Surprises, excitement at the 164th Diocesan Convention

The 164th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of California convened Saturday morning at 9 a.m. in Gresham Hall at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. A brief, yet energetic, service of singing, scripture reading, and prayer preceded the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus’s annual episcopal address.

The convention business and worship were arranged around music from African American traditions, following the overarching theme of racial reconciliation for the convention. It was this theme that brought the Rt. Rev. Prince Singh, bishop of Rochester to preach at the Convention Eucharist the night before and inspired a litany of reconciliation during the Eucharist. Readings through the day of convention were in English, Cantonese, Spanish, and Tagalog. Unlike in years past, those reading in languages other than English invited the convention to respond “Thanks be to God” in the language not of delegates’ choice, but of the reading itself. The Rev. Tommy Dillon. St. Aidan’s, San Francisco, remarked, “We're speaking in tongues and dancing!”

In his address, Andrus praised the congregations of the Diocese of California for how celebratory their experiences together are, at least the occasions he witnesses — primarily baptisms, confirmations, receptions, and reaffirmations. He noted ways congregations welcome people as they are, stand up for people’s rights in our civil society and within the church, and demonstrate community support during life transitions.

From this place of noting the celebration, he encouraged congregations to work to be an invitational church during 2014. He suggested learning to use public narrative to tell why Jesus Christ and The Episcopal Church are important and being early to events to welcome newcomers. Video of Bishop Andrus’ address will be available soon.

Following the bishop’s address, the morning progressed at a steady pace with a mixture of reports, table discussions, and resolution discussions. Of the three resolutions proposed from the floor, the convention only agreed to take two of them up. The resolution that brought the most discussion was Resolution 2 on fossil fuel divestment.

The originally proposed resolution was substituted by a resolution approved by the Executive Council and Standing Committee among other bodies in the diocese. The Official Youth Presence was most vocal in its support for the original resolution. The certified resolutions — including courtesy resolutions recognizing the contributions of the Rev. David Ota to General Convention and the Rev. Canon Mark Stanger as he leaves to spend time as a missionary in Jerusalem — are available here.

Although much of the day ran smoothly, it was not without its bumps and trials. Excellent visual aids assisted in presentations on the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry 40th Anniversary Celebration and deanery presentations, however early in the morning Spanish translation ceased when the translator disappeared. The Rev. Anna Lange-Soto graciously accepted the invitation of convention organizers to translate so that Spanish-speaking delegates could follow the business of the convention in real time.

There were no elections of delegates or alternates after the first ballot, and the second ballot is being re-canvassed at the direction of the bishop. After the two ballots for election, the results from the ballot machine seem as though there may have been error, so the Standing Committee, Secretary of Convention, and bishop will all be reviewing the votes. The provisional election results are here.

This year the Margaret Wosser award was given posthumously to the Rev. Sandy Sandrock, who worked for decades to build the church through planned giving assistance and ensure its sustainability for years to come. The convention also welcomed President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings to speak. Jennings awarded Sarah Lawton, St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco the House of Deputies medal for her advocacy inside and outside the church and her commitment to The Episcopal Church.

Even with resolutions added from the floor, the work of the convention moved smoothly and was completed before 5 p.m. Next year’s convention will be a weekend earlier, Friday and Saturday, October 17–18, 2014, so mark your calendars now. Next year’s convention will likely feature earlier deadlines so that delegates can have more time to reflect and discern their votes and presenters more time to polish their visuals.