So what difference does General Convention make? In light of the violent death of 9 sisters and brothers in Charleston, I looked at GC78 resolutions to see if anything has been proposed that remotely addresses this situation. Not much so far, sad to say. Two resolutions filed under justice. One under racism. Four related to gun violence. (A list of proposed resolutions by topic is here).
This exercise allows a brief orientation to how legislation moves through the General Convention process so I’ll digress for a moment. Resolutions can come from four sources:
- A resolutions – Submitted by Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards
- B resolutions – Submitted by Bishops
- C resolutions – Submitted by Dioceses or Provinces
- D resolutions – Submitted by Deputies
Because they come from different groups, convention often begins with similar proposals from different sources. Committees host public hearings and decide how to combine, amend, or address them. House of Bishops and House of Deputies will discuss separately and vote on identical versions of resolutions coming out of committee. If something is amended in one house after being approved in the other house, it goes back to the first house in amended form.
The legislative process does usually improve resolutions, so if you don’t like something you see, assume it will change. And there is still time to submit additional resolutions (deadline 5 pm June 26), so I expect to see more. (Contact your deputies or bishops if you have suggestions. A list of resolutions by proposer is here.)
But after all of this effort and time and money, convention ends, and we go home, which is where the real work has to happen. In the best cases, diocesan staff, deputies, dioceses, and congregations continue the work after convention and use our resolutions to guide our life and ministry. We tend to do this most often with resolutions related to liturgy, church governance, funding, canons, things related to our internal life as a church. We are less likely to act locally on resolutions related to social justice and the world around us. (Correct me if I’m wrong). Often, sadly, we pat ourselves on the back for making some well-intentioned statements and then forget what we said we would do.
There is broad agreement that this is a problem. Much time and attention has been invested over the last three years in trying to re-imagine the Episcopal Church, General Convention, 815, etc. Several good proposals have emerged, and we might adopt some of them. But none of this makes any difference if we are not committed to following Jesus together everywhere all the time, not just for two weeks. If we are, we’ll change the world, regardless of how we’re organized.
Legislation is not a substitute for discipleship. It can be part of discipleship. It can guide our discipleship. It can unite us in our discipleship. It can organize our discipleship. But legislation has to lead us somewhere. Otherwise, these are just empty words.
However, words do matter. They are a starting place for our life together. Whatever we do agree to do, I hope we’ll be as committed to transforming the world around us as we are to reorganizing ourselves.
Here are the current resolutions filed under justice, racism, violence, and weapons. I’ll follow up at the end and report on how these changed through the process.
A024 Direct Dioceses to Examine the Impact of the Doctrine of Discovery (a repeat of 2009 and 2012 legislation because we still haven’t done the work)
D018 Curb Gun Violence