General Convention Delegates: Impressions, Hopes and Fears about the General Convention

The Rev. Sherry Black

This is my 2nd General Convention as a deputy (my first was in 2015), and the first to serve on a committee (Privilege and Courtesy). I’m sure we are all excited to be in Austin TX the first two weeks of July; even now a month ahead of the event the temps are in the mid-to-upper 90’s plus humidity (she said sarcastically).

Even so, I am looking forward to spending time with my colleagues from the diocese, seeing old friends from seminary and beyond, and making new acquaintances. Though the days are long and sometimes grueling, I enjoy being with Episcopalians from across the country — and the world. I especially enjoy the opportunity to worship together with several thousand of us gathered under one roof.
My hope and prayer is that there will not be any legislation passed that would further divide our beloved Church; my fear is that there will be.

Sharon K. Hoffman

As a new deputy, I am eager but anxious for my new adventure. Having attended General Convention/ECW Triennial Meeting from 1994 in Indianapolis through 2006 in Columbus, OH, I am very familiar with the tremendous load of work that deputies are required to do (and the long hours).
One of my duties this year will be as a member of the Credentials Committee. Our first two days (July 3rd and 4th) will be very long days starting at 6:30 am (Tues.) till 5 pm and 8:30 am (Wed.) till 5 pm. That should get us started!!

I am very grateful for the daily Eucharists with the deputies and Bishops and Triennial Meeting delegates. It is a terrific experience. I am sorry that we do not start every day with Eucharist. At this General Convention, the Eucharist is set at a different time each day.

My fear is that we will not be able to come to a consensus on important issues without it becoming personal – with unkind words.

My hope is that we will be selfless and meet the challenge of Bp. Curry’s Jesus Movement.

Fr. Dick Swan.

This will be my sixth General Convention over the past 21 years. The first I attended as a lay volunteer, the second as an Exhibitor with the Office of Federal Chaplaincy, and this will be my fourth as a Deputy. Each has had a slightly different personality. As with the last three there is a bit of excitement as well as a bit of trepidation moving up to this triennial event.

Many feel that the size of our General convention needs to be pared back, our Church is about 1.7 million members, yet the only conventions larger than the Episcopal Church General Convention are the Republican and Democratic National Conventions! Many resolutions will flow through the House of Deputies as “Mind of the Convention” resolutions, many will urge Dioceses and Congregations to this action, or that, or to refrain from such. Resolutions are seldom binding! Many conventions since 1998 have urged the leadership at the Central Church Office to move from New York City to a more central location in order to be better stewards of funding (a single staff person salary in NYC can rival the annual budget of many local Episcopal Churches)

What often makes me nervous about the General Convention is that the News Media doesn’t really understand us and what we do, so an action, or a speech from the floor can make headlines that are far from reality. Over the past 14 years I have had to go into a “damage control” mode to explain General Convention actions to Parishioners, either positive, or (more often) negative.

As with many Dioceses our membership is made up of both “traditionalists” and “progressives” yet our Diocese is still mainly traditional in regards to issues of the Central Church Operation. We used to be in the middle of a larger group of Traditionalists attending the General Convention, however beginning with G.C. #77 six years ago we have found ourselves as the extreme right minority in attendance.

With the exception that we are not having the election of a Presiding Bishop, this year will be much like three years ago in Salt Lake City. There is talk of revising the Book of Common prayer but the amount of energy behind that waits to be seen. Please keep us in prayer as we seek to serve the larger church and represent our Diocese in July.

The Rev. David J. A. Halt

“What am I looking forward to at General Convention?” It is difficult to answer as I have no experience of a General Convention. I have read the reports of previous General Conventions, and I followed them closely during their debates in the past, but all of that has been filtered through various reporting lenses. So, I come to General Convention with curiosity and questions.
I am looking forward to seeing how my presuppositions of this gathering are supported, challenged, or changed. I have often heard of General Convention being the largest bicameral legislation in the world while it is in session, so I am intrigued to discover if this is an accurate statement. I want to see if we live up to our billing and how the organizing of the legislative work is carried out. As a parliamentary geek it will be an interesting experience, and experiment, in the minutiae and mundane of procedure and machinations. How do Christians, gathered in a large body, use the nuances and possibilities of the rules of orders to pursue their goals and objectives? How does substantive debate on the merit of the issues take place, and resolve itself, within the limits of time imposed by necessity? Does the procedure itself represent the movement of the Holy Spirit? With the plethora of reports and proposed resolutions do we give ourselves enough time to be adequately informed on all the hoped-for positives, and potential unintentional negatives, to any question that is laid before this body? Besides these questions, I really do not have many expectations of the General Convention from a legislative perspective.

I have tried to become well-informed as to the reports and proposals and to give each due consideration. As for any specific controversy or proposal and its consequences, I would prefer to remain mute until the time to consider each on its merits, and faithfulness to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed to the Church. On any particular issue, as a Deputy my task is to discern the mind of the Church, the mind of Christ, and not my own mind or even the mind of our Diocese. For me, preparing for, and participating in this General Convention will be a time of intense prayer.

Beyond the importance of this work and discernment, I am looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues from other Dioceses as we pursue our common work. So, while I am expecting the work to be difficult and long, the shared fellowship of brothers and sisters from across the spectrum of Dioceses will be refreshing.

I will say that I am not looking forward to Austin in July, especially as I have been reliably informed that it is not a dry heat.

Please keep all of our Deputies and our Bishop in your prayers in the days ahead.

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