10th Day General Convention: Budget, Structure, Conservation, and Courtesy

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The General Convention (GC) finished its second-to-last legislative day – one more day in the House of Deputies  (HoD) for the Deputation of the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR).  We start every day at the GC here in Salt Lake City with worship, and every day there is a focus for our celebration. The biographies provided have been inspiring! Today, we heard about the Rev. Charles Barnes, an American who spoke against the murder of over 20,000 Haitians by the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. During the sermon, we heard part of the poem “Parsley” by Rita Dove – because in 1937 the Haitians who could not say “parsley” in Spanish were killed. Others honored during GC workshop have included: the Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano (Nebraska), James Weldon Johnson (Florida), the Rev. Cornelius Hill (Oneida, Wisconsin), and Isabel Florence Hapgood (Massachusetts, Russia).

Today was a forced march through the budget, plus structure, stewardship/conservation, courtesy and other legislative resolutions, ably managed by Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (President of the HofD).  She started off with a charming variation on Mr. Roger’s saying: “It’s a great day in the Kingdom!”  Her humor, grace, and world-class management skills kept us going until 7:30 pm tonight after many had started in committee meetings at 7:30 am. Some resolutions were for HofD to concur with the House of Bishops (HofB) and others have been passed back to the HofB for consideration. The closest vote of the day was a remarkable 50.73% against and 49.27% for.

We sidled up to the very controversial subject of bringing HofD and HofB into a unicameral model in D008 Amend Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution – sent to the HofB for consideration today:

Sec. 1. There shall be a General Convention of this Church, consisting of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, which Houses will sit, debate, and vote separately, unless otherwise provided for by this Constitution or the Canons. The Houses by majority vote of each House may call for the Houses to sit, debate, and vote, or any combination thereof, together. The General Convention may by Canon establish procedures for such sessions. In all deliberations freedom of debate shall be allowed. Either House may originate and propose legislation, and all acts of the Convention shall be adopted and be authenticated by both Houses.

There were also many many resolutions of courtesy to thank everyone: those who run our worship services, the secretariat and leadership of HofD, the people and Diocese of Utah, the Official Youth Presence, HofD Chaplain, etc.  While they do add significantly to the time and work of our day, I acknowledge that resolutions of courtesy serve two clear purposes:

  • Community building and acknowledgement
  • Allowing HofD to stand up from time to time to offer ovations and applause

At the end of today’s legislative session, the Deputation from Honduras asked to read a communique from a group of bishops setting forth their dissent to the marriage equality resolutions known as A036 and A054. The HofD President allowed them the full time for a translated Point of Personal Privilege. Unfortunately, they spent half their time reading the names and titles and locations of the signatories so it did not make much sense as presented.

We finished our day with an ECR Deputation dinner with our Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, including giving her an early surprise birthday dessert!

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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9th Day: General Convention – Structure and Marriage

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Rev. Tom Sramek and I are the Official Bloggers on General Convention (GC) from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR).  Tonight, Tom got his blog entry done before me, so check out “Sex(uality), Money, and Power Take Center Stage at GC” for a good summary of today’s wild day in legislative session of the House of Deputies (HofD).

HofD had six key resolutions so important that they were given priority with special timing and discussion limitations so that there was a hope of finishing by Friday night:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori lead the joint session at which the budget was presented and discussed. HofD voted to concur with the House of Bishops (HofB) on A006. Two other key decisions made today – in which the HofD concurred with the HofB – approved marriage equality in the Episcopal Church. That is, these resolutions affirm that same sex couples are as capable of holy marriage as different sex couples, and provide resources, rites, and rules to support marriage equality.  There were many attempts to divert or stop the decision (parliamentary motions to refer, amend, vote by orders, etc.) but as you can see by the vote tallies in the photos below, the Deputies overwhelmingly approved both A054 and A036.

Marriage equality has been passionately discussed for 39 years in our church and even today there were serious, prayerful, and heartfelt objections raised.  Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (President of the HofD) asked that the House maintain decorum and respect – as celebrations on one side could only be hurtful to our brothers and sisters taking the opposite view. Chaplain Rev. Lester V. Mackenzie lead HofD in prayer and song before each vote. Over a thousand people were present for this historic decision. We will be processing what is means to us and to our church for many years to come. ECR is proud of our Deputy Jeff Diehl who served on the Special Legislative Committee on Marriage that presented their two resolutions today. I am proud of my church for taking this important step to include all of God’s people.

