Deputies’ Perspective: Preparing for General Convention

 In General Convention

Ms. Felicity Hallanan is a  Deputy to the 79th General Convention and a member of Trinity Church in Watertown. She tells us how deputies are preparing for the upcoming event. 

See all reflections from CNY’s General Convention deputation at cnyepiscopal.org/gc79.

In less than one month, representatives from dioceses across the country and around the world, along with visitors, volunteers, exhibitors and others, will be on their way to the place that proudly encourages us to “Keep Austin Weird.”

The capitol of Texas, Austin is preparing to welcome some 10,000 people to the 79th General Convention of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, i.e. The Episcopal Church. From July 5th to 13th they will cogitate, deliberate and celebrate their many similarities and differences as Episcopalians before returning home.

All of this will be led by the “Royal Wedding Bishop,” our own Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who can be expected to provide further inspiration in his passion for the Jesus Movement. And among those in attendance will be the lay and clergy Deputies and several others representing the Diocese of Central New York.

Specifically, in the words posted on the site of GC79, “The General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. It is a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies, with more than 800 members (up to four clergy and four lay persons from each diocese), and the House of Bishops, with over 300 active and resigned bishops.

“The work of General Convention includes adopting legislation of concern to the Church; amending the Book of Common Prayer, the Constitution, and the Canons of the Church; adopting a triennial budget for The Episcopal Church; and electing candidates to offices, boards and other committees. This work is undertaken in support of the mission and ministry of the Church, and with prayerful gratitude and spiritual discernment.”

We are deputies, not delegates. The difference is that while a delegate goes to such an event with direction from those back home, deputies are charged with educating themselves about issues likely to arise, to pray over them and then vote according to their consciences.

Additionally, one of the first things we learned after election at the 2016 Diocesan Convention is that we are deputies, not delegates. The difference is that while a delegate goes to such an event with direction from those back home, deputies are charged with educating themselves about issues likely to arise, to pray over them and then vote according to their consciences.

To that end, we have been reading almost-daily reports arriving from the General Convention site on computers, as well as taking in opinions voiced on Facebook and other media by specialized groups; several of us have also been invited to serve on legislative committees focused on particular issues and therefore calling for further preparations including teleconference calls.

In other words, as President of the House of Deputies The Rev. Gay Jennings wrote earlier this year, “Do your homework. The reason that we post reports and appoint committees in January is that it takes some time to do our jobs right. Be responsible for the work you’ve been given to do.”

She also advises, “Renew the spiritual practices that keep you centered, attentive, and humble so that you show up in body, mind and spirit. While in Austin, take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious food, and wear comfortable shoes. If you drink alcohol, do so cautiously and sparingly.”

And importantly, “Seek Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself. Remember that this doesn’t mean agreeing with your neighbor, or staying silent if your neighbor needs to be held accountable, or avoiding healthy conflict.”

“Seek Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself. Remember that this doesn’t mean agreeing with your neighbor, or staying silent if your neighbor needs to be held accountable, or avoiding healthy conflict.”

That being said, we begin leaving for Austin the weekend beforehand since, in some instances, registration and committee meetings get under way on July 3rd. Central New York members attending General Convention are headed, of course, by our Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Dr. DeDe Duncan-Probe; lay members are Ms. Karen Anderson, Ms. Carol Forrester, Ms. Ernestine Patterson, Ms. Felicity Hallanan and Dr. Sandra Michael, while clergy members include deputation chair The Very Rev. Joell Szachara, The Rev. Dr. Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew, The Rev. Georgina Hegney, The Rev. Deacon Charles Stewart and The Rev. Deacon Shelly Banner.

Additionally, The Rev. Jennifer Kenna is Board member of the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) and will be in attendance at Triennial, also attended by delegate Penny Dugas; guests from Central New York will include volunteer and tech supporter Mrs. Melody Chilson; The Rev. Brooks Cato, The Very Rev. Megan Castellan, The Rev. Jon White, Ms. Evelyn C. Rule, The Rev. Wanda Copeland and The Rev. Canon Carrie Schofield-Broadbent.

Those of us serving on committees include Dena, Christian Formation and Discipleship; Felicity, Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation; Joell, Privilege and Courtesy; Sandra, Church Pension Fund; and Chuck, World Missions.

In addition to our committees’ meetings, we will all do our best to attend legislative sessions deliberating on everything from proposed changes to the Book of Common Prayer to a budget for The Episcopal Church and including a wide range of issues from the #MeToo movement as it affects the Church to how best to act on concerns for climate change through efforts in our own neighborhoods. For the record, to date over 220 resolutions have been put forward for consideration, though of course it remains to be seen how many will make it to the floor for a vote.

Beyond the “official” sessions there will be worship services each day highlighted by the LGBTQ Integrity Eucharist, gatherings for graduates of seminaries and of provinces including Province II to which we belong, visits to churches throughout Austin, a Young Adults Festival, and events honoring individuals including both The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, one of the first women priests and ordained in this Diocese, and The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis and another “alumna” of the Diocese of Central New York.

Want to hear more? The concerns of Palestinians and Jews will be addressed, along with matters of Racial Healing and Reconciliation raised in this Diocese just weeks ago at the Ministry Fair—the list goes on, the choices almost overwhelming. But rest assured your representatives will do their best to take in and participate in all that we can, and then strive to bring home and share what we have experienced!

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  • Cathy Gibbons

    Just a note about General Convention: The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, is one of our own, a Central New Yorker, raised in Dewitt and Fayetteville! Her very first job as a teenager was at the first Wegmans.

    • Meredith Sanderson

      Fun fact! Thank you, Cathy.

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Nine Deputy Ministers gather around Bishop DeDe for a picture at the Episcopal General Convention