Tag Archives: General Convention

Israel, Palestine at Episcopal General Convention

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I wrote on 25 June about attending two Social Justice and International Policy legislative committee meetings (morning and afternoon) where it was standing room only at the 78th Episcopal General Convention (GC) in Salt Lake City. On 3 July, I wrote that the House of Deputies discussed Israel-Palestine restorative justice. The topic of Israel-Palestine was one of the most controversial discussed at GC, after church structure, and marriage.  What I did not write is that B013 Peacemaking Through Political Action was the only resolution that was voted on twice by the House of Deputies.

B013 came out of Committee 7 – Social Justice and International Policy – after six hours of public testimony by witnesses. My own witness was one of those quoted in “Money and the Holy Land: Committee Hears Testimony” in the “House of Deputies News” on 26 June.  There was a followup article: “How best to invest in the Holy Land: Deputies debate divestment” on 27 June.The two sides of the question on whether the Episcopal Church should divest from Israel were: Stay at table, engage to make change vs. Divest, do not profit by occupation. Seven different resolutions on this topic were considered but only B013 made it out of committee, through the House of Bishops, to the House of Deputies.

After B013 was passed by the House of Bishops, the resolution was sent to the House of Deputies on 3 July for concurrence.  I was glad to be sitting with the Deputation of the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) in the House of Deputies (rather than in the Alternates section) at the time that vote came up on the legislative calendar.  I was one of the 83% who voted for concurrence with B013.  That afternoon, there was a motion to reconsider B013.  There was a brief discussion (my favorite comment was: “It is not a good idea to negotiate peace in the Holy Land on the floor of the House of Deputies”), then 62% of the House of Deputies voted against reconsidering B013.

My two favorite sections of B013 are:

…Resolved, That the General Convention encourage The Episcopal Church to (1) embrace the principles of restorative justice in its advocacy and engagement for the just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and (2) engage and support the voices of both Israelis and Palestinians—especially those who are themselves victims of violence and injustice—who seek peace with justice through nonviolent and restorative responses to the conflict; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention support existing efforts toward restorative justice by urging the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [the full name of The Episcopal Church] to identify and find creative ways to commend, support, and elevate the work of local peace-building and economic development initiatives, including those of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East and grassroots organizations jointly led by Israelis and Palestinians…

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Lovely 15th Anniversary Train Ride: Amtrak (Salt Lake City – Emeryville)

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John Plocher and I were married 15 years ago on 4 July 2000, so on our way back from two weeks at the Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, we took the train. Amtrak’s California Zephyr goes across vast lovely spaces on its way west. John booked a Superliner Bedroom for our 15 hour trip. Of course, the train was running hours late (don’t get me started on why America’s basic infrastructure is so poorly supported) but we had planned for that. We boarded in Salt Lake City just as the day dawned and got into Emeryville, California, long after sunset. We saw plains and mountains, farms and ranches, towns and cities. Other trains passed us and we even went slowly through the vast Union Pacific Roseville Yard, so John got his fill of trains for once. It was a glorious day.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

“America the Beautiful” 1910 by Katharine Lee Bates

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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11th Day: General Convention – Wrap Up!

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Today, the Episcopal General Convention (GC) finished its last legislative day.  The Deputations from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) and the other 109 dioceses represented in the House of Deputies (HoD) are going home today and tomorrow.  After an extraordinary morning worship service featuring an inspiring sermon by Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry (“God loves you just as you are but he does not intend to leave you that way.” “Love God, Love your neighbor, Change the world!”), plus Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori reading a message from President Obama of congratulations to Bishop Curry, we started a final forced march through fifty remaining resolutions. We discussed topics ranging from General Theological Seminary reinvigoration and accountability, to Israel-Palestine restorative justice, to revising the Book of Common Prayer and the Hymnal, to clarifying canons on clergy transfer.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (President of the HofD) wielded parliamentary procedure masterfully to keep us moving along.  However, as the day ground on, HofD and its President got silly sometimes. At 1:10 pm after she called upon a Deputy who plaintively asked “When are we going to have lunch?”, the President replied: “The Chair calls upon Pizza Hut”.  Later in the afternoon, a large committee got up and sang an original hymn in honor of the HofD Virtual Binder, in full harmony, to the tune of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

Our deadline was not only the close of business for our own house but also for the House of Bishops (HofB), since some resolutions had to be passed by the HofD in time for the HofB to consider them as well.  As has been true for this entire General Convention, the very many resolutions of thanks and courtesy got in the way of legislative business.  Eventually, we were able to vote on some of the highly-linked resolutions in batches of five or more rather than one at a time.

The Deputies were communicating with each other and the world through social media during the entire GC. HofD President calls the House of Deputies “The House of Twitter” in truth: Topsy says there were 54,459 tweets to #gc78 in past 30 days. One tweet was of great interest to ECR since it announced that our own Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves will be one of two Vice Presidents to the House of Bishops under the new Presiding Bishop. Most of us are going home planning to speak with many groups about what happened and why. General Convention 79 will be held in Austin, Texas, in 2018.

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Images Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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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.

5 July 2015 – Several people have asked for the text of what the Rev. Terry Gleeson said to GC about A036 on 1 July. Here it is:

Madam President, I rise in support of the resolution.
Six years ago I hesitated before baptizing my newly-born, newly-adopted, bi-racial daughter. I wasn’t concerned about her becoming a child of God, I was concerned about her taking on the church. Like any parent I had to distinguish between what I was prepared to endure for myself and what I should inflict on an unsuspecting infant.
That was in July of 2009 and at the time I took heart from the actions of this house, how it heeded then, and continues to heed now, the prophetic call for freedom for all God’s children, how it committed itself to gathering not scattering the flock, to breaking down walls that divide and exclude, and strove to continue Jesus’ ministry of going out to the lost and forgotten, the demonized and demeaned, bringing healing and restoration to those who had been shunned. And so I took a chance and baptized her – I took a chance on US, that here among us, in our church at least, her baptism would be sufficient statement of her dignity and equality and worth, that no ministry, no office, no sacrament or rite would be denied her because of who she is, where she came from, or who she might grow up to be.
For her sake, for the sake of every one of our babies, and for our own integrity as prophets and disciples of that Jesus who brought only healing and restoration and reconciliation, I urge you to concur with this resolution.

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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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