General Convention Preview: Thanks, Deputies!

In 2019 at the 151st Diocesan Convention, our Diocese elected lay and clergy deputies to the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Today, those deputies are traveling to Baltimore, Maryland in time for the July 8th opening of what will be a “smaller, shorter, safer” Convention.

Elected deputies bring the concerns and perspective of our Diocese to the conversations and legislative activities of the wider Episcopal Church—though they are charged to speak and vote their own conscience, and are not bound by our local Diocesan Convention.

Deputies’ preparation for General Convention involves a substantial commitment of time and energy:

 

So we’re VERY thankful to our Deputies for serving on behalf of our Diocese! Please hold them in your prayers, along with Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe and all the deputies, bishops, and volunteers at General Convention through Monday, July 11th.

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and
understanding, be present with those who take counsel
 for the renewal and mission of your Church.
Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide
us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to
pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.

This week we asked our Deputies: What is one resolution, issue, or conversation coming before the 80th General Convention that matters most to you as a Deputy from CNY, and why? Here’s how they answered:

 

Trends in ordination and clergy formation

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

I see an intersection between the “we need more youth” that I’ve heard most of my life in parishes and the age of the clergy that we ordain. The Church Pension Group’s 2022 Annual Report, issued just before General Convention tells us that we continue to ordain more clergy who are around middle age (say, over 45) although that number has lowered a bit in recent years. [The “Fast Facts” section of the Church Pension Group’s 2022 Annual Report indicates the average age of clergy at ordination is currently 50. —ed.]

One thought I had, as I read this data, is whether that signals an opportunity for more part-time clergy for dioceses like ours. For example, a priest ordained at 50 or 55 might have 30 years of retirement funds built up and could take a part-time position. (True confession: I was ordained at 47, serve in a full-time position, and likely will until I retire in my late 60s ::shrug::)

But back to the intersection with “we need more youth.” My alma mater, The University of the South, had both a seminary and undergraduate college. We were a natural pipeline for younger adults to explore ordination and yet even we had fallen out of that practice. Why don’t more of us encourage college students and young adults to consider that they have the gifts of a deacon or priest? Seminary debt is often listed as a challenge, and yet I see our denomination as having plenty of money to fund the seminary education of clergy (and, I would add, laity).

It’s a lengthy report with a lot of data that bears deeper questions and discussion, but since we’re a diocese in need of more part-time priests, it’s a detail in my Convention reading that stood out for me.

 

Building a safe and supportive Church

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

As a social worker, I am very interested in the resolutions addressing Safe Church, Breaks the Silence Sunday, Suicide Prevention and supporting LGBTQI and Women ministries, developing curriculum and training for pastoral care and support for the child welfare system and the foster care system. I believe that the church, not only the building but its presence in the greater community should be a safe refuge and place to worship for all. We do not know the history, possible trauma and fears that parishioners bring to the church and we must be a safe, welcoming place.

 

Addressing mental illness, supporting recovery, and responding to gun violence

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

There is SO MUCH happening at General Convention it is hard to pick just one to raise up. So here are just a few that are coming to the floor.

As a health care worker, I am following many resolutions that touch on that work. A108, A109, and A110 all work to increase our ability at the local level to be supportive of and helpful to people with mental illness. D023 Support for Care Workers addresses the needs both of professional health care workers, and of those who care for family members in their homes. A090 Allies for Recovery in the Episcopal Church looks at the Opioid Crisis with the dual lens of addressing addictions and also meeting the needs of those in pain.

But as we meet the new challenges of the 21st Century, I am so grateful for (and saddened) by B009 Liturgy in Response to Mass Shootings. Our Common Prayer lives should be able to speak to and about the realities of our everyday lives, and as new cultural needs arise we meet them with new liturgies.

Over 50% of the Deputies expected in Baltimore are first timers (including me). I look forward to the union of old and new, to the election of officers who will lead us into the future while listening to all the voices of The Episcopal Church. New voices are emerging, earlier voices are being honored and held up as examples. This is a different General Convention than ever before. Christ is with us in this unusual time. Please pray that we may serve God in new and faithful ways. “O Thou who changest not, abide with” us.

 

Addressing the election of bishops

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

The 80th General Convention is due to begin on July 8th, and like everything else that’s happened these last few years, it will look and feel different than it has in the past because of the pandemic.

However, a few things will remain: the two houses will meet and deliberate, the legislative process will be overwhelming at times, and at least one person will make a satirical social media account for the duration. (Last time? The GC Pigeon. This time? The GC Designated Survivor.)

I am also looking forward to a few legislative issues this convention. Firstly, the Convention will vote on procedures to address how we elect bishops—namely the use of consultants in this process. A taskforce was set up last Convention to look into the process, after a number of episcopates ended in upsetting fashion. The taskforce reported that there were no standards for what a bishop search process entailed, nor were there standards for education around consultants—basically, if you thought you might be good at running a bishop search, by golly, you could! This, in turn, has led to a wildly inconsistent array of processes across the church, sometimes causing pain to those who offer themselves as candidates, as well as to dioceses. Among the proposals the taskforce makes is to standardize an education piece for search consultants. The taskforce also recommends that more extensive background checks, physical and psychological checks be put in place, and the information shared more consistently among the Bishop Search Committee, along certain guidelines.

