GC81 Daily Digest, June 24: Ethnic Ministries festival, and a vote on 83rd General Convention cities

Posted Jun 24, 2024

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] The 81st General Convention is in its second full day, meeting at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Legislative committees continue to meet and the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops are meeting in their respective houses for legislative sessions.

You can find full, regularly updated ENS coverage here. The ENS primer, or everything you need to follow the 81st General Convention, is here.

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 24.

Episcopalians of African, Asiamerican, Indigenous and Latino/Hispanic heritage gathered on the opening night of the 81st General Convention, June 23, at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, for the New Community Festival hosted by The Episcopal Church’s Department of Ethnic Ministries. Photo: Wilfreddy Alexander Carmona Arias

Church’s Ethnic Ministries host community festival first night of General Convention

The Episcopal Church’s department of Ethnic Ministries hosted the New Community Festival the first night of the 81st General Convention on June 23 at the Cathedral of the Assumption.

The festival was a celebration of the church’s growing racial and ethnic diversity. It was also an opportunity for Episcopalians of African, Asiamerican, Indigenous and Latino/Hispanic heritage to network and to have fun through a shared meal and dancing.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate ourselves, to celebrate our culture, to explore and have fun and to enjoy ourselves – judgment-free,” the Rev. Isaiah Shaneequa Brokenleg, the presiding bishop’s staff officer for racial reconciliation, told Episcopal News Service. “We need to have places where Jesus can be found on the faces of all of us because I think, sometimes, that white-tiousness makes us blind or makes our church blind to the Jesus that’s in our Black and brown faces everywhere.”

— Shireen Korkzan

Committees adopt resolutions on reparations, Indigenous liturgy

The Racial Truth-Telling, Reckoning & Healing committees June 24 adopted two proposed resolutions with amendments. 

The committees acted on the following resolutions:

A095, “Continue the Task Force on Indigenous Liturgy.” If approved by the two houses, they would be funded $300,000 to continue its work through the next triennium, 2025-2027. The resolution was amended to include the year the task force was created, 2023. 

A015, “Owning a Commitment to Reparations.” If approved by the two houses, a reparations fund task force would be created to establish a fund of a to-be-determined amount from church assets that would be used as financial payment to Indigenous people and descendants of enslaved people. Two-thirds of the task force would be people of color. The Executive Council would oversee the task force.

The meeting took place before the House of Bishops and House of Deputies convened legislative sessions on the second day of 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.

— Shireen Korkzan

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry congratulates Paul Neuhauser for his 52 years of service on The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility during a June 24 lunch in Neuhauser’s honor. Photo: Diana Wilcox

Paul Neuhauser honored for 52 years of service to The Episcopal Church’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility on June 24 honored Paul Neuhauser, who was a founding member of that committee, then known as the Committee on Social Responsibility in Investments, in 1970 and served until 2022.

In addition to a lunch in his honor, he also was presented with an icon of Christ.

Neuhauser told the dozens of people attending that he became involved in this issue at the request of Presiding Bishop John Hines, whose legacy was one of work toward social and racial justice. Newhauser helped him file suit against Dow Chemical to stop production of napalm used in the war in Vietnam.

Hines, who served from 1965 to 1974, he said, wanted The Episcopal Church to be a better corporate citizen in the way it invested its assets. Once the committee was formed, he and the committee challenged General Motors to withdraw from apartheid-era South Africa.

Hearings against copper mines in Puerto Rico helped establish the committee’s expanded work into environmental issues and for Indigenous rights. From these efforts came creation of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of faith- and values-based investors of which The Episcopal Church is a part.

The committee also showed a clip from a longer film about the committee that described its history and impact.

In a brochure handed out at the event, the committee said that it has been effective at making changes in a variety of social issues including Israel-Palestine, climate change, fossil fuels and human rights.

— Melodie Woerman

Deputies endorse 5 nominee cities for 83rd General Convention, add safety concerns

The House of Deputies voted June 24 to recommend a slate of five nominated cities to host the 83rd General Convention in 2030, but only after deputies debated concerns that some locations might not be fully welcoming or safe for women, people of color or LGBTQ+ deputies.

