By Mother Rebecca

Greetings from the midst of Sabbatical. I am writing to you from Louisville, Kentucky where the Episcopal Church is gathered in General Convention. As the third clergy alternate elected last November for the Diocese of Dallas, I had not expected to participate; nonetheless, here I am as the first clergy alternate after several changes to the deputation. In my ordination, I committed to “take my share in the councils of the Church” (BCP, 531); and I am honored to serve our diocese and our Transfiguration family here at this 81st General Convention.

For most of the week, I have observed the proceedings from the back with other alternate deputies and reconnected with peers (and made new friends) from around the country during breaks. I am grateful that our deputation is intentional about ensuring that everyone be allowed to participate on the floor for some portion of the convention, and I look forward to spending Friday, June 28 transacting business for our Church. Our Dallas deputation has warmly welcomed me, and I treasure the friendships and camaraderie among our group.

The pace here in Kentucky has been brisk, as we have only six days to complete our work. The House of Deputies has met for at least two sessions each day, with evening sessions Wednesday and Thursday going until 9:00 p.m. We have been presented with a total of 362 resolutions. Of course, six days are not sufficient to discuss and debate so many resolutions, so many have been adopted through a consent calendar process. Likewise, one e-news article is not sufficient to describe all of the decisions we are making. Below, I highlight several important matters we’ve considered in the House of Deputies.

Presiding Bishop and President of House of Deputies. On Wednesday, the House of Bishops met in closed session to select the next Presiding Bishop. The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, Bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Western New York, was selected by a clear majority on the first ballot. Bishop Rowe’s selection was resoundingly approved by the House of Deputies. In his brief remarks to a Joint Session of Bishops and Deputies, Bishop Rowe’s reputation for thoughtfulness and his effectiveness as a leader through change were clear. We will be well served by his intelligence and his dedication to supporting the missions and ministries of local dioceses and parishes. We also re-elected Julia Ayala Harris from the Diocese of Oklahoma as President of the House of Deputies. She is the first Latina and the youngest person to serve in this position.

Defining the Book of Common Prayer. This General Convention again took up the question of how to update the Book of Common Prayer. In the 40+ years since the current BCP was approved, the Episcopal Church has made available a variety of supplemental, experimental, and trial liturgies. Some are published in a Book of Occasional Services and are available for use in all parishes. Others (including the liturgies in Enriching Our Worship, the Expansive Language liturgies passed in 2018 which we use here at Transfiguration, and liturgies for marriages of same-sex couples) may be used only with the permission of the diocesan bishop. In 2022, we passed Resolution A059, pursuant to which Article X of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church was amended to reflect that “The Book of Common Prayer is understood to be those liturgical forms and other texts authorized by the General Convention in accordance with this article and the Canons of this Church.” This year, we approved Resolution A072, a required second reading of this new definition. Henceforth, any liturgy authorized by General Convention in accordance with our Constitution and Canons will be elevated to prayer-book status and be available for use in all parishes.

Communion Across Difference. We concurred with the House of Bishops on Resolution A092, which “amends [our] canons to acknowledge two teachings on marriage, and to protect access to ordination, deployment, and canonical residency for clergy irrespective of their conscientiously held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman or between two persons.”[1] The resolution offers protection to candidates for holy orders and to clergy who hold a different view of marriage than their Diocesan Bishop.

Welcoming Cuba, Navajoland, and Micronesia. This year, the Diocese of Cuba joined General Convention for the first time with voice and vote. The Diocese of Cuba had been an independent diocese in communion with the Anglican Communion from 1966 until it was re-admitted to The Episcopal Church at the 2018 General Convention in Austin. In addition, we accepted the petition of the Episcopal Church in Navajoland to become a Missionary Diocese. With this decision, Navajoland gained greater autonomy, including the ability to call their own bishop, which they have sought for more than four decades. Both Cuba and Navajoland were warmly welcomed to the House of Deputies in some of the most moving moments of the Convention. Finally, we approved the expansion of the boundaries of the Diocese of Hawai’i to include Guam and Saipan (and, at the same time, extinguished the separate entity known as the Episcopal Church in Micronesia).

Racial Justice & Truth Telling. Resolutions focused on racial justice and reconciliation, as well as truth telling, were among the primary points of discussion and debate. In Resolution D074, we renounced the theology of slavery held by The Rev. James Craik, the unanimously elected 11th President of the House of Deputies. We heard excerpts from a pamphlet he published in which he demeaned Black people (among other things) as “a race of barbarians, gradually degraded by many thousand years of ignorance and brutishness to the lowest stage of humanity.” Rev. Craik’s great-grandson joined the House of Deputies for our vote to repudiate his grandfather’s offensive statements, and wept tears of joy as the House renounced such theologies with one voice saying, “Amen.” Similarly, we took up Resolution D031 in which we lamented the historic and ongoing prevalence of coercion and abuse within Christian social ministries, acknowledging our history of requiring participation in religious services as a prerequisite for the receipt of social support and our past complacency in coercive and abusive ministries including Indigenous boarding schools, homes for unwed mothers, and crisis pregnancy centers.

Budget. In a joint session with the House of Bishops, we discussed the budget for the 2025-2027 triennium between now and the next General Convention. We passed a $143.2 million budget for this triennium. The House of Deputies considered a resolution to reduce the diocesan assessment from 15% to 10%, to align with the biblical requirement of a tithe. While there is much support for such a decrease, the Deputies ultimately agreed with the House of Bishops that we are not yet ready to implement the corresponding decrease to our operating budget that would be required by such a change.

Official Youth Presence. I would be remiss if I didn’t include a brief statement about the Official Youth Presence. Through this program, high school teens are able to attend General Convention, with voice (but not vote) in the House of Deputies. Two youth from each Province are selected to participate. This year, Kyle Skinner (they/them) from Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Richardson was one of many articulate and deeply engaged young people. Their witness at the convention filled me with hope and joy for the future of the Episcopal Church!

You can read more about this General Convention and access each resolution that was passed at The 82nd General Convention will be held in Phoenix, Arizona in 2027. I plan to run for election to serve as a Deputy from the Diocese of Dallas and, if elected, look forward to serving the Church there as well.

See you in September!

Mother Rebecca +

[1] Mark Michael, “Bishops Back Communion Across Difference Canons”, The Living Church, June 24, 2024 (accessed online on June 27, 2024).

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