GC81 Daily Digest, June 23: Legislative sessions commence

Posted Jun 23, 2024

Maimie Thomas of the Diocese of South Dakota, one of two Official Youth Presence members representing Province VI attending the 81st General Convention, spoke to some 2,000 attendees during the June 22, 2024, pre-convention revival held at the KFC Yum! Center. Photo: Randall A. Gornowich

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] The 81st General Convention is underway in Louisville on the first day of legislative sessions in the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, which convene June 23-28.

You can find full, updating ENS coverage here. And here is the ENS primer on this week’s gathering, or everything you need to follow the 81st General Convention.

A lot can happen on any given day at General Convention. News that doesn’t make it into a full story gets filed into our daily digest. Here are some dispatches from June 23.

Cuba seats deputation for first time since rejoining Episcopal Church

The House of Deputies’ legislative sessions for the 81st General Convention got underway June 23 with a morning session that included a tally of certified deputies. The Rev. Michael Barlowe, the deputies’ secretary, announced that 813 deputies were present in 108 deputations.

Each diocese and area mission is represented by at least one clergy deputy and one lay deputy, and deputations can have up to four clergy members and four lay members.

Two dioceses were absent: The Diocese of Venezuela did not register a deputation to participate, and the Diocese of Colombia’s deputation, though registered, was not yet in attendance.

By the afternoon session, the tally of certified deputies had increased to 823 in 108 deputations. House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris singled out one of those deputations for recognition.

“The Diocese of Cuba is here for the first time with seat, voice and vote,” Ayala Harris said, inviting applause. “It’s a joy to have you voting with us, Cuba.”

General Convention voted in 2018 to welcome the Diocese of Cuba back into The Episcopal Church, though its deputation was unable to attend the last General Convention, in 2022, because of travel restrictions.

– David Paulsen

Kentucky Bishop Terry Allen White gives Presiding Bishop Michael Curry a gift from the diocese

During the House of Bishops’ first legislative session, Kentucky Bishop Terry Allen White presented Presiding Bishop Michael Curry a custom autographed Louisville Slugger baseball bat, marked XXVII, on behalf of the Diocese of Kentucky. Curry is The Episcopal Church’s 27th presiding bishop. Louisville is home of the Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

“We look forward to being here right now, loving Jesus and loving life,” White said.

White also promoted Diocese of Kentucky Night on June 24 from 6-11 p.m., which will include lectures, poetry readings, a silent “Episco-disco” (everyone gets headphones), Compline, live music and food trucks. Most events and the food trucks will be downtown, though some events will be held in other places within a two-mile radius. The “Episco-disco” event is a tribute to Louisville as the only city in the United States where disco balls are manufactured.

— Shireen Korkzan

Committees take action on two environmental stewardship and creation care-related resolutions

The Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation committees met on June 23 for one last time before the House of Bishops and House of Deputies were to convene legislative sessions on the first official day of the 81st General Convention. Bishops and deputies serve on distinct but parallel committees that typically meet together to deliberate and vote on resolutions in advance of legislative sessions. 

The committees acted on the following resolutions:

B002, “Build Eco-Region Creation Networks for Crucial Impact.” The resolution calls on General Convention to encourage and equip bishops and dioceses to work together to form strategic “eco-region creation networks” based on shared ecosystems or watersheds. The networks would participate in projects dedicated to slowing climate change through preserving and restoring local plants, as well as agricultural and food systems. If implemented, creation fellows or consultants would navigate the networks and collect data about participating members, projects and properties, and track their progress. The resolution passed as amended.

D050, “Resolution to Complete the Journey to Net Carbon Neutrality by 2030,” which the committees rewrote to direct the Executive Council Budget Committee to consider a change to the budget this triennium to add $225,000 to pay for the additional staffing needed for this commitment and any additional similar commitments made at this General Convention. It was adopted as a substitute resolution.

The committees also discussed A020, “Establish a Standing Commission on Care of Creation and Environmental Racism,” which, despite having elements relevant to the Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation committee, was considered by the Governance & Structure committees because of its call for a new interim body. That committee recommended that convention refer the resolution to Executive Council.

— Shireen Korkzan

Musicians dedicate new album to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry 

Theodicy Jazz Collective, which provided music during the June 23 General Convention opening Eucharist, has released a new album on its YouTube channel that is dedicated to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in thanksgiving for his transformational and joyful leadership.

The eight-part video album, entitled Love is the Way: A Freedom Suite, features the band and the Hendricks Chapel Choir at Syracuse University.

The video for Part I, Movement I is available here.

— Melodie Woerman

House of Bishops passes resolution commending Episcopal, Presbyterian dialogue  

Resolution A042 would allow for ecumenical partnerships between The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the local level of dioceses and presbyteries, with the approval of bishops and moderators.

The resolution affirms the growing number of local ministries between The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that are enriching the Body of Christ and authorizes continuing bi-lateral dialogue between the two churches.

PCUSA is the largest Presbyterian body in the United States, with more than 1.1 million members in more than 8,700 congregations, as reported in 2023. The Episcopal Church has 1.4 million members.

The existing agreement between The Episcopal Church and PCUSA, which was adopted by General Convention in 2009, encourages cooperation and joint ministry between the two denominations.

–ENS Staff

Bishops pass resolution aimed at studying the clergy mandatory retirement age of 72

Toward the end of their first legislative day, bishops passed Resolution D032, a substitute resolution with an amendment that calls on Executive Council to study the church’s policy mandating clergy to resign upon reaching the age of 72.

