This is a live blog covering the last session of the House of Deputies that took place July 11, 2022.
The Chair bangs the gavel three times
That’s what it says in the convention script.
After the secretary sends good wishes to the Diocese of Venezuela, whose deputies watched online, and thanks the foreign language interpreters, and salutes the winners of an Episcopal trivia competition, President Jennings calls President-elect Ayala Harris to the platform, bangs the gavel and hands the gavel to President Julia Ayala Harris.
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80th General Convention
House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings
Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of my election as your president, and when we adjourn a short while from now, my third and final term in your service will end. So it’s perhaps not surprising that I have been reflecting on this church we all love and serve, and on what I have learned about it during my thirty-two years in the House of Deputies.
My service to this house began in 1991, when I was elected as a deputy from the Diocese of Ohio. At that convention, President David Collins was finishing his own final term, and appointed me to the legislative committee on canons (back then, the constitution had its own committee). That convention was also a historic one, because we elected Deputy Pamela Chinnis of the Diocese of Washington, who had served two terms as vice president, as president, making her the first female president of the House of Deputies. That was only twenty-one years—eight conventions—since women had first gained the right to serve as deputies.
Later that year, President Chinnis appointed me to the Standing Commission on Human Affairs. That was the place I met for the first time Dr. Louie Crew Clay. I was the only ordained woman on that body. For a long time, I was the only ordained woman on a lot of committees and commissions. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
In 1994, my second convention, President Chinnis appointed me as a press briefing officer, along with former deputy Del Glover, who served this house faithfully for years. In 1997, she called and asked me to serve again in that role. However, she said that she had received some complaints or criticism after the previous convention that Del and I were too liberal. And so, to respond to those complaints, she had decided to appoint another briefing officer because Del would not be at that convention. And his name was Byron Rushing.
I learned a lot from President Chinnis.
At the 1997 convention, I was the vice chair of the legislative committee on canons, and in 2000, I received an appointment letter informing me that I had been appointed chair of the canons committee, and that the deputy who had served as chair in 1994 was vice chair. So I called President Chinnis and told her that she had made a mistake—that I had been appointed chair, but she had obviously meant vice chair. She said, “Deputy Jennings, I did not make a mistake.”
At that convention, I discovered I liked being called Madam Chair.
I tell you these stories not only to reminiscence, but to demonstrate the way that the House of Deputies, General Convention after General Convention, serves as an engine of renewal and reform and resurgence for our church. Each convention, new leaders emerge, and with them, new ideas, new traditions, and new initiatives. This is the way that our governance structures evolve, while keeping our polity—our foundational identity as a church governed by laypeople, clergy and bishops—intact. This is how we ensure that the church has the resources and the capacity to respond to the world God calls us to serve. What I have tried to do, as I have searched out and found new deputies to help lead our church in the 21st century, is exactly what was done for me all those years ago.
This General Convention, this strange and unusual COVID convention, is a historic convention for the House of Deputies. After the gavel comes down for the final time today, I will hand the gavel to President-elect Ayala Harris, and at that moment, you will become the first House of Deputies in the history of the Episcopal Church led by a woman of color and the first led by a Latina, and you will become the first House of Deputies with an Indigenous woman, Rachel Taber-Hamilton, as vice president. (Applause.) You will be a House of Deputies that the founders of this church quite literally could not have imagined. (Laughter.)
This kind of change—this seismic, generation-shifting, paradigm-shattering change—is a cause for enormous celebration, and I give thanks for it. But it is not enough.
It is not enough simply to appoint and elect young people and people of color to lead you. You must also support them, encourage them and work with them to change the structures and the systems that perpetuate the racism and misogyny that is still endemic in our church. (Applause.) These structural barriers will not be theoretical to the new leaders that you have elected. They will not be the kind of interesting problems that present themselves to commissions and committees to study. They will be—they are—real, gritty situations, the kind that many of you have also experienced, in which you are taken less seriously, treated less fairly, and granted less agency than others who have more historic privilege.
At this convention, we have taken steps toward righting some of these wrongs. Resolution A125–Do you know I dream about resolution numbers in my head?–by which you created the Episcopal Coalition for Racial Equity and Justice, provides the opportunity to change the structures of the church, to be more committed to racial justice and equity, to root out the systemic racism that too often prevails even when new and more diverse leaders are appointed and elected. To seize the opportunity that is now before you, commit yourselves to this work. Do not leave here today–please, do not leave here today–and assume that the Executive Council, or the bishops, or the Presiding Bishop’s staff will take care of it. Remember that racism and misogyny are intersectional, and that it has been within many of our lifetimes—only fifty-two years—that women gained the right to even sit in this house. You will all need, as president-elect Ayala Harris said–to craft those new wineskins and help pour the wine.
