General Convention

Postcards from Baltimore: Virginia Deputies Report from General Convention

July 11, 2022

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Community: Covid is unable to kill the love and spirit of our Episcopal community
The Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera, Clergy Deputy

For the past four days of this 80th General Convention I have witnessed the love, spirit, courage, hope, and yes, the fatigue of our Episcopal community! One of my favorite things about this convention has been the presence of the Holy Spirit. The people of God have gathered with spirit and love despite the more than 25% of deputies who were unable or unwilling to attend due to the risks presented by pandemic or other circumstances, and despite also that visitors were not allowed to attend for public health reasons.

These unusual circumstances remind me of Paul’s letter to the Romans where he said: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I am a witness to these prophetic words of St. Paul’s at this convention! I have been spiritually encouraged, nourished, and renewed by the smiling eyes (behind masks) and many hugs and kisses (in the air of course) of the gathered Episcopal community -- some sisters and brothers who I’ve not seen for years, as well as new ones. My spirit has soared by the love, passion, diversity, leadership and commitment of the many diverse people present; the new diversity that I am witnessing in our community makes our branch of the Jesus Movement a full and wonderful body of Christ! The love and presence of Jesus is alive in this House of Deputies. This community of love is not only alive within the walls of our church buildings but in the communities that surround our parishes as well!

 

Comunidad: El Covid no puede destruir el amor ni el espíritu de nuestra comunidad Episcopal
Rvdo. Daniel Vélez-Rivera

Durante estos últimos cuatro días de la 80ª Convención General he sido testigo del amor, espíritu, valor, esperanza e inclusive del agotamiento de mis hermanas y hermanos Episcopales. ¡Lo que más me ha inspirado ha sido la presencia del Espíritu Santo en este lugar! El pueblo de Dios se ha reunido con gran espíritu y amor a pesar de que más del 25% de los diputados no pudieron o no quisieron asistir por los riesgos que presenta una pandemia u otras circunstancias, y a pesar también de que no se permitió la asistencia de visitantes por razones de salud pública.

Estas circunstancias inusuales me recuerdan la carta de Pablo a los Romanos, en la que decía “¿Quién nos podrá separar del amor de Cristo? ¿El sufrimiento, o las dificultades, o la persecución, o el hambre, o la falta de ropa, o el peligro, o la muerte violenta?... Pero en todo esto salimos más que vencedores por medio de aquel que nos amó. Estoy convencido de que nada podrá separarnos del amor de Dios: ni la muerte, ni la vida, ni los ángeles, ni los poderes y fuerzas espirituales, ni lo presente, ni lo futuro, ni lo más alto, ni lo más profundo, ni ninguna otra de las cosas creadas por Dios. ¡Nada podrá separarnos del amor que Dios nos ha mostrado en Cristo Jesús nuestro Señor!”

Soy testigo de estas palabras proféticas de San Pablo en esta convención. Me he sentido espiritualmente alentado, alimentado y renovado por los ojos risueños (detrás de las máscaras) y los muchos abrazos y besos (en el aire, por supuesto) de la comunidad Episcopal reunida - algunas hermanas y hermanos que no había visto en años, así como otros nuevos. Mi espíritu se ha elevado por el amor, la pasión, la diversidad, el liderazgo y el compromiso de las muchas y diversas personas presentes. La nueva diversidad que estoy presenciando en nuestra comunidad afirma que nuestra rama del Movimiento de Jesús es verdaderamente un cuerpo de Cristo completo y maravilloso. El amor y la presencia de Jesús está vivo, lo he presenciado en esta Cámara de Diputados de la Convención. Nuestra comunidad de amor no sólo está viva dentro de las cuatro paredes de nuestras parroquias, sino también en las comunidades que nos rodean.

 

July 11, 2022

(L to R) The Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera, the Rev. Dr. Hilary Borbón Smith, and the Rev. Andrew Moore.

Expanding Diversity in Church Leadership
by the Rev. Sven vanBaars, Clergy Deputy

One of the hallmarks of the 80th General Convention has been the breadth of diversity the church is embracing. We see this in the elections of the next President and Vice President of the House of Deputies. Virginia deputies the Rev. Daniel Velez-Rivera and Russ Randle have sent postcards about President-elect Julia Ayala Harris. Rachel Taber-Harris, the Vice President-elect, is the first woman to hold that position and is the first person of indigenous descent to hold church-wide office in The Episcopal Church. Individuals elected to leadership in our church represent greater diversity on many dimensions including, significantly, generational.

