General Convention – Orientation, Hearings and the next PB

Convention is underway. This morning began with an early morning run, coffee on the go and a 7 AM hearing focused on a proposal to bring the full resources of modern technology and media strategy to sharing the Gospel as widely as possible.

There’s a proposal before Evangelism and Communications to use up to 3 million dollars in the coming triennium to create an online experimental evangelism initiative. We’d be creating downloadable resources, training people in different contexts how to reach out to their online neighborhoods and looking carefully and critically at how effective this is in doing what we want to do. The most common concern in the room was that we weren’t committing enough money and we weren’t moving quickly enough. Today we held hearing on the proposal. Tomorrow we’ll start working on sharpening it up and then hopefully move it out the main floor of both the House of Deputies and Bishops for a vote. (The sooner it gets acted upon, the more likely we might be to find the money in the budget to do this work.) It would a really exciting initiative if it comes about – just the sort of thing I believe the wider church structures ought to be focusing on in support of the parishes and dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

We left the hearing rooms and I had a chance to grab a muffin and a banana on our way into our first joint session – hearing the opening remarks of the present Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. (You can read the Presiding Bishop’s remarks here. I was delighted with the imagery she was using in her final address – I’ll missing having a scientifically trained primate.)

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The bishops were excused from the House of Deputies and we sat down for the first time this convention in the House of Bishops. People figured out which table they were assigned, greeted some old friends that hadn’t been to a meeting since the last convention and were trained about how to use the electronic media tools that will support the legislative work this convention. The rest of the remarks were preliminary and reminders about the norms of the House – we haven’t formally convened or taken the roll yet, so no business could be done.

The afternoon was historic. It was the first time the whole convention (and really any Episcopalian) was given a chance to hear all four candidates for Presiding Bishop give statements and responses to questions from across the church. There were some amazing and poignant moments. At least two of the speakers were moved to tears as they talked and opened themselves up to the thousands of people in the room. We have four extraordinary candidates. Each one brings different strengths. All four will serve the Episcopal Church well.

It’s a wonderful embarrassment of riches in this moment.

After the hearings, I and the rest of our deputation from Rhode Island returned to the hotel had a chance to debrief a bit, figured out how to grab dinner and then went off to the evening meetings. I went to a presentation by Tom Bair, the spouse of my predecessor in Rhode Island Gerry Wolf. Tom, an actor, has memorized the Gospel of Mark and presents it verbatim in a dramatic retelling. I’ve heard the gospel read through in one sitting, but never seen it as effectively proclaimed as Tom did tonight.

Finally back to the room to catch up on email and do a little writing.

By the way, I submitted three resolutions at this convention. One was really written and supposed to be submitted as part of the report of the Science, Technology and Faith task force, but was left out. It’s on the advantages and challenges of GMO in the food chain. (The sort of resolution that provides guidance for the Office of Governmental Affairs in its lobbying work should the resolution be adopted.) The other two have to do with strengthening our focus on constructive engagement with both parties in the Palestinian Israeli conflict. You can read about those two resolutions here. I think I may have a chance to testify on both of them tomorrow.

Author: Nicholas Knisely

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