GUEST BLOG: The Unfolding and Emerging Church--General Convention 2015

By Becky Goodwin, All Saints', Peterborough

About two years ago, I received a call from a friend and priest in Littleton, the Rev. Kurt Weisner. He informed me that I had been nominated to be elected to attend General Convention in 2015 in Salt Lake City as a deputy of the lay order from the diocese of New Hampshire. I was flattered, but frankly had no idea what this information meant, other than it meant I could possibly get a chance to fly across the country (for free!) to represent the Episcopal Church of NH, of which I am quite fond. So I thought, sure! and filled out the necessary application materials. Lo and behold, at the next Diocesan Convention, I managed to not quite make the cut as one of the four deputies, but was elected as first alternate, which meant I would be included in the group traveling to Salt Lake City and my way would be paid. What an honor! However, in the midst of it all, I felt and continue to feel a bit like Dorothy headed off the Emerald City, overwhelmed and feeling like I’m just not sure how this whole adventure will unfold… but I am excited!

Our 10 person group from NH, the “deputation” to use the official terminology, (there is a lot of official GC terminology I have since discovered…) is a diverse and wonderful group of people, lay and ordained, led by the Rev. Bill Exner from St. Matthew’s Church in Goffstown. Some have attended many times before, but I am not the only “freshman” in the group, which is encouraging. We have gathered several times as a group, and again with all the deputations from Province 1 (the 7 dioceses of New England) on a retreat back in April known as Provincial Synod. 

This is all to prepare us for the 13 day experience from June 23rd to July 4th known as General Convention- the triennial gathering of the whole national Episcopal Church. We will have daily prayer, and then we move into committee hearings and voting on key legislation which people across the country have faithfully prepared over the past three years.  The governance for our national church is quite similar to our secular government, in that legislation is handled through a committee process, with over a dozen committees, each with an appointed sub-topic, who receive, discuss and amend legislative items. There is a great range of topics, but I thought for this article, I would provide a sneak peak on some of the big ticket items, in my opinion.

Firstly, the Diocese of NH has sponsored two bills. The first relates to gun violence which calls for a united, cohesive stand on the part of the church as a whole to support sensible gun ownership laws which reflect our Christian values. The second calls for priests, deacons, bishops and lay people throughout the church to prayerfully unite behind the abolition of the death penalty, bearing in mind the lack of Gospel support for the taking of a life in any context. Other legislative items getting a lot of attention include: a plan for divestment of funds from fossil fuel companies and reinvestment in green energies, divestment from corporations and agencies related to the occupation in Palestine, a call to amend the questions during our Baptism on page 304-305 of the BCP to add a promise to value and protect the Earth as God’s creation, the election of a new Presiding Bishop, as well as opening the discussion as to whether or not it might be time to revise our prayer book. There are many, many issues at hand, too broad to cover in a single Messenger article, but all will be faithfully held, discussed, prayed over and ultimately put to a vote. I welcome questions and feedback from anyone who would like to know more about all of this, and will work to connect people with access to updates from GC.

In order to achieve this goal, I will be creating a new page of our website exclusively for updates as we prepare and eventually depart for Salt Lake City. All Saints’ is one of only a handful of churches from NH with a congregant who will be present for the action as it unfolds and as such, I look forward to sharing this unique perspective on the evolving church with all of you. We will be blogging, tweeting, using Facebook and I will try to have something submitted to whoever takes over the Saints Alive e-newsletter in my absence for those who may not use social media.  I ask your prayers and positive thoughts as I participate in what I can only imagine will be an eye-opening and deeply formational experience.