Diversity is not solely taking place at the church-wide level. Our deputation from Virginia has its own historic milestones. The deputation includes people of African, European, and (for the first time) Latino descent. Also, when alternate deputy Andrew Moore was seated on the floor, our deputation included three out gay clergy on the floor at once.

As a hetero, white, male member of Generation Jones, I think this is good news. One of the foundations of our Anglican tradition is that we speak in the language of the people. Having people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives strengthens our church’s ability to proclaim Christ to our communities and the world. 

The Rev. Sven vanBaars
Clergy Deputy

Related: House of Deputies Elects Rachel Taber-Hamilton - Episcopal News Service

 

July 11, 2022

Deputy Carla Burns of New York, one of the authors of C030.

Anti-Semitism in the New Testament

One of the issues that has concerned members of the General Convention is the perceived anti-Semitism of some New Testament passages. Bishops and Deputies have before them at least five resolutions on the subject. The title of Resolution C030 from the Diocese of New York is indicative of the issues involved: Addressing anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish, and/or Supersessionist Interpretation of our Lectionaries. (Supersessionism is the term introduced by contemporary Biblical scholars for the idea that Christianity superseded God’s relationship with Israel.) Other resolutions include A144, C041, D058, and D071. The first of these was suggested by a deputy from Virginia to the chair of the Joint Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music; the final one was introduced and endorsed by a clerical and a lay deputy from Virginia.

What all these resolutions have in common is that they seek to put the term “Jew” in New Testament passages in context. Jesus created what was initially a movement within Judaism, something that is clear from a reading of Mark, the first gospel to be written, but is less clear in the later John’s Gospel. Later Christians often used passages from John as the basis for anti-Semitism. What these resolutions suggest is that the Biblical language be adjusted to provide a more nuanced picture. The NET Bible suggested for use in the Episcopal Church in D071, for example, adds qualifiers to the term “Jew” such as “Jews who were followers of Jesus,” or “Jews who lived in Jerusalem,” or “Jews who were opposed to Jesus.”

Resolutions A144 and D071 have been passed by both houses of General Convention. The other three resolutions are still under consideration.

The Rev. Dr. Bob Prichard
Clergy Deputy

 

July 11, 2022

Bishops and Friends of LGBTQ persons -- BFlag -- met for the first time at a General Convention. We are parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, godparents and friends of transgender young people. We hold them close in this time when their rights and the rights of their parents are in jeopardy in many states. We advocate for just laws and practices regarding healthcare for transgender persons, including gender-affirming care. We pray for God's love to be known and felt as unquenchable in their lives and in the lives of all God's children.

The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority

 

July 10, 2022

Gun violence, our constant companion.

On the day we arrived in Baltimore, a person was shot and killed near the Convention Center where we are meeting. Gun violence is our constant companion. Bishops United Against Gun Violence organized a demonstration on the site where the murder happened and, after our afternoon session ended, many of us from the House of Deputies joined our bishops for prayer and to declare we will act to end gun violence. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke passionately with power and we all said, “Amen!”

The Rev. Dr. Hilary Borbón Smith
Clergy Deputy

Related: Episcopal News Service: Episcopalians Gather at Site of Murder; Pledge to Bring an End to Gun Violence

Watch: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry Speaks at March to End Gun Violence

 

July 10, 2022

Julia Alaya Harris Elected President of House of Deputies

Who are the ministers of the Church?

The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons. Catechism, BCP, p. 855.

The Episcopal Church makes clear that lay people are one of four essential orders of ministry, neither superior nor subservient to our bishops, priests, and deacons. Our General Convention, our two-house legislature, has a House of Bishops (like the U.S. Senate) and the House of Deputies, consisting of lay and clergy deputies. Each of our more than 100 dioceses send an equal number of lay and clergy deputies. On almost all matters, both Houses have to agree before we adopt a rule (canon) or a resolution, or confirm the appointment of an officer in our Church.

By custom, when we elect the President of the House of Deputies (PHOD), we alternate between clergy and lay persons, starting with Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts in 1946. The Rev. Gay Jennings, our current PHOD, is completing her term after serving for ten years, including a “bonus” year resulting from the postponement of last year’s convention. Gay did a splendid job.

This year we elected a lay person, Julia Ayala Harris of Oklahoma, as PHOD. Julia was a lay missionary in South Sudan from 2005 to 2008, and is completing seven years of highly effective service on Executive Council, our church’s governing board between conventions, where I serve with her. She is working on her Ph.D. in public administration in Norman, Oklahoma, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She is highly qualified for this work by experience, her courage in the field, and her faith.