The original resolution called for raising the mandatory retirement age from 72 to 75.

The change would have little practical effect on most priests’ and deacons’ ministry opportunities. Retirees already are allowed to serve congregations in various capacities well past 72, and many are doing so, helping to address a growing churchwide shortage of active clergy. But upping the mandatory retirement age could allow clergy who were ordained later in life to participate longer in the Church Pension Fund.

One reason the Title III Ministry committees recommend the substitute resolution was because the Church Pension Group had not been consulted about the potential mandatory retirement age increase, said Nebraska Bishop Scott Barker, the bishop chair.

Washington Bishop Marianne Budde proposed the resolution be amended to include that Executive Council, the church’s governing body between meetings of General Convention, also study what happens to congregational vitality when an aging member of the clergy is reluctant to retire.

A mandatory retirement age is one way bishops encourage clergy to make space for new lay-led or clergy-led ministries.

Both South Dakota Bishop Jonathan Folts and Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen spoke in favor of the substitute resolution, stressing their dependence on retired clergy. In Allen’s case, he said, “because of the growth our diocese is experiencing, we’ve had to encourage our retired clergy to work.”

Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows also spoke in favor.

“This is an absolute area where we need to study,” she said.

– ENS staff

House of Deputies votes to adopt resolution addressing water crisis in O‘ahu 

The House of Deputies voted to adopt Resolution D008, “Protection of Water ‘Ola i Ka Wai – Water is Life,’” which would voice General Convention’s support for protecting clean drinking water on Hawai’i’s island of O‘ahu, where Honolulu is located. Three deputies spoke in favor of the resolution; no one spoke against it.

O‘ahu, the most populous Hawaiian island, has been facing a clean water crisis since November 2021, when the U.S. Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility leaked 19,000 gallons of jet fuel into the water system serving 100,000 residents. The facility has a history of well-documented spills and ongoing leaks. More than 90,000 people moved to hotels after jet fuel contaminated the tap water in their homes. The World War II-era underground storage facility is scheduled to permanently close no sooner than the end of this year.

Mary Carpenter, a deputy from the Diocese of Hawai’i, told the House of Deputies that the aquifer is still damaged and harming the drinking water supply for residents.

“We chose to remove this from the consent calendar to provide an opportunity for the entire house to prayerfully consider the harms we’ve done in Hawai’i,” she said.

D008, if also approved by the House of Bishops, would instruct The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations to advocate for restoration of the land where the Red Hill storage facility sits, which is 100 feet above one of O’ahu’s main aquifers, and for transparency by the Navy and other government agencies.

– Shireen Korkzan

Resolution declaring gun violence a national health crisis advances

The House of Deputies also passed Resolution D014, “Declare Gun Violence a National Health Crisis,” which calls for the Office of Government Relations to promote legislation aimed at reducing gun violence and to urge U.S. officials to declare gun violence a national health crisis.

“Gun violence is a pervasive tragedy,” Evangeline Warren, chair of the deputies’ Committee on Social Justice & U.S. Policy, said while introducing the resolution.

The resolution also supports reform of the Victims of Crime Act, which Congress created in 1984 to provide federal assistance to state and local programs that support crime victims. D014 now goes to the House of Bishops for final adoption.

The deputies adopted D014 one day after a mass shooting occurred 2.5 miles from downtown Louisville. Eight people were shot at a nightclub, leaving one person dead. Police are still looking for the suspect, and the cause of the shooting is unknown.

As of the evening of June 23, 245 mass shootings have occurred nationwide, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an American nonprofit that catalogs every gun-related death in the United States. A mass shooting is defined as one in which at least four people are shot, either fatally or non-fatally, excluding the shooter.

– Shireen Korkzan

‘Migration with Dignity’ resolution passes House of Bishops

Resolution C031 would call on The Episcopal Church to advocate for Migration with Dignity, a framework of rights due to all migrants and displaced people. The House of Bishops passed C031 with one budgetary amendment, and it now heads to the House of Deputies.

Almost all bishops who spoke about the resolution agreed about one thing: the rights of migrants, as outlined in Migrants with Dignity, are inalienable. They are as follows:

  • A universal right of movement.
  • The right to be secure.
  • The right of equality.
  • Rights to a basic quality of life.
  • The right to access services.
  • Civil and political rights.

Minimal discussion resulted around the universal right of movement. Southeast Florida Bishop Peter Eaton clarified that while states have the right to regulate their internal and external policies regarding immigration, this resolution says nothing to impinge upon that but instead focuses solely on migrants’ universal freedom of movement.

The phrase “freedom of movement” is tied to migration related to the climate crisis, Upper South Carolina Bishop Daniel Paul Richards said.

The Diocese of Rio Grande, among many others along the Southern border, has witnessed firsthand the effects of this compound crisis. Rio Grande Bishop Michael Hunn told the house about a parishioner who picked up a man who was stranded on the side of the road with nothing to eat or drink. The parishioner took him to a hotel and paid for food and water, which Hunn said was like a retelling of the parable of the good Samaritan.

Hunn also brought up legal concerns in Texas, where anyone caught helping a migrant without first asking for documentation could be arrested for human trafficking. “This resolution might keep people in my diocese out of jail for doing what we have to do,” he said.

San Diego Bishop Susan Brown Snook also spoke in favor.

“I’m a border bishop,” Snook said. “The suffering is extreme, and this resolution is essential work we must do as a church.”

— Logan Crews