Issues to watch
There are a plethora of issues slated for consideration by the General Convention – 217 resolutions and counting. Bishop Breidenthal and Southern Ohio’s deputation members have an eye on several important issues they are passionate about.
Alternate lay deputy David Jones is most concerned about the issue of marriage equality. “Recently I was invited to attend a dear friend’s wedding. We were seated in the family pew as Martin’s family. Martin and his partner Bill were married at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tenn. This ceremony was wonderful and you knew without a doubt it was a wedding. I honestly believe that Jesus blessed this relationship just as much as he blessed my wife and my marriage 43 years ago. These men love each other and their marriage has no effect on mine or the sanctity of marriage as a whole!”
Resolution A050 at the 77th General Convention in 2012 created and set forth the work of a Task Force on the Study of Marriage. (The Very Rev. Gail Greenwell, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, serves on this task force.) In June 2014 the Task Force released “Dearly Beloved: A Toolkit for the Study of Marriage,” a resource developed to stimulate local conversation on the topic of marriage. The Task Force also has proposed two resolutions for consideration by the 78th General Convention. The first is a resolution proposing a rewrite of the marriage canon (Canon I.18). This rewrite would make the canon ordered more practically in terms of pastoral practice and focused on the actual vows made in The Book of Common Prayer marriage rite, rather than on the purposes of marriage in general.
“I would prefer to see us endorse marriage equality as equal access / non-discrimination in access to the sacrament of marriage without suggesting that all marriages are the same, which I suspect is what the House of Deputies is likely to vote to do,” said lay deputy and Legislative Committee on Marriage member Don Reed. “The issue is whether we will eliminate the statement of purposes of marriage from the “marriage canon,” then from the marriage rite (BCP p. 423), and eventually from the conversation altogether.”
The second resolution proposes continuing the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, to provide an “opportunity for the Church to study and possibly respond to the changing realities in society and in our congregations that challenge marriage as the norm for adult relationships and what it means to be a ‘household’ or even a ‘family,’ according to the task force’s report to the General Convention.
“We’ve been working at this for decades in the Church,” said clergy deputy Paula Jackson. “It’s the law in the majority of the States in the US and some other nations represented in TEC and the Anglican Communion; it is a no-brainer with generations we are hoping to reach who believe the Church has missed the boat on human equality. Some will say we need to wait for more study in order to come up with more perfect theological statements before we can do anything else. I believe with that approach, Philip would not have baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.”
Coincidentally, the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to issue its ruling on same-sex marriage sometime during the course of General Convention. Expect marriage equality to be the only issue that receives media coverage from the General Convention.
You can read the entire report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage at http://www.generalconvention.org/home/bluebook. Dearly Beloved, A Toolkit for the Study of Marriage, can be found in the appendices of the report.
Restructuring of the Episcopal Church also is on many of the deputies’ radar. The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) has done extensive work since the 77th General Convention, releasing in its report recommendations to make constitutional changes to create a unicameral legislative body (currently bicameral, House of Bishops and House of Deputies) and to assign new roles to the Presiding Bishop, President of the House of Deputies and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. The Task Force also recommends reducing the number of Standing Commissions by eliminating all but the Standing Commissions of Liturgy and Music and Constitution and Canons.
“I am concerned that we stay open to the work of the Spirit within the church and don’t get increasingly corporate in our format while claiming it makes things simpler,” said lay alternate Sally Sedgwick.
“My hope is that we will open ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and heed Jesus’ advice to ‘be not afraid,’ ” said clergy deputy Scott Gunn. “Now is not a time for us to be timid, but rather to be adventurous for the sake of the Gospel.”
TREC concludes its report with this statement: “The members of the Task Force believe that the recommendations we have laid out here will help the Church focus and direct the extraordinary spiritual, human, and material resources God has entrusted to us. Moving forward, in several ways and places, yet always as one Body, we can be truly faithful and effective in participating in God’s mission in the world.”
You can find the entire text of the TREC report at http://www.generalconvention.org/home/bluebook.
