July 8, 2015
Dear People of God,
The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church concluded on Friday, July 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah. This 9 day triennial convention is the legislative body of our church gathered to consider how this church is finding its way into God’s mission through the legislative process. The great number of resolutions that are brought forward to the Convention represent the breadth of diversity and local contexts of our many congregations and dioceses throughout the world. Each are filled with the passion and desire of Episcopalians to serve God faithfully and to strengthen this church’s witness in local communities. My purpose in writing to you is to outline a few of the significant among many outcomes of this Convention.
The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, was elected to serve a 9-year term as our next Presiding Bishop. Bishop Curry is well known and well respected throughout the Episcopal Church and in ecumenical relations. He is known as a charismatic preacher, often regarded as one of the best preachers in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Curry frequently is called upon to lecture and preach around the country. The overwhelming majority by which the House of Bishops elected him and by which the House of Deputies confirmed his election (800 to 12) signifies significant affirmation that Bishop Curry is the right leader at the right time. This is the first time a Presiding Bishop has been elected on the first ballot and the first African-American to assume this role in the history of the Episcopal Church. In his closing sermon, the Presiding Bishop-Elect reminded us that we are part of the Jesus movement and there is nothing that can stop the in-breaking of God’s love into the world. This should signal the type of leadership we can expect over the next 9 years.
Recent events in the Episcopal Church have prompted us to take a serious look at how the church interacts with alcohol and what the role of the church is in supporting those in both active addiction and recovery. To that end, a new policy regarding alcohol use at church functions was formulated to provide guidance to dioceses and local congregations on the responsible use of alcohol. Particular attention has been given to those who are moving through the ordination process and careful evaluation of substance abuse related issues in our future clergy. These policies were developed in the interest of transparency and of opening an honest conversation about how unmanaged, untreated alcohol related issues significantly impact our congregations and our leadership. There is also the sense of a need for awareness of how we create safe spaces in our churches for those in recovery.
Divestment from fossil fuels was a topic of discussion in both Houses. What emerged was a passed resolution requiring the investments held by the Episcopal Church to be divested from fossil fuel companies and reinvested in sustainable, renewable resources. This action affects the current investments of the Episcopal Church, and prohibits future investment in any fossil fuel corporation.
This General Convention continued the work from 2012 of considering the church’s theology of marriage and considered reports from the Task Force on Marriage. The recommendation from the Task Force and ultimately the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music was that the Canons of the church on marriage be updated to remove gender specific language, allowing the marriage rites to be available to all couples seeking the Church’s blessing. This resolution passed both Houses. Trial rites for blessings were approved for permanent use, and others were made available for trial over the next 3 years. One of the most helpful comments that came out of the hearings on marriage is that these actions represent a reinterpretation and an expansion of the sacramental rite of marriage, and not a revision. Being reminded that the Church always reinterprets tradition and scripture based on our current context and community gave a necessary framework to these resolutions. A resolution also was passed to begin a study of prayer book and hymnal revision to be delivered to the next Convention in 2018.
The tone of this Convention was respectful, energizing, collegial, and forward looking. We continue as followers of Jesus seeking to proclaim the Gospel and to love our neighbors as we find our way into God’s mission in our generation.
The Rev. Aaron Hudson