General Convention wrap-up: Following the Way of Jesus

By ENS staff
Posted Jul 16, 2018

[Episcopal News Service] Responding to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s call to “Follow the Way of Jesus,” deputies and bishops at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, meeting July 5-13 in Austin, Texas, acted on a record number of resolutions on key issues such as immigration, prayer book revision, Israel-Palestine, and readmitting the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese. Convention also passed a $134 million budget that reflects for a further three years the presiding bishop’s priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation and creation care. Meanwhile, the legislative processes were overseen by a resident roost of avian observers, one of which adopted a social media presence to bring a steady flow of light-feathered moments to convention amid the often-intense and passionate debates on the key issues before the church.

Outside the legislative chambers, several events brought together bishops, deputies and visitors to mingle, socialize, pray, worship and advocate, with a public witness against gun violence and another outside an immigrant detention center challenging the actions of the U.S. government in its enforcement of immigration policies. A revival service at Austin’s Palmer Events Center on July 7 drew a crowd of more than 2,500 people who listened to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s rousing sermon about how “God is love and gives life.”

In his opening sermon on July 5, Curry challenged every Episcopalian to embrace the “Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-centered life” as a way to help the church enter into a new era of spiritual growth.

$134 million budget adopted
Convention adopted a $133.8 million 2019-2021 budget that reflects the presiding bishop’s priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation and justice, and creation care. The priorities have been referred to as the “three pillars” of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

It also continues to be built on what Maine Bishop Stephen Lane, vice chair of the Joint Committee on Program, Budget and Finance, told the joint session is “the foundation of our continuing ministries as a church and our commitments to others both within and beyond our church.” In addition, it includes the foundation of the church’s “ongoing commitment to conciliar governance, and the legal, financial and other services of the Church Center [the denominational offices in New York].”

Full ENS coverage of the budget process is available here.

 

Full access to trial-use marriage rites
Convention agreed in passing Resolution B012 on July 13 to give all Episcopalians the ability to be married by their priests in their home churches.

Resolution B012 had gone from the House of Deputies to the bishops and back to the deputies on its road to approval. Deputies overwhelmingly approved a heavily amended version of the resolution on July 9, and the House of Bishops added a technical amendment two days later that does not change B012’s goal of giving full access to two trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples approved by the 2015 meeting of General Convention (via Resolution A054).

Resolution B012 provides for:

  • Giving rectors or clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial use of the marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Resolution A054-2015 and the original version of B012 said that clergy could only use the rites under the direction of their bishop.
  • Requiring that, if a bishop “holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,” he or she may invite another bishop, if necessary, to provide “pastoral support” to any couple desiring to use the rites, as well as to the clergy member and congregation involved. In any case, an outside bishop must be asked to take requests for remarriage if either member of the couple is divorced to fulfill a canonical requirement that applies to opposite-sex couples.
  • Continuing trial use of the rites until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer.

Full ENS coverage of marriage equality is available here.

 

New plan for liturgical and prayer book revision
Convention adopted a plan for liturgical and prayer book revision that sets the stage for the creation of new liturgical texts to respond to the needs of Episcopalians across the church while continuing to use the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Resolution A068 originally called for the start of a process that would lead to a fully revised prayer book in 2030. The bishops instead adopted a plan for “liturgical and prayer book revision for the future of God’s mission through the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.”

The bishops’ amended resolution calls for bishops to engage worshipping communities in their dioceses in experimentation and creation of alternative liturgical texts that they will submit to a new Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision to be appointed by the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies.

It also says that liturgical revision will utilize inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity, and will incorporate understanding, appreciation and care of God’s creation.

Meanwhile, General Convention also adopted a resolution that allows all congregations in the Episcopal Church to use optional, expansive-language versions of three Rite II Eucharistic prayers in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

Resolution D078 provides alternative language for Prayer A, Prayer B and Prayer D. The changes are available for trial use until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer.

Full ENS coverage of prayer book and liturgical revision is available here.

 

Responding to the voices and stories of women
The voices and stories of women played a significant role in the workings of the 79th General Convention, from a liturgy where bishops offered laments and confession for the church’s role in sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse to Resolution D087 that allows deputies to bring infant children on the floor of the House of Deputies to feed them.

