[Episcopal News Service] 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. Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop Dabney Smith received 21, Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, 19, and Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, 13. The number of votes needed for election was 89.
Curry’s election was confirmed an hour later by the House of Deputies, as outlined in the church’s canons, by a vote of 800 to 12.
In an 18-minute interview with the Episcopal News Service, Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry speaks about his priorities for leadership and administration, the role of the church in engaging God’s mission in the world, the state of race relations in the U.S., the importance of Anglican Communion partnerships and his commitment to what he calls the Jesus movement: to go out into the world “to bear witness to the good news of Jesus.”
Bishops lead a 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.
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.
While the addition passed with relatively little debate in the House of Deputies, it faced some opposition in the House of Bishops.
The 2016-2018 triennial budget is based on $125,083,185 in revenue, compared to the forecasted $118,243,102 for the triennium that ends Dec. 31 of this year. The expenses are projected to be $125,057,351. The budget comes in with a negligible surplus of $25,834. Its revenue projection is based in part on asking the church’s dioceses and regional mission areas to give 18 percent of their income to fund the 2016 budget, 16.5 percent for the 2017 budget and 15 percent in 2018.
The version of the budget presented July 1 by the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance 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.
The mandatory assessment will not apply to the upcoming 2016-2018 triennial budget, but becomes effective Jan. 1, 2019. Without getting a waiver, a diocese that does not pay the full assessment will be unable to get grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society unless the Executive Council specifically approves disbursing the money.
(The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the name under which the Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission.)
The resolution allows the council to begin granting waivers to dioceses that do not pay, based on financial hardship, beginning Jan. 1, 2016. Council agreed in January to create a so-called Diocesan Assessment Review Committee to work with dioceses that do not to meet the full churchwide asking.
The resolution also agrees to study the issue of whether the House of Deputies president ought to receive a stipend.
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.”
Read more here.
Agrees to 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 (a position created in the resolution).
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. The presiding bishop and House of Deputies president would appoint study committees and task forces to complete the work called for by a meeting of General Convention, with council’s approval. All of those bodies would expire at the start of the next General Convention unless they are renewed.
Full story here.
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.
The bishops rejected Substitute Resolution D016, which would have called on the Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to develop a list of U.S. and foreign corporations that provide goods and services that support the infrastructure of Israel’s occupation “to monitor its investments and apply its CSR policy to any possible future investments” in such companies.
General Convention passed two resolutions on peacemaking. Substitute Resolution B013, proposed by Bishop Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island, “reaffirms the vocation of the Church as an agent of reconciliation and restorative justice,” and recognizes that “meaningful reconciliation can help to engender sustainable, long-lasting peace and that such reconciliation must incorporate both political action and locally driven grassroots efforts.”
Resolution C018 expresses solidarity with and support for Christians in Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories; affirms the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in healing, education and pastoral care; and affirms the work of Christians engaged in relationship building, interfaith dialogue, nonviolence training and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians. The resolution also urges Episcopalians to demonstrate their solidarity by making pilgrimage to the Holy Land and learning from fellow Christians in the region.
Plans to be created 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, Tex., in 2018.
Among other liturgical issues, the convention directed bishops to find ways for congregations without clergy to receive Communion, but the House of Bishops defeated proposals to allow unbaptized people to receive Holy Communion or to study the issue.
The convention approved making available a revised version of “Holy Women, Holy Men” with additional saints’ commemorations but left “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” as the church authorized supplemental calendar of commemorations (see article here).
The revised “Holy Women, Holy Men,” is called “A Great Cloud of Witnesses.”
Convention takes a first step, admits: ‘Alcohol affects us all’
General Convention passed three resolutions on the issue of alcohol and drug abuse.
Resolution D014 recommends that ordinands should be questioned at the very beginning of the discernment process about addiction and substance use in their lives and family systems.
The bishops also passed Resolution A159, which acknowledges the church’s role in the culture of alcohol and drug abuse.
Resolution A158, to create a task force to review and revise policy on substance abuse, addiction and recovery, passed with one amendment.
Greater solidarity for persecuted Christians
Advocacy for Christians facing persecution and living in the context of civil war are the subject of several resolutions passed by the General Convention.
Convention agreed 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.
Closer relations with Cuba
The U.S.-based Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church of Cuba took a step toward closer relations. Convention passed a resolution calling for the U.S. government to lift its economic embargo against Cuba.