Further Reflections from the 80th General Convention

Further Reflections from the 80th General Convention

Written by Alan Murray

The 80th General Convention was historic in so many ways. Due to COVID safety precautions, the Convention was smaller, shorter, fully masked with daily rapid testing prior to legislative sessions. And yet, we completed 414 resolutions out of 431.  The remaining 17 resolutions are referred to the 81st General Convention in 2024.  This would not be possible without the legislative committees holding hearings and deliberation via Zoom prior to GC80.  7 out of our 8 deputies from Oregon were assigned to Legislative Committees.  That means we have all been hard at work attending committee meetings and tracking resolutions for the last several months prior to GC80.  Deputies and Bishops worked long days, with worship in the separate Houses beginning at 8:30 am and legislative session ending at 9:30 pm.

For the first time, the House of Deputies is led by two Women of Color with the election of Lay Deputy Julia Ayala Harris from Oklahoma.  She is youngest person and the first Latina to be elected to lead the House of Deputies.  The House of Deputies also elected the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton of the Diocese of Olympia, the first Indigenous and first ordained woman to serve as Vice President.  This means with the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, all the presiding officers of The Episcopal Church are People of Color, the first time in our history.

The Convention adopted a $100.5 million churchwide budget, after a presentation to the only joint session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops at this Convention.  

Resolution A059 was adopted to amend Article X of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church. If the change passes a required second reading at the 81st General Convention in 2024, Article X would define the Book of Common Prayer as “those liturgical forms and other texts authorized by the General Convention.” That means liturgies that are not in the current prayer book such as same-sex marriage rites, gender expansive liturgies, could be elevated to “prayer book status”.  The resolution is about acknowledging that common prayer is evolving and it creates a framework for that evolution to happen, explained the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, bishop provisional of Milwaukie.

In the light of recent Supreme Court ruling on women’s reproductive health, the General Convention affirmed all Episcopalians should be able to access abortion services and birth control, adopted resolutions to offer paid family leave and health insurance to lay and clergy church employees, passed 3 resolutions on gun violence including regulating ghost guns and 3D printed guns.  One of the highlights was a unanimous affirmation of Resolution A226, “to recognize, honor and lament the three members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, who were murdered on June 16 by a man who was attending a potluck supper at the church. The resolution also recognized the surviving 18 church members and friends who were there that night.” 

Convention also created a staff position for LGBTQI and Women’s Ministries, expanded the definition of gender identity and expression, and advocated for access to gender affirming care.

The Convention voted on the reunion of the Episcopal Church of North Texas with the Diocese of Texas as a path forward after the Supreme Court of Texas ruled in favor of the breakaway diocese by rewarding them the name of the diocese and the assets.  This reunion will ensure the good work of the people in the Episcopal Church of North Texas can continue to thrive.

Finally, racial justice was at the front and center of GC80. The Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning, and Healing presented its report. The Working Group began with the premise that “The Episcopal Church has spent decades passing resolutions and developing programs to address the historic racism that infects our structures and systems, and that the people most oppressed by our collective failure to act in meaningful ways are uninterested in another effort that has no urgency, no requirements, and no consequences.” The church has failed to respect the dignity of every human being.  The Rev. Canon John Kitagawa of Arizona, Co-Convener of the Working Group stated that “the Episcopal Church stands in the legacy of colonialism; we must find ways to tell the hard truths of how we inherited our tradition and explore the cultural DNA of Anglicanism that can help or hinder truth and healing.  Because of colonialism and imperialism, we are a global communion, and that also means we do not have to do the work of anti-racism alone.  Because we are a tradition that encompasses many cultural expressions, we can and should be bold and creative.”

We reflected on the “tendency within The Episcopal Church to flatten racism to a Black/White paradigm and view it through only United States history. This is why turning the mirror on White dominating culture is vital to anti-racism work: it takes away the wedge between oppressed groups.

The Convention adopted the following resolutions proposed by the Working Group:

  • Resolution A125 Extending the Beloved Community proposes the formation of the Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice (ECREJ), a voluntary association of Episcopal dioceses, parishes, organizations and individuals who faithfully engage in the work of truth telling, reckoning, and healing for racial equity, justice, and the dismantling of white supremacy.
  • Resolution A126 calls for a review of our Book of Common Prayer and Hymnal for elements of racism, colonialism, and white supremacy.
  • Resolution A127 sets aside $2,500,000 over the next biennium to set up a commission to examine our complicity of Indian boarding schools.
  • Resolution A129 asks for a “forensic audit” of the assets of the church. 
  • Resolution A130 calls for the Development of Best Practices in Hiring and Developing Organizational Cultural Competencies to address how countless overt and subtle ways that People of Color are discounted, ignored, overlooked, bypassed, and put down by Western-oriented and white-supremacist systems.
  • Resolution A131 is about the Language we use to refer to People of Color.  This is not an effort to establish language police.  It is a piece of developing respect for the dignity of every human being and encouraging the use of the term “People of Color” rather than “BIPOC”.

See full ENS coverage on the 80th General Convention here.