Full ENS coverage of gender justice issues is available here.

 

Acting on immigration
If there was one issue that defied any expectation of controversy at the 79th General Convention, it was immigration.

Bishops and deputies arrived in Austin last week on the heels of a national uproar over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward immigration, particularly the decision to separate children from parents in detention. And despite the administration’s reversal on family separations, immigration policies continued to be a hot-button issue, including in the border state that hosted the Episcopal Church’s triennial gathering.

But if the country remains divided over what to do about immigration, the thousands of Episcopalians gathered at convention presented a unified front in support of families who have been separated, those facing deportation and immigrants in general – through prayer, testimony, action and the unobstructed passage of legislation.

Convention passed three resolutions on immigration issues.

Resolution C033 puts the church on record as respecting the dignity of immigrants and outlines how public policy should reflect that belief; A178 takes a forceful stand against family separations and treatment of immigrant parents and children; and C009, titled “Becoming a Sanctuary Church,” encourages Episcopalians and congregations to reach out to and support immigrants facing deportation, including by providing physical sanctuary if they choose.

One of the defining moments of this General Convention was the prayer vigil held July 8 outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, an immigrant detention facility little more than a half-hour outside of Austin. A massive gathering of more than a thousand Episcopalians prayed and sang in support of immigrant parents and children who had been separated.

ENS coverage of immigration issues is available here.

 

Challenging injustices in Israeli-Palestinian conflict
General Convention wrapped up its consideration of resolutions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with mixed results due largely to the House of Bishops’ unwillingness to take many of the bolder steps urged by the House of Deputies.

Of the 15 resolutions submitted on Israel-Palestine going into General Convention, only six passed both houses, though the successful resolutions still touch on the plight of Palestinian children, the status of Jerusalem, the disproportionate use of lethal force on both sides and ways the Episcopal Church can press for peace through its investment decisions.

Bishops and deputies, even those arguing for a tougher stance against the conditions of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, took pains to affirm Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself, citing longstanding church policy toward the region. And while the bishops rejected the most controversial resolution, D019, saying it amounted to a dangerous “divestment” from Israel, they did join the deputies in passing Resolution B016, which echoes D019 in its use of the phrase “human rights investment screen.” Unlike D019 however, Resolution B016 includes no timeline for action by Executive Council or any reference to church complicity in the occupation, though it ultimately could result in the church pulling money out of companies that do business there.

Full ENS coverage of Israel-Palestine issues is available here.

 

Welcome back, Cuba
Convention voted to admit, or readmit, the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese by passing Resolution A238. The Diocese of Cuba is set to join Province II, which includes dioceses from New York and New Jersey in the United States, Haiti and the Virgin Islands.

Full ENS coverage of Cuba is available here and here.

 

Compensation for deputies’ president
Convention agreed to a plan to pay the president of the House of Deputies for the work of the office.

Resolution B014 passed with no dollar figure attached but agreed to pay the House of Deputies president director’s and officer’s fees “for specific services rendered in order to fulfill duties required by the church’s Constitution and Canons.”

Full ENS coverage is here.

And in lighter business…

 

Impeccable pigeon captivates 79th General Convention with real, digital presence

Impeccable pigeon captivates 79th General Convention with real, digital presence

Pigeon confesses to avian hijinks, feathered fun, fluttering of the spirit.


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Comments (20)

  1. Jewels Wolf says:

    This is a response to the Bishop’s call to Follow the Way of Jesus. As I read the Gospels one thing makes itself very apparent the Way of Jesus is first of all the way of repentance “32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) In every case where Jesus brings healing and restoration he does so first and foremost through the forgiveness of sins (see Matthew 9:2) The Way of Jesus is the way of salvation and that salvation begins with repentance. Sadly, this is not the emphasis of Bishop Curry; instead he skips to the good part without emphasizing how to get there. Throughout the entirety of the Gospels Jesus repeatedly stays focused on repentance from our sins. At one point Peter asks Jesus how many times must he forgive someone and the Lord replies seventy times seven (see Matthew 18:21-22). Our salvation is gained through repentance. In fact Jesus said that unless we repent of our sins there is no hope for us (see Luke 13:1-5). Ultimately Jesus gave his life for us so that we might be saved through him by repentance of sins and giving our lives to Christ. (see Matthew 26:28) I believe the church is in deep need of repentance and that it is the only Way to healing and restoration for us. This is not the emphasis of Bishop Curry and I believe it is very misleading. I believe it sets up a false notion that emphasizing repentance is only for Christians from a certain strata of the church. This is has become an increasing weakness of the Episcopal Church and it can lead to deep misunderstandings about what follow the way of Jesus really means. It is I think very easy to preach about love, it is much more challenging to preach about the need for repentance. To put succinctly it’s first things first, and the Gospel declares that’s repent

