July 9 Afternoon Legislative Session


This is a live blog covering the afternoon session of the House of Deputies that took place July 9, 2022.

Nominations for vice president are due within the next half hour.

We are adjourning.

The location of the 2027 General Convention

The house returns to consideration of Resolution A001 which sets the sites under consideration for the 2027 General Convention. There is concern that the convention may end up in cities where pregnant people cannot receive reproductive care, or places that are hostile to LGBT people.

The house was preparing to vote on amendment 013 when it adjourned last night. The amendment fails.

Amendment 022 proposed by Deputy Megan Castellan of Central New York would establish three guidelines for consideration when choosing sites for future General Conventions.

Deputy Eric Perez of Central Florida speaks against the amendment. He says it is a slap in the face to Episcopalians to remove them from consideration due to local politics. General Convention should serve a missionary purpose, he says.

Rebecca Van Sickle of Nevada notes that the amendment merely establishes guidelines. It does not bar locations from consideration.

The amendment passes. It would “include the following conditions in selecting sites for future General Conventions:

* that conditions at the site, including political conditions, do not pose an immediate threat to the physical safety and well-being of the members of this Church 

*that intentional care will be taken by the presiding officers, Executive Council and the Joint Committee for Planning and Arrangements to ensure the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of those at General Convention at all times 

*that General convention, being a visible manifestation of the Body of Christ we represent, will in all places, concretely witness to the countercultural way of Love that Jesus models, particularly in those places where the children of God are disenfranchised, so that we may point toward the reign of God through our presence and actions. 

Returning to debating the main motion, Deputy Rachel Erdman opposes the motion because she says it drifts toward establishing ideological litmus tests for convention sites. She notes that the church is going to Louisville, in part, to witness against the police killing of Breeona Taylor.

Deputy Tory Moir of Colorado, a queer person who can become pregnant, supports A001 as amended. “It is not the role of this body to be reactionary in the face of the world,” Moir says, “but to be deliberative compassionate and consider before we take any action.”

The house prays before proceeding.

Resolution A001 as amended passes.

Abortion and the Site of Future Conventions

Resolution to Relocate from Louisville fails

Deputy Edwin Johnson, chair of the legislative committee on Social Justice and U. S. Policy, presents

Resolution D054, which would “call upon the leadership of the General Convention to consider the relocation of the 81st General Convention currently scheduled to take place in Louisville, KY, as well as all future conventions, to a venue that commits to an ‘equitable access to women’s health care, including women’s reproductive health care,’ which we view as ‘an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.’

Johnson says the church should not have meetings where people aren’t safe.

Deputy Tim Baer of Oklahoma says he understands the passion behind the resolution. You may be frustrated, by what the political leaders of anti-abortion states have done, he tells deputies “but I assure you you are not more frustrated than me.” Still, he says, the church needs to go into difficult places, and also to support Episcopalians who live in them.

Deputy Carolyn Mok of Rochester supports the resolution. “As a 69-year-old family physician woman, I have witnessed the importance of abortion as a pillar of reproductive health care,” she says. Having General Convention in states that ban abortion jeopardizes the safety of pregnant people and violates their human rights.”

Barbara Merrick of Kentucky opposes the resolution. “We in the diocese of Kentucky are “grieved beyond measure” by what the state legislature has done. They are fighting it locally. “But untold hours and dollars have been spent on the convention.”

Deputy Maria Gonzalez of Olympia: supports the amendment. She says it is “unfair to ask people who are pregnant or may become pregnant” to go to a state where they can’t get the reproductive care they may need.

Deputy Sharon Alexander of West Tennessee offers amendment FA023, which would “direct the Planning Team for the 81st General Convention to a) retain the services of medical experts to supervise and allocate appropriate emergency medical care for women who may not be able to obtain such care in Kentucky; and b) provide for transportation to a state where such services may be available during the 81st General Convention. “

Deputy Evangeline Warren of Ohio opposes the amendment. She, says it is good spirited, but, as a scientist studying the topic, she says the amendment is not feasible. Complications in pregnancies cna come upon a person quickly and require immediate attention. She says the nearest clinics are in Chicago. “That is a life-threatening delay and unacceptable.”

Deputy Louisa McKellaston of Chicago, who is pregnant, favors the amendment. “There are unpredictable circumstances no matter where we are,” she says. This amendment is a compromise, “which is what we often have to do in church governance.” A last minute scramble to find a new convention site wouldn’t be great, she says.

The amendment fails narrowly, 377-408.

Cassie Gortner of Spokane offers amendment 032 that would add this passage to the resolution: understanding that concerns regarding reproductive justice extend beyond women to include the breadth of our gender diverse community, affords particular attention to the needs of LBGTQ+ individuals in the consideration and selection of all General Convention sites; and be it further

Deputy Richard Pryor of Ohio supports the amendment, saying it is important to understand that people who do not identify as women also need reproductive health care.

