General Convention in Anaheim

I started this blog just about exactly six years ago as a tool to keep people up to date on what I was hearing and seeing as a first time deputy to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I used it again in 2006 to report on my second convention. With my third convention hard upon us, it would be a shame not to go back to the same discipline of writing up my thinking and reporting on my experiences.

So – let’s do just that.

My first two conventions I was a deputy from the Diocese of Bethlehem and I used this tool as a way for people from that diocese and from my parish (Trinity Church in Bethlehem) to hear directly from me regarding the various controversies that were facing the Episcopal Church.

Now I’m a deputy from the Diocese of Arizona, and so I’ll be using this blog to report to them, and my new congregation, Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix.

But there will be some differences this time around too. Following the Convention in 2006 a group of us, led by Jim Naughton, created a meta-blog site called Episcopal Cafe. The blog was partly a desire to be able to have a single place for people to find out information about the Episcopal Church from a moderate/progressive viewpoint and partly to have a vehicle to quickly respond to the various charges made against the Episcopal Church’s actions in 2003 and 2006. It’s been pretty effective at that and Jim and the rest of the news team over on the Lead are planning to continue to cover convention as best they can. (I’ll be helping out a bit on the side, but not very effectively. I’ve got enough to keep me busy on the floor of Convention.)

The second difference has been the creation of similar sort of site by Craig Uffman and some friends of mine on the moderate/conservative side of things: Covenant-Communion. I’m an occasional poster to that site, and charged with keeping my eyes open for new multimedia that might be worth sharing over there. I’ve not been as active as I might have been, but I’ve learned a great deal from the conversation that occurs on the site and I’m happy to be connected with them even if it’s slightly tenuous at the moment. That site hasn’t garnered the readership of the Cafe, and has a slightly different focus, but I think if you read it and the Cafe in conversation, you’ll have a pretty decent sense of where the fully spectrum of the Episcopal Church is found these days.

Now, what do I think is going to be the big take-away from Convention this year?

Money. Specifically the lack thereof.

Between the economic meltdown and the lack of commitment to evangelism and youth ministry, the Episcopal Church is at present a rapidly aging, increasingly cash strapped entity. From what I’ve been told, there’s a 23 million dollar gap (perhaps now 30 million) between what has been asked to be funded by Convention and what income is expected to do that funding. And since a goodly chunk of our triennial budget is spent on health care, support for missions, and missionary dioceses, we really don’t have a lot areas where we can cut without significant pain.

I’ve been in this position in a number of dioceses and parishes during my ministry. The only way out of the box is to face the problem honestly and head-on. If you do that, there’s a good chance that you can grow the budget to the point that you’ll be able to restore some of the funding. If you don’t, it’s just going to get worse, probably much worse, over the next three years.

We have a limited amount of funds and a big problem.

We as a Convention are going to have to be very wise about where we put our limited resources.

As a friend of mine said the other day, if we don’t build “capacity” and our resources, we’re not going to have the tools to do justice no matter how great the need.

I wonder if the fact that we’re going to need to realize that we’re broke is going to change the dynamic at Convention? Gosh I hope so. We can’t afford business as usual anymore. Here’s hoping that we can hear that.

Author: Nicholas Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

7 thoughts on “General Convention in Anaheim”

  1. I totally agree with the head-on approach method of re-configurring the budget. I would suggest using the method of basing the decisions on shared values to guide the direction OUR invested resources – both monetary and talent. Talent (btw) is FREE.

  2. I think we could do with a trimming down of General Convention and the overall Episcopal Church bureaucracy and intensely focusing on evangelism (not development, not “mission partnerships”, evangelism) and establishing our identity not as the “proud to be heretics” denomination, but the “merely Catholic” denomination.
    I am praying for all GC deputies, and hopefully, there won’t be too big of a fight at GC this year. Peace!

  3. Tis a good idea you suggest Karen. The issue is that I’m not sure we actually have enough of an agreement about what our “shared values” are that we’d be able to actually use them as a tool to help us make budgetary decisions.

  4. As a “newbie” Episcopalian a giant 2 week convention sure looks like an anachronism. Worse, it appears that the emphases on “the big fat Episcopal wedding” leaves us spending three years posturing for the two weeks. Is there any way a group could be more internally focussed? Jesus sent the church to be externally focussed on the great commission of making disciples. Since we don’t have any winning lottery tickets to pass out, what If we trimmed the GC to 3 days of reports-perhaps then we could go be about helping the world to see Jesus. I join you and Ian in the call for evangelism!

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