After the legislative session, many of us walked to the Salt Lake Tabernacle to enjoy an evening of music with choirs, dancers, and drumming as guests of our generous hosts, the Right Reverend Scott B. Hayashi, Bishop of Utah, and the Diocese of Utah.

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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8th Day: General Convention – Discussing Mission, Structure

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After worship accompanied by an excellent gospel choir, and a welcome to GC from Gary Herbert, the Governor of Utah, the 78th Episcopal General Convention (GC) spent the morning discussing the Five Marks of Mission, followed by a well-deserved tribute to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. At the end, the former, current, and elected Presiding Bishop (PB) stood together on the platform:

In the afternoon, the House of Deputies began debate on restructuring the church. The Deputation from Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) is actively involved in these discussions!  Two of our members were particularly prominent today:

  • Jeff Diehl was elected for Province VIII to the Joint Nominating Committee for Presiding Bishop
  • Tim Gee spoke to the House of Deputies in support of a resolution

Unfortunately, after an initial questioning period on three key church restructuring resolutions, discussion could not continue because materials had not been translated into Spanish. The discussion on governance and structure will continue tomorrow on:

Discussion will also resume tomorrow on the topic of marriage. It will be a busy day! Tonight, John Plocher and I went to the dinner for The University of the South – School of Theology and had a fun time.

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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7th Day: General Convention – Some Big Votes

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Today, the 78th Episcopal General Convention (GC) got into some of its bigger legislative discussions. Our Deputation is here in Salt Lake City, Utah, from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) on the Central Coast of California.  I wrote on June 18 that most of the discussions this past year among the ECR Deputation members have been about the serious issues to be considered by this legislative body that meets every three years, especially:

  • Restructuring Church governance to enhance mission and ministry (TREC)
  • Marriage equality
  • Care of creation and social justice
  • Election of the next Presiding Bishop to a 9 year term

On 27 June, Bishop Michael Curry was elected to become Presiding Bishop. General Convention has been holding hearings and committee meetings for the last week and is starting to make decisions on the remaining major issues.  Today was the first day that Rev. Tom Sramek and I moved from the outer darkness of the Alternates seating onto the hallowed floor of the House of Deputies – as actual Deputies. We replaced Jeff Diehl and the Rev. Rob Fisher for today so that they could sit in on House of Bishop discussions.  To change status from Alternate to Deputy requires the signature of our Head of Deputation (Rev. Maly Hughes) or of Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves and must be done well before the legislative session starts.  Jeff and I, and Tom and Rob had to get all of our paperwork done before 7:30 this morning.

After getting a new red and white Deputy badge to replace my yellow Alternate badge, I sat in on the “Formation and Education for Ministry” committee of which Bishop Mary is a member.  The resolutions discussed included: financial support for immigrants and undocumented college students, and General Theological Seminary  (GTS) management, style, and financial relationship to General Convention.  Morning committee hearings were followed by worship service and then we went into the first to two legislative sessions for the day.  Elections held by the House of Deputies today included Executive Council (lay members only – clergy members were elected yesterday), GTS Trustees, members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, Treasurer and the Vice President for General Convention.

In addition to elections, House of Deputies also approved or concurred with the House of Bishops on resolutions on some key topics today, including:

Tom and I both spoke to the House of Deputies in support of resolutions where our experience and understanding could further the discussion. After the legislative session ended, John Plocher and I went to the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Education for Ministry program by the University of the South – School of Theology.

A sideshow are the continuing problems with the ECR Deputation’s hotel which has been having catastrophic plumbing problems, including an exploding boiler causing fire alarms in the middle of the last two nights. Cold showers and interrupted sleep have not made us big fans.

