General Convention: Day 7

Wednesday, July 1, was a very big legislative day for the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Churchwide restructuring, the draft budget, the Church’s relationship with alcohol, and marriage equality in The Episcopal Church.

The House of Deputies started its legislative session by continuing debate on A004 Amend I.4.1-8 - Restructure Executive Council, which had been suspended due to a lack of translation in Spanish the evening before. Several amendments — including to reduce the size of Executive Council to 10 — were offered, but failed. The most debate about the resolution was what role the Executive Council could play in directing its chair (the Presiding Bishop) regarding personnel matters. Other important issues before the House of Deputies included drastically reducing the size of Standing Commissions. A final hot issue on Wednesday morning was D013 about budgeting for The Episcopal Church. While the resolution decreased the asking of each diocese from 19% to 15%, it also established that, “Effective January 1, 2019, failure to make full payment or to receive a waiver shall render the diocese ineligible to receive grants or loans from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society unless approved by Executive Council.”

After lunch, the two houses were in joint session for a presentation on the triennial budget and to ask questions about the budget. Before the budget session, though, anyone — including media — was allowed on the floor of the House of Deputies for photos! Not everyone from the Diocese of California had returned from lunch, so there are a view different photos of the deputation. As the convention continues but starts drawing to a close, needs for food and caffeine are high as exhaustion levels rise.

The House of Deputies spent most of its afternoon legislative session debating and acting on the marriage equality resolutions that the House of Bishops had previously passed. Each marriage resolution was given 20 minutes for debate, after a 15-minute period of deputies asking questions of the special committee on marriage. At the request of at least three dioceses’ lay and clerical deputations, both resolutions — one about canons, one about liturgies — were voted on by orders. During testimony, the Rev. Paul Fromberg said that the rite previously approved for blessing same-sex unions (“I will bless you and you will be a blessing”) was "a gift from LGBT* people to the whole church” now that it is available to all people.

In a vote by orders, each diocese gets two votes: one clerical, one lay. The members of each order are polled, and the majority of the poll gets the yes-or-no vote. If the order is split, it is recorded and voted as “divided,” which is effectively a no vote. A vote by orders is a constitutional provision at the General Convention. It can sometimes be seen as a stalling tactic, but is also a tool to see if there is a disparity of opinions between clergy and lay. Even voting by orders, both resolutions passed resoundingly. The clergy and laity of the Diocese of California voted for both resolutions in both orders. More information about the impact of these resolutions in the Diocese of California will be forthcoming.  

While the House of Deputies debated marriage resolutions concerning marriage equality, the House of Bishops took up the church’s response and engagement with and response to alcohol and substance abuse. They engaged D014 on questioning ordinands about their substance use, A158 to create a taskforce about alcohol policies, and A159 specifically about the Church’s role in these discussions. The House of Bishops authorized a constitutional amendment to allow the authorization of liturgies for trial use without specifically authorizing them as part of Prayer Book revision. 

Thursday, July 2, feels like Friday, but it is not. Many more resolutions are yet to come before both houses, and the budget will be voted on Thursday. Each day of the convention, not covered in daily updates to the Diocese of California, both houses have concurred with the other house by using the consent calendar — passing swaths of resolutions at once when there is no objection, only consent. To see what each house has accomplished day-by-day, visit the legislative actions page of generalconvention.org and click either of the journal links on the right. Each house’s journal downloads as a PDF. To follow what’s happening in real time, look on Twitter for the hashtag #gc78. Watch the Diocese of California’s Facebook page for updates, articles, and photos.