General Convention opens tomorrow at the Austin (TX) Convention Center. This is the 79th gathering of The Episcopal Church (TEC). The first one was held in 1785 in Philadelphia, with two more held the next year. After 1786 they have usually been held every three years. It’s not only a massive family gathering, with stellar and moving worship, vendors of all sorts of ecclesiastical wares, and sometimes demonstrations outside the meeting halls, but it’s the church’s policy-making governance body. We will set a budget for the next three years and debate a number of resolutions ranging from revising the Book of Common Prayer to urging our various governments (17 nations are represented in The Episcopal Church) to deal justly with their own people as well as migrants (what the Bible calls ‘sojourners’ or ‘aliens’). This Convention will address immigration challenges, peace in the Middle East, the #MeToomovement, climate change and environmental stewardship, and racial reconciliation in our various contexts. Evangelism will be front and center, with an Episcopal Revival scheduled this Saturday evening, and a number of budgetary initiatives to encourage innovation across the Church. How do we meet our neighbors and discover where God is already at work around us? The Episcopal News Service highlighted a remarkable initiative recently that started as a drumming circle. Read and learn!
Most of San Diego’s contingent arrived today – some delayed by mechanical issues. Several of us are serving on legislative committees, which elicit commentary from others across the Church, then perfect a resolution and send it to the bishops or deputies for initial consideration. I serve on a committee charged to consider several resolutions related to peace and justice in Israel-Palestine, a matter that has been of great concern in our Church for decades. The bishop of Jerusalem (who serves Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon) will be in attendance, as will the bishop of Cuba. The church in Cuba was a diocese of TEC until 1967,and has voted to return to this Church; this convention will consider their request.
This is not only a policy-making gathering, but something of a congregation while it meets. We will repent of past and present sins (#MeToo, racism, other forms of injustice), do our work in a building powered solely by renewable energy, be moved by powerful preaching, learn new music, make new friends, and work to reconcile or collaborate with those with whom we disagree.
The Episcopal Church Women hold their triennial gathering at the same time as General Convention. The practice began in an era when women were not permitted to serve as deputies or to be ordained, and the triennial continues to be a formative experience for women leaders in this Church. For the first time in history, a majority of deputies to General Convention are female at this Convention. The same is not true in the House of Bishops, though the percentage of women is increasing.
I bid your prayers for those who have gathered here in Austin. May the hearts of all be opened wider, may each one be moved to respond in some way to the lament of God’s people, and may we leave here renewed in our faith and committed to the transforming work of the gospel. God loves us all – no exceptions – and you and I have committed to living that good news wherever we are.
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