[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church’s presiding officers confirmed June 1 that they would be accepting their design group’s recommendation of a June 6 deadline for submitting resolutions to the 80th General Convention, giving legislative committees time to complete their work online before the church gathers in person next month in Baltimore, Maryland.
The final plan for mitigating the threat of COVID-19 transmission will be submitted for approval June 7 by the Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements and Executive Council. If the plan is backed by those two bodies, the 80th General Convention will be reduced from eight to four days, July 8 to 11.
“We are grateful to the legislative committee officers who met last week to provide input on the draft legislative plan and the deputies and bishops who have agreed to continue legislative committee work during June,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, said in a joint letter to the church.
“As a result, all remaining legislative committee hearings will be held online during June, and we encourage you to monitor the hearing schedule and sign up to testify about resolutions that affect your ministry and witness.”
Church leaders also are still deliberating on how to prioritize legislation that needs to be taken up in July while postponing noncritical matters to 2024 when the 81st General Convention meets in Louisville, Kentucky.
The presiding officers have not yet said how or when worship services will be offered in Baltimore, nor have they endorsed specific recommendations for caring for those who test positive for COVID-19 while attending General Convention. The design group expects to meet June 8 to discuss those and other details.
General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church, and its triennial meeting typically is the church’s largest gathering drawing between 5,000 and 10,000 people to the host city over two weeks. As a bicameral legislature, it is made up of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, composed of deputies and bishops from each diocese.
The 80th General Convention was originally scheduled for July 2021 but was postponed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay allowed legislative committees time to get to work much earlier than normal – and online for the first time.
In addition to a shorter General Convention, the presiding officers’ design group is recommending that attendance be restricted to bishops, deputies, essential staff and volunteers and a limited media presence. Visitors generally will not be allowed. Dioceses will be asked to send only two alternate deputies, and inactive bishops will be asked to stay home. There also will be no exhibit hall under the pending plan, and church-affiliated organizations will be asked not to hold events in Baltimore during General Convention.