General Convention: Celebrations and holy moments

Photo above by Deputy News/Scott Gunn: The House of Deputies stands to celebrate the reunion of the Dioceses of Texas and North Texas. 

As the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church wrapped up on Monday, July 11th, we asked our CNY Deputies about the holy moments they encountered in the four-day summit, and the outcomes they’re celebrating.

 

Taking care of one another

Deputy Megan Castellan (rector of St. John’s, Ithaca)

Given the everything that conspired to make this convention The Worst Ever, I think what I will most cherish is that it wasn’t. In the end, over a thousand people followed a lot of new rules, wore their masks a lot, gave up nearly everything that made convention fun, and managed to get a lot of important work done, in a really short period of time. It remains to be seen what the COVID fall-out will be entirely, but as of today, our caseload is lower than the 10-20% numbers we were worried about. And that’s because this big group of (rowdy, opinionated, stubborn) folks decided to suck it up and take care of one another.

I spend a lot of time lovingly exasperated by the things the church gets wrong. And we get a lot of stuff wrong. But the thing that keeps bringing me back to a circus like General Convention, even in a year like this one, is that when it comes down to it, we are a big group of people who really love Jesus and really want to follow Him in the world, and do the right thing. And it is pretty amazing to witness.

 

“We’re supposed to do it together.”

Deputy Molly Payne-Hardin (rector of Trinity, Watertown)

“We’re supposed to share. We’re supposed to do it together.” I overheard our newly elected House of Deputies President Julia Alaya Harris and Vice-President Rachel Taber-Hamilton being interviewed about the seismic and generational shift represented in their elections. Both women represent a number of firsts for our church it’s cause for enormous celebration. As they reflected on what it took to get here, they talked about the importance of sharing power and of collaborating. My holiest moment wasn’t their elections, per se, but rather hearing both of them and our outgoing President Gay Jennings reflect on the path to getting here.

Watch an interview with the new president and vice-president of the House of Deputies:

 

Reckoning with the Church’s involvement in Indigenous boarding schools

Deputy Pamela Talbott (member of St. John’s, Ithaca)

My one Holy moment ties into one of the outcomes. It was when an Indigenous deputy spoke of her time in one of the “Indian Schools.” Then we passed the legislation to fund and completely explore the church’s role in the schools and how to own it

Editor’s note: Read more about General Convention’s decision to study the Church’s boarding schools for Indigenous children:

 

The Book of Common Prayer: more than a book?

Deputy Kate Bell (member of St. Alban’s, Syracuse)

We passed resolutions to study, own, and begin to repair our past sins of slavery and indigenous boarding schools, along with other effects of sexism, racism, antisemitism. We elected women to lead us who are part of communities we have in the past silenced. We even voted to put our money where our mouths are on these issues.

But you know we are serious as Episcopalians when we make changes to the Book of Common Prayer. We established studies of where some old assumptions might need to be updated, and language revised, to reflect our modern understandings. We established an official online structure where future thoughtful additions and alternate usages will be offered.

Making resolutions is good. Putting resources to work is better. Empowering people, relationships and our common prayer life to the glory of God and the good of ALL God’s people—that is awesome!

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for a good, clear summary of the General Convention’s actions on liturgical resources including the Book of Common Prayer, check out this piece by John Wallace: The Matter Before the House (Part 1): The Prayer Book.

 

Committing to antiracism and racial reconciliation

Deputy Paul Frolick (rector of St. Matthew’s, Liverpool)

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a deputy to General Convention this year. For me the holiest moments were the times of connection with the other members of our deputation and with people from all around our church. It is inspiring to meet and get to know other folks who are part of our branch of the Jesus Movement.

I’m praying for all of the difficult and painful work the General Convention has laid out for the church over the next couple of years in anti-racism and reconciliation, especially the historical research on the origins and sources of assets of the church that are directly tied to slavery and historical and current racial injustices, and examining and telling the truth about our role in indigenous boarding schools.

 

Unity honoring diversity, in prayer and practice

Deputy Felicity Hallanan (member of Trinity, Watertown)

One of my holy moments at General Convention, with the 800 deputies and clergy in our huge hall, came during daily worship at the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, when one could hear unification within the many languages and versions in which it was being recited.

An outcome for celebration came as we approved and cheered a vote of affirmation of the reunion of the Diocese of Texas and the Episcopal Church in North Texas, giving one hope for the possibilities of unification among Episcopalians, and indeed any peoples so inclined, to resolve to live together despite their differences, in the name of God.

 

Raising up new leaders

Deputy Adam A. Hamilton-Ferguson (member of Grace & Holy Spirit, Cortland)

There were many “holy moments” throughout the convention—given that holiness can be found in tears, in laughter, in food and wine. It is entirely deliberate that our faith as Christians, and as Episcopalians more specifically, is centered on the altar where bread and wine become Body and Blood. Many of my fellow Deputies will likely touch on the debate surrounding our direct responsibility in the tragedy of Boarding Schools, so I will focus my attention on the holiness that is the Body of Christ gathered in one place—fellowship, argument, reconciliation, conviviality. We were able to, even in an abbreviated form, nurture our connections with one another, with our beloved Church, our Beloved Community, and with Christ.

