Historic actions, structural changes
The 78th General Convention, in a series of historic moments, elected the first African-American presiding bishop; approved marriage equality for all Episcopalians; adopted a budget that emphasizes racial reconciliation and evangelism; endorsed the study of fossil fuel divestment; opposed divestment in Israel, Palestine; and made some significant changes to the church’s governance.
NORTH CAROLINA BISHOP MICHAEL CURRY ELECTED PRESIDING BISHOP
The Episcopal Church’s General Convention made history June 27 when it chose Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry to be its 27th presiding bishop.
The House of Bishops elected Curry, 62, from a slate of four nominees on the first ballot. He received 121 votes of a total 174 cast. Curry’s election was confirmed an hour later by the House of Deputies, by a vote of 800 to 12.
In the wake of the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage for all Americans, General Convention followed suit on July 1 with canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality for Episcopalians.
The House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops’ approval the day before of a canonical change eliminating language defining marriage as between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and authorizing two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Resolution A054).
BUDGET EMPHASIZES RACIAL RECONCILIATION, EVANGELISM
The General Convention adopted the 2016-2018 triennial budget July 2 after agreeing to add $2.8 million for evangelism work. The version of the budget presented July 1 by the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) also included a major new $2 million initiative on racial justice and reconciliation, even as it reduces the amount of money it asks dioceses to contribute to 15 percent by 2018.
General Convention made mandatory the current voluntary diocesan budgetary asking system for the 2019-2021 budget cycle and imposed penalties for noncompliance.
DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS, REINVEST IN RENEWABLES
General Convention passed two resolutions aimed at environmentally responsible investing and creating a climate change advisory committee. Resolution C045 calls upon the Investment Committee of Executive Council, the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund and the Episcopal Church Foundation “to divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in clean renewable energy in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Resolution A030 calls for the creation of a climate change advisory committee with one representative from each of The Episcopal Church’s nine provinces. The resolution also calls on each province to create a Regional Consultative Group composed “of no fewer than five experts in areas of environmental sustainability appropriate to the demographic, ecological, cultural and geographic specifics of each region.”
MAJOR STRUCTURAL CHANGES
The General Convention approved two resolutions making major changes to the structure of The Episcopal Church. Substitute Resolution A004 slightly expands Executive Council’s appointment power concerning three members of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s executive staff, including the chief operating officer, chief financial officer and chief legal officer.
Substitute Resolution A006 reduces the number of the church’s standing commissions from 14 to two. The two would be the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons, and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.
PLANS FOR PRAYER BOOK, HYMNAL REVISION
General Convention 2015 took a step toward revising the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal 1982, directing the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to prepare plans for revising each and to present them to the next convention in Austin, Texas, in 2018.
OTHER KEY ACTIONS:
RECOGNIZING ALCOHOL AFFECTS US ALL
General Convention passed three resolutions on the issue of alcohol and drug abuse. Full story
CLOSER RELATIONS WITH CUBA
Convention also passed a resolution calling for the U.S. government to lift its economic embargo against Cuba. Full story
GREATER SOLIDARITY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS
Convention agrees that Christians in Pakistan, Syria, Liberia, South Sudan and Sudan are among those for whom the church needs to step up its support and solidarity as many of them live in fear of death, starvation, and displacement in their war-ravaged or extremist-influenced countries. Full story
OPPOSE DIVESTMENT IN ISRAEL, PALESTINE
The House of Bishops sent a strong and clear message July 2 that divestment from companies and corporations engaged in certain business related to the State of Israel is not in the best interests of The Episcopal Church, its partners in the Holy Land, interreligious relations, and the lives of Palestinians on the ground. Full story
BISHOPS LEAD MARCH AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE
About 1,500 General Convention participants joined a Bishops United Against Gun Violence procession in Salt Lake City the morning of June 28.
The prayerful procession walked the half-mile from the Salt Palace Convention Center to Pioneer Park while marchers sang hymns and prayed. Members of Utah anti-gun violence groups and civil rights organizations joined in.
Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton said society faces what he called an “unholy trinity” of poverty, racism and violence. Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry told participants that they had gotten up early to join the 7:15 a.m. procession because “that unholy trinity threatens the life of us all.” See video
This article first appeared in full here