Deputy Robin Hill of Spokane, a gender queer person who can become pregnant, says it is important we be intentional and inclusive in our language.

The amendment pass.

Deputy Tracy Duggar of Central Florida opposes the resolution. I would see this motion as a retreat from the mission field the Episcopal Church is prepared to reach as few others are. The church must go to difficult places and be a transforming presence.

Deputy Gavin Shumate of Oregon, a priest and OB-GYN, says no one comes to General Convention to have an elective abortion. His father described obstetrics as long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. It is these moment of terror of which the convention must be mindful.

Chaplain Lester Mackenzie offers prayer before the vote.

Resolution D054 which would have called upon the leadership of the General Convention to consider the relocation of the 81st General Convention from Louisville” fails 342 to 444.

Back to Congregational Vitality Resolutions

Deputy Lydia Kelsey Bucklin presents Resolution A156 establishing a task force on membership saying that membership and affiliation don’t mean what they used to mean, and we need to know what they mean now.

Deputy Ruth Meyers supports the resolution and is glad the task force will study the relationship between Confirmation and membership. Deputy Isaac Martinez of Massachusetts, a church planter of a community of queer and trans people, says this resolution is vital to his work in bringing new people into the church who don’t fit into current definitions of membership. Deputy Adam Lees of Alaska praises the emphasis on baptism in the resolution.

Deputy Richard Cole of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe moves an amendment FA009 that would include someone from outside of the United States on the task force. It passes.

The resolution passes.

Hot Sauce Presentations

The house is taking a short break, so this is the perfect time to read the presentations by the Rev. Chris Rankin-Williams and Deputy Louis McKellaston on the work of the Hot Sauce committee.

Report to General Convention from the Rev. Chris Rankin-Williams, Chair, House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church

Thank you, Madame President… Greetings HOD from the Diocese of California. Special greetings to the Dio MA from the home of the NBA Champion Warriors.

We began many of our State of the Church meetings with other groups with two questions that generated a lot of fun discussion. What was your first concert? And, what is your dream for the church?

My first concert was KISS, and my dream is that someday the Episcopal Church will discover the West Coast.

We call our committee the Hot Sauce committee, a play on pronouncing our acronym. We have strived to be hot sauce, or perhaps New Bay Seasoning, for the church, in light of our charge from President Jennings: “to be an energetic think tank and incubator for adaptive thinking, innovative ideas, and fresh approaches to the church’s leadership, organizational thinking, and common life.”

I commend to you the most excellent Deputy News TikTok about our work, as well as our recent supplement to our Blue Book report.

Little did we know, when we began this work, that a global pandemic would place the church in the midst of the greatest adaptive challenge of our lifetimes. The pace of congregational decline across the country has been accelerated by the pandemic and there is great uncertainty about the future and the financial viability of many of our churches. It’s not clear that church affiliation correlates with attendance any more. We are truly navigating off the map. With adaptive challenges the solution is not clear. It requires embracing collaborative innovation and resisting the urge to rely on familiar technical solutions or fear-based reactions.

Of course, the very nature of resolutions are technical not adaptive, but we have worked to craft a series of resolutions that position the church to address adaptive challenges and evaluate the experiments that are necessary to create our future.

Part of our work has been to revise the parochial report, with the hope of making it closer to the dream that God intends instead of the nightmare it is perceived to be. Our goal has been to make the parochial report first and foremost a tool that can help congregations make decisions for their future and less like a report card or tax form. We can change our behavior by changing what we measure, and we hope the report will be updated regularly to respond to the needs of the church. And we need the capacity to do data analytics of qualitative and quantitative data to capture the true state of the church.

Work on the parochial report led us to a number of canonical issues around membership. This is not about the place of baptism in the life of church, but about the hierarchy of membership built into the canons and how it restricts or enables the flourishing of this church’s ministry, especially at a time when people can easily engage with multiple churches and the geographical context of parishes have expanded to anyone with an internet connection.

The expectation that a person’s baptism and membership can only be registered in one church at a time and must be formally transferred simply does not match the reality of how people engage with the church today or how many congregations actually function. I want to be clear, that does not mean we should stop tracking baptized members but rather adapt to understand the numbers in their true context.

In the face of uncertainty, the most important thing we can do right now is ask the right questions, and not get caught up in technical arguments about issues that do not help us face this moment.

If we are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement tree, how can we focus on being faithful disciples of Jesus and less on arguing about or admiring our own leaves?

In a post-denominational age what does it mean to be a member of the Episcopal Church? Do canonical categories like communicant in good standing, which was added in the 1960s, still serve us well, especially when 35% of congregations don’t even distinguish between baptized member and communicant in good standing in their parochial report numbers? Only 50% of my congregation says they attend specifically because we are in an Episcopal church. We are first and foremost in the business of making disciples not good Episcopalians, though we make disciples in a uniquely Episcopalian way.