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson. Photo of Katy Copyright 2015 by Rev. Tom Sramek

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6th Day General Convention: Bishops’ March

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Before the start of meetings today at the 78th Episcopal General Convention (GC), the Bishops held a public march against gun violence.  Several members of our Deputation from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) walked with them despite the heat (80 degrees Farenheit / 27 Celsius at 8 am in the morning!). Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry carried part of the banner and addressed the crowd of over 2,000 at the end of the historic march. You can hear Bishop Curry’s talk on this video.

After the march, we participated in an extended version of the daily worship service, followed by the regular House of Deputies legislative session. Today was the United Thank Offering ingathering for 2012-2014. We were proud to have Nancy McGuffin come forward to represent ECR and for Katie Reeves to be one of the UTO speakers. UTO raised $4,378,326.16 to support mission and ministry throughout The Episcopal Church and in invited Provinces of the Anglican Communion in the developing world.  After the morning legislative session, several of us in the ECR Deputation went to lunch and then toured nearby Temple Square.

We ended the day joining the closing worship service at the House of Bishops, followed by a Deputation meeting over dinner with Bishop Mary.

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5th Day General Convention: Presiding Bishop Election

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The big news today at the 78th Episcopal General Convention (GC) in Salt Lake City was that we elected a new Presiding Bishop (PB) to a nine year term.  Bishop of North Carolina Michael Curry was the favorite for our Deputation from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR). He was elected with overwhelming support on the first ballot:

  • House of Bishops 121 votes (70%)
  • House of Deputies 800 votes (99%)

Bishop Michael Curry is the first African-American PB and, in fact, the first PB of color. We are trying to find out if any other PB in history has ever been elected on the first ballot. The process is that the House of Bishops (HofB) elects the PB and then the House of Deputies (HofD) votes to confirm. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (President of the HofD) lead the celebration of the 230th anniversary of the House of Deputies while we were waiting for HoB to send news of their election. The HofD dates from 1785 and is very proud of being four years older than the HofB: the House of Deputies  is referred to as the “elder house”. After the anniversary party, the HofD refused its President’s strong suggestion that we go to lunch. We sang “We are all together” at her until she relented and let us consider more resolutions until the big PB vote.  There was great rejoicing  after our quick and extremely positive confirmation of the HofB election of Bishop Curry.

In the afternoon after the PB election (and lunch), Rev. Tom Sramek and I walked down the hall to sit in the audience area of the House of Bishops – to see the Diocese of El Camino Real‘s Bishop Mary working among the purple people. (The traditional color for Bishops to wear is purple – and most of them do.)The Vice President of the HofB was presiding. Some of the differences I saw:

  • HofB is less than half the size, overwhelmingly male, and the average age is much older than the HofD
  • HofB is much less tightly managed and their parliamentary functioning lacks the high polish and style of the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
  • HofB sits in small groups at round tables – promoting collegiality and more interaction – while HofD sit a long tables
  • There are no Alternates in HofB – everyone there can wear the purple

After our visit to the HofB, it was time for the ECR dinner where Bishop Mary hosted us in celebrating our new PB!

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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4th Day at General Convention: Joy in the Morning

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The US Supreme Court decision supporting marriage equality came out just before the morning worship service here in Salt Lake City at the 78th Episcopal General Convention (GC).  The Deputation from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) joined a wildly joyous crowd of thousands singing and dancing in thankful celebration. The rest of the day’s legislative meetings were not nearly as exciting!

The four candidates to be 27th Presiding Bishop were formally accepted for election tomorrow. GC started discussions on church restructuring (TREC) and worked through a variety of small votes.  The uncontested re-election of the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings for House of Deputies President was a happy moment. (She is the first ordained woman to hold the position – first elected in 2012.) She gave up her seat to the House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing and returned to sit with her home Deputation of Ohio during the vote process. She returned to a standing ovation by the House of Deputies. The National Association of Episcopal Schools was congratulated on its success and 50th anniversary. Episcopal Relief & Development was likewise commended for its excellence and 75th anniversary.

The Rev. Lester V. Mackenzie, GC Chaplain from Los Angeles, lead us in song and prayer. Everyone was asked again to “turn off their WiFi, MyFi and Hotspots – we have ways of finding you!” because these interfere with the GC Virtual Binder updates. I am not sure if it was this interference but we all enjoyed the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings making an exception to nominating procedure “because of malfunction of the thingy”.

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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