General Convention Reflection from Tuesday, July 10, 2018
By Anne Brown
Today was the first on which I did not have an early morning committee meeting, so I was able to catch up on reading legislation due to come before the House of Deputies. Then the day took off, with a conversation on the Care of Creation, in which deputies were joined by bishops, a lunchtime gathering of our deputation, an afternoon legislative session, the House of Bishops’ unanimous vote to bring the Episcopal Church of Cuba back into The Episcopal Church, worship, and, for many of us, gatherings hosted by seminaries.
In my report, I want to share some highlights of the day and, at the end, a lengthier discussion of the work of legislative committees, particularly my own, Committee 7, Social Justice and International Policy.
This morning’s joint session with the House of Bishops began with presentations and a video focused on Care of Creation. Archbishop Thabo Mkgoba of South Africa, spoke about the displaced people in many parts of the world who are climate change refugees and about water justice. As God’s stewards we have, he said, lost our sense of the sacredness of water, and we have little time to act.
What are the eyes of your heart calling you to do to help transform and renew God’s creation?
Bernadette Demientieff, a member of the G’wichin Tribe in Alaska, spoke movingly about the tribe’s over 40,000-year connection with the Porcupine Caribou Herd and about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as the “sacred place where life begins.” Her people’s pact with the caribou is that they will always take care of each other. Now, since the animals can’t speak for themselves, “we have to speak for them.” Alaska, she said, is “ground zero for climate change.” She asked for our prayers and said, “Our children deserve to see the world as it was in the beginning.”
Following a brief video and another presentation by the Rev. Stephanie Johnson reminding us that “Caring for creation is the center of who we are,” we spent time as a deputation talking about what we are doing and what we hope to do as individuals and as congregations to meet the challenge Johnson posed: “What are the eyes of your heart calling you to do to help transform and renew God’s creation?”
Our afternoon session began with the presentation by House of Deputies President, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, of the House of Deputies Medal to two members of the House. Deputy Katie Sherrod of the Diocese of Fort Worth has been a tireless advocate for many causes in the church, such as women’s ordination and LGBTQ concerns, in a diocese that eventually split over those issues. Deputy Lonnie Hamilton of South Carolina, was the only deputy from that diocese to remain in the house when the remaining members walked out in 2012 over the house’s support for a move toward embracing marriage equality. He has remained a faithful member and long-time deputy representing the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
While we worked on a number of resolutions, we were aware that the House of Bishops was discussing Resolution A238 that would admit the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese of The Episcopal Church. Our deputy, the Rev. Lee Alison Crawford, was the deputy vice-chair of the committee that considered the readmission of Cuba, which had been part of this church until expelled by the House of Bishops in 1966 following the Cuban Revolution. She will write more in her report tomorrow, after the House of Deputies has, we hope, voted to confirm the bishops’ unanimous vote. It was, we heard, a joyous moment in the House of Bishops, when Presiding Bishop Curry invited the Bishop of Cuba, the Rt. Rev. Maria Griselda Delgado Carpio, to be seated in the house.
Bishop Griselda was a special guest at the dinner hosted by The General Theological Seminary for alumni/ae and friends.
And Bishop Griselda was a special guest at the dinner hosted by The General Theological Seminary for alumni/ae and friends. She had been awarded an honorary doctorate by the seminary in 2017, and those of us who are alums (Lee Crawford, Scott Nea, and I) were delighted to welcome and congratulate her.
The bulk of the work of General Convention is done in our legislative committees, which must take testimony on all resolutions placed before convention, some in advance by church organizations (A resolutions), some by bishops (B resolutions), some by diocesan conventions (C resolutions) and some by deputies (D resolutions). Once “perfected” by a committee, a resolution then goes to the House of Deputies or the House of Bishops for action. The resolution then goes to the other house for concurrence (or not).
I served on Committee 7, Social Justice and International Policy. We were a diverse group of deputies and bishops, who heard some very moving testimony on a variety of resolutions and worked to put forward resolutions we believed state reasonable and faith-based positions for The Episcopal Church on matters of international concern.
On Monday, the House of Deputies debated in a special hour-long session Resolution D019, titled “Ending Church Complicity in the Occupation.” It expresses support for the right of Israel to exist, opposes the continued occupation of Palestinian territory, and asks that a human rights social criteria investment screen be developed to ensure that The Episcopal Church is not investing funds in companies that support that occupation. The resolution passed by a significant margin and will be taken up by the bishops.
Other resolutions debated, and sometimes amended by the committee, addressed:
- support for carefully negotiated, multilateral international agreements in order to prevent nuclear proliferation and opposing the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal (D051, proposed by our deputy, the Rev. Titus Pressler and endorsed by me);
- a set of Christian principles to guide the church’s response to human migration (D009);
- the reaffirmation of our support for a negotiated solution and for the right of all in the region to civil rights and self-determination (D018);
- Jerusalem’s status as a Holy City of Peace for the three Abrahamic faiths and the recognition that moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem is an additional obstacle to peace (B003 combined with D041, for which I served as one of two endorsers);
- laws that create apartheid-like conditions for Palestinian citizens of Israel (D039);
- the mistreatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli military and detained in Israeli prisons (C035 and C038);
- opposition to legislation that penalizes participation in nonviolent boycotts on behalf of Palestinian human rights (D028);
- support for restoration of US funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that serves Palestinian refugees (B021); pursuing justice in Gaza (D027); and
- a response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen (B013).
Some of these have been adopted by both houses, and the rest are still in the legislative pipeline.
In the featured photo: Anne Brown is busy at the Vermont deputation table.