General Convention: Walking the Way of Love

On Monday, July 11, I returned from five days in Baltimore, Maryland and the 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the bicameral governing body consisting of bishops, clergy, and lay people from all foreign and domestic dioceses. Since 1789, the General Convention has met once every three years. I was honored to serve as first clergy alternate for the Diocese of North Carolina. As a longtime “church geek,” it was so much fun to observe and participate in our decision-making structures and to meet bishops and deputies from dioceses close by and as far away as Taiwan. 

The General Convention took up a number of legislative items of note at this shortened meeting. We approved a budget for the next two years and simplified a complex budget process. We elected members to church-wide bodies, many of whom were from the Diocese of North Carolina! We approved funds and a taskforce to study the Episcopal Church’s role in systemic racism, particularly at Indigenous boarding schools, many of which were operated by Episcopal entities. We approved the reunification of the Diocese of Texas with the Episcopal Church in North Texas, the latter of which was formerly known as the Diocese of Fort Worth. We reaffirmed our positions on gun violence and reproductive rights, and we elected the youngest President of the House of Deputies, the first Latina to hold that position. Perhaps most interestingly, we overwhelmingly approved a path for possible revision of the Book of Common Prayer

The issue of Prayer Book revision is quite controversial and on the first day of convention it was clear that we lacked consensus on how to move forward. While Prayer Book revision is procedurally complex, we accomplished three things: first, we reaffirmed that the Book of Common Prayer 1979 is the Prayer Book of this Church and will forever be available for use; second, we set forth a nine-year process by which the Prayer Book could be amended to include other rites, such as the same-sex marriage liturgies; and third, we created a process by which alternative liturgies could be elevated to parallel use with the Prayer Book, similar to the model in the Church of England and its use of the Book of Common Prayer 1662 and Common Worship

Initially, the House of Bishops narrowly voted to maintain the status quo and simply define our various liturgies in the constitution. But several bishops, both traditional and progressive, decided to form a working group to consider the matter further. The final resolution they presented received unanimous consent from the House of Bishops. It was truly a miracle and evidence that the conciliar nature of our process works—if we trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Bishop Mary Glasspool of New York was quoted as saying, “I think this resolution is brilliant. I’m amazed that we’re in this four-day convention, and somehow, squeezing into that intensity has driven us deep. This is the best conversation that I have been a part of in the eleven years that I have been a bishop.”

My time at General Convention reaffirmed my love for our Episcopal Church. We are preserving what makes us unique, looking to the future of the church, and recommitting ourselves to being the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. 

The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Rector

Sunday

Holy Eucharist, Rite I, 8:30 a.m., Church
Holy Eucharist, Rite II, 11:00 a.m., Church and Livestream
Coffee Hour Fellowship, 12:15 p.m., Parish House Lobby