The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church ended this past Thursday evening. Around 400 pieces of legislation passed through the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops in just 9 days. A number of significant things occurred., many more than I can report on here. I will just highlight two.
Probably the most significant, and historic development from this General Convention was the readmission of the Diocese of Cuba back into the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church in the United States founded the Cuban diocese as a missionary endeavor in 1901. But, in the fallout of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the tensions of the Cold War, the House of Bishops voted to end its relationship with the Cuban diocese in 1966. For over fifty years, Cuban Episcopalians remained faithful during difficult and isolating times. So this past week, after a lengthy process, both houses welcomed the Diocese of Cuba back into the Episcopal church. It was very emotional to watch (I was watching a livestream on the internet), as the both Houses voted unanimously to readmit the Cuban Diocese, and welcome the Cuban bishop and delegation into the Convention. The House of Bishops repented of the divisive actions of its forbear, and Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, the current bishop of Cuba (a remarkable woman, and a strong leader.) spoke passionately about how the Cuban diocese has always been family with the wider Episcopal church, and now that family is reunited in mutual bonds of love and respect. How good and how pleasant it is when sisters and brothers dwell together in unity across borders, despite politics, united by Jesus Christ.
Another significant development from General Convention is the adoption of a unique plan for creating and authorizing more diverse liturgies for our Church while continuing to use and treasure the current Book of Common Prayer. The plan commits the church to continue with the same theological commitments that have shaped our current prayer book, while also making room for expansive imagery and language for God and humans. You can read the resolution online (link in the announcement email). It represents an impressive compromise. There were some in the church who wanted a wholesale revision of the Book of Common Prayer. This plan was extremely costly (around 10 million dollars), time consuming (at least 12 years), and very divisive. There were others who did not want any change at all for fear that the church’s core theology and mission would be changed in the process of revision. The compromise bill makes room for revision, while affirming and protecting the foundational aspects of our faith and common worship: things like the Nicene & Apostles Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, and baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Also, the original plan to revise the Prayer Book put a lot of power for revision in the hands of a relatively small national committee. The compromise bill gives authority to each diocese under the bishop to be a part of envisioning what the church’s liturgy will look like together. It is a more grassroots process than before. At the same time, the Book of Common Prayer 1979 will not change. It will still be the standard for worship and doctrine in the Episcopal Church.