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General Convention

The triennial Episcopal family reunion, worship extravaganza and legislative session that is General Convention was back in full force during its meeting in Lousville, Kentucky, after the pandemic had pared down the previous gathering. This year, Convention ran for six legislative days, and was shorter than most past conventions. It was not without an appearance by COVID-19, as enough participants came down with the virus that some wore masks and a nearby pharmacy reportedly ran out of Paxlovid.

General Convention, as the church’s primary governing body, splits its authority between the House of Bishops and House of Deputies. The two houses handled 390 resolutions. Read below for notable decisions made by the two houses.

Elected the Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe to be its the 28th presiding bishop

The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, was elected June 26 on the first ballot by the House of Bishops to serve as the 28th presiding bishop. To win, Rowe needed at least 82 votes from the 158 bishops who cast handwritten ballots. He received 89 votes. His election was confirmed by the House of Deputies, with a nearly unanimous majority, 95% in favor.

He will begin his nine-year term as the public face and voice of The Episcopal Church and its chief pastor on Nov. 1, succeeding Curry, whose last day is Oct. 31.

The traditional elaborate installation service at Washington National Cathedral will not occur as originally announced. Instead, a simpler rite will take place Nov. 2 in the small chapel at the Church Center in New York. Rowe said he has “decided to begin this ministry in a new way.” The service will be livestreamed, and simultaneous interpretation will be available in multiple languages to ensure churchwide access.

 

Rowe becomes the youngest bishop ever elected to serve as the church’s presiding bishop and the second youngest overall since the first, William White, who was 41 when his first of two terms began in 1789.

Re-elected Julia Ayala Harris as House of Deputies president and elected the Rev. Steve Pankey as deputies’ vice president

House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris was reelected June 25, winning decisively on the first ballot and fending off challenges from two others. She

received 521 votes out of the 829 certified deputies on the floor for the election.

The election was unusual for featuring an incumbent House of Deputies president facing a challenge. A sitting president has only faced a challenger once in modern history, in 2003.

Unlike the presiding bishop, who is elected to head the House of Bishops for a nine-year term, the House of Deputies president is elected to a term that spans from one General Convention to the next – typically three years – and can be reelected for two additional terms.

 

The Rev. Steve Pankey, a deputy from the Diocese of Kentucky, was elected to VP from a slate of four candidates. Episcopal Church Canons require that the two positions be held by leaders from different orders, clergy and lay, so the outcome of the presidential election determines who is eligible on the ballot for vice president.

Passed a $143 million budget for the next triennium

General Convention adopted a $143 million churchwide budget for 2025-27 without amendment and with little debate. The adopted plan maintains the 15% assessment on revenue that dioceses contribute to the churchwide budget. In a related action, convention rejected a proposal that would have set a target for sharply reducing the assessment to 10% by 2033.

The budget plan funds 140 full-time-equivalent staff positions, along with grant programs, churchwide governance, operational functions and initiatives focused on some of the church’s top ministry priorities, including racial healing, evangelism and creation care.

Approved a constitutional change to clearly define the Book of Common Prayer

The Book of Common Prayer has a new constitutional definition: “Those liturgical forms and other texts authorized by the General Convention per this article and the Canons of this Church.” This is a revision of Article X that was first approved two years ago by the 80th General Convention. Constitutional changes require affirmative votes at two successive conventions. The resolution will take effect Jan. 1, 2025.

The previous version of Article X of the Constitution laid out how the Book of Common Prayer can be revised, but it did not address the status of other authorized liturgies that are not proposed revisions to the existing physical book. Over a dozen liturgical texts have been “authorized” – for trial use, experimental use, or simply “made available” – by General Convention over the years.

 

Bishops and deputies also authorized two alternative versions of Prayer C in Holy Eucharist Rite II and a variety of alternative readings or parts of readings for the Good Friday liturgy that many see as antisemitic.

 

In a related matter, convention declined to take any action on a resolution which would have reviewed the requirement that only baptized persons receive Holy Communion.

 

Bishops and deputies refused to authorize a new supplement to The Hymnal 1982 but passed a resolution authorizing the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to spend the next three years developing a digital collection of alternative versions of hymns to address “colonialist, racist, white supremacist, imperialistic, and nationalistic language.”

Re-examined its clergy disciplinary canons while agreeing to consider how lay leaders might be disciplined for wrongdoing

One of the top issues heading into Louisville was how the church might reform its Title IV Canons governing clergy discipline. General Convention routinely reviews and updates Title IV, though this year a series of proposals were submitted specifically in response to concerns across the church that the current disciplinary process sometimes causes secondary harm to complainants and that bishops are not always held to the same disciplinary standards as other clergy.

Nearly all of the 28 resolutions were passed by both houses, with or without amendment, or were referred to an interim body for more study over the next three years.

 

Although the Title IV Canons only pertain to clergy discipline, General Convention also asked the standing commission to study whether canonical changes are merited in response to disciplinary matters involving lay leaders.

Supported changes in the structures of seven of its dioceses

Bishops and deputies agreed to allow the dioceses of Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan to form the new Diocese of the Great Lakes, while the dioceses of Eau Claire, Fond du Lac and Milwaukee got the go-ahead to reunite as the Diocese of Wisconsin.

Convention approved a resolution to merge Micronesia, another area mission, with the Diocese of Hawaiʻi.

Both houses agreed to Navajo Episcopalians’ request to elevate their area mission to a missionary diocese.

Moved towards more full communion relationships

Bishops and deputies approved the next step toward full communion between The Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church, saying that the convention “joyfully anticipate advancing towards full communion with The United Methodist Church.”

The convention “gladly” affirmed a resolutionto authorize the continuing bilateral dialogue between The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

 

General Convention commended Sharing the Gifts of Communion (Augsburg Agreement) as the basis for a full communion relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern (ELKB) (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria)

 

The Episcopal Church currently is in full communion with seven churches: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; the Moravian Church-Northern and Southern Provinces; the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, India; the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht; the Philippine Independent Church; and the Church of Sweden.

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