 1990’s.

I am thankful to the Diocese for entrusting to me the responsibility of serving as a Clergy Alternate Deputy. I learned a great deal and I now have more hope for the future of our church.

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Mr. Michael Wood
Lay Deputy

High energy plus palpable passion equaled excitement at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Excitement as I appreciatively noted the wide variety encompassed by one Church, Excitement as I participated in the respectful listening that made it possible for us all to come together despite our differences. Excitement as I breathed in the sincerity and joy of 1500 people all of whom chose to gather together at Convention to share deeply held convictions and apply them to bringing ever closer the Kingdom of God. Excitement that inspired hundreds of volunteers, including a large contingent from the Diocese of New York, to hours of service. Excitement as I submitted a resolution that actually resulted in change to the Canons of the Church even though a first-time lay deputy; each person’s gifts were received and then magnified in community. Ten days of legislative sessions flew by with little sleep, non-stop networking, and warm collegiality all riding the waves of this tremendously powerful excitement.


 
Excitement fueled by communal and thoroughly exuberant worship; I wallowed in the feeling of the Spirit moving among us and joined in the lusty singing at all Eucharists. And from our joined prayers and intense working sessions came decisions. Some, such as the approving blessings for same sex unions, were landmark. Others, like the unanimous agreement on the need to restructure the Church addressing perceptions of heavy bureaucracy that serves to inhibit necessary change, resulted in the call for further study. All were carefully introduced, thoroughly contemplated, vigorously discussed, and thoughtfully made. May each of us fortunate to be present in any capacity at the Convention go forth and, with God’s help, pass along this excitement that it may swell even more in the three years until the next General Convention!

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Archdeacon Parnell

One thing which impressed me greatly, and which may get overlooked, was the involvement of both the Official Youth Presence, selected from each Province and with seat and voice, as well as Deputies in their late teens – 30s who represented various dioceses. The eloquence they demonstrated on a variety of issues was amazing and their witness was critical on a number of issues that came before General Convention. They certainly were a major voice within the House of Deputies. I hope the House of Bishops had a chance to hear from them as well.

A second thing that needs to be noted is the role of our own Diane Pollard who chaired the Program, Budget and Finance Committee which was responsible for creating the churchwide budget for the next triennium. Diane did an amazing job of presiding over this and deserves commendation from everyone. Also worth noting that Diane was elected to serve on the Nominating Committee for the next Presiding Bishop (who will be elected in 2015).  Also, the Revs. Matthew Moretz and Yamily Bass-Choate were elected to the Board of General Seminary.

 

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