MN Deputies Recap General Convention

July 23, 2015

Introduction

From The Rev. Devon Anderson (Clergy Deputy; Trinity, Excelsior):

General Convention happens every three years, and is that span of 12 days when four clergy deputies and four lay deputies (and alternates) and bishops from every, single diocese in the Episcopal Church, gather to set the direction for our church. We also worship (every, single day), caucus, debate, party, shop in the exhibit hall, and hone our proficiency in parliamentary procedure during extended sessions of the House of Deputies. Once described as “the Episcopal Church’s great family reunion,” General Convention is also about connecting and building relationships – the kind of bonds that inform and inspire our ministries at home.

At this summer’s General Convention (June 26 – July 3 in Salt Lake City), General Convention considered critically important calls to action around racial justice and reconciliation, curbing gun violence, eradicating food insecurity, and global poverty. We made definitive decisions around marriage equality and delved into theological questions around marriage in general. We called for the start of a revision process for the Book of Common Prayer and our Hymnal. We held Church Pension Group accountable for what doesn’t work about the Denominational Health Care Plan. We passed a budget that better aligns with our hoped-for direction of deeper and greater participation in God’s mission in the world. And we tinkered with our church structure and how we might better imagine our institutional scaffolding and decision making to reflect the realities of our rapidly changing church and the opportunities that God offers us, over and over, to be more about the needs of the world and less about ourselves.

And, oh yes, we elected a new Presiding Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, who inspired us all at General Convention’s closing Eucharist by delivering a sermon that we will never forget.

The headline is this: Minnesota should be VERY proud of their deputies! Many deputies from Minnesota have earned seniority over time, and have evolved into significant leaders of General Convention that make a difference:

  • Sally Johnson chaired the legislative committee on Structure (among many other things) and was the emissary sent from the House of Deputies to the House of Bishops late in General Convention to pound out the details of changes in our structure.
  • The Rev. Doug Sparks served as the Secretary of Program, Budget, and Finance, and led much of the development, and passage, of our triennial budget.
  • The Rev. John Dwyer, new to General Convention, took on marriage equality and penned a resolution that eventually passed as an amendment.
  • Gail Sheddy served on the Dispatch Committee and was involved in the inner workings of General Convention – making the engine run smoothly and constantly.
  • Jim Huber claimed leadership in the legislative committee that oversaw the initiatives for racial justice and gun control.
  • The Rev. LeeAnne Watkins took on the Church Pension Group and the Denominational Health Care Plan, navigating the passage of an historic amendment on the floor of the House of Deputies.
  • And I (The Rev. Devon Anderson) chaired the Liturgy, Prayer Book, and Music Committee, penned the first draft of the resolution calling for prayer book revision, and then successfully navigated it through both houses.

Sally Johnson and Devon Anderson served for three years on the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop, and in that capacity raised up the four candidates for Presiding Bishop and engineered the three hour Q&A session during General Convention in which bishops and deputies could ask the candidates questions.

And finally, the Minnesota Deputation participated in the House of Deputies Campaign for the 75th Anniversary of Episcopal Relief and Development. The challenge was for deputies to raise $75,000 in honor of ERD’s anniversary by General Convention. In June, the deputation hosted a fundraiser at St. Christopher’s, Roseville and a concert by the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. Because of the amount of money raised, the Minnesota Deputation won first prize and was honored by the President, Gay Jennings, and by a standing ovation from the entire House of Deputies.

Below, deputies describe what happened in their “corner of the world” at General Convention. The deputation will also lead a workshop at this fall’s ECMN Convention describing the actions of General Convention. It was my pleasure and deep honor to co-chair this deputation, with all of its pluck and courage, inspirational actions and humor.

Structure

From Sally Johnson (Lay Deputy; St. John’s, Minneapolis):

After three years of work to reimagine the Episcopal Church’s structure, administration, and governance, the General Convention took significant steps to streamline and clarify church-wide structures and to create space for new ways of work and new concerns to emerge. These changes (1) eliminate all Standing Commissions except for Constitution and Canons, Structure, and Liturgy and Music; (2) “sunset” all task forces and interim bodies at each General Convention; (3) have the work of “disappearing” Standing Commissions performed (if necessary) by task forces reporting to Executive Council; (4) maintain General Convention with two Houses, but begin the process to amend the Constitution to permit the Houses to sit, debate, and vote together when they consent to do so; (5) encourage Dioceses to collaborate and combine; (6) require Provinces to develop and share “best practices,” and (at the same time) establish a task force to present in 2018 a thorough plan for subject-matter networks to take the place of Provinces – if Provinces were eliminated; (7) establish clear lines of authority and accountability for officers of General Convention, the Executive Council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the corporation through which the Church does business); (8) streamline the Budget Process; and (9) make the church-wide assessment on diocesan income mandatory starting in 2019.