In 2000, the 73rd General Convention met in Denver, Colorado, and at that convention, President Chinnis completed her third term and retired, just as I am about to do. Just as she was handing the gavel to, as she called it, “new leadership for a new millennium,” I am about to hand the gavel to new leadership for a new age in this church. And I want to leave you with the same word of hope and caution that she offered to us twenty-two years ago:
“As these changes unfold,” she told us in Denver, “I urge you all to keep in mind the necessary tension and balance between the two Houses of the Convention, both during and between Conventions. Without our vigilance, the House of Bishops, and the staff serving the Presiding Bishop, can easily lose sight of their need for the House of Deputies. Together, we embody a fundamental principle of Episcopal polity, that bishops, clergy and laity have an equal share in, and authority for, decisions affecting this church. When we or they fail to recognize the gifts each brings to the life of the church, or suppose that the major offering is ours, we forfeit the precious gifts of humility and hospitality.”
As you go forth to take your place in the history of our beloved Episcopal Church, take with you those gifts of humility and hospitality. I am honored to have served you–each one of you, and the ones who came before in 2015 and 2018–for so long, and my love goes with you into the bright and hopeful future that lies before you.
The end is in sight
President Jennings says we have concluded our legislative business. She is checking in with the presiding bishop. She may be making her closing remarks soon.
The president proposes adding Dr. Rodney Coldren to Lesser Feasts and Fasts. One last reminder from him, she says, one could develop COVID from this meeting for up to five days. So keep testing and be safe.
The president notes Secretary Barlowe and his husband are celebrating their 40th anniversary.
She thanks her generous husband Albert, a priest, and her beloved son, Sam, a sound engineer. She say she knows her daughter Lee, who died a dozen years ago, would be proud of her.
Courtesy Resolutions by the Bushel
The blog was down when the house commended worthy people including committee chairs and members, Byron Rushing and Sally Johnson. The deputation from Puerto Rico thanking Gay Jennings for her efforts to include them in leadership and make them feel part of the church was a high point. The privilege and courtesy resolutions were written with real grace and humor, and we recommend them.
Did you miss us?
During the period in which the live blog was down deputies passed the consent calendar , defeating a motion to remove a resolution supporting Green New Deal legislation, passed a courtesy resolution commending a certain Gay Clark Jennings, and sent it to the House of Bishops, and took up amendments to Resolution A138, which allows online committee meetings prior to General Convention.
The House also passed Resolution X017 appointing Bishops Sam Rodman of North Carolina and Marty Stebbins of Montana to the Board of Archives.
Resolution 236 compliments Bishop Sean Rowe and Bryan Krislock, who co-chaired the emergency design team that transformed convention in two months and made it pretty darn Covid safe.
Resolution A182 says we missed the Official Youth Presence and the Children’s Program (although thanks to the House of Deputies, and against the resistance of numerous others who shall remain nameless, there was childcare.)
Two deputies urge the president-elect to make accommodations to allow an expanded Official Youth Presence at the next convention. There is clearly pain that the OYP could not be present.
Back to Voting Camp
The House is back to electing members of the Court of Review.
Kind of an interesting situation: we can’t tell you the election has been delayed due to technology issues because we are having problems posting to the blog due to technology issues. At some point, after convention is over, the church needs a full report on what caused these problems, and whether they could have been anticipated.
Gregory Jacobs is elected clergy alternate to the Court of Review on the second ballot.
Laura Russell is elected as one of two lay members of the Court of Review from Provinces I-III on the first ballot.
Delbert Glover is elected as the second of two lay members of the Court of Review from Provinces I-III on the second ballot.
More voting ahead, but side note: According to the virtual binder, 377 of the 432 resolutions submitted to convention have been completed.
L. Zoe Cole and Sharon Henes have been elected as lay members of the Court of Review from Provinces IV through VI.
Grecia Reynoso and Brunilda Rodriguez-Velez have been elected as lay members of the Court of Review from Provinces VII through IX.
Julie Larsen was elected a lay alternate to the Court of Review on the third ballot.
Moving on the elections for the Disciplinary Board for Bishops
William Fleener, Jr. and Julie Larsen are elected as lay members.
Gregory Jacobs and Christopher Wendell are elected as clergy members.
Elections are over, and the house thanks everyone who facilitated the balloting.
The COVID Precautions are Working
Also, people are getting medals
The House will be electing members of the Court of Review and the Disciplinary Board of Bishops, elections that have taken far long than they should, and delayed the house in getting legislation to the House of Bishops, due to technological problems.
The secretary of convention is apparently telling people that there are no longer connectivity issues at convention, and that remaining problems are the result of human error. The Deputy News team lacks sufficient eyes to roll at this assertion.
The stuffed gc79 pigeon is wearing a mask. But Dr. Rodney Coldren professes shock and concern that other mascots are unmasked.
He says 12 cases were reported to him this morning. There were five positives on the second day of convention, seven on the second and 12 today. He ran a model that said without precautions we would have seen 76 cases, instead we have seen 26. “This is a significant protective factor,” and tomorrow as people go home, it will be even greater.
“What you have done has really protected your fellow deputies and for that I thank you.”
The president warmly thanks Dr. Coldren, and praises his contributions to our church. The deputies respond with a standing ovation.
The House is also cheering for senior deputies, about six percent of the House.
