In July, elected representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast serving as deputies to the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, for a streamlined, four-day legislative session to conduct the business of The Episcopal Church. Below several deputies share their experiences. Visit www.diocgc.org/general-convention for more news and information on our diocesan participation in General Convention.
Clergy Deputy Pete Burgess
My experience of General Convention was one of learning and of renewal. As a first-time deputy, I had the opportunity and the challenge of learning a great deal about our church governance and the functioning of the House of Deputies. My more experienced fellow deputies were patient and helpful to me in understanding the procedures that govern committees, budget, and the legislative process. The volume and the rigor of the work done by General Convention is thoroughly impressive and at times inspiring. The civility, honesty, and courage of the deputies on the debate floor gave me renewed hope for the church, even as they challenged me to dig deeper and to love bigger. The church has a great deal of work to do in the world, and it was a pleasure to be among such passionate, talented, diverse, and faithful leaders from our many dioceses. I’ll look forward to talking with folks in the coming weeks about more of the specific resolutions and votes that we considered.
Clergy Deputy David Knight (Deputation Chair)
This COVID-shortened convention, designed to keep attendees as safe and well as possible, was quite different than previous conventions. I was honored to be the chair of the deputation again, this was my sixth time as a deputy to General Convention, and my second as the chair of our diocesan deputation.
This General Convention met for four days, consisting primarily of legislative sessions during the morning, afternoon, and evening. General Convention is typically 12-14 days long, so we handled an avalanche of business in a short period of time. To assist this process leadership of convention worked hard to limit the number of resolutions we had to deal with, but we still handled over 400 resolutions. Leading up to General Convention our legislative committees met virtually via Zoom from January to June. This is the first time we have had committees meet ahead of convention and online. We are evaluating this covid-necessitated method to see if we can adopt something similar for subsequent conventions.
A highlight of this GC for our deputation was the election of Joe McDaniel, Jr. to a six-year term on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church. Executive Council is somewhat like the vestry of a parish, but their scope is the business of The Episcopal Church between General Conventions (which typically take place every three years). The Executive Council meets at least four times a year and their primary function is to implement, and fund according to a budget passed by General Convention, the resolutions of General Convention. They also hear from various agencies and task forces, support the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, as well as the staff for The Episcopal Church. It’s a big job and we all know Joe is up to the task.
We elected Julia Ayala Harris as the next President of the House of Deputies, I believe the youngest person ever elected to this important post, and the first Latina. She is a lay leader from the Diocese of Oklahoma, and I believe Julia will be a wonderful leader. In her acceptance speech, she called her election a “victory for all church geeks!”. We also elected The Reverend Rachel Taber-Hamilton as Vice President, the first indigenous person selected for that office, and the first female priest ever elected Vice President.
It was an honor to serve again as chair of the deputation, this group worked very hard and held up the tradition of Central Gulf Coast as an important part of the governance of our church. The next convention will be in two years (since the 80th convention was postponed a year due to Covid) and will be held in Louisville, Kentucky. We will elect the deputies and alternates for that General Convention at our next diocesan convention.
Lay Deputy Jill Showers Chow
The 80th general convention was a joyous reunion for The Episcopal Church. As a first-time deputy, I served on the Committee on Dispatch of Business.
There was so much anticipation on my part. I was obsessed with the Virtual Binder which contains everything to know about General Convention. It consisted of resolutions, memorials, governing bodies and publications. In preparation, virtual meetings were held through Microsoft Teams was our primary communication tool. It allowed us to post documents and file changes.
Upon arrival in Baltimore, I was greeted with open arms and finally got a chance to meet all the amazing people that I spent hours with in virtual meetings. Fellow deputy, Joe McDaniel Jr., was my mentor who answered all my questions and heard all my comments throughout the week.
I brought my maternal grandmother’s Book of Common Prayer with me. This was the same book she carried to church on Sundays and the same one we read from at night for Evening Prayer. It was a reminder through GC of my deeply rooted Episcopal faith.
General Convention was a deep learning and understanding experience of The Episcopal Church at its governing laws. It was exciting to see all the deputies from the United States and other countries. I enjoyed our daily prayers which kept us focused on the work of the Church. It was amazing to listen to others speak about the resolution either for or against but with passion the individual shared or showed. I had the opportunity to address the House of Deputies; I spoke on Resolution A125, reflecting on this scripture, "You must not be partial and judging: hear out the small and great alike; you should not be intimidated by anyone for the judgment is God's." Deuteronomy: 1-17
Lay Deputy Eugene Johnston
National meetings of the Episcopal Church, something I have always enjoyed, begin to give you an idea of the Church’s diversity. This General Convention was no different and in fact, took steps to formalize that diversity. Now everyone can look at the sign “The Episcopal Church welcomes you” and know there is truth behind the saying.
Prayer Book revision was a topic of much discussion. I am just old enough to remember divisions created by the 1979 Prayer Book. The current Prayer Book remains the standard, however, anyone who has gone to camp at Beckwith or been to any special service knows that flexibility is needed. That seems to be where the Episcopal Church is headed.
Lay Deputy Joe McDaniel, Jr.
My General Convention experience was a particularly rewarding one. I served as the Convener for the Deputies of Color, a confederation composed of 253 deputies from the four ethnic ministries of the Episcopal Church: the Asian, the Black, the Indigenous and the Latinx Caucuses. We collaborated and strategized on priority legislation that we wanted to see adopted by the convention. We were very successful in getting the vast majority of our legislation passed by the convention. Also, in that same vein, fifteen of the eighteen resolutions that I personally wrote were adopted by the convention. Most of these resolutions were in the realm of social justice, with the unifying theme of equity and equality. The highlight of the convention for me was my election to the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church (“TEC”), which serves as the Board of Directors for TEC.
I was surprised by how efficiently the convention operated. After all, in a normal convention, we would have been allocated ten days to accomplish all that was accomplished in a four-day time period, which resulted in four days that began early and ran late. Surprisingly, however, we ended early on Monday afternoon, the fourth and final day of the event. The convention was also notable for the election of the President and Vice President of The House of Deputies (“HOD”). The HOD President is a Latinx lay woman (Julia Ayala Harris), and not only is Julia the first Latinx person to ever hold the position, but she is also the youngest person ever elected to the position, representing a semic generational change. Additionally, the Vice-President of the HOD is an indigenous clergywoman, the Rev. Rachael Taber-Hamilton. The first time that an indigenous person has ever held such senior leadership within TEC.
In conclusion, I wish to thank you the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast for allowing me to represent you at General Convention.