Advancing to General Convention 2015: Virtual binders replace physical binders

Posted Apr 9, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Plans have been underway for over one year to ensure the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is as paperless as possible. In this “Convention of Screens,” much of the legislative work will be displayed electronically on tablets or on projection screens in the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.

To that end, each registered deputy and bishop along with the first clergy alternate/first lay alternate will be provided an iPad for their use during General Convention. The iPads will have access to the Virtual Binder, an application that replicates electronically most of what previously had been provided in the physical binders that have been part of General Convention. The iPads will also contain reference materials such as Constitutions and Canons, the Journal, and The Blue Book, as well as other materials supportive of the legislation processes of General Convention.

“The Virtual Binder provides enhanced support for the legislative work of the church, and allows us to reduce greatly the use of paper,” explained the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of the General Convention.

The Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements and the General Convention Office have been leading the efforts to make GC 2015 as paperless as possible, and to reduce reliance on paper copies to improve legislative efficiencies on all levels and in all places as possible.

How it will work
The Virtual Binder application will work on a local network when deputies and bishops are on the floor of their respective houses.

The Virtual Binder will be updated automatically on the floors of both Houses, allowing for faster distribution of calendars, resolutions, committee and other reports. This will be done wirelessly, through a dedicated intranet that can be accessed only by the Virtual Binder on the iPad provided to bishops and deputies.

“This means,” Barlowe continued, “that although you may have other personal electronic devices with you, only the iPads provided by General Convention will be updated during legislative sessions.”

There will be no internet access on the iPads while in the Houses.  However, if one hooks them into a hotel internet or other Wi-Fi internet outside of the Houses, the Virtual Binder application will continue to work across that connection away from the Houses.  For example, Barlowe explained, they can be used at night if someone has internet in the hotel.

Training sessions have been planned both before and during General Convention. Also, trained volunteers will be on hand, and technical staff will be available for support.

Because they are rentals, at the conclusion of General Convention, all iPads must be returned, or a replacement fee will be charged.

Virtual Binder iPads will not be available for visitors, vendors, or volunteers. However, legislative information will be available on large screens on the floors of each house, on the Media Hub and on the General Convention website here during General Convention.

Coming soon
Currently being prepared are instructions and reference materials on the use of the Virtual Binder. These items will be available on the General Convention website here.

In addition to the Virtual Binder, a free app for anyone with an IOS or Android
Smartphone or tablet will be provided. The app will contain schedules, maps, vendor information, and other useful materials.

General Convention
The Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention, June 25July 3, will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

Note: Deputies who relinquish their seats to an alternate deputy will pass their iPad to the alternate as part of the exchange of credentials, if the alternate has not already been issued an iPad.