Julia Alaya Harris, President-elect of the House of Deputies. Photo: Deputy News/Scott Gunn

Again, there are many things to celebrate coming from this Convention: the passage (and funding) of the Racism and Reparations Task Force, the passage of the Boarding Schools investigation, the passage of the forensic audit to determine our collective role and responsibility for slavery; what I celebrate is the tectonic shift in leadership that came from this General Convention. In addition to the first officially recognized LGBTQIA+ Caucus (which will be joining the Consultation shortly), we elected our first Latina President of the House of Deputies—Julia Ayala Harris, and the first ordained Indigenous person as our Vice President—Rachel Taber-Hamilton. In so many (and sometimes literal) ways, we put our money where our mouth is. I can say with no hesitation whatsoever that we did God’s work at this General Convention.

 

Real welcome

Deputy Wanda Copeland (rector of St. Matthew’s, Horseheads)

GC80 was indeed a profound experience. For someone who has been to several, it was almost austere in its visitors-not-welcome, exhibitors and ECW not allowed, and vastly diminished number of volunteers to keep us headed the right direction and on task. One might say, it was a shadow of its former self. But it was not all doom and gloom by any means. Perhaps more than anything else, the feting of the Rev. Gay Jennings on her retirement from 10 years as President of the House of Deputies was a profound reminder that life is good in this here Church of ours. Representative after representative, in addressing the Convention, let us all know how very welcoming Gay had been to and for them. It wasn’t that she carried a smile. It was that she made them feel—even KNOW—that they were important and valued as a part of this Church. From Deputies making a note that others missed, to asking for a point of order when no one wanted to keep discussing this issue, to deputies from Puerto Rico and NW Texas (f.k.a. Fort Worth), to women who were included, to college students who were first-time attendees,  to LGBTQI folks who stood tall at the podium, they were all rejoicing that this was their church, and they felt welcomed in every way. These were all parts of holy moments when it seemed that we were who we so casually say we are.

In light of the above, what I am celebrating the most is the number of deputies who did not have grey hair (and did not appear to be dyeing hair). It truly seemed that there was a generational turn-over in leadership. With the stepping down of Gay Jennings, Chancellor Sally Johnson and others, the next generation (including our own Megan Castellan, Paul Frolick, and Molly Payne-Hardin) has a real chance to shape this church in new ways. I can’t wait to see where we go in our desire to be increasingly faithful.

I am so grateful to have been allowed to serve and to represent this Diocese.

 

Internet issues, truth-telling and action for Indigenous Episcopalians, and more

Deputy Shelly Banner (priest-in-charge of St. James’, Pulaski)

Barely was the deep air-conditioning off our deputation’s shoulders, than we did some rehashing of the last day’s legislation, over lunch at Oliver’s, as an almost complete deputation. Once the serious work was over, we could laugh at the foibles and frustrations of some of the moments. One forever celebration was when ALL of our delegates could actually place their votes at the same time! Somehow the techs for bandwidth under-estimated how 802 iPads trying to register their votes simultaneously would impact the function of the bandwidth. At best, WiFi was fickle, and suddenly at the voting secretary’s call that the vote was closing, loud shouts of “Internet issues!” would rise from the House of Deputies. At times it was silly, but annoying to the unfortunate deputies to which it happened.

There were SO MANY moments in which “my eyes would sweat” and tears run down my face. One seldom thinks that the legislative work causes deep heartfelt emotions, yet, it happens. The last Holy Moment for me came as a resolution to create a Diocese of Navajoland to be led by an indigenous Navajo Bishop came to the floor. One deputy who spoke for the resolution, revealed that she was the daughter of a leader in Navajoland who had raised this idea and spent his life’s work trying to bring it to fruition. As she spoke for the resolution, she transmitted that this was his wish and dream, and the passing of this resolution “would make him so happy.” Few dry eyes could be seen as an injustice had been righted by the House of Deputies. The witnesses who spoke to the injustice of racist and white supremacy concerning “Indigenous Retraining” schools did also manifest a similar reaction.

The amendment offered by Deputy Megan Castellan of CNY to D054, which was affirmed by the House of Deputies, was another high point for me. The amended resolution created new criteria ensuring that any choice of location made by the Convention Planning Committee would be safe for all delegates, including women of childbearing age and members of the LGBTQIA community.

Another high point was the election of our own Canon Carrie Schofield-Broadbent to the Court of Review [the churchwide Court of Review supports the disciplinary process for priests and deacons under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church). 

A personal highpoint was the legislative work affirming D055 which now officially places the Diocese of Cuba in Province II. Soon, (Jan. 2023,) Province II will also include the Diocese of Puerto Rico. My, how our Province does grow!

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