This Week is General Convention in Austin, Texas. What IS General Convention?
Good Question! I am aware that for many Memorialites, the politics and organization of the larger Episcopal Church is somewhat of a mystery. But this is a very important week! General Convention is more or less like the ‘Congress’ of the Episcopal Church. Only they meet once every three years for less than two weeks. Imagine if our state legislature only met once every three years? Or our vestry? (Don’t get any ideas Vestry!)
During General Convention all kinds of decisions are made. Like where the National Church should spend their budget. They will allocate somewhere close to $133M to be spent over the three years on many things, including mission, evangelism, disaster relief, youth and children’s programs, anti-racism work, church planting, as well as just the regular operations and administration of a nationwide organization with more than 2 million members. Other important discussion points are ‘should we begin to draft a new prayer book’, ‘how do we respond to the #metoo movement and the long history of sexual abuse in the Church’, ‘what role should the church play in Israel-Palestine issues’ and ‘whether we should re-unify the Diocese of Cuba with the Episcopal Church.’
It is a hurcelean effort. Hundreds of resolutions, thousands of delegates and lots of work to get done that can ONLY be done once every three years. It is all important, but sometimes when we have so much we HAVE to do, we forget to do the most important things. One of the biggest challenges confronting General Convention and the Episcopal Church in General is how should the Church re-make itself for the 21st century? Over the last ‘triennium’ (the three year cycle the Episcopal Church operates on) the National Church has done a lot of work spreading its staff across the country, de-centralizing it’s work and putting more money towards outreach, evangelism and church planting. A lot of that conversation continues this week in Austin. How can the Church better prepare itself for a world that is increasingly more online, connected, and un-churched? And how does a body (and a tradition) that is decidedly older, whiter and more affluent than America at large present a Gospel narrative that resonates with those we would like to see in our pews - but haven’t quite made it here yet?
This is an equally important conversation to have at the Diocesan and Parish level. How do we remake ourselves in order to continue to share Jesus’ message of compassion, salvation and love and care for neighbor and stranger in Baltimore in 2018,19 and 20?
In three years, we will be lucky to have a front row seat to General Convention because it will be here in Baltimore! So if you have some time check out www.episcopalnewsservice.org or www.episcopalherald.com for updates on what is transpiring at General Convention, or if you are on social media you can search the hashtag #GC79 as we get ready for #GC80 in 2021 right here in our backyard.