These sorts of proposals are what General Convention is really good at: a substantive change that addresses a noted problem in our common life. While it may seem like “inside baseball”, bishops affect much of the life of our church, and so becoming more thoughtful about how we choose them seems like a good idea.

 

Investing resources in racial justice and reconciliation

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

I’m interested in the many resolutions being considered around the issues of racial justice and reconciliation, particularly Resolution D044 which would create a reparations fund commission and A129 which calls for a forensic audit of the church’s assets to identify how they may be directly tied to historic and current racial injustices. This is painful and difficult work, and I believe we are called as a nation to engage in it. I hope that church may provide a model for how it can done faithfully and courageously.

 

Revisiting the format and purpose of General Convention

Deputy Felicity Hallanan (member of Trinity, Watertown)

Pandemic precautions have led to the shortest General Convention of the Episcopal Church in many years, certainly unlike the three which I have had the privilege of attending as a representative of the Diocese of Central New York. Safety measures have cut the event from 10 days to four, eliminated a number of activities, from the 150th anniversary of ECW (Episcopal Church Women) sessions to creative exhibitions, and visitors who served as volunteers who now are not allowed. Strict Covid-19 protocols will include masks at all times when the remaining 800 lay and clergy Deputies (30% have dropped out) are meeting, daily self-testing, and limited mingling. As is usual the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies will meet separately, but even then that will include separate worship services. Since people themselves have always been an important feature of Conventions, these constraints will make a difference. At the same time, it would appear this is the impetus for an objective look at the length and focus of these every-three year gatherings and how their duration (length, locations, costs) and goals will serve especially younger people of the Church in the future. Your Deputation will be sharing results and opinions on our return!

 

Adding Matthew Shephard to our “Great Cloud of Witnesses”

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

The resolution that matters most to me as a Deputy is D065, and not merely because I am the person who wrote and sponsored it. This resolution seeks to add Matthew Shepard to our “Great Cloud of Witnesses” on the Church Calendar. Leaving the public outcry surrounding his death briefly aside, it is our pleasure to count him as a life-long Episcopalian—certainly reaffirmed by my conversations over e-mail with Bp. Chandler in Wyoming. In 2018, Shepherd’s ashes were interred in the columbarium at the National Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul- further solidifying his status as an Episcopalian and as one of our martyrs.

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” We are facing times of change and upheaval—as a nation, as a denomination, and as a diocese. Such upheavals at the beginning of the Jesus Movement produced the early saints and martyrs, and it should give us hope and comfort that we, too, might enter that “Great Cloud” as well.

 

Welcoming the Diocese of Cuba into Province II

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

Resolution D055: Canon 1.9.1 and why clergy delegate Shelly Banner is particularly following this.

One of the primary activities of any General Convention is to introduce new legislation, amend current legislation to fit the needs of the church, discuss opinions, seek factual information and eventually vote on the various items brought to the convention floor.

Resolutions brought to the floor are items the sponsor(s) of the legislation is/are asking General Convention to consider, and through affirmative voting, it becomes an action item. If that legislation will canonically amend The Canons and Constitution of The Protestant Episcopal Church, such legislation is required to affirmed by two separate adjacent conventions of House of Deputies (clergy and Lay delegates) and the House of Bishops. At the 2018 convention, I was a delegate who was able to vote affirmatively for resolution D055 to officially place the Diocese of Cuba into Province II (the same Province as our own Diocese).

At the 2018 Convention, held in Austin, TX, 2018-A238 was the resolution that introduced a return the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a Diocese, pending fulfillment of the certification by the Executive Council and the Secretary of the General Convention. The 2018 resolution further provided when all procedures were complete, the Diocese of Cuba would be added to Province II. In February 2020 the Executive Council approved the Constitution of the Diocese of Cuba as well as accepted and approved the corresponding certification by The Secretary of the General Convention.

Legislation D055 at General Convention 80 resolves to amend Canon 1.9.1 of the Canons and Constitution to officially place the Diocese of Cuba into Province II, uniting it with all the other Diocese within the states of New York and New Jersey, the Diocese of Haiti, the Diocese of Puerto Rico, the Diocese of the Virgin Islands and the Convocation of the Episcopal Churches in Europe.

Having been at the inception of the amending legislation, I am excited to have the privilege to cast an affirmative vote to bring this resolution to a positive conclusion, and, with the House of Bishops also concurring, this will allow us to welcome the people of the Diocese of Cuba into the family of Province II.

Showing 2 comments
  • Shelly Banner
    Reply

    I apologize for leaving Puerto Rico out of my list. That Diocese recently CHOSE to join Province II and remove themselves from Province 9 (largely pacific Ocean Dioceses.)

    • Meredith Sanderson
      Reply

      Thank you, Shelly! I’ve updated it.

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