Image above: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry delivers a sermon at the opening Eucharist at the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas. Photo: Mike Patterson/Episcopal News Service.
The Rev. Dr. Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew is a Deputy to the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church and rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Manlius. She reports on the opening day of General Convention, noting a new initiative from our Presiding Bishop. The Way of Love: Practices for A Jesus-Centered Life encourages Episcopalians to rediscover the treasures of our tradition to deepen our spiritual lives.
See all reflections from CNY’s General Convention deputation at cnyepiscopal.org/gc79.
The first day of General Convention, July 5th, opened with a Legislative Session at 8:00 a.m. 423 clergy and 427 lay deputies from 110 dioceses were present.
The session began with organizing elections and appointments. The President of the House of Deputies, who is originally from the Diocese of Central New York, sent a group of deputies wearing Syracuse University baseball caps to the House of Bishops to inform the bishops that the deputies were organized. All deputies in the group were named Michael, the same first name as the Presiding Bishop, and they serenaded the Presiding Bishop with “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” Then two representatives from the House of Bishops came to the House of Deputies, both wearing tiaras, to inform us they were ready for business.
The Opening Eucharist included a passionate and powerful sermon by our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry. (Watch the sermon or read a transcript.) He encouraged the Church to live into The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life, taking on seven traditional spiritual practices—Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. Presiding Bishop Curry wants us to bring out these treasures of the faith and practice them together. He said, “We don’t need a new program … we have what we need to throw ourselves into the arms of God.” Chuck Stewart and Shelly Banner were “traveling deacons” for the Eucharist, and invited two additional members of the delegation to assist them, so Ernestine Patterson, Georgina Hegney, Carol Forrester, and I participated.
A significant portion of the day was spent in Legislative Committees and Hearings. I serve on the Christian Formation and Discipleship Committee, which held six hearings today on topics including: providing pastoral care materials for those in relationships outside of marriage; ministry with people who have mental health concerns; anti-sexism training; and funding for Forma, Episcopal Service Corps, and Episcopal Youth Events. Each hearing had numerous speakers who testified. I chaired a subcommittee to amend the resolution on formation materials for those in relationships outside of marriage. The response to the anti-sexism resolution was particularly strong in light of the Liturgy of Listening from the prior evening designed by a planning team led by Bishop DeDe.
The afternoon Legislative Session included video greetings from the leaders of Churches around the Anglican Communion, along with a welcome of the leader of the Church of Brazil on the floor of the House of Deputies, and his honorary acceptance as a Senior Deputy for General Convention. We held a noteworthy discussion on amending the Canons to allow for joint sessions of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, which passed. There was an additional deliberation and vote to pay the President of the House of Deputies in a manner that compensates for services rendered but does not alter the polity of the Episcopal Church, a point of significant concern.
Most of the delegation was able to gather late in the evening with the Bishop for food, drink, conversation, and community building. I thank you for the opportunity to serve as a Delegate from the Diocese of Central New York. It is an honor and privilege.