July 8 dispatches from 80th General Convention in Baltimore

Posted Jul 8, 2022

[Episcopal News Service – Baltimore, Maryland] Much happens each day during General Convention. To complement Episcopal News Service’s primary coverage, we have collected some additional news items from July 8. Full ENS coverage of the 80th General Convention can be found here.

WiFi disruption “biggest” news story of convention’s first morning 

The “big” story of the first morning of the 80th General Convention – in addition to the introductions, welcome messages and worship services – was the lack of WiFi. Systems failed in both the House of Bishops and House of Deputies, preventing people on the house floors from accessing the internet on their church-provided iPads, which forced the bishops and deputies to postpone any votes that required digital tallies.

Amanda Skofstad, the church’s public affairs officer, released a statement that blamed “a large software bug” for disrupting “wireless systems handling large numbers of devices.”

“The issue required several patches to become functional and changes to switches to accommodate the number of devices on the system and to provide added access points to WiFi. The team will further address this through a software upgrade this evening.”

Several deputies generated a running commentary on Twitter about what some began referring to as #gcnowifi.


After Noonday Prayer in the House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry asked if the bishops had access yet to the internet.

“Is it working? Let me just see a show of hands of those for whom it’s not working.”

Most hands were raised.

“OK, we’re in the same place,” he said. The house soon recessed for lunch.

When the houses returned in the afternoon, WiFi was back up and running and most deputies reported being able to access the house’s voting portal.

— David Paulsen

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, calls Presiding Bishop Michael Curry while wearing a hat sporting the logo of the Buffalo Bills, Curry’s hometown team. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

House-to-house communication by FaceTime

A required step for both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops to do the work of the church is to formally “organize” itself by electing and appointing officers and declaring the needed quorum. Each house informs the other house of its “organization.”

After the deputies accomplished this step, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, decided to convey the house’s official message to the bishops via a FaceTime call to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. She donned a Buffalo Bills hat in honor of Curry’s favorite football team.

Curry was unable to take Jennings’ first call because Dr. Rodney Coldren, a public health expert hired to advise Jennings on COVID protocols for General Convention, was addressing the bishops.

“OK, call me back,” Jennings said. Curry did a few moments later.  

— Mary Frances Schjonberg


Public health expert provides COVID-19 updates to both houses

In April, Executive Council approved $50,000 to hire Dr. Rodney Coldren, a public health expert, to advise the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, House of Deputies president, as she and other church leaders developed a plan for a safe General Convention during the pandemic. At the 80th General Convention, during the first morning sessions, each house invited Coldren to present the latest updates on COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Fifteen deputies tested positive before getting on a plane, Coldren said. “There were very few cases today. I expected many more,” he told the House of Deputies. “This is truly good news. I do anticipate more – it’s the nature of COVID. Remain vigilant.”

About 1,200 are attending this General Convention, and all have been asked to conduct rapid tests in their hotel rooms each morning. Deputies also have been asked to contact Coldren directly if they test positive.

— ENS staff

Bishops United to lead procession after fatal shooting near convention center

On July 8, after the House of Bishops concludes its afternoon session, Bishops United Against Gun Violence plans to lead a procession out of the Baltimore Convention Center to the streets near where a man was shot and killed a day earlier during an altercation with a man washing car windows for money.

The shooting happened at about 4:30 p.m. July 7 near the corner of Conway and Light streets. A motorist reportedly got into an argument with “squeegee workers,” got out of the car and began swinging a bat at the workers, at which point one of the workers pulled a gun and shot the driver.

The shooting happened about one block east of the Baltimore Convention Center, where bishops and deputies were checking in. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, were conducting a pre-convention media briefing at a hotel farther west of the convention center while police were responding to the scene.

ENS coverage of the procession is here.

— David Paulsen

Deputies’ rule change makes it harder to move resolutions to floor for full debate

Under one of the first resolutions taken up by the House of Deputies on July 8, house leaders proposed special rules of order intended to streamline the legislative process across four days, after the 80th General Convention was shortened and scaled back to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“This is not a normal convention,” Brian Krislock, the deputies’ parliamentarian, said in outlining the proposed rules of order. “We’ve crammed nine days of legislation into four, and we have the same number of resolutions.”