Racial Justice and Gun Violence

From Jim Huber (Lay Deputy; St. Mark’s, Minneapolis):

For the last several years The Episcopal Church has been offering anti-racism training. At this General Convention, it was believed that while that was important, it was not enough. Two million dollars in new money was allocated for faith communities to apply for grants for long-term development and for sustainability in developing programs that further the conversation and action to promote racial justice. Additionally there is a recommendation for faith communities to use the book, “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander that deals with the mass incarceration of Black males. The Episcopal Church also went on record in calling for stricter background checks before someone may purchase a gun.

A “Paperless” Convention!

From Gail Sheddy (Lay Deputy; St. Mary’s, Ely):

There were a lot of “firsts” at the 78th General Convention, but none as amazing as the manner in which business was conducted. We were PAPERLESS. That’s right. PAPERLESS. From the moment we checked in and received our credentials, our lives were changed when we received our very own iPad…our virtual binder. Whatever we were going to accomplish on the floor of the House of Deputies or that the Bishops were going to accomplish in the House of Bishops, relied on the information in the virtual binder. No paper! It gave us information of the legislative committees and their activity. The resolutions under consideration in committee could be found in the virtual binder. When in session, we found that sessions agenda and the daily calendars. No paper! We held elections for various bodies with the information on each candidate listed in the virtual binder for review. The worship bulletins for each day were in the virtual binder. No paper! Housed for reference in the virtual binder were the Constitution and Canons as well as the actual “Blue Book.” No paper! Kudos to the convention planning committee for pulling this off with only minor glitches. We were moved to be a part of this historic venture. It was truly amazing!

Worship and Music: The Times They are A-Changin’

From The Rev. Devon Anderson (Clergy Deputy; Trinity, Excelsior):

 Here’s what happened at General Convention regarding liturgy and music:

  •  Both houses approved resolutions to begin talking about revision of both the Hymnal and the Book of Common Prayer. In each resolution, Convention directed the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to come back to the next General Convention with a detailed plan for revision.
  •  Convention authorized “Liturgical Materials Honoring God in Creation” and directed the SCLM to continue its complete overhaul of the Book of Occasional Services.
  •  A revised version of “Holy Women, Holy Men,” (now “A Great Cloud of Witnesses) with additional saints’ commemorations will be made available to the church, but not as authorized liturgy. Convention left “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” as the church’s authorized supplemental calendar of commemorations.
  • Considered by the Special Committee on Marriage, two new marriage liturgies with gender-neutral language that same-sex or opposite-sex couples may use as well as the rite for blessing same-sex relationships from the 2012 GC were passed by General Convention. Our bishop, The Rt. Rev. Brian Prior, has sent a letter to the clergy with how he would like parishes in ECMN to proceed.
  • Convention directed bishops to find ways for faith communities without clergy to receive Communion, but the House of Bishops defeated proposals to allow unbaptized people to receive Holy Communion or to study the issue.
  • Convention also agreed that bishops “exercising ecclesiastical authority” can allow faith communities to use “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist,” (BCP, pp.400-405), sometimes referred to as “Rite III” at a principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist, if the Eucharistic Prayer is written and submitted in advance of its use to the bishop.

Denominational Health Care Plan

From The Rev. LeeAnne Watkins (Clergy Deputy; St. Mary’s, St. Paul):

http://www.deputynews.org/humility-and-the-denominational-health-plan/

The Budget of the Episcopal Church

From The Rev. Doug Sparks (Clergy Deputy; St. Luke’s, Rochester):

The process that led to the adoption of the 2016–2018 Budget for the Episcopal Church began in earnest in February 2013. The Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on Finances for Mission (FFM) established a subcommittee to develop a process to seek input from the Church in preparing a Church Wide Budget for the next triennium. This process included inviting at least one member from the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (P,B & F) to come to each Executive Council meeting during the triennium.

