I have now had the privilege of serving as a Deputy- Alternate at two General Convention gatherings—in Austin and Baltimore. Both times, I have left feeling proud to be an Episcopalian. I’m not only filled with hope by the kinds of resolutions and amendments to policy we’ve made, I’m inspired by the level of respect infused in all the activities. This year, that level of respect for one and other began with the procedures we all agreed to abide by, to avoid becoming a Covid super-spreader event. The protocols we established also had embedded in them the intention of keeping safe the most vulnerable among us.
As always, on the House of Deputies’ floor, an air of civility pervaded the proceedings. If you think, “Well, we’re all Episcopalian; how heated can the debates become?” think back to some of the topics that led to church schisms over the years, and you’ll have a clearer picture. We are almost always discussing ways of being church, to which at least several people have an emotional reaction.
So, in addition to following Roberts’ Rules of Order to the -nth degree and abiding by the Episcopal Church Canons, the President of the Deputies regularly reminds us that when people stand to speak for, or against, a proposed resolution or amendment, they should speak about the proposal itself, and not express any opinion they might have about the person or committee submitting the proposal. Likewise, no matter how excited one might be with the outcome of the vote, clapping is never appropriate. This is one of many rules not meant to curtail our enthusiasm, rather, is intended to help us be good sports. The intention is to convey our respect that others have the right to their perspective, and we don’t gloat in our win.
Additionally, this sense of mutual respect was present in our diocesan representation. While we sent four deputies in the orders of both clergy and laity, along with two alternates, those around us would not have been able to guess who was of which order or designation. We all understood that each person was voted to represent EDSD because of our various gifts, so we encouraged each individual to share their knowledge and experience on various issues. Plus, we were committed to share floor-time, ensuring all members—whether deputies or alternates—had the opportunity to vote. This rotation also ensured we each had some time to rest in the midst of what can be a very intense experience. My prayer is that our small commitment to respect and civility infuse more of our life together—as a church, and as a nation. Thank you for trusting me to serve in this important work!
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