I have thought about an appropriate image for the status of General Convention at this stage. It occurs to me a fitting analogy would be that of a steam locomotive. While some of the internal mechanisms are functioning (and generating energy), the locomotive itself takes a while to gain steam and speed. That seems to be an accurate metaphor for General Convention.
Committees are functioning; holding hearings and considering resolutions. The list of resolutions coming from the legislative committees will expand considerably over the next two or three days, and the work of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops will grow quickly. Throw into that mix the fact that we will be focusing on the election of the 27th Presiding Bishop in the next two days.
Today was fairly inconsequential, save the Convention Eucharist, which was held this morning. The Presiding Bishop was the preacher and celebrant. It was wonderful to worship – observing the Nativity of John the Baptist – with 2,000 fellow Episcopalians.
I cannot speak to what the House of Bishops did today; you would need to consult Bishop Seage’s blog on that matter. However, the House of Deputies spent the afternoon largely discussing the revised Rules of Order, significantly rewritten from previous conventions. We ultimately approved those Rules of Order without any amendments from the floor, but it was not a simple process. The only other official legislative action we took was approving a letter of condolence to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in light of the tragic events there last week.
Tomorrow (Friday) will feature a joint session of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, at which the names of the four candidates for Presiding Bishop will be placed in nomination. Those four candidates include the following Bishops: Tom Breidenthal of Southern Ohio; Michael Curry of North Carolina; Ian Douglas of Connecticut; and Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida. After the nominations, the remainder of the joint session will be spent in a discussion of the proposals revolving around the restructuring of the Episcopal Church.
But that is tomorrow. Tonight, the Governance and Structure Committee (of which I am a member) spent 105 minutes hearing testimony, concerning various proposals before the committee. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Presiding Bishop-nominee Ian Douglas were among the witnesses. Some of the testimony had to do with the structuring of the Episcopal Church Center staff. Some had to do with Continuing Commissions, Agencies, and Boards. Other testimony focused on the proposed transformation of General Convention into a unicameral body, as opposed to the current bicameral legislative body.
The testimony the committee heard tonight was substantive and, I suspect, will be very helpful to the Governance and Structure Committee as we move toward grappling with some 40 resolutions before it. Some of those resolutions conflict with one another, and the committee will need to discern a path forward.
The committee meets again at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. We will begin making recommendations on resolutions to be sent to the floor.
The election of the new Presiding Bishop will take place during the late morning and early afternoon of Saturday. Once the Bishops have chosen a Presiding Bishop, it will be the responsibility of the House of Deputies to ratify (or not) the election.
Please keep the General Convention and the Mississippi Deputation in your prayers.