I think most folks who have seen this blog know that it began reflecting on matters beyond chaplaincy. That’s why, among others things, I have written many posts about General Convention. General Convention has always been important to me as an Episcopalian (I know that may seem obvious, but I bet we all know enough Episcopalians who don’t think about General Convention), and especially as a wonk. I appreciate that the ecclesiology expressed in the Episcopal Church considers that the Holy Spirit moves in each person, and so we hear the Holy Spirit most clearly when the greatest number of us are thinking together. That is the value of General Convention: more than 1,000 folks are gathered to share how they’re hearing the Spirit and lead the Episcopal Church accordingly.
With that in mind, there is a great opportunity available to all of us this year. The 80th General Convention was delayed a year by the pandemic, and will gather this summer. That also allowed for time for an unexpected chance for so many to participate. From the Episcopal News Service: “General Convention committees to welcome public to first-ever online legislative hearings.”
If you’ve never been to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (and I think every Episcopalian should attend, even if only as a Visitor -yes, that’s an official status - and only for a day or two), you may not be aware how matters are decided in General Convention. It looks an awful lot like legislative meetings of the United States or of the various states. Things are voted on. And like those other legislative bodies, a lot of the important work happens in committees. It’s really in the committees that legislation is considered and shaped, and, especially, that testimony is heard.
In General Convention, any person registered (including Visitors and Exhibitors, another real status) can testify before a Committee, as time allows. Granted, in meetings in person Deputies and Bishops get the first chance to testify, because they may be from other committees, and so need to get back to that work. However, anyone else can put a word in. Testifying by individuals adds information and often a lot of reality and emotional power to the consideration and shaping of a resolution. A resolution is less abstract when you hear how real people are affected by the issues addressed.
This year at least some committees are meeting ahead of Convention, and meeting online. That will give opportunities for testimony in the Zoom meetings, and that might allow testimony from many of us who wouldn’t otherwise be involved in Convention. As a chaplain I think that’s a great opportunity. We have perspectives on how issues affect people who are receiving healthcare or working in healthcare institutions, perspectives that aren’t heard that often. That’s not to suggest our parish-based clergy and lay siblings wouldn’t care, but that we live in an environment they don’t see every day.
So, ready the article carefully to see how you might participate. Then, go the General Convention Virtual Binder. You can find all the resolutions currently received. For background on the A resolutions (remember, there are A, B, C, and D resolutions, but for this purpose the differences aren’t important), check out the Reports to General Convention, also known as the Blue Book. A few meetings will have happened before you see this, but many more will be coming. You can find the schedule here. And remember to check back regularly on both resolutions and committee meetings. Resolutions will be coming in right up to the first days of Convention; and while you might not have an opportunity to participate in Zoom testimony, you will certainly have an opportunity to let your own bishop and Deputies know what you think. You can also find the lists of committee members here, and so perhaps share perspectives with a bishop or Deputy you know. Oh, and if you don't know who's in your own diocesan deputation (and every one of us who's endorsed has a diocesan connection) you can find that out here.
This really is an important opportunity. Please take the time to read the article, and then explore your own innate wonkiness to help shape the positions and direction of the Episcopal Church