I once heard a really great preacher say, “if it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God.” You guys should check him out. So we must ask, is this work in the service of the love of Christ or in preserving structures, power and authority in the face of uncertainty? Part of what makes a challenge adaptive is that traditional authority and expertise can’t provide the solution. So we have to put our hand to the plow and not look back.

President Jennings did a bold thing when she appointed a committee of only GenXers and Millennials. At 54 I’m the oldest member of the committee. The younger people on this committee give me great hope for the church.

In a recent lectionary reading, the Lord tells Elijah to anoint Elisha “as a prophet in your place.” Generational transition is essential to vitality and viability. So, to those of you who have served as a deputy for numerous consecutive General Conventions consider making space for Millennial and GenZ leaders.

This past quadrennium were the first years that Boomer clergy have started hitting the mandatory retirement age of 72. To Boomer clergy, I want to say, as a GenX priest, that the solution to the uncertain future of the church is not extending the retirement age so you or I can serve longer as the number of paid clergy positions decrease. We knew the deal when we were ordained. When we have served our time we must let millennial and younger clergy step into our roles for the sake of the Jesus Movement.

In that spirit, I yield the rest of my time to Louisa McKellaston, the vice-chair of state of the church.

McKellaston: Thanks, Chris. My fellow deputies, as Chris mentioned, we found ourselves in a quadrennium-or, as I like to call it, a triennium with a bonus year. Adjusting to the past two years of this quadrennium have shown what we as a Church are capable of-and I believe it’s only a glimpse. Many of us have found ourselves adapting to worshipping virtually, to being community through screens. We have adapted to our circumstances, and figured out what we need to do so. We need online tools that are intuitive and functional, that help us to do our work, rather than taking half the triennium to figure out. We need to have access to research and data from a central point, so that the hard work of all interim bodies and groups who data gather and survey don’t re-invent the wheel each time they want to survey the Church. We need the ability to catalog and access data gathered in prior trienniums, and someone who can assist us with studying and interpreting our data. There isn’t a lot of wisdom in doing the work to take the pulse of who we are and can be if we just have to start over every few years.

We have a unique opportunity to look at the past four years, especially the past two years, and how we as a Church responded to the pandemic. We owe it to ourselves to examine what we did well and especially what we could have done better. What about online worship is great? What part of online interim body committee meetings should continue? Were online legislative meetings ahead of General Convention successful? And, most importantly, how can we use what we learn from intentionally studying this time to improve the Church, to reach places we’ve never been before, without fear of failure? We have accomplished a great deal together, across differences and time zones, to come together when we needed it most. We must keep going, equipped with tools for success.

$$$ and the Parochial Report

Deputy Kelsey Bucklin presents Resolution A155, which would revise the financial page of the parochial report.

Deputy Adam Hamilton-Ferguson of Central New York says the revisions would be helpful for joint Episcopal-Lutheran parishes.

Deputy Charley Bauer moves amendment F012 which would make sure at least one church with an ASA under 50 would be appointed to the task force involved in this work. Deputy Shealae Donahue of Wyoming and William Simerly of East Tennessee say the small churches of their dioceses would benefit from the amendment.

The amendment is adopted.

Deputy James Wiley of Montana withdraws an amendment that would have had at least three people from smaller churches included on the task force, after which the resolution passes.

Vitality and its Indicators

Deputy Lydia Kelsey Bucklin, chair of the legislative committee on Congregational and Diocesan Vitality, presents Resolution A132, which would establish a task force to study congregational vitality indicators. Deputies Ramelle McCall, Daniel Velez-Rivera and Rebecca Snow support the resolution. There is an obvious interest in understanding what makes small, enterprising congregations work, and also an interest in giving them credit for the good work they are doing.

Deputy Richard Cole proposes amendment FA010 which would put a member of a church located outside the United States on the task force.

Deputy Eric Metoyer supports the amendment. The growth of the church is going to come not onlin the United States.

The amendment is adopted, and the resolution passes.

Question time

The committee is taking questions. More comments than questions. And not focused on the legislation. So the live blogger is coasting for a bit.

The house votes to send the Hot Sauce report to the House of Bishops.

State of the Church Resolutions

President Jennings, who is obviously enthusiastic about the work of this group and the relationships formed in the process, thanks the committee and we move on to the resolutions starting with Resolution A097 on evaluating experiments in adoptive change. McKellaston, who chaired the legislative committee that received the resolutions , presents it to unanimous acceptance.

McKellaston, who was also vice chair of the Hot Sauce committee presents Resolution A098 which requests $250,000 for online tools for adoptive leadership. Deputy Megan Carlson of North Carolina, who is technically adept, supports the resolution in part as a way to help the church meet the needs of neurodiverse people.