The “Five Marks of Mission” Budget framework was adopted in 2012 and included “block grants” intended for new initiatives in each of the five marks. The grants ranged from $500,000 to $2 million over three years (2013-2015). The response from the church was enormously positive and it was clear as we prepared the next budget, there was a growing expectation that they be included and expanded. The budget process established by FFM was collaborative and transparent from the outset that made P B & F’s work so much easier as we prepared for General Convention.

Once we arrived in Salt Lake, we began the process of review and then assumed a posture of listening. The Legislative Process established by our canons includes two opportunities for public hearings: one on revenue and one on expense. The hearing on revenue was held on Friday, June 26. We heard testimony from 17 people regarding support for indigenous ministries to asking reduction. The hearing on expense took place on Saturday, June 27. At that hearing, we heard testimony from 40 people on topics ranging from earth care to racial justice to support for the historically Black colleges, along with a variety of resolutions, which included funding expectations. The hearings were transforming for me. I was moved by the stories of our sisters and brothers who rely on the financial support they receive from the church-wide budget to engage God’s mission in Arizona, North Carolina, Alaska, as well as in Liberia, Brazil, and Taiwan. The need is great and I believe we returned to our work of discernment in hopes of funding God’s mission with our resources.

We made a bold commitment to designate $2 million to be used to address racial justice and reconciliation. We also included $3 million to be used for new church plants and mission enterprise zones, and increased the grants used for indigenous ministries and our covenant partners throughout the world. While we had hoped to find additional resources to support more church planting, we also were committed to decreasing over a three year period the percentage each diocese is asked to pay in support of the church-wide budget. We presented a budget that reduced the percentage from 18 percent to 15 percent in three years. We also made an ongoing commitment to the work of our newly established Development Office which has raised $7 million during the last two years to support the Church in Haiti and Navajoland.

The Budget was posted online late Tuesday afternoon, June 30. We gathered on Wednesday, July 1 for a Joint Session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops for the Budget Presentation. I believe our work was well received and the question time was most helpful in addressing issues that needed our attention.

On Thursday, July 2, the budget was presented by way of resolution and then discussion began. Two amendments were brought forward. First, to take an additional draw from the Investment portfolio over the next three years of $2.8 million to add to New Church Starts and to The Episcopal Network of Stewardship $150,000 during the next three years. Both of these amendments passed and then the budget passed as amended and was sent to the House of Bishops for their deliberation.

The House of Bishops adopted the budget as amended. The Church Wide Budget for 2016-2018 (unamended) can be found here. Within the next 30 days, the budget document as amended will be available via the General Convention website.

Marriage Equality

From The Rev. John Dwyer (Clergy Deputy; St. Christopher’s, Roseville):

At General Convention, I attended most of the hearings of the Special Committee on Marriage, a committee created to evaluate the reports and recommendations of the Committee on Marriage that worked for the last three years exploring and studying the theology of marriage. I found it awe-inspiring and humbling to witness the frank exchange of differing opinions and to watch the tide turn toward the approval of:

  1. Altering the marriage canons to be gender-neutral to allow the use of the marriage liturgies for same gender couples.
  2. Making a new rite, based entirely upon the marriage rite in the BCP, that is gender neutral for use by same gender couples.

After 40 years of effort to make our liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer equally applicable to all who seek to use them, was witnessing an important historic event take place.

Daily Worship

From The Rev. Janet McNally (First Clergy Alternate; St. Christopher’s, Roseville):

At noon of the last day of convention, I cut through the worship space (as was my custom) on my way back to our hotel and was amazed at how rapidly what had been a holy space was being transformed in a large empty room. For nine days this had been the worship center for our gathering known as General Convention. Nine distinctly different liturgies using all the resources currently available, in multiple languages representing the diversity that is the Episcopal Church. Nine liturgies that found their way onto the virtual binder so that even in worship, we were caring for God’s Creation. Nine times of gathering together in community to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist. Nine times of being sent forth to do the work we were there to do, as we responded to the needs of the world and the church in both committee work and on the floors of the Houses of Deputies and Bishops. And I was privileged to spend nine mornings as the Table Deacon for station number 7, a privilege which gave me a unique view into the wonder, mystery and diversity that is our beloved Episcopal Church.

What was the most inspiring moment of General Convention?

