Friday, July 13, 2018

Final day of #GC79: Marriage rites approved; BCP revision defeated; and Becoming Sanctuary Church

General Convention gives church full access to same-sex marriage rites

On July 13, the House of Deputies overwhelmingly concurred with the House of Bishops and approved a resolution giving all Episcopalians the ability to be married by their priests in their home churches. The vote was: Clergy – 99 yes, 3 no, 4 divided; Lay – 101 yes, 5 no, 1 divided. No one spoke against the resolution during the short debate.

Resolution B012 took a winding road to approval, but none of the amendments changed the resolution’s goal of giving full access to two trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples that were approved by the 2015 General Convention.

The resolution provides for:
  • Giving rectors or clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial-use of the marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Resolution A054-2015 and the original version of B012 said that clergy could only use the rites under the direction of their bishop.
  • Requiring that, if a bishop “holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,” he or she may invite another bishop, if necessary, to provide “pastoral support” to any couple desiring to use the rites, as well as to the clergy member and congregation involved. In any case, an outside bishop must be asked to take requests for remarriage if either member of the couple is divorced to fulfill a canonical requirement that applies to opposite-sex couples.
  • Continuing trial use of the rites until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer.

1979 BCP won’t be revised

The House of Bishops and the House of Deputies both approved a resolution that would allow congregations to use alternative, expansive-language versions of Rite II Eucharistic prayers A, B, and D in the prayer book.

Revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer was a big issue before this General Convention. Ultimately both houses voted to create new liturgical texts while continuing to use the 1979 prayer book without revision.

Here are some examples of the optional language included in the trial-use rites:
  • Priests may begin any of the three rites by saying “Blessed be God: most holy, glorious and undivided Trinity.” The current Opening Acclamation of “Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit” is also an option. In either case, the people’s response is “And blessed be God’s reign, now and for ever. Amen.”
  • At the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving in all three rites, the priest may say “God be with you” instead of “The Lord be with you.”
  • The Sanctus can now be said using “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” in addition to “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”
  • In Eucharistic Prayer A, celebrants now have the option of saying “ … you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and maker of all.” In the original version, that sentence ends with “…the God and Father of all.”
  • Eucharistic Prayer B contains an optional wording for the sentence “Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” The option reads “Unite us in the sacrifice of Christ, through whom we are made acceptable to you, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
  • Eucharistic Prayer D offers the option of adding the word “matriarchs” after “patriarchs” in this sentence: “And grant that we may find our inheritance with [the Blessed Virgin Mary, with patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, (with ____) and all the saints who have found favor with you in ages past.”

Becoming a Sanctuary Church

General Convention passed three significant resolutions related to immigration. Resolution C033 puts the church on record as respecting the dignity of immigrants and outlines how public policy should reflect that belief. Resolution A178 takes a forceful stand against family separations and the treatment of immigrant families. Finally, Resolution C009 encourages Episcopalians and congregations to reach out to and support immigrants facing deportation, including by providing physical sanctuary if they choose. All three resolutions passed in both houses without anyone speaking against them and without any audible negative votes.

House of Bishops approves ethical investing in gun manufacturers

On July 12, the House of Bishops approved a resolution to develop and implement a “shareholder engagement plan” to guide dioceses, churches and individuals investing in gun manufacturers and retailers to change company policies through shareholder advocacy.

The Episcopal Church has long been an advocate for socially responsible investing in gun manufacturers. In January 2018, the church’s Executive Council authorized its Committee on Corporate and Social Responsibility to join an attempt to convince Dick’s Sporting Goods to abide by the Sandy Hook Principles developed to stem the tide of gun violence. A little more than a month later, Dick’s announced it would stop selling assault weapons.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Day 8 of #GC79: Marriage resolution and budget pass

General Convention considers a record number of resolutions
Southern VA deputies with Bishop Hollerith
By the time General Convention adjourns on July 13, it will have considered 516 resolutions. On July 11, both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, worked into the night to deal with the abundance of legislation, not adjourning until 9:30 p.m. 

Marriage rites resolution amended by bishops, heads back to House of Deputies 

On July 11, the House of Bishops approved – with “technical amendment” – resolution B012, which gives all Episcopalians the ability to be married by their priests in their home churches.

The House of Deputies had overwhelmingly approved B012 on July 9, but now will consider the amended version being sent to them by the House of Bishops.

