Sunday at GC79: Worship, Witness, and Voting

 Sunday afternoon featured almost three hours of voting for positions in church leadership and committees.

Sunday afternoon featured almost three hours of voting for positions in church leadership and committees.

We greet you this night in the name of God and with greetings from many tired saints from General Convention!

I've heard it said from lots of folks here that General Convention brings out the best and the worst of the Church. I suppose the better part of two weeks moving from hotel rooms to conference rooms to food courts to convention centers and everywhere in between will do that! But today overall was a very good day. Megan, Lydia, and I made the short walk to St. David's Episcopal Church for their 9:00am service. St. David's is a rather large parish in Austin with numerous worship offerings and educational opportunities on a Sunday (even in Summer!). About half the congregation for our service were visitors from GC79, and the folks from St. David's were very welcoming. I've gotta admit, I thought I had a good amount of empathy and understanding for parents who bring babies and toddlers into worship, but now I really, really understand how difficult that experience can be! I give thanks that St. Alban's has welcomed so many young families with children -- it was a joy to be met with smiles even when Lydia got a little excited from time to time. 

 St. David's as seen from our hotel (near the top middle of the picture). Always nice to walk to church!

St. David's as seen from our hotel (near the top middle of the picture). Always nice to walk to church!

 Taken from the back of the nave in St. David's, Austin.

Taken from the back of the nave in St. David's, Austin.

Sunday morning was really busy on the convention calendar, and though seemingly everyone had a chance to worship somewhere in Austin, two other very important events took place in the morning. In downtown Austin, Bishops United Against Gun Violence stood in witness and solidarity for those affected by the numerous shootings in our country in recent years. Marked by the cause's orange stoles, numerous bishops flocked to the streets near the Convention Center to speak to this very important issue.

 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry standing among the Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Picture credit to Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry standing among the Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Picture credit to Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke at the gathering of bishops as well as later in the morning when about 1,000 Episcopalians worshiped and spoke to the injustice of detaining children outside of the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX. "We come in love. We do not think a great country like this one separates children from their families," said Curry. Tonight I am proud of the leaders of this Church, and I give thanks to God for the vigilant witness to the Gospel as seen in Bishop Curry. It's really amazing how this worship service and witness came together. A few weeks ago, a handful of deputies dreamed up the idea of having some people gather at the detention center because of its proximity to Austin. Those conversations quickly turned into planning a large event with worship and the Presiding Bishop's presence. This kind of thing would fall under the "best" of the Church! Video of the event (and lots of other videos) may be found here at the General Convention Media Hub.

Shifting gears, I've yet to mention in any detail the expansive marketplace found at General Convention. It's quite a sight to behold! Set up adjacent to the House of Deputies in its own enormous room, exhibits and shops from seminaries, organizations across the Church, vestment suppliers, and many other companies and ministries are represented here in Austin. You can buy just about anything church-related here, or you can learn about all kinds of new opportunities for ministry. Some particularly interesting and unique booths include an organization for locally-sourced wheat for communion bread, a Godly Play lesson that was happening right as we walked by, an interactive area for children including live music, and the Episcopal Shoppe (yours truly bought a bow tie with Episcopal shields all over it...might have to wear that around the office from time to time...). I've learned a lot around these booths this week -- there's tons of information about new technology for parish offices, initiatives and programs from the seminaries (Go VTS!), ways to support up and coming organizations, and so much more. This place is always abuzz. Even though we've walked through the whole thing a few times, I always find something new to read or meet someone I haven't talked to yet.

 An interactive, hands-on Godly Play lesson.

An interactive, hands-on Godly Play lesson.

 The Virginia Seminary booth can be seen under the white round logo (top, middle). This picture shows one of at least ten similar "aisles" throughout the marketplace.

The Virginia Seminary booth can be seen under the white round logo (top, middle). This picture shows one of at least ten similar "aisles" throughout the marketplace.

The afternoon was full of legislation, or at least it was supposed to be. Before legislation and resolutions, elections were held for open positions for the trustees of the Church Pension Fund, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, the trustees of the General Theological Seminary, and several others. While these are all important positions and it is the requirement of General Convention to vote upon candidates, convention dragged to a halt as the voting process took much longer than expected -- even with a completely digital system, it felt like it took ages (this might fall under the "worst" of the Church). One piece of good news to come out of all the voting? The Diocese of Bethlehem's very own canon to the ordinary, the Rev. Canon Anne Kitch, was voted on to Executive Council! You may remember Anne from our Celebration of New Ministry service last December -- the executive level of the Church is fortunate to have her aboard, and it will be very interesting to see what she will be able to report back to the diocese once those meetings begin. Congrats, Anne!

So, once all of the votes were finally completed, it was time to jump into Resolution B012, Marriage Rites for the Whole Church. This resolution is a bit of a continuation from the resolution passed in 2015 at GC78 that approved a rite for same-sex marriage under trial use. That resolution also granted bishops the right not to allow same-sex marriage in their diocese if he or she so chose -- and eight bishops did so choose. This current resolution would reaffirm the Church's commitment to a same-sex marriage rite under continued trial use with the plan to adopt it into the new Book of Common Prayer if and when that eventually comes. The current resolution as it stands also guarantees the use of the marriage rite in every diocese, and a dissenting bishop would be required to allow another bishop to have episcopal oversight of the process in a couple's home diocese. This afternoon's legislative session ended at 7pm, and because of the voting delay earlier, debate and amendments to B012 were not completed. Debate will pick up again tomorrow morning, and by the end of the morning session, we should know where the House of Deputies stands on B012.

Otherwise, that's about it for today. The House of Bishops has yet to vote on A068, the resolution that the House of Deputies passed regarding prayer book revision. We'll keep you posted!

I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday at St. Alban's. Many thanks to the Rev. Nancy Packard for leading our worship today!
The Lord Almighty grant you a peaceful night and a perfect end.
Dennis+