Last week I mentioned two historic actions of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church—a plan for liturgical revision, and the reunion with the Episcopal diocese of Cuba. This week I want to fill in some of the other important things that happened. As always, it was a two-week frenzy of worship, legislation, discussion, and debate. What distinguished it from recent General Conventions, however, from the reports of many attendees, was the spirit of grace and the evangelistic energy that characterized the gathering. Here are some of the highlights:
The Way of Love: Our Presiding Bishop. Michael Curry, has introduced The Way of Love, a way for Episcopalians to think about their lives of discipleship in terms of a rule of life. You will be hearing more about this in the coming weeks and months, and you can read more about it here.
Evangelism, Reconciliation, and Creation Care: The budget for the national church reflects our priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation, and creation care. Especially worth noting is a significant investment in church planting as well as redeveloping struggling congregations.
Responding to the Concerns of Women: The House of Bishops heard the stories of many women who had experienced harassment or serious discrimination while working in Episcopal churches and other institutions, and committed itself to making concrete changes in the way we work as a church. Some of these changes that have already been implemented include alterations to the disciplinary process and the creation of task forces to address compensation differences, pensions, child care, the call process, and other personnel issues. This is really important work.
Responding to Impaired Clergy: The Episcopal Church is strengthening its screening processes for ordination as well as creating intervention procedures for clergy who suffer from addictions.
Same-Sex Marriage in Traditionalist Dioceses: Before this Convention, there were eight Dioceses whose bishops prohibited same-sex marriage from taking place anywhere in the diocese. Another compromise resolution passed by this convention makes it possible for congregations within these dioceses who wish to offer the rite of marriage to same-sex couples to do so, under the pastoral supervision of another bishop. This is a form of what is usually called DEPO: Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight. Precisely how these arrangements are lived out in the eight affected dioceses will become more clear in time. In the meantime, I ask your prayers for all those who will be discerning how to move forward, even as I rejoice that our church has found a way to walk together in unity.
Trial Use Liturgy: In the absence of immediate and total prayer book revision (see my note last week), General Convention did pass a resolution which allows for trial use of our well beloved Rite II service with a number of changes to introduce more expansive and gender neutral language into this prayer. This liturgy is not perfect, and will have to have some rough edges knocked off of it. It is unclear when and how this will be implemented, but you will be hearing more about this.