Today, I am traveling to Austin for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. General Convention meets every three years and is a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, composed of deputies and bishops from each diocese. During General Convention, deputies and bishops consider a wide range of important matters facing the Church. Some years the issues have a huge impact (examples include the ordination of women and members of the LGBTQ community, as well as same-sex marriage). Other years, General Convention works on important issues that are less flashy. Regardless of the news cycle, the work of General Convention is about continuing to define who and whose we are, and making sure our work reflects our identity.
I am attending this year as an alternate clergy deputy for the Diocese of Southern Virginia. My work is to support the eight clergy and lay deputies and our bishops, helping them make important decisions, and filling in when breaks are needed. The official meetings take place July 5-13, but there are already many committee meetings happening.
In talking to a clergy colleague about my participation in General Convention he asked me, “Why in the world did you volunteer?” I have been thinking (and laughing) about that question, and after reflection, I realized why I was so interested in serving. One of the things I preach about a lot is about identity – understanding it, naming it, living into it. In the current climate of the United States, our identity as disciples of Jesus is an anchor. But just saying we are disciples without critically examining our lives through that lens does little good. For me, being a part of General Convention is a way of participating in the work of honing our identity as Episcopalians, and where applicable, helping us to better live into that identity.
I look forward to serving the broader church, our Diocese, and ultimately my parish through this work. This kind of work creates the space for making us all better, and I am hopeful about what the week can bring. I ask your prayers for the General Convention over the next many days. Like any family, parish, Diocese, or church who tries to come to consensus across differences, we will need your prayers to listen deeply, speak intentionally, and make decisions thoughtfully and prayerfully. I look forward to sharing this experience with you!