The recent Episcopal General Convention was an intense 10+ days of committee meetings, hearings, worship, research, drafting, and floor sessions of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. It also was fellowship with friends old and new. The Convention accomplished a lot of good things, avoided some bad things, and made me grateful for the experience for myself and for my beloved Episcopal Church in Vermont.
I arrived at Salt Lake City on Monday, June 22, although the first official “legislative day” was on Thursday, June 25. I arrived on Monday as I had responsibilities the next day, as Secretary to the legislative committee on Governance and Structure (Committee # 5), and as Assistant Parliamentarian to the House of Deputies. My Committee started meeting and holding hearings on Tuesday. So, while there were nine legislative days in the Convention, there were two additional days of committee and other work plus two travel days, for a total of 13 days. Pictured below is the General Convention schedule, to show how packed each day was.
The following is a report from Wendy Grace, ECW Delegate from the Episcopal Church in Vermont.
Wendy Grace (middle) poses for a photo with Vermont Deputies the Rev. Scott Neal and Nanci Gordon before Eucharist at General Convention
Stir Up the Spirit! ¡Celebremos! These were the words that drove the worship, the attitude, the business, and the actions of the Episcopal Church Women Triennial Meeting. The logo was ubiquitous; it was on the big screen that greeted us each day as well as the tote bag given to each of us that we carried everywhere; it was in the language of the preaching and worship; you’d even see it in the beautiful expressions of the sign language interpreters. And you know what? It worked! How we stirred up the Spirit and celebrated that week! We celebrated the trials and tribulations that women’s groups around the nation persevered through over the past three years. We celebrated the joys and the successes of Jesus’ healing message brought to lives saved by God’s grace and love. We celebrated the election of a new Presiding Bishop (who tickled me pink by remembering me from Diocesan Convention several years ago). We celebrated momentous and historical news that would have direct bearing on our faith traditions and in our lives. We celebrated the ministries and missions and the working out of God’s purpose. We celebrated all we had to teach and all that we would learn from one another.
The following is a reflection from Wendy Grace
Rock Point Intentional Community celebrates Holy Eucharist at Rock Point every second Friday of the month. In July, we shifted from the regular midday time to 6:00pm and made it a Eucharist supper. The Rev. Thora Chadwick and the Prayerful Place team developed a worship service that recalled one of the most ancient rites of our faith. Between the breaking of the bread and the passing of the cup, the sixteen of us who attended shared a potluck supper and some genial fellowship. The Prayerful Place team, who organizes the monthly worship services, hopes to offer a similar Holy Eucharist supper in August as well. You are invited! Keep an eye out for dates and times of events at Rock Point.
Jenny Ogelby (with guitar) leads us in song, while Rev. Nancy Bloomer (left) presides at Holy Eucharist
Bishop Ely was a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition. Listen to the interview (go to the 33:05 mark to skip to his segment).
"We are the Jesus Movement!"
The last day of General Convention is a bittersweet time. We are all very tired and ready to go home but it has also hard to say goodbye to our colleagues in ministry who we have worked beside these last 10 plus days. We have greeted old friends and made new friends; we have enjoyed the hospitality of all of the folks in Salt Lake City; we have studied resolutions, debated resolutions, amended resolutions and voted on resolutions; we have navigated new electronic equipment to help us in the legislative process; and we have worshipped together every morning. It is hard to describe how powerful an experience it is to worship with 1200 plus Episcopalians in one large worship space. The music was spirit filled and the sermons inspiring. This morning we had the great pleasure of listening to our Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry.
As I write this we are finishing up the last pieces of business of convention and saying our good-byes. Thanks so much to the people of VT for your prayers of support. Thanks also to our Bishop Tom for his leadership and support. And a very special thanks to our Communications Minister, Kathleen. She has done an amazing job keeping in touch with all of you at home and letting you know of all that has happened here at #GC78.
In the words of Bishop Michael Curry: "I love this church. I love the Lord. And God isn't finished with us yet!
Bishop Tom and Ann Ely with the Vermont deputation to General Convention at their goodbye dinner in Salt Lake City. In Bishop Ely's words, "celebrating a wonderful and momentous General Convention."