(Roving Reporter)

Absolutely when the House of Deputies voted to agree with the Bishops to approve same-gender marriage rites for trial use (leading to eventual placement in the Book of Common Prayer) and requiring that those rites be available in every Diocese even if the Bishop won’t approve them (an Anglican paradox if ever there was one!). Sally Johnson (Lay Deputy; St. John’s, Minneapolis)

The most inspiring moment of the 78th General Convention for me was the call to service by Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry in his sermon given on the last day of our convention. He made it very clear that our church is changing and that if we go out into the world, using the gifts that God has given us to do the work that has to be done…whatever that work may be…it will make a difference. He said “GO” and there is no doubt in my mind that we will do what he has asked us to do.

On another note, I have to say how proud I was of my fellow Minnesota deputies at this convention. The work done by Sally, Devon, Doug, LeeAnne, John, Jim, and Amanda was above and beyond the call. (Both alternates, Sue and Janet contributed as well.)

The major issues addressed in committees that ended up being scrutinized on the floor would not have been resolved or passed without the influence our deputies had on the resolutions at hand. I was very proud of the impact they made. You would have been too had you been there. Gail Sheddy (Lay Deputy; St. Mary’s Ely)

It may sound strange, but for me General Convention’s most inspiring moment was not so much the election of Bishop Curry, or worshipping with thousands of Episcopalians every morning, or the marriage equality resolutions, or the end-gun-violence march (though all were truly wonderful and inspirational events) – as the moments that began the morning sessions of the legislative committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music. Each morning, as the chair, I would call upon the chaplain, and the 46 members of the committee would stand, and we would sing hymns. The committee was populated by liturgists and musicians from around the country – and these people could SING. Over the weeks our voices began to blend together into a rich four-part harmony that sounded more like a cathedral choir than a bunch of exhausted deputies and bishops in a hotel ballroom. Sometimes it’s easy to lose your way at General Convention – to lose sight of what is really important, to confuse what is about the Gospel with what is not about the Gospel – and over the 12 days the committee singing kept us all grounded and focused – it built up the members of our group so that we could extend deep listening to each other and consider, with integrity, a Mount Everest-sized pile of resolutions and liturgical material. The Rev. Devon Anderson (Clergy Deputy; Trinity, Excelsior)

The most inspiring moment for me was participating in the Witness Walk against Gun Violence on Sunday morning, June 28. As people of Faith, we gathered to listen to stories of wounds and deaths caused by Gun Violence. “God did not make death…nor does God rejoice in the death of the living.” Then walking with others singing. “Out of the deep I call, unto thee O Lord, consider well the sounds of my longing soul.” We gave witness as people of Faith in our walking and singing and prayer. Then Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry’s words…Black lives matter because all lives matter! Profound experience of worship and witness for me. The Rev. Doug Sparks (Clergy Deputy; St. Luke’s, Rochester)

The most inspirational moment of General Convention was the election of our Presiding Bishop-elect, the Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry. It was an emotional and historic moment in the life of our beloved church! The Rev. John Dwyer (Clergy Deputy; St. Christopher’s, Roseville)

What did I find the most inspiring moment of General Convention? I would have to say it was the spirit driven energy almost too much to contain that was silently waiting for the result of the vote on the marriage resolution. The Rev. Janet McNally (First Clergy Alternate; St. Christopher’s, Roseville)

One thing that struck me and made me smile that I took home with me was a quote from our new presiding bishop elect: Bishop Curry. “Red and Yellow Black and White. Each is precious in his sight.” Just as we learned in Sunday School. Here is a man who, like I, has hymns in his mind as part of his theology. Here is a Bishop who recognizes the value in each human being. All Lives Matter. Sue Triebenbach (First Lay Alternate; St. Christopher’s, Roseville)

Click here to view a YouTube video of the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music Legislative Committee singing a parody of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

The Rev. Devon Anderson.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry at closing Eucharist.

The Rev. LeeAnne Watkins speaking to the House of Deputies.

The Rev. Doug Sparks in his role as Secretary of Program, Budget, and Finance presenting the triennial budget to the House of Deputies.

The vote for marriage equality.

How the MN Deputation voted on marriage liturgies and canonical changes.

The Minnesota Deputation.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry addressing the House of Deputies minutes after being elected Presiding Bishop.

The four candidates for Presiding Bishop at the Q&A session.

The MN Deputation receiving their award for FIRST PLACE for the House of Deputies challenge to raise $75,000 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Episcopal Relief and Development.