By Elise Johnstone
A Reflection on the Arrival Day for the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church
Salt Lake City, Utah
The Rev. Cn. Elise Johnstone, deputation chair
What a whirlwind! The legislative sessions of the whole General Convention have not yet begun, but there is already a flurry of activity here in Salt Lake City! General Convention, the governing body of The Episcopal Church, that gathers every three years to deliberate and listen to God’s call for our whole faith body, is gathering this week and next in Salt Lake City at the Salt Palace Convention Center downtown. Our convention is a bicameral legislature, not unlike the British Parliament with the House of Lords and the House of Commons, or our own federal legislature, with the Congress and the Senate. Each diocese in The Episcopal Church has at least one bishop (several have more than one) and each has four clergy (priests or deacons) deputies and four lay deputies. The Bishops make up the House of Bishops and the priests, deacons, and laity make up the House of Deputies. We elected our deputation back at the Diocese of Lexington’s February 2014 Convention in Covington.
The Convention officially begins on June 25, but already the committees that assist in reviewing resolutions that can come before General Convention have met and some already have scheduled a second meeting for early tomorrow morning! We have Dave Sevigny, St. Raphael’s, Lexington serving on the Church Pension Group legislative committee, Mary T. Yeiser, Emmanuel, Winchester serving on the Privilege and Courtesy legislative committee, Ann Davis McClain, St. Peter’s, Paris, serving on the Stewardship legislative committee, Elise Johnstone, Canon to the Ordinary, serving on the Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations legislative committee, and Bishop Doug Hahn serving on the Congregational Vitality legislative committee. Margaret Shanks, Resurrection, Jessamine County, Matthew Young, St. Paul’s, Newport, Jeff Queen, St. Andrew’s, Ft. Thomas, Jim Ware, Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington, as well as alternates Peter D’Angio, Trinity, Covington and Holli Powell, Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington will be attending other legislative committees (like Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music, Constitution and Canons, Structure, Theology of Marriage, and several more) in order for our deputation to have a broad view of the resolutions coming before Convention.
The other big action today is that Registration and the Exhibit Hall were open for the full day today. When the Registration desks opened, there was a throng of people ready to get their name badges and dive in the deep end! This Convention is a unique one, because it is striving to be nearly paperless. It was discovered that it was cheaper to rent iPads for all Bishops and Deputies than to print the initial materials required for members to prepare for Convention, let alone all the additional paper that would have to be generated as resolutions moved from one House to the other, getting amended, so the organizers elected to rent all members of Convention iPads. There is a special intranet that exists for legislative matters, so theoretically, the connectivity that makes something like this possible will not be overburdened like if everyone were using Wifi. There is a learning curve to this, of course, and so all members will have to be gracious with one another while the adjustments to the new system occur.
Tomorrow, there is a presentation for candidates for Presiding Bishop as well as the orientation for all Bishops and Deputies, and that together with legislative hearings, will make for an active and full day.
We are grateful for all who are keeping us and all members of General Convention in prayer. This is prayerful work, as we try to discern where God is calling the Church to be. Stay with us the next several days as the excitement that is Convention unfolds!