Report from the Albany Deputation to the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church
The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church took place in Salt Lake City, Utah from June 25th through July 3rd. We worked very hard and dealt with many resolutions. We worshipped together in great diversity. We wrestled together in great diversity. There were times when there was agreement. For example, we increased the level of funding for planting new churches by some 2 million dollars. However, there were important issues on which there was not agreement.
One of those issues was an extensive Task Force report that recommended major changes in church structure. The size of this report was difficult to digest. Several changes were adopted, such as eliminating a large number of Standing Commissions. Other changes, such as modifying our Province System or changing how the House of Bishop and House of Deputies meet and vote, were debated but in the end it was decided to continue studying these, and other, major changes to our structure.
The situation that received the most press was the Convention’s consideration of marriage. During our General Convention, the United States Supreme Court returned its decision on same-sex marriage, declaring it a civil right. Some considered that this action by the Supreme Court would make the action that the Church should take clear – that because civil marriage was a civil right, church marriage should be allowed for same sex couples as well. But our sacramental life goes beyond civil matters and as such, this debate took on an especially deep importance.
It is not news to anyone reading this report that the Diocese of Albany’s understanding of marriage is one that is traditional and biblical, as the Bishop mentioned in the statement he issued on Saturday. While we were in the minority of this Convention, we were not alone. We were not the only voices speaking against the redefinition marriage at the hearings. The members of our deputation, along with some from other deputations, spoke in the House of Deputies and Bishop Bill spoke eloquently in the House of Bishops in defense of the traditional understanding of marriage. We spoke with the goal of communicating our position and we pray we did so with a heart of charity.
And we were recipients of charity as well. Beyond testifying, it was the ad-hoc conversations with others who held different views that provided perhaps the most Christian moments as we wrestled with our brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer. It was not a surprise to anyone that the General Convention moved to redefine marriage both in our Canons and also in our liturgies. We are grateful that the actions taken by General Convention, in its legislation, left the ability for Dioceses holding traditional views to maintain them.
We recognize that not everyone in our diocese agrees with the majority viewpoint in our diocese. For those in our diocese who do not hold a traditional view, please know that your bishops and your deputation understand what it means to be in the minority position. As we, your bishops and deputation, return, we know the work before us is to continue to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ to all and to continue to work alongside each other in a spirit of love and charity, especially with those with whom we do not agree.
Perhaps the highlight of General Convention was the election of a new Presiding Bishop, The Right Reverend Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina. Bishop Curry is an energetic proclaimer of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. His enthusiasm is infectious. We celebrate his election and look forward to working with him in the coming years. He will be installed as Presiding Bishop on All Saints Day (November 1st) this year.
We were away a long time and we are happy to have returned to you. Taking part in the governance of our denomination is a part of what it means to be Church, but most of Church is local and relational. So we have returned to you, a bit tired, but also more than ever determined to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ to all.
Thank you all for your prayers and support.
The Albany Deputation:
The Venerable David Collum, Chair of the Deputation
The Rev. Scott Garno, Deputy
The Rev. Canon Robert Haskell, Deputy
The Rev. Chip Strickland, Deputy
Lay Canon Jerry Carroll, Deputy
Mrs. Jennifer Dean, Deputy
Mrs. Sarah Garno, Deputy
Mrs. Sue Ellen Ruetsch, Deputy
The Rev. Jill Stellman, Alternate