An “alternate” approach to General Convention

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The Rev. Mary Beth Rivetti and Katherine Karr-Cornejo

SALT LAKE CITY – They who wait also serve: The alternates of the House of Deputies.

In fact, the alternates are not waiting around – most are as busy as the deputies.

“We go to a lot of hearings,” said Mauricio Wilson, an alternate from the Diocese of California.

“We’re attending everything,” said Peter Larson, an alternate from the Diocese of Milwaukee.

The alternates, with yellow badges, do not get to vote unless they replace a deputy, nor do they serve on committees. But that also means they are free to roam the Salt Palace, attend committees and track resolutions. The alternates represent extra eyes and voices for their deputations.

“I feel like a full member of the deputation,” said Katherine Karr-Cornejo, an alternate from the Diocese of Spokane.

Karr-Cornejo has been tag teaming with another alternate from her diocese, the Rev. Mary Beth Rivetti. Each morning they plot their day. They’ve focused on the special committee examining issues related to alcohol abuse and addiction.

Many deputations meet daily – some twice daily – to check-in and report on how issues are developing.

Some have presented resolutions on behalf of their dioceses and deputations. Clark Downs, an alternate from the Diocese of Washington and retired attorney, presented one of the resolutions calling for stronger engagement in the Holy Land and support for the Diocese of Jerusalem.

Diocese of California alternates

“My job was to present the resolution this morning and report back to the deputation and the people back home,” he said.

After finishing his presentation before the Social Justice and International Policy Committee, Downs noted: “I think I know how to craft an argument.”

Downs’ deputation, he said, meets every evening. “In our deputation there is very little distinction between deputies and alternates.”

During floor sessions, the alternates sit in a designated area off to the side from where the deputies sit. They have a bank of television screens in front of their section.

On Friday, when the deputies and bishops in a joint session broke into groups to discuss the issues of restructuring the church, the alternates gathered into their own small groups. No one from the dais instructed them to – they just did.

The alternates don’t have all of the tools of the deputies. The “first alternates” in each deputation each have one of the General Convention-issued iPads. But the second, third and fourth alternates do not. Most are figuring out how to follow events with the Guidebook application on their personal electronic devices.

Many of the alternates sit together with other alternates from their diocese. The Diocese of California alternates compared notes at the start of Friday’s session and how many committees they’ve testified before.

“Four,” said Alan Murray, holding the record.

For many of the alternates, it is their first General Convention and a great learning experience. “You have to start somewhere,” said Downs.

The Rev. James Richardson, is himself an alternate deputy, hailing from the Diocese of Virginia. He was formerly a reporter at the Sacramento Bee.