The slight amendment doesn’t make any real changes to the purpose of the resolution, it merely ensures that nothing in the resolution is in conflict with the provisions of the ministry canons of the church regarding the authority of the rector or priest in charge of a congregation.

B012, a compromise resolution, aims to give bishops who will not authorize same-sex marriage rites to feel fully a part of the church and, at the same time, end what Bishop Bill Franklin of Western NY called the “separate but equal” status that LGBTQ Episcopalians have been consigned. 

General Convention approved $134 million triennial budget 

On July 12, both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies approved the $134 million 2019-2021 budget presented to them July 11.

The budget as approved allocates funding on the church’s three priorities – the “three pillars” of the Episcopal Church’s Jesus Movement in this way:

  • Nearly $10.4 million on racial reconciliation work
  • $5.2 million on evangelism
  • $1 million on care of creation 

The 80th General Convention to be held in Baltimore, MD
Episcopal News Service Photo
The 80th General Convention, 2021, will be held in Baltimore, MD. Bishop Andrew Doyle of Texas passed the “Olympic torch” to Bishop Eugene Sutton of Maryland in recognition of the announcement.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Day 7 of #GC79: Divestment rejected; budget proposed

House of Deputies votes to admit Cuba

On July 11, the House of Deputies unanimously voted to admit the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese. “Welcome home,” said House of Deputies President Gay Jennings following the vote.

Cuba Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio was seated in the House of Bishops following the Bishop’s unanimous vote in favor of admitting Cuba. Following the vote in the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gerardo Lojildes and Mayelin Aqueda were seated as Deputies.

The Diocese of Cuba will join Province II, which includes dioceses from New York, New Jersey, Haiti and the Virgin Islands.

Bishops reject Israel-Palestine resolution as “divestment”

The House of Bishops voted against a resolution seeking to end the church’s financial complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. The House of Deputies previously approved the resolution. It would have asked the Executive Council to research and develop and plan for a “human rights investment screen” which critics described as a divestment from Israel.

“Divestment will not move us one inch forward in the peace process,” said retired Bishop Ed Little of Northern Indiana. “It will not bring an end to the occupation.”

Read more about the resolution and the debate here.

PB&F presents 2019-2021 budget

During a joint session of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies today, the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance presented a proposed $133.8 million budget for the 2019-2021 triennium.

The budget proposes spending on the church’s three priorities is:

  • Nearly $10.4 million on racial reconciliation work
  • $5.2 million on evangelism
  • $1 million on care of creation

Read more about the proposed budget here.

Alice Webley elected!

Southern Virginia's Lay Deputy Alice Webley, a member of All Saints, Virginia Beach, was elected to the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop. Congratulations Alice!

Southern Virginia’s resolution moves to House of Bishops

The resolution sent to General Convention by Southern Virginia’s 2018 Annual Council (read about that here) has been moved by the Ministry Committee to the House of Bishops consent calendar for July 12. The committee’s recommendation is that there be no further action taken on Resolution C036 since the issue is also addressed in Resolution C005. That resolution has not yet come before the convention.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Day 6 of #GC79: Diocese of Cuba restored!

Diocese of Cuba restored to The Episcopal Church

Episcopal News Service photo
The House of Bishops on July 10, after about an hour of emotional testimony by several bishops, unanimously voted in favor of resolution A238, restoring the relationship of The Episcopal Church and La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba, and recognize it as a diocese in union with the General Convention. The resolution lamented the actions of the House of Bishops that ejected the Diocese of Cuba from The Episcopal Church in 1966. Immediately following the vote, there was a standing ovation by the bishops and gallery as Presiding Bishop Curry called for Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio of Cuba to take her seat in the House of Bishops. 

House of Bishops declines Book of Common Prayer revision

The House of Bishops today declined concur with the resolution on prayer book revision passed by the House of Deputies and instead has put forth a substitute resolution.

The resolution approved by the House of Deputies on July 7 would have initiated a revision process that would create a new Book of Common Prayer by 2024, with three years of trial use after that. Final adoption of that revision by two successive General Conventions would result in a new prayer book by 2030.

That resolution was taken up by the House of Bishops on July 9, the bishops spending almost two hours in debate. Many of the bishops who spoke were very reticent about prayer book revision, which could cost over $8 million. The bishops appeared deeply divided on the issue and ultimately adjourned July 9 without voting.

