St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church


St. Bart's Blog

General Convention Recap

Posted by Polly Getz-Enos on

For the first two weeks of July, it was my privilege to serve as one of the Deputies elected at Diocesan Convention to represent the Diocese of San Diego at our General Convention. This is the first of two articles about some of the matters we discussed and the actions we took on behalf of the whole Church. There will be a forum on September 2 at St. Bart’s to discuss the work done and decisions made. In the meantime, I respectfully offer this summary of some of the things we did.

What is General Convention?
The General Convention is the legislative body of the world-wide Episcopal Church (We exist in 16 countries). It meets every three years for about 10 days. There are two Houses: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. The House of Bishops consists of all bishops of the Episcopal Church, which is about 150. The House of Deputies consists of people elected by their dioceses. Each diocese is authorized to elect up to 4 priests or deacons and 4 laypeople. With 110 dioceses, the House of Deputies ends up with about 850 members.

We come together to make decisions about polity, our Constitution and Canons, social issues, election of many of our leaders, our liturgies, and various matters that impact our relationships within the church and with the wider church and the Anglican Communion.

Restore La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba to the Episcopal Church
In a truly historic move, the Episcopal Church in Cuba was brought back into the Episcopal Church. Bishop Griselda was there to celebrate the great moment. In 1959 and into the early ‘60s, the revolution in Cuba resulted in the Episcopal Church in Cuba being separated from the rest of The Episcopal Church. There was no travel between the United States and Cuba and no financial transactions. In fact, if we wanted to assist Cuba, we had to send our efforts via Canada. With the current improvements of relations between Cuba and the United States, we were able to begin dialogue about restoring the Episcopal Church in Cuba to the global Episcopal Church. While we did, in fact, welcome Cuba “home,” there are still a number of matters to be addressed, including amending their Constitution and Canons to conform to ours, and bringing pension transactions current. It was a really joyful moment!

Compensate the PHoD
Over the decades, the role and responsibilities of the President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) has grown dramatically. And yet, that person is the only officer of the Church who is (was) not compensated. Over time, it became apparent that only someone who was retired, had married well, and/or was independently wealthy could serve in that role. It became an issue of justice. The House of Bishops pushed back because they were concerned the House might seek to create a co-primacy of sorts between the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. Those fears were assuaged and both Houses approved directing Executive Council to make appropriate provisions for compensation.

Refugees – Hutto Detention Center
On Sunday morning, about 1,000 of us boarded 19 buses and went to the Hutto Detention Center about 40 minutes from Austin, in Taylor, TX. Hutto is a private detention center which is one of many housing mothers who have been separated from their children at the border upon trying to enter the United States to seek asylum. We were gathered in a grassy area of a sports field some distance from the Center. We broke into spontaneous songs in the hope the women inside could hear us, and conducted a prayer service led by our Presiding Bishop. At one point, about half our group began to wander toward the facility, not realizing our permit did not allow this. As the group got to within about 50 yards, they began to see hands pressed up against the windows and pieces of paper being moved against the glass to get the attention of the crowd. Eventually, security turned our group back. However, we later found out that an inmate called one of our organizing groups and told them the women could, in fact, see and hear our people and were heartened by reassurance they were not alone. I would encourage you to read the poignant posting of The Rev. Colin Mathewson on the diocesan website at

A number of elections are held during General Convention. The President and Vice President of the House of Deputies were elected for another three-year term (they’re eligible for 3 consecutive terms). The President is The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and the Vice President is the Honorable Byron Rushing, a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature. Other elections included the Board of Trustees of the Church Pension Fund, the General Theological Seminary Board, the Board of Examining Chaplains, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. I am very pleased and proud to have been elected to a six-year term on the Executive Council. This is the board of directors of the global Episcopal Church. I was also elected Secretary of Province VIII, which is the geographic region where our diocese is located.

At this Convention, the Presiding Bishop scheduled 3 separate joint sessions (meaning the bishops joined the Deputies in the House of Deputies) on topics drawn from the Jesus Movement. The topics were Anti-Racism/Racial Justice, Evangelism, and Care of Creation. Each began with amazing presentations by a wide variety of folks, then we were asked to pair up to discuss a set of questions. Finally, Deputations with their bishops discussed how we can take the information and ideas back to our dioceses for concrete implementation. I suspect we will see some of this in our Diocesan Convention.

Book of Common Prayer/Alternative Liturgies
In a controversial dialogue, it was decided to begin the long process of revising the Book of Common Prayer. It is likely to take as long as twelve years to accomplish. Our current BCP was adopted in 1979 and the edition before that was from 1928. The current Book was “memorialized,” essentially meaning that it will continue as an authorized text. Some say that, by the time a revision is ready, there will not be a print edition, but only digital. That remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting decade for the church.

Somehow, every Convention comes up with a humorous thread. This time it was the pigeons! During the Presiding Bishop’s opening remarks to a joint session, a pigeon soared across the room. The PB referred to is as a dove with some special meaning. The research was done to then confirm to the House that is was indeed a “rock dove.” There then followed every manner of pigeon pun, reference, costume, gifts, etc. It was really delightful and offered just the right tone of humor at moments when things were decidedly not humorous. Turns out, there is a pair of “rock doves” that actually live in the Convention Center!

Next month, I will offer my reflections on topics to include the Convention’s reaction to the #MeToo movement, the Israel/Palestine controversies, sexual misconduct and the launch of the new Title IV Training website, improving background checks and responding to issues of impairment and substance abuse and misuse, our worship during Convention, marriage rites, and a handful of other topics. Stay tuned!