Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We arrived in Indianapolis this afternoon to begin preparations for the meeting of the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  Much of the Mississippi deputation is already here.  Thus far, I have seen Bishop Gray, Canon Kathryn McCormick,  Dr. Anita George, Dr. Ed Sisson, the Reverend Marian Fortner, the Reverend Margaret Ayers, Margaret McLarty, and Danny Meadors. Others may have already arrived or will arrive in the next day or so.

The Indianapolis Convention Center is a sizeable facility and seems to be well-suited for this large gathering.  The House of Deputies and the House of Bishops will meet in the Convention Center.  That is also the location for the massive hall of exhibits -- a great place to do some "Episcopal retail therapy."  The Convention's worship services will be held in the nearby J. W. Marriott Hotel -- not to be confused with the deputation's place of lodging, the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott.  The large number of committee meetings and hearings (there are 24 legislative committees for General Convention) will meet in the two Marriott Hotels and in the nearby Westin.

Committee meetings begin at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday).  Some committees will begin straightaway with hearings on specific legislation before them.  Others will begin with committee discussions. The Structure Committee (on which I serve) will start our work with a Eucharist in the morning.  General Convention committees are composed of both bishops and deputies (they are called "cognate committees").  There is a bishop-chair and a deputy-chair for each committee. The Reverend Gay Jennings of the Diocese of Ohio is deputy-chair of the committee, while Bishop John Howard of the Diocese of Florida is the bishop-chair.  I have been asked to serve as the deputy-chaplain for the Structure Committee and, as such, will preach the homily for the Stucture Committee's opening Eucharist tomorrow. Bishop Michael Smith of the Diocese of North Dakota will be the bishop-chaplain and will serve as celebrant at the Eucharist.  It is important for the committee to begin its work in worship and prayer.

You have likely seen Bishop Gray's concise summary of the issues he anticipates being paramount at this General Convention.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I would describe the top issues as blessing of same sex unions, the governing, management and administrative structure of the Episcopal Church, and the church budget.  It is very likely that the bulk of the secular press's coverage will be on the same-gender blessings.  However, I think a great deal of new effort, thought and discussion will go into structure and budgetary issues.  The church has focused on the same sex blessing issues for a number of years and, as Bishop Gray has said, the direction of the Episcopal Church, at least as represented by the General Convention, seems to be set.  These other two issues are relatively new, and this will be the first really significant effort to grapple with them.

We will not be electing a new Presiding Bishop this convention.  That will come in 2012 at the 78th General Convention, scheduled for Salt Lake City, Utah.  This year, we will be electing a new President for the House of Deputies, since incumbent Bonnie Anderson of Michigan has chosen not to seek reelection.  Two candidates have emerged:  Gay Jennings, a priest from Ohion (and chair of the committee on which I serve), and Martha Alexander, a lay person from the Diocese of North Carolina.  It would appear to me that Gay Jennings is the leading contender.  That election comes next week and the new President will be preside over the House of Deputies in the 2015 General Convention.

We will also be electing a Vice President of the House of Deputies.  The prior office-holder was Brian Prior, who was elected and consecrated as bishop of Minnesota since the last Convention.  The only name I have heard circulated thus far is Sally Johnson, a lay person and attorney from Minnesota and just-retired legal counsel to Church Insurance Company and Church Pension Fund.  I anticipate other nominations, as well.

Legsilative sessions begin Thursday.  I will attempt to post summaries daily from here.

Please keep us in your prayers.

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