We broke new ground in electing Julia. At 41, she is probably the youngest person, and as a Latina, the second lay person of color we have elected as PHOD. 

The PHOD does far more than preside over a Convention every three years. The post became full time over four decades ago, but until 2018, an unpaid one. The PHOD is the Vice-President of The Episcopal Church’s corporate form, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS), and vice-chair of the Executive Council. She appoints over 700 people to various positions in our Church, among many other duties.

We also broke new ground by opening this PHOD job to people who are not retired or independently wealthy.

Julia was elected on the third ballot from a field of five able nominees, three of them people of color. Until 2018, when we made the PHOD a paid position, the economics of doing an unpaid full time job were a big obstacle to younger, more diverse leadership. Our five nominees are the youngest and by far most diverse set of people ever to offer themselves for this vital ministry of governance.

We have very high hopes for Julia and for the future health of our Church as she starts in this vital ministry of governance!

Russ Randle
Lay Deputy

Related: Self-proclaimed ‘church geek’ Julia Ayala Harris elected House of Deputies president – Episcopal News Service

 

July 10, 2022

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Esta es la primera vez que este servidor participa como diputado electo en una Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal. El honor de servir conlleva mucha responsabilidad, algo que ejecuto con entusiasmo y humildad. Les comparto la alegría que siento en este momento al ver la diversidad de personas que han sido electas a puestos que llevarán a nuestra Iglesia a nuevos caminos, oportunidades y posibilidades. ¡En este día la Cámara de Diputados eligió a su primera presidente de origen hispana! ¡Aleluya! La Sra. Julia Ayala Harris fue elegida Presidente de la Cámara de Diputados, una función que entre muchas cosas incluye el nombramiento de más de setecientas personas a los comités, grupos de trabajo y comisiones de la iglesia. Julia es primera generación mexicoamericana y no se eligió por ser latina o por ser mujer, sino porque posee los dones y talentos dados por Dios como líder fiel a Jesucristo y a su Iglesia.

Rvdo. Daniel Vélez-Rivera

Julia Ayala Harris elegida
presidenta de la
Cámara de Diputados
Episcopal News Service

This is the first time that I have served as a deputy to a General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The honor of serving carries with it a great deal of responsibility, something I execute with enthusiasm and humility. I share with you my joy at this moment as I witness the diversity of people elected to positions that will lead our Church to new paths, opportunities and possibilities. On this day the House of Deputies elected its first president of Hispanic origin! Alleluia! Mrs. Julia Ayala Harris was elected President of the House of Deputies, a role that among many things includes appointing over seven hundred people to church committees, commissions and task forces essential to the mission and ministry of the Church. Julia is a first-generation Mexican American who was not elected because of her gender or ethnicity, but because she possesses the gifts and talents given by God as a faithful leader commissioned by Holy Baptism to love and serve the world. 

The Rev. Daniel Vélez-Rivera

Related: Julia Ayala Harris Elected House of Deputies President – Episcopal News Service

 

July 10, 2022

On Saturday, bishops attending General Convention celebrated the joyful and life-affirming ministries of diocesan camps by wearing camp shirts during our legislative session. God bless the children and teens who are attending summer camps this week at Shrine Mont and at Episcopal camps across the country - and beyond. God bless all counselors, staff and directors. May your children of all ages see your face in the faces of others, hear your voice in the voices of others, and feel your presence in the presence of others. May they come to know, trust you and love more and more as you shape them into the loving and fully alive people you created them to be. 

The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority

 

July 9, 2022

The Rev. Candice Frazer, chair of the deputation from the Diocese
of Alabama, addressed the House of Deputies July 8 on Resolution A226,
which honors victims and survivors of the June 16 shooting at
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, as the other
Alabama clergy and lay deputies stand by her side. Photo: Scott Gunn

"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not [and will not] overcome it." - John 1:5

The first piece of real legislation (not the procedural motions that we take to get ourselves in order) before us was a motion to commend the shooting victims at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia, Alabama. The Alabama deputation is seated directly behind us and I had a chance to talk with them about the aftermath of the shooting.

One rector with whom I spoke talked about the outpouring of love from churches of many denominations. He spoke of the discussions within the vestry of his congregation about active shooter training, trauma care, and the larger discussion of gun safety. Yesterday’s resolution was not to take on those topics but to remember those who died and were directly affected by the shooting at Saint Stephen’s. The darkness of gun violence is all around us. Yesterday, as I was walking around Baltimore I came across reporters interviewing people who had witnessed a shooting in front of the hotel where the deputation from southern Virginia is staying. Gun violence is not something that just happens in mass events, it takes place every day on the streets of our cities. The challenge we have is to remember that the light of Christ shines brighter than the darkness of violence. The light of Christ compels us to action and will not be overcome by the darkness.