  2. D. Gordon Braun, Jr. says:

    Last time I attended the Eucharist, which was yesterday, we confessed our sins and repented of them before receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord. How does our weekly, or more frequent, common prayer/worship–which is the essence of being an Anglican–NOT fully support and reinforce our need for repentance? Every time Bishop Curry celebrates the Eucharist, he leads the Church in repentance. I guess I’m not understanding your point.

    1. John Hobart says:

      My church frequently omits the confession from the Eucharist liturgy.

      1. Don’t you really mean “my parish” and not “my church”. Have you ever asked your parish priest why he/she omits the confession? Have you asked your parish worship committee, if you have one, why this is being done? If you have not,I respectfully suggest that you do so. BCP does state that the Confession may be omitted “on occasion” or if a confession has been said earlier in the service. For example if the Eucharist Service began with “The Penitential Order”. Think nationally, act locally.

        1. The Rev'd Edwin Cox says:

          My liturgics professor noted that some considered The Lord’s Day, our weekly feast of the Resurrection, as a suitable occasion for omitting the Confession of Sin. I omit it during the Great 50 Days of Easter (Christ is Alive this day!) and the 12 Days of Christmas (Jesus Christ is Born this day), use the Confession of Sin after the Prayers of the People in Lent, and use the Penitential Office during the seasons after Epiphany and after Pentecost.
          I remember when the (39-year old) “new” BCP came out, reading an excellent article by a liturgics professor from another seminary, where he suggested that the popularity of Morning Prayer over Eucharist on Sundays was because at MP we said our Confession of Sin at the beginning and then praised God thereafter, but in the 1928 Holy Communion we had at least 3 penitential sections (whether because we were busy sinning since the previous time, or because we didn’t really believe that the forgiveness was not real or true).

    2. Jewels Wolf says:

      I contend that it is not enough just to go through the mechanics of confession contained within the liturgy, this should be but a reinforcement and reminder of what is already paramount for the Christian, that Christ died for our sins and that our lives were paid for with his blood. This is a matter, as I was trying to say, of perspective and emphasis. Personally the profound gift of Christ’s sacrifice was never imparted to me by repeating the words of confession in the liturgy, it was study of God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not something Episcopalians are particularly comfortable with facing outside the confines of prayers on a page. It falls on the Leadership of the church to indicate what is of prime importance and what is not.

      Psalm 51:1-3
      Have mercy on me, O God,
      according to your unfailing love;
      according to your great compassion
      blot out my transgressions.
      Wash away all my iniquity
      and cleanse me from my sin.
      For I know my transgressions,
      and my sin is always before me.

      1. Mary Barrett says:

        So what makes you an expert in how Episcopalians pray to God each day, whether using the BCP or most often not?

        1. Jewels Wolf says:

          First of all I have made no claim to being an expert, although I am a life-long Episcopalian who began as a acolyte before the adoption of the 1979 prayer book. In addition to this I have served on Vestry, Worship committees and various other capacities as an active parishioner in a variety of churches, but I make no claim to be an expert. Nor do I see the issue I raised as restricted to a particular denomination. That in itself is part of the problem. The issue is not about kneeling or standing it’s about the Gospel of Christ and what is says does not say. I am called to be a Chrstian first, my denominational choice is secondary and should be for everyone.