Deputy Ben Shambaugh of Maine also supports the resolution but urges the convention in the future to consider technologies for the whole church.

The resolution passes.

McKellaston asks the house to refer Resolution A099 to the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons. The church badly needs to upgrade its research capabilities. It lags others mainline churches in this regard. But the work has to be done in a canonically appropriate ways. The house agrees.

McKellaston leaves the platform and Jennings calls her back, lauds her service as a young leader of “energy, commitment and fabulous shoes” and presents her with the House of Deputies medal.

And speaking of House of Deputies medals, the president presents one to Janet Dunn Clark of the Diocese of South Carolina, who has supported her with prayer over the years. Deputy Andrea McKellar receives the medal on Janet’s behalf.

The Hot Sauce Committee is Ready to Roll

The Rev. Chris Rankin-Williams of California is joining the convention by Zoom, and along with Deputy Louisa McKellaston of Chicago, will present the report of the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church (HODCSC–pronounced hot sauce).

He commends the Deputy New TikTok regarding their work. We blush. (Right, Sophie?)

Rankin-Williams: We can change our behavior by changing what we measure. We need better data. We aren’t measuring things that give us a sense of how the church works, and our sense of what constitutes membership doesn’t make sense in a post-denominational age. Traditional authority and expertise can’t provide the solution. We must put our hand to the plow and not turn back.

He says, President Jennings did a bold thing by appointing only Generation X and Millennial members to the committee. At 54 he was the oldest. He urges veteran deputies and older clergy to step aside to make room for rising leaders.

Louisa McKellaston: We have all learned to adapt during the pandemic. We need online tools that are intuitive rather than taking half a triennium to figure out. We need readily available relevant data and an expert who can help interpret it. It doesn’t make sense to collect data on who we are if we can’t use it.

Deputy Tammy Prather of Milwaukee says the presentation was the best thing she’s heard in 25 years in the church and requests permission for the house to clap.

Permission is granted.

The house claps.

We are legislating this afternoon.

President Jennings informs us with regret that the election of the lay members of the Court of Review has been nullified because the election did not conform with the canons. That election and the remaining elections will be held in the morning.

She reads an email from Deputy Ryan Kusumoto, chair of dispatch of business and runner-up in the election for President of the House of Deputies. He has tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantining.

Deputy Emily Mellott of New Jersey, vice chair of dispatch, lays out the afternoon schedule which includes a consent calendar and the special order of business on the resolutions of the House of Deputies State of the Church Committee.

The consent calendar passes.

Here is the House of Deputies release on the election of Julia Ayala Harris of the Diocese of Oklahoma as the next president of the House of Deputies:

Julia Ayala Harris, a deputy from the Diocese of Oklahoma, was elected today as president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. Her term as one of the denomination’s two presiding officers begins  on Monday at the close of the church’s General Convention in Baltimore. She will be the first Latina and first woman of color to hold the position.

Ayala Harris, 41, a first-generation Mexican American and the daughter of an undocumented immigrant, was elected from a field of five candidates on the third ballot. Her candidacy was endorsed by the House of Deputies LGBTQ Caucus.

“I came to the Episcopal Church 21 years ago, when I was 20 years old, after a crisis of faith in the Roman Catholic Church of my childhood and the evangelical church of my teens,” Harris wrote on a personal website. “In the Episcopal Church, I have continually found healing, blessing, and wholeness in God’s unconditional love. Throughout my lay ministry, I have worked to bring about a church that can share that blessing with all of God’s people.”

The House of Deputies, with more than 800 lay and clergy members, is half of the church’s bicameral General Convention, which normally meets every three years to set the Episcopal Church’s mission priorities, budget and policies. The convention, postponed from 2021, is meeting in Baltimore from July 8 to 11 for a shortened session due to COVID-19.

Ayala Harris, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity International University and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, is a doctoral student in leadership development at the University of Oklahoma and a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norman, Oklahoma. She has worked in social service organizations that serve women, children and people with disabilities, and from 2005 to 2008, was an international aid worker in Kenya and South Sudan.

From 2015 to 2022, she served on the Episcopal Church’s board, called the Executive Council, where she chaired the Joint Standing Committee for Mission Within the Episcopal Church. As president of the House of Deputies, she will serve as the Executive Council’s vice chair.

Ayala Harris and her husband, John Harris, a professor of regional and city planning at the University of Oklahoma, live with their teenage daughter, Izzy, in Norman, Oklahoma.

She will succeed the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings of the Diocese of Ohio, who has served as House of Deputies president since 2012.

The other candidates for president were:

  • The Rev. Devon Anderson of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota
  • Ryan Kusumoto of the Diocese of Hawaii
  • The Rev. Edwin Johnson of the Diocese of Massachusetts
  • The Rev. Ward Simpson of the Diocese of South Dakota