Reflections on The General Convention by Bishop Johncy Itty, June 29, 2006
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (II Corinthians 5:20)
These words of scripture remind us of our responsibility to be instruments of God’s goodness in our world and in our community. As Christians we bear an important responsibility in sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a spirit of humility, compassion, and reconciliation. Reconciliation demands a renewal of heart, mind, and spirit so that God’s Holy Spirit can work within us.
The season of Pentecost is a season of new birth and a season of renewal. It is a time in which we are called to witness the power of the Holy Spirit moving in and with us and among the communities in which we live, pray, and worship. It is a season in which we are called to grow in commitment to Jesus and grow in our zeal for discipleship among the complex fabrics of our personal and corporate lives.
The themes “Come and Grow” and “Reconciliation” permeated a considerable part of our recent General Convention gathering in Columbus, Ohio. We join with many dioceses around the country in giving thanks to God for the faithful witness of our Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, who has served our church with prayerful dedication these past nine years and has led us through some difficult times during our common life together as a community of God’s people. We also join in celebrating the election of The Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, who has been elected to serve our church as the 26th Presiding Bishop. Bishop Jefferts Schori has served in our diocese at Good Samaritan Church in Corvallis and had been very active as a research scientist in oceanography at Oregon State University. As we honor and celebrate this member of our own community, we pray that God’s blessings will abide with Bishop Jefferts Schori as she assumes leadership and leads us in mission on behalf of the wider church.
The General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets every three years and offers a time for gathering as a church family in prayer, bible study, reflection and legislation. The Reverend John Danforth, former senator from Missouri and most recently, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, spoke to convention participants on the importance of our church’s leadership in reconciliation in both local and global contexts. Dr. Jenny Te Paa, Dean of St. John’s Theological College in Auckland, New Zealand shared some refreshing insights into what it means to be a Christ-centered community in communion with the larger church. A number of other distinguished bishops, priests, deacons, lay leaders and ecumenical colleagues participated in the life of the convention in a variety of ways that reminded us about the interconnectedness of human life and the breath and depth of the Episcopal Church’s relationships all around the world.
The convention drew well over eight thousand people from all around the country, including over eight hundred delegates and over three hundred bishops from throughout the United States and around the world.
At this gathering, a number of resolutions were introduced and passed. Some others were deferred or referred to other bodies for action. The following points reflect a sampling overview of the legislative highlights of the 75th General Convention. Additional detailed information can be obtained on the Episcopal Church’s website, www.episcopalchurch.org. The full text of particular legislation can be reviewed on the following site: http://gc2006.org/legislation/
The General Convention, as part of its active support of mission and evangelism, officially expressed its support of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and urged parishes, missions, and dioceses to work toward their implementation.
Passed resolution strengthening relations with United Methodist Church.
UMC seen as "a member of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church in which the Gospel is rightly preached and taught" and encourages the development of a common Christian life between the two bodies.
The agreement permits common, joint celebrations of the Eucharist within prescribed guidelines
Support of gay and lesbian people as "children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church."
Adopted a resolution calling for equal representation of women and men on all decision-making bodies within the church at local, diocesan and national levels. This recommendation originated with the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.
Acknowledged the past involvement of the Episcopal Church in slavery and supported a study of monetary and non-monetary reparations to descendants of the victims of slavery.
Created a new task force to study aspects of church disciplinary canons. Proposed changes to Title IV, which among other things would have included subjecting laity to ecclesiastical discipline, was not fully discussed and revised in time for action. Hence, it was referred to a task force for continued revisions in the next three years.
Authorized the creation of a Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Education and Formation to develop and recommend policies for children, youth, adults, and seniors for lifelong Christian formation (A105).
Approved additional commemorations in the Calendar of the Church Year and authorize trial use thereof for the triennium 2007-2009, for Harriet Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary; Anna Julia Heyward Cooper, Educator; James Theodore Holly, Bishop of Haiti and Dominican Republic; Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, and The Martyrs of El Salvador; Tikhon, Patriarch of Russia and Confessor; Vida Dutton Scudder, Educator and Witness for Peace; and Frances Joseph-Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer (A063 and A064).
Approved for trial use new liturgies concerning rites of passage (A067).
Acknowledged the authority of the triune God, exercised through Scripture (D069.)
Recognized the position in the Constitution and Canons that only those who have been baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion; and that the 76th General Convention receive a pastoral and theological understanding of the relationship between Holy Baptism and Eucharistic practice (D084).
Urged the church to work to ensure that governments provide programs that combat social and economic conditions that place children at risk or diminish children's ability to achieve their full potential in the world (A018).
Passed Resolution B033 that calls on bishops and Standing Committees to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.
Authorized the establishment of a Church Planting Initiative to raise funds for new congregations (A042).
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold was recognized in the formal minutes of convention: "Deep gratitude to our Presiding Bishop for his guidance throughout 75th General Convention and his faithful service as chief pastor of the Episcopal Church." The bishops also expressed their thanks to Phoebe Griswold for her "ministry to all God's children around the world."
Indeed, a multitude of issues and topics were brought before the Convention that affects the life of our wider community. Of special significance was General Convention’s renewed commitment to mission and evangelism. I pray that as we join with many others throughout our church and around the world, we will continue to use our gifts and energies in mission to be agents of Jesus Christ’s renewing, redeeming, and transforming grace.
“Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
+ Johncy Itty, Bishop