The Rev. Sven vanBaars
Clergy Deputy

Related:
Episcopal News Service - General Convention Honors Victims of Alabama Church Shooting

 

July 9, 2022

(Above) Navajoland Deputy the Rev. Cornelia Eaton tells the House
of Deputies that she carries much of her own intergenerational trauma,
“but I know healing is possible. We need the church to help us.” 

The Power of Stories

As we worked yesterday, Day 1, there were moments of business that you would expect -- matters of organization, internet problems, and all that goes with big legislative bodies. There were also powerful, emotional statements and stories from people who call on our Church to do better -- to do better on matters of racial justice and truth telling. Tears came to my eyes as a woman shared a little of her story of being hurt and traumatized as a child at a boarding school for Native Americans. So much sadness and sin in which our Church was complicit or directly responsible. Yesterday, we promised to look at ourselves and be part of the healing through honest self-examination. We voted for justice yesterday and that is worth all of the moments of “regular” business. 

The Rev. Dr. Hilary Borbón Smith
Clergy Deputy

Related:
Episcopal News Service: Deputies Engage in Holy Listening and Pass Racial Equity Resolutions

 

July 8, 2022

In my conversations with visitors and new members of our church, I often hear them comment about how much scripture we read in our worship. It should be no surprise then to any of us that when the church gathers in General Convention, we are required to have scripture prominently displayed. President Gay Jennings chose a passage from Colossians as our guiding passage for this convention.

We are gathered in Baltimore to do the work of the church, but that work is first and always grounded In the abiding Word of God. We will hear reports, pass legislation, elect individuals to office, but always within the context of our call to proclaim Christ.

General Convention began this morning with the words "the house will gather for worship" -- and with that, we begin.

The Rev. Sven vanBaars
Clergy Deputy

July 7, 2022

Today I, nine other deputies and first alternates, and our bishops head to Baltimore for the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. General Convention usually meets every three years, but last year's Convention did not take place due to COVID and this year's Convention is a mini version of four days (instead of the usual eight or nine, or more), with limited attendance (minimal visitors, no exhibitors), no seminary dinners and a limited legislative agenda. Legislative Committee open hearings and committee meetings, which are where a lot of the real work at Convention takes place, have all been substantially completed by Zoom meetings, so the relationships I found so helpful in the past sitting next to fellow deputies and bishops in committee meetings have not happened. Having attended several General Conventions, the 80th will definitely be different and I will miss the informal conversations and discussions, just as we have all missed personal contact during the COVID period.

BUT, we have business to do and we will do it, although a lot of the legislation will be referred to the 81st General Convention in 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky  We will elect new leadership for the House of Deputies, adopt a budget, amend the Constitution and Canons and adopt resolutions. Most of our meetings will be livestreamed and I encourage you to watch us, and pray for us as we do our work.

Peace,
J.P.  Causey, Jr.
Chair of the Virginia Deputation

 

General Convention 

General Convention is the triennial meeting of The Episcopal Church. The last General Convention took place in July 2018 in Austin, Texas. The 80th General Convention will be held in Baltimore, Maryland, July 8-11, 2022.  General Convention usually meets every three years but the 2021 Convention was postponed to 2022 due to COVID.  The 80th General Convention is shortened to four legislative days (instead of the usual 8-10) and is reduced in size and scope.  Deputations which usually consist of four lay and four clergy deputies and four alternate deputies in each order, are reduced to four deputies in each order and one alternate in each order.  There will be no exhibit hall and no visitors. Convention staff and Diocesan staff attending will be significantly reduced.  Legislation will be limited to critical issues, with decisions on much of the legislation expected to be deferred to the 81st General Convention in 2024. 

Diocese of Virginia Deputation

Clergy 

Clergy Alternate

The Rev. Dr. Hilary B. Smith  
The Rev. Sven L. vanBaars The Very Rev. J. Randolph Alexander, Jr.
The Rev. Daniel Velez-Rivera  
The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Prichard  

 

Lay

 

Lay Alternate

Mr. J.P. Causey Jr., Chair of Deputation

Ms. Cindi Bartol

   

Mr. Russell Randle

 

Ms. Patty Gould Rosenberg

Ms. Ellyn Crawford

 

 

Deputies can be contacted by email at  generalconvention@thediocese.net  The deputies welcome your comments.

Activity at General Convention may be followed on the Episcopal News Service.  A wealth of information about convention is available at www.generalconvention.org.