One of the central changes to the house’s normal rules of order was to raise the threshold for pulling a resolution off the consent calendar and bring it to the floor for full debate. The consent calendar allows the House of Deputies to vote on a batch of resolutions rather than taking them up individually. About 125 resolutions have been assigned to the deputies’ consent calendar.

Under the proposal, a third of deputies plus one would have to vote in favor of moving a resolution from the consent calendar to a floor debate. After some debate, the rules were approved by a voice vote.

— David Paulsen

Bishops’ ‘swear jar’ penalizes overused jargon

When Bishop Sean Rowe – the House of Bishops’ parliamentarian – spoke to the House about guidelines for moving legislation along, he also mentioned that the House would have a ‘swear jar,’ but not for actual curse words. In this case, bishops must make a donation to Episcopal Relief & Development when they use the cliches that have pervaded the language of church leadership.

The banned words and phrases are:

  • intentional
  • radical hospitality
  • lean into
  • at the end of the day
  • unprecedented
  • new normal
  • these challenging times

The first violation came shortly after, as Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce, secretary of the House of Bishops, was giving her own presentation on the rules of order. Bruce was demonstrating the warning sign she gives to bishops who are speaking too long on trivial matters: by donning one, and then two, tiaras, before cutting them off.

“And as you see me lean into the microphone–” Bruce said, and was promptly called out for using a banned phrase, though she protested that it was used in its literal, not figurative, sense.

Rowe is also offering prizes for the best use of the term “perichoresis,” the best random quote and the best fictitious quote.

— Egan Millard

For your 82nd General Convention consideration: Puerto Rico

The eight deputies from the Diocese of Puerto Rico are literally wearing their support for Resolution A001 on their sleeves.

Puerto Rico deputies

Cristina Olán and Jose Santiagó, deputies from the Diocese of Puerto Rico, show off their matching shirts promoting San Juan for host city of the 82nd General Convention in 2027. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Each of the clergy and lay deputies spent their first day on the floor of the House of Deputies dressed in matching T-shirts that read, “Convención General, Puerto Rico, 2027.” The message is a reference to Resolution A001, which endorses San Juan, Puerto Rico, as one of five finalists for hosting the 82nd General Convention. The others are Phoenix, Arizona; Orlando, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“Puerto Rico is ready for receiving all the deputations,” Deputy Cristina Olán told ENS during a break in the House of Deputies’ proceedings. “We want people also to enjoy the beauty of our island.”

San Juan has recent experience hosting Episcopal Church governance meetings. Executive Council gathered there in April for its last meeting before this General Convention. The council also met in Puerto Rico in June 2017.

General Convention has only met once outside the continental United States, in 1955, when Honolulu, Hawaii, was the host city after church leaders refused to hold the convention in then-racially segregated Houston, Texas. No diocese in the Caribbean or Latin American has ever hosted.

Puerto Rico “is a place where people of different cultures will come together,” Olán said. “We are ready. We are more than ready.”

— David Paulsen

Diocese of Puerto Rico steps toward Province II

Speaking of Puerto Rico, the final vote of the day in the House of Deputies was to approve Resolution C021, to trasfer the diocese from Province IX to Province II.

“After a deep process of discernment … our diocese decided [on] a transfer to Province II,” the Rev. Bryan Vélez-Garcia, a Puerto Rico deputy, said in Spanish on the house floor, with an English language interpreter. “With this decision we feel that we can continue to enrich our church.”

Puerto Rico’s current Province IX includes Spanish-speaking dioceses in the Caribbean and Latin America. Province II includes dioceses in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as Haiti, Cuba, the Virgin Islands and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. It is known as the international-Atlantic province.

“We in Province II are happy to welcome Puerto Rico, and we hope that this General Convention will adopt this resolution,” New York Deputy Yvonne O’Neal said. She called Puerto Rico a “dynamic, missionary and evangelizing diocese.”

The resolution was adopted by deputies in a voice vote and now goes to the House of Bishops.

— David Paulsen