From the church’s response to the diaconate to addressing systemic racism and expanding the Parochial Report to more fully assess congregational vitality, the Southern Ohio delegation and accompanying representatives will be watching many issues of particular importance to their personal ministries.
“Each deputy has a particular committee or commission to follow at General Convention. I will be following ‘Congregational Vitality’,” said clergy deputy Charlotte Reed. “One of the resolutions assigned to that committee is A038, ‘Develop an index of Congregational Vitality.’ This resolution proposes that the Parochial Report be expanded to more fully assess congregational vitality beyond the vital statistics currently reported. The current report does not give faith communities a way to report exciting new ministries or increased spiritual growth. I am excited about this proposal because the proposed additions to the Parochial Report would allow faith communities to tell their stories, which many times are much more rich and full than the raw numbers indicate.”
“We have significant commitments to continue to address systemic racism in this nation and in other nations in TEC as well,” said Jackson. “We have resolutions that will take seriously the impact of the War on Drugs, for-profit prisons and their impact on mass incarceration, the targeting of people of color for selective enforcement and the criminalization of undocumented immigrants. I have heard Episcopalians say that it is pointless for us to issue resolutions and studies on such topics. But this is an important way of responding to ‘the least of these’ identified by Jesus; and having these statements empowers our members to speak up with the knowledge that they have their Church behind them.”
“There are many issues that will be discussed regarding a range of service-related opportunities,” said the Rev. Douglas Argue, who will attend the convention as a coordinator for the exhibit by the Association of Episcopal Deacons. “I will be eager to see how many are supported and passed and how they will increase the church’s response to diakonia.”
Alternate clergy delegate and chair of the Episcopal Community Services Foundation board KJ Oh will be focusing her attention on global mission. “ I’m following my passion for mission in general and the proclamation of the Gospel specifically,” she said.
Delegation chair Debby Stokes said she’s passionate about any resolution that “focuses on justice and peace and will help us strengthen the work that needs to be done in order to build God’s Kingdom.”
Diocesan representatives attending the Episcopal Church Women’s Triennial Meeting also have a whole host of issues and workshops to look forward to at their conference.
One issue the ECW will spend a lot of time with is human trafficking. Diocesan ECW president Kathy Mank said that the ECW will give its Unified Gift for 2015 to GEMS – Girls Education & Mentoring Services – a program developed to empower girls and young women who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. GEMS founder Rachel Lloyd will address the ECW delegates in a social justice presentation on June 27.
ECW delegate Deborah Alsop is looking forward to the workshop offerings. “I have two specifically for which I have registered which should be real interesting: Bullying: It Even Happens in Church and Stirring Up The Holy Huddle.”
Diocesan staff members attending the convention will have opportunities to connect with others in their specific ministry fields.
At the Kindling Conference, Brendan’s Crossing coordinator Aaron Wright will be connecting with others who are leading ministries focused on young adults. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how we’re investing in vocational discernment, formation and community for young adults and learning from others who are doing this work,” said Wright.
“I will spend time (at General Convention) with leaders in transition ministry, sharing best practices for the important and intentional work of transition among congregations and clergy,” said Lynn Carter-Edmands, Canon for Formation and Transition ministry. “I also will be making connections with other leaders in formation, especially Forma (http://episcoforma.org), since the diocese will once again offer individual scholarships to the Forma annual conference in January, and Forma memberships for interested congregations.”
As for Amanda Bower, executive assistant to Bishop Breidenthal, what’s the issue of greatest importance to her? “Presiding Bishop election. For obvious reasons,” she laughs.
The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn has been blogging about resolutions coming before the General Convention and will continue to blog while in Salt Lake City. You can check out his blog at www.sevenwholedays.org. Several deputies and others (including Bishop Breidenthal) use Twitter regularly and will be tweeting their way through General Convention, using the hashtags #GC78 and #diosohio. You can link to their Twitter feeds, as well as diocesan tweets, Facebook posts and daily email messages through our General Convention page on the diocesan website.