As we moved into the second half of this very compressed General Convention, technology issues that plagued us in first few days continued, but so did the work of the church. Nothing can stop the Holy Spirit, not even really bad Wi-Fi.
The biggest news out of Day 3 was the joint session of the House of Deputies & the House of Bishops for the presentation of the budget for the next Tri… no wait, Bi… no…, well… Mini-enium, which will support the work of the church for the next two years (normally three). Keeping with the distinct nature of this convention, the bishops were not seated with their deputations, but were placed in the back of the hall to keep the “podding” in place (to guard against Covid transmission). Separated or not, we managed to pass the budget of $100,493,452, and we amended the budgeting process too.
Specifically with regard to the budget process, Resolution A048 essentially ended the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, & Finance (and hence, its existence) and keeps the process solely with Executive Council’s Finance Committee. This was proposed as a way of making the process more efficient and ease the work that happens at General Convention. Prior to this resolution, the Executive Council would produce the budget, go through it with PB&F so that they could work with it and present it, and then work for months to modify it to meet the financial requirements of actions taken at General Convention. There was testimony for and against, but ultimately A048 passed.
The other big work of both Houses was to determine – what exactly is a book? Or perhaps, more to the point, how do we define the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) in an era when books take all forms – print, electronic, audio – and where there are multiple authorized liturgical resources that are not within the covers of the physical 1979 prayer book? For years, General Convention has sought to update our beloved BCP, yet several things stood in the way. Because we looked at this from a perspective of a bound book with covers, there was a sense of the enormity of the project in expense and time, and the need for there to be enough revisions needed to justify the effort. Resolution A059 would amend Article X of the Constitutions of The Episcopal Church to expand the meaning of the prayer book to include all authorized materials. For example, Enriching Our Worship has been an authorized liturgical supplement, in use by many across our church. However, it was not part of what was understood to be our Book of Common Prayer. This would expand our definition of our Book of Common Prayer as being inclusive of Enriching Our Worship. The same would be true of other authorized texts. While there was much debate, this too passed.
In the House of Deputies, we did attempt to re-run the Court of Review election, which was sadly nullified because of provisions requiring provincial representation (that are soon to be extinct). However, Wi-Fi issues continued to plague the House, and after numerous attempts to proceed, the election was postponed to the final morning. This was especially frustrating to our deputation, as Laura Russell, the top vote-getter in the initial election (by 151 votes) had to wait multiple days to complete the election, so stay tuned.
There was one election that did manage to make it past the Wi-Fi gremlins, and it was for Vice-President of the House of Deputies. The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton of the Diocese of Olympia was elected as the first ordained woman, and only the third woman to serve in this capacity. She is also the only First Nation (Shakan) person to hold one of the two leadership positions in the House. As she serves alongside the newly elected President of the House, Julia Ayala Harris, who is Latina, it will be the first time two women will lead the House, and two people of color, will hold both positions of leadership.
There were several measures, some on second read (which means the final vote needed), to commemorate additional saints of the church. One of them was to recognize the life and witness to Jesus of the late Rt. Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris, the first woman elected to the episcopate in the Anglican Communion. There was a strong desire to commemorate Bishop Harris, however, the tradition of General Convention has been to wait 50 years after death before being entered into the calendar of saints. Still, this is not canonically required, and has been set aside in the past. The resolution passed allowed her historic consecration date, February 11, to be entered into Lesser Feasts & Fasts, while allowing more time for the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music to do a deeper exploration and consideration of this groundbreaking servant of Christ for consideration on our calendar of saints.
Both Houses condemned the actions of Russia in its war against Ukraine, passing Resolution B008 “A Call for Cessation of Conflict in Ukraine,” and in Resolution A078 confirmed the social justice advocacy as a primary ministry of the Church.
Finally, there was joy and celebration again as we commemorated the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies for her outstanding service to the House and to the Church. She in turn presented numerous House of Deputies medals to those who had served the House with distinction, especially the Honorable Byron Rushing, a 16-time deputy to General Convention, who has served as Vice-President with distinction alongside President Jennings.
You can to follow along on all that is happening, including participating in worship, by going to the GC Media Hub. The sessions of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops, as well as media briefings from the Office of Public Affairs and #GC80 Daily Show videos, will also be available on demand on the Media Hub for those not able to watch the live stream.