The Episcopal Church’s General Convention

Human sexuality has been talked about for so many continuous General Conventions that it should become an ongoing tradition. This convention was no different. The Episcopal Church holds its General Convention every three years. It is comprised of a House of Bishops and a House of Deputies. The latter house is evenly divided between clergy and laity.

The convention passed two hot button resolutions, or so they seemed. The media made a big deal of them. But really the bottom line is that nothing changed. Resolution D025 affirmed our desire and love of the Anglican Communion and reaffirmed the existing canons (law) of the Episcopal Church that no one is discriminated against in the ordination process, period. C056 called for a study of liturgies for the blessing of same sex unions and to report to the next general Convention in 2012. B033 from the last General Convention in 2006, which called for restraint in approving the election of openly gay bishops and a moratorium of the blessing of same sex unions was not repealed. The up shot of all of this is that nothing has changed. I think that the General Convention, and particularly, the House of Bishops wanted to express a deep desire to be in relationship with the other members of the Anglican Communion and express an openness and inclusion of all people regardless of sexual orientation.

Believe it or not, the General Convention did other business besides talking about sex. (I was in Orlando at the same time at the Smart Marriages Conference and they talked a lot about sex, too!) Resolutions were passed that attempt to make benefits for lay employees to be as generous as that of the clergy. This is obviously a justice issue. Finances will be a factor for many parishes about this.

There were a number of liturgical changes made. A feast for Thurgood Marshall made it passed a first reading. Liturgies and Prayers for Healing from Loss Related to Childbearing and Childbirth was adopted. More than 100 new commemorations were added, on a trial, basis to Lesser Feats and Fasts. The process for the publishing of the Hymnal 2018 was begun. The first Sunday of Lent is designated as Episcopal Relief and Development Sunday.

The budget for the church was significantly reduced and the support asking of the dioceses was also reduced. The teaching of evolution in our schools was endorsed. We have interim Eucharistic sharing with the United Methodist Church. Full communion with the Moravian Church was established. The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church will share the Eucharist and other resources. The church’s health plan will be only through the Church Medical Trust. The clergy disciplinary canons were revised. Health care for all people is a moral and ethical right.

There were many, many many, other resolutions passed at General Convention. They all express the mind of the church on many issues. but here’s the thing about resolutions, they’re just resolutions. They have no force of law. When the constitution or canons are changed, then there is force of law, but not with resolutions. So, it is typical that resolutions passed by General Convention are met with a collective yawn in the Episcopal Church and are either ignored or not even heard of. It is the job of the deputies from each diocese to educate their respective dioceses of the actions of General Convention, but this is usually haphazard. In the meantime, the ministry of the church will continue in each congregation.

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