Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The General Convention of The Episcopal Church, by The Rev. Peter J. Van Hook

The triennial meeting of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church begins this week at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. Including the triennial meeting of the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) and many other groups, there will be over 8,000 non-Utah Episcopalians appearing on the streets of the capitol city. Thus, for ten days, the population of Episcopalians in Utah will have tripled.

The General Convention (or GC) includes eight Deputies from each of the 110 dioceses as well as all of the active Bishops. Structurally, the GC looks like the Congress, with two “houses” meeting separately and having to concur on most legislation. The Presiding Bishop only presides over the House of Bishops; the House of Deputies elects its President from among the members of the Convention.

The big issues at this GC include the continuing process of revisioning (not just revising) the administrative and programmatic structure of the church; a revision of the service of Holy Matrimony to include same-sex relationships (although any permanent change must be adopted by two successive GCs); a concordat or agreement for shared ministries with the United Methodist Church in the U.S. (similar to the one we have with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America); and, the election of a Presiding Bishop, as Katherine Jefferts Schori’s nine-year term expires at this GC. The four candidates, all men, are significantly different from one another, in terms of experience, interests, and personal style. The election of the P.B. will take place at a closed meeting of the House of Bishops in the Cathedral Church of St. Mark.

There will be a lot of secular news coverage of the GC, and most of it will be partial, sometimes slanted, and occasionally just plain wrong. Questions or concerns can be emailed to me. The best sources of information will be the news feed from the GC itself, or from the website of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. One of my favorite sites for reasonable commentary is The Episcopal Café.

If you get an opportunity to visit the GC take it! It costs $50 for admission for a day. The legislative sessions can be interesting, but the real action is in the hall where the displays from organizations, publishing houses, and many others are set up. You might end up spending most of your time there.

In the meantime, please keep the people attending and working at the GC in your prayers. Their efforts really do affect all of us.


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