Curry and Jennings Endorse Four-Day Convention with No Events, Limited Attendance

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The 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will be held from July 8-11 in Baltimore, and include only bishops in active ministry, deputies and essential staff and volunteers, should the church follow recommendations endorsed today by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies.

If the recommendations from the Presiding Officers’ General Convention Design Group
are endorsed by the Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements and the church’s Executive Council, there will be no exhibit hall at the convention. In addition, each diocese would be asked to bring its four clergy deputies and four lay deputies and only one alternate in each order. Inactive bishops would be asked not to attend.

“Today, the Design Group met for the first time and made several recommendations to us that we have accepted,” Curry and Jennings wrote in a letter to the church. “While these plans will not be official until the first week in June, we have every confidence that our colleagues in leadership will receive them well.”

The group, formed last week to help guide the church preparations for holding a convention in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, is asking church-affiliated organizations not to hold events and receptions during convention; recommending that visitors be accommodated “in extraordinary circumstances, such as companions for people with disabilities;” and suggesting a “limited media presence” to report on the convention.

“Next week, we plan to share with you the Design Group’s recommendations about COVID-19 precautions and care for those who become infected at General Convention,” Curry and Jennings wrote, “and during the week of May 30, we plan to share recommendations about the legislative process we will use at this shortened General Convention.”

The recommendations released tonight also suggest that deputies and bishops consider July 7 and July 12 as their travel days unless they are coming from a great distance. Onsite registration will be available on July 7, but is already available online.

The design group, chaired by Bishop Sean Rowe and Bryan Krislock, parliamentarians of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies respectively, plans to meet at least on the next two Tuesdays, and hopes to complete its work by May 31.

The group includes Sutton; Bishop Wendell Gibbs and Deputy Ryan Kusumoto, the chairs of the dispatch of business committees of their respective houses; Kent Anker, the church’s chief legal officer, Mary Kostel and Deputy Sally Johnson, chancellors to Curry and Jennings respectively; Michael Glass, vice chancellor to the House of Deputies, the Rev. Mark Stevenson and Rebecca Wilson, key staff members to Curry and Jennings; Michael Barlowe, executive officer of the General Convention and Fiona Nieman, deputy for convention and meeting planning in the General Convention Office.

Dr. Rodney Coldren, a public health specialist retained by the House of Deputies, advised the group during today’s meeting.

“Like many of you, we continue to grieve our inability to gather as a whole church this summer,” Curry and Jennings wrote. “But even since last week, when we first made the decision to reduce the scale of the meeting, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the United States have continue to rise steeply. Although we regret that need to make this decision, we are confident that we have chosen the right path.

“We realize that this smaller, shorter convention is a particular blow to our generous hosts in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, who had planned so long and well for this gathering. We are especially grateful to Bishop Eugene Sutton and all the people of that diocese for their gracious flexibility.”