The discussion echoed a debate at the 80th General Convention two years ago, when deputies considered how to plan future General Conventions after the Supreme Court had just overturned Roe v. Wade and whether to avoid meeting in states where abortion now is illegal.

This year’s resolution, A002, recommends holding the 83rd General Convention in one of the following five cities and dioceses: Kansas City in the Diocese of West Missouri, Minneapolis in the Diocese of Minnesota, Portland in the Diocese of Oregon, San Juan in the Diocese of Puerto Rico or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

After debating a series of amendments, the House of Deputies passed A002 with additional language calling on the Joint Standing Committee on Planning Arrangements and the General Convention Office “to take into consideration the legal protections and safeguards for vulnerable members of our community attending General Convention.”

The amendment gives particular emphasis to “the legality of life-saving medical care for persons who are or may be pregnant, legal protections for People of Color, and legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals” as well as “current rates of violence against the LGBTQ+ Community and Communities of Color when selecting potential host sites for General Convention.”

The resolution now heads to the House of Bishops.

— David Paulsen

House of Bishops passes resolution supporting gun storage safety

The House of Bishops passed Resolution B004, “Commending Safe Gun Storage,” which supports practices and counseling that can prevent suicides, homicides and unintentional deaths and injuries caused by firearms.

The church’s support would come from various efforts, such as distributing information and materials that promote gun storage safety. Another example would be supporting legislation and policies that create gun safety incentives and requirements, such as imposing punishments on adults who make unsecured firearms accessible to children and providing gun owners a secure place to store their firearms “in times of crisis.”

Former Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, who is a co-convener of Bishops United Against Gun Violence – a network of more than 100 Episcopal bishops working to curtail gun violence – spoke in favor of B004.

“We’re here to beg all of you to really follow your heart … and pass this resolution,” he said.

Bishops United Against Gun Violence will hold a General Convention Witness Against Gun Violence event on June 27, the penultimate night of the convention, at Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville. The event will include remarks from the church’s presiding bishop-elect and speeches from several young participants in Youth Working to End Gun Violence.

— Shireen Korkzan

House of Bishops passes resolution to support Armenia

The House of Bishops passed Resolution D062, “Support and Solidarity with Armenia,” which calls on The Episcopal Church to promote educational initiatives – such as webinars, informational resources, lectures and dialogue groups – that explain the history of the Armenian Church.

The resolution also calls on the church to condemn Azerbaijan “and other regional actors that diminish and threaten to eliminate the ancient, indigenous Armenian identity and presence from the region,” while standing in solidarity with the people of Armenia and refugees from the Nagorno-Karabakh region in southeastern Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karaback covers the southern part of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The region had been under control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war ended there in 1994, three years after both nations declared independence from what was then the Soviet Union. The region was mostly inhabited by Armenians until 2023, when Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military offensive.

The resolution’s language was amended to say “military and political violence” instead of “genocide.” The resolution, if the House of Deputies concurs, authorizes The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations and Episcopal Public Policy Network to advocate for and promote U.S. government policies and legislation that support the church’s stance on this issue.

— Shireen Korkzan

Bishops, deputies and other convention-goers who identify as LGBTQ+ gather for a photo opportunity arranged by the Task Force on LGBTQ+ Ministries. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

LGBTQ+ bishops, deputies and others celebrate progress toward inclusion with photo op

More than 80 bishops, deputies and other convention-goers who identify as LGBTQ+ gathered in the Kentucky International Convention Center for a photo opportunity arranged by the Task Force on LGBTQ+ Inclusion. Most of them had just attended a joint session of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies at which they discussed the budget for the next triennium.

Six LGBTQ+ bishops, including Deon Johnson (Missouri), Thomas Brown (Maine), Bonnie Perry (Michigan), Phyllis Spiegel (Utah), Mary Glasspool (New York) and Jeffrey Mello (Connecticut), also posed for their own photo (below).

