Monday, June 18, 2012

The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church convenes in Indianapolis, Indiana in about two weeks.  The official dates of the convention are July 4 to July 12. The Mississippi Deputation, consisting of four lay deputies and four clergy deputies, four lay alternates and three clergy alternates, and of course, Bishop Gray, has met formally two times  in advance of General Convention. Additionally, several deputation members attended the Province IV Synod at Kanuga near Hendersonville, North Carolina, earlier in June.  All of this is to prepare for our time at General Convention.

The Mississippi Deputation includes the following:  lay deputies -- Canon Kathryn McCormick of St. Andrew's, Jackson, and the diocesan staff; Dr. Ed Sisson of St. Peter's, Oxford; Dr. Anita George of Resurrection, Starkville; and Margaret McLarty of St. Andrew's, Jackson; clergy deputies -- the Reverend Canon David Johnson of the diocesan office; the Reverend David Knight of St. James', Jackson; the Very Reverend Edward O'Connor of St. Andrew's, Jackson; and the Reverend Marian Fortner of Trinity, Hattiesburg.

Alternate deputies include the following: lay -- Danny Meadors of St. Patrick's, Long Beach; Bobbie Marascalco of Holy Trinity, Vicksburg; Hilda Povall of Calvary, Cleveland; and Jack Conway of St. Philip's, Jackson; clergy -- the Reverend Margaret Ayers of St. James', Port Gibson; the Reverend Elizabeth Wheatley-Jones of All Saints', Grenada; and the Reverend Betsy Baumgarten of Coast Episcopal School, Long Beach, and Redeemer, Biloxi.  The Reverend Matt Rowe of Nativity, Greenwood, had been elected as a clergy alternate but has since accepted a call to the Diocese of Northwest Texas.

Alternates and deputies share time on the floor of General Convention.

The General Convention is divided into two houses -- the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.  It functions in a manner similar to the United States Congress or the Mississippi Legislature; i.e., in order to be accepted as a canonical revision or as a policy of the church, a proposal must be approved in the exact same form by both houses.

The House of Deputies is comprised of four clergy deputies and four lay deputies from each of 110 dioceses and jurisdictions from 16 countries spanning from Europe to Taiwan. That membership totals over 800 deputies on the floor of General Convention.  The House of Deputies is chaired by the President of the House, currently Canon Bonnie Anderson, a lay deputy from the Diocese of Michigan.  She is not seeking reelection to that post.

The membership of the House of Bishops includes all living bishops -- somewhere in excess of 250 bishops.  However, in a normal General Convention (which does not include the election of a Presiding Bishop) the average attendance in the House of Bishops is about 180. The House of Bishops is chaired by the Presiding Bishop, currently the Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts-Schori. She has three years remaining on her nine-year term as Presiding Bishop. Bishop Gray, of course, is a member of that house.

Much of the work of General Convention is done in the Cognate Committees (consisting of both deputies and bishops). Several Mississipians serve on those committees. Bishop Gray serves on the Evangelism Committee. Canon McCormick serves on the Church Pension Committee. Dr. George serves on the Education Committee. Dr. Sisson is on the World Mission Committee and Canon Johnson serves on the Structure Committee.

Two Mississippians are seeking election to national bodies of the Episcopal Church. Dr. George, who has been filling an unexpired term on Executive Council (the "vestry" of the Episcopal Church), has been nominated for a full term.  Canon McCormick has been nominated for election to the Board of Trustees of the Church Pension Fund. Those elections will be conducted in the House of Deputies and those elected must receive a majority vote of the members of the house.

One significant decision to be made by the House of Deputies will be in the election of the next President of the House.  Since Canon Anderson is not seeking reelection, a new president will be elected.  The House will also be electing a new vice president since the previous incumbent, Brian Prior, was elected and consecrated as Bishop of the Diocese of Minnesota.

For your information, here are some links which might be helpful before and during General Convention:

Episcopal News Service --
The Episcopal Church --
General Convention (including pre-filed legislation) --
Constitution and Canons (and other publications) --

I plan to post more information about issues coming before General Convention in the days ahead.  Additionally, I hope to post daily updates during each day of General Convention.  I invite you to read and share this blog as you see fit.

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