GC81 Daily Digest, June 22: Committees meet in person for first time

By ENS staff
Posted Jun 22, 2024
Joint Budget Committee

The Joint Budget Committee holds a hearing June 22 on the proposed 2025-27 churchwide budget plan at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] The 81st General Convention is underway in Louisville, as committees met in person for the first time on June 22, a day before legislative sessions are scheduled to convene in the full House of Bishops and House of Deputies, the official start of the June 23-28 meeting.

A lot can happen on any given day at General Convention, and despite the hard work of the Episcopal News Service team, we cannot write full stories on every development, action or event. Shorter news items will filed instead to these daily digests.

Some big news is expected in the afternoon June 22: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies Presiding Julia Ayala Harris will deliver opening remarks in a joint session at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Watch for a full story later in the day.

The morning, on the other hand, was all about committee meetings – a lot of them.

This is the second straight General Convention, after the pandemic-altered 81st General Convention in 2022, in which legislative committees needed to meet online in advance so they could hold hearings and complete most of their business before arriving in person. That allowed convention planners to schedule less committee time here in Louisville, but it also meant a crush of simultaneous committee activity on this first morning.

Nearly all the more than two dozen committees held meetings on June 22, with 13 of those committees starting at the same time, 9 a.m., in first-floor meeting rooms at the convention center. Fourteen of the committees held hearings on recently filed resolutions that they couldn’t get to in their online meetings. In some cases, committee members briefly excused themselves from their own meetings to hop over to a nearby hearing to testify on certain resolutions.

Committee meetings will resume at 7 a.m. June 23. Their workload will decrease significantly once they send their resolutions on to the House of Bishops and House of Deputies for consideration. All resolutions can be tracked on General Convention’s Virtual Binder website.

– David Paulsen

Joint Budget Committee holds hearing, prepares to present 2025-27 budget plan

A hearing on the proposed $143 million 2025-27 churchwide budget plan lasted only 20 minutes, with testifiers emphasizing creation care spending.

Though relatively brief, the hearing capped an extended budget development period that has included several opportunities for churchwide input, including a previous online hearing on May 16, as part of a new budget planning process enacted two years ago by the 80th General Convention.

“It’s been a much more transparent process,” the Rev. Patty Downing, a deputy from the Diocese of Delaware who chairs the Joint Budget Committee. Clergy and lay leaders were provided with detailed timelines outlining the committee’s work, she said, and the committee was able to have in-depth conversations with church leaders and staff earlier in the process than before.

One of the major changes was to entrust the Joint Budget Committee with facilitating each phase of the budgeting process. In the past, the Finance Committee of Executive Council, which is the church’s governing body between meetings of General Convention, drafted a budget that Executive Council then submitted to a separate committee of bishops and deputies for another review.

With the Joint Budget Committee guiding the process from start to finish, it achieved a “significant reduction in the learning curve” of budget planners, said Bill Fleener, a deputy from the Diocese of Western Michigan who serves on the Joint Budget Committee.

Information on the budgeting process is available here, and the itemized proposal can be found here. The Joint Budget Committee will present the proposal to a joint session of bishops and deputies at 10:30 a.m. June 24, after which it will be opened to any amendments before final adoption.

– David Paulsen

Rio Grande deputies call for improvements to assessment waiver process

Members of the Diocese of the Rio Grande have proposed Resolution D063, seeking improvements to the process by which dioceses can request and receive waivers when they are unable to afford their full assessment in support of the churchwide budget.

The 81st General Convention’s committees on Governance & Structure took testimony on the resolution at a hearing June 22, the first day of committee meetings at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Catherine Bailey, the Rio Grande deputy who was the resolution’s lead proposer, briefly described her diocese’s difficulty in seeking a waiver in 2020 while diocesan leaders were cutting their budget to get on better financial footing. In 2019, Rio Grande paid an assessment of 6% based on reported diocesan income of $1.3 million, far lower than the 15% that the church mandates.

“We were often given conflicting and confusing directions on how to receive a waiver,” Bailey said. At that time, the waiver request was denied, which meant that the diocese was ineligible for churchwide grants for a year. Since then, the diocese has brought its contribution up to 15%.

Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn, who was consecrated in 2019, sits on the Governance & Structure Committee. During committee discussions, he also spoke in favor of the resolution, saying the church would benefit from making a distinction “between a diocese that can’t pay and a diocese that won’t pay.”

The committees recommended referring the resolution to Executive Council, the church’s governing body between meetings of General Convention, to consider ways of improving the assessment waiver process in response to Rio Grande’s concerns.

– David Paulsen