The President tells chaplain Lester Mackenzie that if she could sing she would sing You Are My Sunshine. He has been the chaplain for all three of her conventions. She presents him with the House of Deputies Medal “for the many gifts you have shared with me and with all of you.”
She is now giving the medal to Rebecca Wilson of Canticle Communications. (Full disclosure: Rebecca is Mrs. Liveblogger. Or maybe Mr. Liveblogger is actually Mr. Wilson.) “You don’t know all the ways Rebecca has served me and you. … She is a strong voice for justice and equity. I will always be grateful to her. “
Gay is now awarding the medal to Julia Ayala Harris, Jane Cisluycis and Mally Lloyd for their service on Executive Council. (She doesn’t say this but this was the trio that worked with Gay and Rebecca on the strategy to ask Executive Council to fund a public health advisor for the House of Deputies. Without that funding, Dr. Coldren would not have been hired, and none of the additional COVID precautions would have been put in place.)
Morning worship begins with a land acknowledgment, read by presider Louis McKellaston.
The Deputies are praying the Canticle of Mary. “He has filled the hungry with God things, but the rich he has sent away empty.”
Julia Ayala Harris is preaching on new wineskins.
I grew up in Chicago in the ’80s… We had a back patio… made of brick… different shapes and colors that came together in a perfect square… surrounded by her grandmother’s gardens … She played on that patio, jumping from brick to brick … violets grew in the cracks… “At that age, maybe three or four, I already had this concept that things that grew in the cracks were weeds.” Yet they brought the patio to life.
I had to wrestle with this concept at a very young age that things that grew in the cracks were weeds. Adults said so. But she knew the violets were precious. As an adult she now understands that her grandmother let those flowers grow.
We can look at the church as a patio. Different bricks. Different sizes. But a whole. But we need to remember that “velvety purple” violets are gifts growing out of something that is perhaps overly structured. Let’s look at the ministries growing between the cracks. Let’s replant, fertilize. If we can do that I think we would find our congregations and our structures would be more aligned with how Jesus wants our garden to grow.
Who in our church is undervalued like violets? Words matter. These concepts are socially constructed. What is a flower, what is a weed? Truth-telling is redefining weeds and flowers.
The Episcopal Church has been the civic religion of the white upper class since the founding of the republic. The church of flowers for flowers. This approach has taken us as far as we can go. We are commanded we are called and our time is now to reach younger generations, people on the margins. The Episcopal Church has been the definer of the weeds. That has to stop.
New wine. New wineskins. You do not pull out the violents. You feed them, you water them, you cherish them.
We have so much to give the world. People are looking for acceptance, belonging, healing and wholeness. When we are at our very best, we can share that with the world.
This week the Episcopal Church who liked to be a little brown girl who used to like to think deep thoughts in her grandmother’s garden to be president of the House of Deputies, and an indigenous woman to be vice president.
New wineskins. Alleluia.
Watch this one on the media hub. It was a moment. https://media.episcopalchurch.org/video/
This will likely be the penultimate live blog. As opportunities to use the word penultimate are relatively rare, and must be seized upon.
So, good morning from a House of Deputies which, by the end of the day, will be led by two women, one a Latina and the other Indigenous.
The president-elect, Julia Ayala Harris, is preaching this morning, and Deputy Louisa McKellaston, a lay woman, is presiding.
Worship has yet to begin, but the Rev. Greg Milliken, one of the House’s chaplains, is softly playing the piano as deputies file in, and the strains of the Taize chant, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom float through the cavernous room.
We spoke with Deputy Sam Candler, a leading figure on the legislative committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music. He is pleased with the compromise on Resolution A059, and sees it as the culmination of years of work on liturgical revision. Here is his testimony in last night’s debate:
“Four years ago, both this House and the House of Bishops authorized a Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision, on which I had the honor of serving. That task force is the author of the first version of this, now, four-stage resolution. This is the way good resolutions happen in the Episcopal Church.
“This is not the resolution that our/ your Task Force proposed, but it certainly keeps the spirit of our work – and the work of many of you for many of these past years. For four years –twelve years—more, this house has been leaning towards prayer book and liturgy revision that comprehends the breadth and diversity and love of our community. I remember it was back in 1997, when Bonnie Perry, Tracy Lind, and I proposed a resolution for the revision of the 1979 BCP. Wow.
“Four years ago, this Church voted for revision of our common prayer while retaining the opportunities to pray with customary texts. The resolution before us allows for the full authorization of faithful revised prayer, and it allows for faithful traditional prayer. That is our church.
“I salute the good work of many in this house, and many in the House of Bishops, in the past four years, and the past twelve years!
“The energy is this. We are a church of common prayer. But it may not be one, paper-published, book that can contain the broad energy of our common prayer. We pray in many ways, but with a common Episcopal shape, a common Episcopal ethos. This resolution allows for many authorized ways of prayer in that shape. It is a beautiful shape, and a traditional shape, and a progressive shape. It is a loving shape.
Thank you. Thank you for faithful prayer in all our breadth and complexity.”