Legislative committee meetings underway on road to Louisville for 81st General Convention

By David Paulsen
Posted Mar 6, 2024

[Episcopal News Service] The work of the 81st General Convention is underway. Bishops and deputies have begun meeting online as the legislative committees that will bring resolutions to the floor when General Convention convenes in person June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky.

This is the second General Convention for which most committee meetings and hearings are expected to take place online, reflecting changes implemented in 2022 for the 80th General Convention. By conducting committee business in advance, church leaders were able to streamline and shorten that in-person meeting to four days to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 continues to spread, though public health concerns have eased, allowing church leaders to plan a fuller churchwide gathering over six days in Louisville. Online committee meetings again figure prominently in those plans, partly because of their success last time. About 2,500 people attended the meetings and hearings of two dozen legislative committees in 2022, without having to travel farther than their own computer or phone.

This year, the schedule of committee meetings and hearings will be updated on General Convention’s Virtual Binder, at vbinder.net. Anyone may attend the meetings as an observer by registering in advance; those wishing to speak at one of the hearings are asked to sign up at least two business days in advance.

Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music

The Ven. Stannard Baker, archdeacon in the Diocese of Vermont, leads a March 6 Zoom meeting with the bishops’ and deputies’ committees on Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music.

General Convention is a bicameral governing body, made up of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies. Although bishops and deputies meet separately and are assigned to separate General Convention committees on parallel topic areas, each pair of corresponding committees typically meets together to conduct hearings and other business.

In one of the first online committee meetings, bishops and deputies serving on the Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music committees gathered on March 6 to introduce themselves to each other and to prepare themselves to consider resolutions assigned to the committees.

“My hope is that we move forward some of the wonderful liturgical work that’s happened in the past, that we see some new things coming out of music and that we really honor our tradition of our own Episcopal saints in Feasts and Fasts, respect each other and have good conversation,” said the Ven. Stannard Baker, archdeacon in the Diocese of Vermont, who chairs the House of Deputies’ Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music.

Much of the work of the committees is yet unknown because some of the Blue Book reports produced by the church’s interim bodies are being processed by the General Convention Office and have yet to be posted online. The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music’s report, for example, is listed as “in progress.”

Other Blue Book reports already are available now for the public and committees to review. They can be found on the General Convention website, which will be updated with additional Blue Book reports as they are translated.

General Convention typically meets every three years and is a hub for legislative activity, networking and fellowship. Some of its core duties include adoption of the triennial budget plan, as recommended by Executive Council, and the election of members to various church bodies. Bishops and deputies also consider hundreds of resolutions covering everything from liturgical revisions to the church’s positions on public policy issues.

Much focus at the 81st General Convention will be on electing the next presiding bishop to a nine-year term that starts Nov. 1, while also celebrating the final months in office of the church’s beloved outgoing presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry. The Diocese of Kentucky also is eager to showcase its congregations and ministries and its increased emphasis on racial reconciliation, particularly since the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor and that year’s widespread racial justice protests.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.