On July 10, Bishop Andrew Doyle of Texas put forth the substitute resolution. The new resolution creates a Task Force on Liturgical Prayer Book Revision to work with the Standing Commission on Governance, Structure, Constitution and Canons to give the 2021 General Convention proposed revisions to the constitution and canons for more flexibility in liturgical choices. The resolution “memorializes” the 1979 Book of Common Prayer “preserving the psalter, liturgies, the Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and Trinitarian formularies.” While "memorialize" may sound negative, what it means is that the 1979 Book of Common Prayer will not be changed and alternative options for new liturgies will be sought.

The substitute resolution now goes to the House of Deputies for consideration. 

General Convention by the numbers 
848 Deputies
241 Alternate Deputies
154 Bishops
1040 Visitors
948 Volunteers
53 Ecumenical and international guests
100 Episcopal Church Center staff members
179 Exhibitors
2100 hotel rooms booked 

TEConversations: Care of Creation 

The third and final TEConversation – this one on Care of Creation – was held this morning in a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies. Speakers at this session were The Most Rev. Thabo Cecil Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of South Africa; Bernadette Demientieff, Alaska Native Gwich’in, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee and Native Movement Alaska advisory board; and the Rev. Stephanie McDyre Johnson, co-chair of the Episcopal Church’s Advisory Council on the Care of Creation.

This conversation focused on care of creation as an essential part of the Jesus Movement. If we love God and love our neighbors, that love naturally extends to the fullness of God’s creation through the embracing of simplicity and responsibility, growing local and regional eco-ministries, pursuing eco-justice with partners, and convening conversations around climate and faith.

Video of the speakers and a discussion guide for use in adult forum, small groups or youth groups is available here.

You can find video and discussion guides for all three TEConversations (Racial Reconciliation, Evangelism, and Care of Creation) here.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Day 5 of #GC79: Marriage equality

House of Deputies approves compromise resolution on marriage equality

Southern Virginia's deputation table sign.
On July 9, the House of Deputies voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution aimed at ensuring all Episcopalians can be married by their priests in their home churches. The debate on the resolution was spread over two days and was intense. The resolution will now go to the House of Bishops for consideration.

The resolution, B012, gives clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Currently those rites can only be used with the permission of their bishop. The resolution also requires that if a bishop is unable, due to his or her theological position, to permit marriage of same-sex couples, that he or she may appoint another bishop to provide pastoral support to any clergy or couples desiring to use the rites. The resolution provides for the trial use of the rites until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the prayer book.

This amended version of the resolution provides a compromise that gives equal access to the marriage rites while protecting the conscience of those who object to same-sex marriage. It also makes clear that the canonical authority to use the liturgies rests with the clergy in charge of a congregation.

House of Bishops adopts covenant to combat abuse, harassment and exploitation

Meeting on July 8, the House of Bishops adopted a covenant to seek changes in their diocese to combat abuse, harassment and exploitation. A Working Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church states that “the church as both community of faith and workplace is not immune to abuse, harassment and exploitation of people of varying gender, racial and cultural identities.”

Bishop Hollerith said that he will bring the covenant back to Southern Virginia and talk particularly with women clergy about what next steps to take in our diocese.

The covenant states that bishops plan to engage their diocesan cultures and structures in the following ways:

  • Recognize and respect the official as well as unofficial power given to us by our office, exercising it with humble care and in loving service with all God’s people;
  • Participate in regular self-examination and seek micro-transformations in our personal and systemic use of authorized, relational and positional power;
  • Increase our awareness of, listen to, and take to heart the stories that reflect the biases deeply embedded in our structure;
  • Create a culture of empowerment, giving space for leadership based on equity, not tokenism;
  • Make room for varying cultural and gender-based leadership practices, nurturing an ethos of cooperation and collaboration, exploring and supporting a broad range of leadership models;
  • Eliminate pay and benefit inequities among all persons, and cease ‘wage theft’ by creating and enforcing standardized diocesan compensation guidelines;
  • Create and enforce equitable parental leave policies;
  • Utilize formational opportunities for congregational search committees to examine bias and make responsible choices regarding their selection and call of clergy into ministry with them.

The bishops’ covenant came out of the Liturgy of Listening held July 4 here at General Convention. At that service, bishops offered laments and confession for the church’s role in sexism and misogyny. The service featured 12 stories – six from women and six from men – from victims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by someone in the church. Each story was read by a bishop of the same gender as the victim. You can read more about this liturgy and watch video of it here.