Thursday -- next-to-last day of General Convention. Where did the time go? I confess there's something to be said for living in a place where somebody else cooks for you and cleans up after you!
And it was evening and it was morning, a seventh day…
But we did not rest. Instead, we worked hard — physically as we sat most of the day; mentally as we worked our way through many complex and difficult resolutions; and spiritually/emotionally as we considered what this church means by full inclusion
The day started out with the commemoration of Hiram Hisanoi Kano, born in Japan, but who later became a missioner to the Nisei (people of Japanese descent) in Nebraska. As a special treat, the congregation heard kneshin taiko drums. They seemed to presage the eventful decisions that would come later on in the day.
At the same time that the congregation experienced energetic Japanese drumming, it also sang some very familiar hymns. To sing ‘Humby I adore thee’ with 3000 other people reminds one that General Convention is not just about legislation but also about connecting with a much larger whole and rich history.
The most momentous decisions of the day came in the late afternoon in the House of Deputies. Despite the late hour, the house took up two resolutions (A054 amended and A036 amended) — one that calls on the church to provide marriage rites for all and the other that recasts the marriage canon (I.18).
Hello to Vermont! I am a second-time deputy from The Episcopal Church in Vermont to General Convention.
Pictured: President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings with Vermont deputies Scott Neal, Rick Swanson, and Jenny Ogelby
This time I feel like I have a much better understanding of what is happening thanks to The Virtual Binder.
After the Integrity Eucharist at which he was recognized for his work for equality, Bishop Ely posed for a photo with Integrity USA founder Louie Clay and his Husband Ernest.
On the fifth day of legislative business (June 29), Bishop Ely introduced two key marriage resolutions to the House of Bishops. As he gave his introductory statement and continued to answer questions and explain elements of the complex resolutions, the House of Deputies News Twitter feed commended him for his "patient heavy lifting in debate." Also on Twitter, the Rev. Susan Russell argued "if you're not streaming the HoB [House of Bishops] you are missing @BishopVT10 [Bishop Ely] in a brilliantly prophetic moment."
The resolutions passed with 129 voting yes, 26 voting no and 5 abstensions. Bishop Ely reported that he was "joyous with the results in the House of Bishops on A054 and A036. Many LBTQ people and allies worked hard and reamained faithful in bringing us to this day."
That evening, Integrity USA, a nonprofit organization of LGBTQ Episcopalians and straight friends celebrating its 40th anniversary, hosted an Integrity Eucharist in the worship space at General Convention. The Rev. Susan Russell recognized Bishop Ely for his tireless work for equality. He was given a standing ovation by the large crowd. A proud moment for the Vermonters present.
For today's deputation diary, Nanci Gordon gives us a true day-in-the-life for a deputy to General Convetion. Follow along as she goes throug her day (and watch for a special appearance by Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry)!
It's been a week of important news and moving moments at General Convention. This holds especially true for the Rev. Stannard Baker, who offers his video deputation diary today. If the below embed doesn't work for you, watch it on YouTube.
Bishop Ely created a video diary on this big day at General Convention. If the below embed does not work for you, watch the video on YouTube.
I am now serving in my fifteenth year as bishop of Vermont, where for all those years the state of Vermont has made legal provision for the union of same-sex couples, first by civil union and now by way of marriage. My relationships with the people of Vermont have significantly shaped by understanding and convictions related to same-sex marriage. I rejoice in the decision made by the Supreme Court today that guarantees the right to same-sex marriage to all Americans. It is just and honest.
I especially want to recognize and congratulate two members of the Episcopal Church in Vermont who have been seminal to the movement that has brought us here. The Rev. Stannard Baker was the lead plaintiff in Baker vs. Vermont, the 1999 case in which the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the benefits and protections of marriage. Vermont was the first state to do so. I also want to recognize Tom Little, Esq., who was the chair of the judiciary committee that wrote the Vermont civil unions law in 2000. Later, Tom chaired the statewide Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection. The findings of this commission paved the way for civil unions to give way to full marriage equality in 2008.
I believe equality is a gospel value, a justice value, a missional value, and a pastoral value. Securing the right to marriage to all people is a practice consistent with the long-held values of civil equality held by the Episcopal Church. I celebrate today with all same-sex couples who are now granted this fundamental right.
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