Reforming General Convention? Or watering it down?

The Diocese of Georgia passed a resolution over the weekend calling up on the church to re-imagine General Convention. This section interested me.

By design, General Convention is the largest gathering of the people of the Episcopal Church. This extraordinary opportunity should be used to empower and equip the church and its leaders for mission and evangelism in God’s world by creating a balance between legislative deliberation and a focus on renewal of the church. This can be accomplished by providing training and inspiration for mission and evangelism through intentional leadership training, sharing of “best practices”, storytelling, networking and engaging in mission in the host city – being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ: A community in action.

I am in favor of training more people in the church to talk about their faith. If it can be demonstrated that this is best done at large national gatherings, rather than on the regional, diocesan or parochial level, I’d have no problem supporting a churchwide initiative. I have two problems with this proposal, however. The first is that we vote for deputies to represent us in a legislature. We should not give them other duties for which they might not be especially qualified. The person who excels as a representative is not necessarily the same person who excels as an evangelist of teacher of evangelists. The second is that one of the prime complaints about the convention is that there is not enough time to consider all of the legislation. Giving the deputies additional duties will only make this worse.

So, two categories of questions to get our conversation started:

1. What is the best way to train people to speak about their faith? National gatherings? Provincial meetings? How will it trickle down to people in parishes?

2. Does anybody else think that the emphasis on doing other things at General Convention is an attempt to diminish the convention’s authority? At the last Executive Council meeting, Bishop Stacy Sauls, who preached at Georgia’s convention, called for a conversation about church restructuring in which “nothing was off the table.” I find this heartening, but so far, nothing is on the table except minimizing the opportunities for lay people and clergy to participate in the governance of the church.

As someone who thinks the House of Deputies played the leading role on a number of the most important issues to confront the church in recent decades, I have a significant problem with this, but I sense that I am in a minority. What’s good about tilting the balance of authority in the church toward the Office of the Presiding Bishop?

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