“Today’s photo op was truly an outward and visible sign of how much progress The Episcopal Church has made toward fully including LGBTQ people in the work and witness of church,” said the Rev. Canon Susan Russell of the Diocese of Los Angeles, a veteran of what she calls the “inclusion wars” for recognition of gay Episcopalians in all orders and sacraments of the church.

“I remember 24 years ago at the General Convention in Denver when a handful of us planned to vest and serve at an Integrity Eucharist as out gay clergy, and we were warned ‘you will never work in the church again,’” said Russell, who chairs the task force. “There is of course still work to do, but today’s gathering of LGBTQ clergy and laity – including members of our House of Bishops – was literally more than we could have imagined in Denver. I am so grateful.”

—Janet Kawamoto

Bishops Deon Johnson (Missouri), Thomas Brown (Maine), Bonnie Perry (Michigan), Phyllis Spiegel (Utah), Mary Glasspool (New York) and Jeffrey Mello (Connecticut) pose for a photo to celebrate the progress made toward full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in The Episcopal Church’s life and ministry. Photo: Susan Russell

House of Bishops takes action on Prayer Book, liturgy resolutions

Nine resolutions dealing with a variety of Prayer Book and liturgy-related matters were debated and voted on by the House of Bishops during their afternoon session June 24.

All resolutions had been discussed by from the legislative committees on Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music before heading to the House of Bishops, which is the house of initial action for all matters from those committees.

Alabama Bishop Glenda Curry, chair of the bishops’ legislative committee, introduced each resolution before the house acted.

Three resolutions drew some debate.

C032 offers the church’s remorse for its role in “in the irreparable harm suffered by Indigenous children who attended Indigenous boarding and residential schools in the 1800s and 1900s, and acknowledges that the effect of that harm carries on in boarding school survivors and their descendants.”

It also offers a prayer, titled “A Prayer to Remember the Innocents,” which the resolution says the church receives as a gift and a way to remember children forced into boarding schools.

South Dakota Bishop Jonathan Folts said most of the nation’s Indigenous boarding schools were in his diocese, and the pain caused by those schools remains an open wound. Adopting the resolution would be a balm for that wound. He noted the prayer was written by an Indigenous woman in his state and had been adopted by the Diocese of South Dakota convention for use.

Retired Rhode Island Bishop Geralyn Wolf expressed concern about the prayer’s poetry, and retired Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe suggested it be reconfigured for its flow. Massachusetts Assistant Bishop Carol Gallagher noted that the prayer was written by people for those who need it.

Folts reminded the bishops that the prayer came from Native folks, “and they don’t need white people telling them again how to pray.”

On a voice vote, the resolution then was adopted.

Resolution A109 directs the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to create liturgical materials for lamenting the historic evil of slavery and celebrating the emancipation of enslaved peoples, and to make the materials widely available.

The resolution initially noted Juneteenth as the end of slavery in the United States, but Mississippi Bishop-elect Dorothy Sanders Wells noted that the end of slavery didn’t officially take place until the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865. Arizona Bishop Jennifer Reddall moved to strike that language, and the bishops adopted her amendment.

The resolution then was adopted on a voice vote.

Resolution A131 calls for the creation of a new supplement to The Hymnal 1982; the most recent supplement, Voices Found, was created in 2003.

The proposal drew criticism from retired Springfield Bishop Daniel Martin, mostly for its $750,000 budget request. “Really?” he asked, adding that alternative music can easily be found and this expenditure would be money foolishly spent.

On a voice vote, the resolution was defeated.

The bishops also acted on these resolutions:

  • Amended and adopted A111, for developing resources and models for online/in person hybrid worship after cutting the project’s budget request from $50,000 to $10,000.
  • Adopted A113, creating a contemporary-language version of Rite I prayers where they don’t currently exist.
  • Adopted with amendment A114, creating an expansive language version of Eucharistic Prayer C.
  • Adopted A115, creating alternative texts for the Good Friday liturgy.
  • Amended and adopted A130 for creation of alternative versions of hymns that address issues of colonialist, racist, white supremacist, imperialistic, and nationalistic language. The bishops cut the budget request from $200,000 to $50,000.
  • Voted to take no further action on C018, on retaining a printed form of the Book of Common Prayer.

—Melodie Woerman