  3. Jane R Cosby says:

    Following Jesus goes much deeper than we have lived. My understanding is that we are to look at ourselves, what was said and done and if we did not act/live by what Jesus taught, then we are to repent. Reading the repentance litany without recognizing/naming what it is we did is not my view of repentance. And it would be of great assistance to also understand why we did or did not do what Jesus taught. And our being a worshiping community provides the love and support to live in this manner. I totally agree with Jewels Wolf

    1. Jewels Wolf says:

      The Gospel begins “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” ( Matt 1:2, Luke 1:77) Then is how it ends “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt 26:28) In my mind and my heart the story of Jesus, the Way of Jesus is about forgiveness without which there can be no love. I would also argue that forgiveness and healing are intimately related (see Matt 9:2, Luke 5:20) When Jesus healed he also at the same time pronounced forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist set the stage and his message was not one that Jesus tossed aside, it was one he amplified. (Luke 5:32) At the end of Luke Jesus declares
      “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47) In the New Testament the first letter of John succinctly defines our predicament “8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:1:8-9) All this is not to say God’s love is secondary on the contrary I believe forgiveness is what opens the door to it, that is way our salvation begins with repentance. It is in that moment of acknowledgement and surrender that are able to receive the healing gift of God’s love. In 2 Corinthians we are called to be reconciled to God and to pass on the ministry of reconciliation ( 2 Cor 5:20-21) This implies that our whole focus as people of God is to first ask for forgiveness from God and then pass it on. Christ died for our sins to save us from ourselves. This is the Gospel message.

      1. M.E. Eccles says:

        The woman who bled for 12 years did not ask for her sins to be forgiven. She was healed by her faith. My proof texting is no more effective than your proof texting. I agree that repentance is a key part of being a Christian and living a Christian life. I do not agree that our sins are a barrier to God’s love. I know I will not sway you from your theology and I seriously doubt you can sway me from mine. I respect you for yours, and also respectfully disagree. Fortunately, I believe the Episcopal Church, in fact all of Christianity, has room for both.

        1. Jewels Wolf says:

          Very well said M.E. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

  4. Craig Kuehn says:

    Certainly, repentance was a factor in some of Jesus’ teachings, following up John the Baptist. However, Jesus could do no acts of power when there was no faith, such as in Nazareth. People were healed through their faith, not their repentance. The Way of Jesus is one of love. Jesus’ commandments were about love, not repentance. Granted when we don’t love, we need to repent. A theology focusing on repentance sidesteps the supreme act of love on the cross. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Jesus did not require a worldwide mea culpa before the crucifixion. To focus on a theology of repentance is to denigrate Jesus’ salvific acts.

    1. M.E. Eccles says:

      I completely agree, Craig. I wrote a response yesterday that was never posted, but basically said the same thing. None of the people Jesus healed were required to repent first – only have faith.

  5. The Rev. Deacon Kay M. Drebert says:

    Your summary doesn’t include the good news that the transgender community received from this convention. At a time when many seek to withdraw civil rights from the non-binary community our church chose instead to affirmthem. Why aren’t we all rejoicing?

    Feeling marginalized, again.

    1. Keith Gardner says:

      We rejoice for our Transgendered faithful. Hope you don’t feel Marginalized, feel, good, feel powerful, Feel Forgiveness.

  6. Angustia Hamasaki says:

    The Greatest Commandments is the key why Jesus obeyed, for the Love of God the Heavenly Father and love of the people of the world, even in sufferings and to the cross and the rest of the gospel stories the living words. The Good Shepherd and the founder of the lost, as he cares the journey of the world into the right path. Straighten up the crooked path that marriage from the start is between for man and woman. As we remember the John 3:16 For God so loved the that he gave his only begotten whoever believes in him and obey may not perish but have eternal life.

  7. Jess jaffe says:

    Until the leadership can say the words, “Trump,” “state-sponsored kidnappings,” “Republican” and “complicity of the Church” their baby steps towards morality with gay marriage, while ignoring the raging powers of demonic darkness that engulf our Country — have little significance except to confirm their overall cowardice and impotence. Looking for moral guidance elsewhere thanks.

  8. Stewart David Wigdor says:

    from what I read the convention sounded incredible.

  9. I seems to me that Jewels is worrying too much and questioning too much the sincerity of other people when they confess or pray to God. Reminds me of Jesus cautioning people about looking for the “mote in other people’s eyes, while ignoring the beam in their own”! God will know whether a person is sincere or otherwise when they pray. We do not need to concern ourselves about whether others are sincere or not! Bishop Curry was quoting Jesus’ own words “Behold I give unto you a new commandment that you love one another as I have loved you”. (KJB version).

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