“The water’s fine”

But is it?  Massachusetts deputy Fredrica Harris Thompsett weighs in after yesterday’s joint session on creation care (watch it by going to the Media Hub and clicking on “TEConversations”).

FredricaThompsett“Those who know me know I am a great fan of Holy Baptism. It grounds all ministries and deserves attention not just at the start of our lives (if we were baptized as infants) or when we made an adult decision, but also throughout our lives.

“So I have happily been wearing a pin that says ‘The Water’s Fine.’  But is it fine when 900 million Africans do not have access to daily water?  Is it fine when most of these cherished children of God come from the poorest of the poor?  Is it fine when there is too much water in some places and too little water in others?  Is it fine when many on the continent of Africa and elsewhere predict that there will be ‘water wars’ in our future?FullSizeRender

“We learned today from the Most Rev. Thabo Mkgoba that water justice is a critical and daily reality in much of Africa.

“We in Massachusetts know that creation care in our state, throughout our nation and the world is a challenge.  Please pay attention, look and see how we are using our water resources.  Yes, today at General Convention I learned again the importance of remembering the just sanctity of our globe’s holy waters.

“Peace to one and all.”

SusannahPerkinsonAnd here, Massachusetts alternate deputy Sue Perkinson shares that powerful testimony has staying power through the long working days of the convention:

“We are all quite tired by this time in the convention.  We have been working long hours and debating and crafting resolutions in committee and on the floors of both houses.  The testimony from women (mostly) as a result of the #MeToo response has been strong and jarring and riveting.  I continue to be haunted by the women at the Hutto Detention Center.  We heard powerful testimony from Archbishop Thabo Mkgoba of South Africa about water shortages and the impact always on the poorest.  We heard about the native people of Alaska:  how their sacred lands and the caribou are being decimated by drilling.  ‘Our children deserve to see the world as it was in the beginning—-not what it is after we are done with it.'”

Yesterday’s legislative highlights include:

• The House of Bishops said no to prayer book revision in the form of a complete rewrite of Resolution A068 approved last week by the House of Deputies.  The amended proposal from the bishops keeps the 1979 Book of Common Prayer in place as “a prayer book of the church” and calls for the creation of a task force to encourage and report on new language translations and liturgical resources and experimentation in dioceses over the triennium.  Read The Living Church report here.  The amended resolution now goes back to the House of Deputies.

• After much committee deliberation over precedent and procedure, the House of Bishops voted to admit the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese of the Episcopal Church.  The measure now goes to the House of Deputies.  Read Episcopal News Service coverage here.

• The Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance yesterday got the church’s proposed budget for 2019-2021 balanced at $133.8 million and will present it this afternoon at a joint session of both houses for their separate consideration.  Episcopal News Service gets into the numbers and process here.

Check out what’s on the legislative docket for today in the House of Deputies here, and the House of Bishops here.

A sure sign that the finish line is in sight:  The Exhibit Hall closes later today.

“Words matter”

Today is the sixth legislative day of nine, and, as of this post, 411 resolutions out of the 489 total have yet to be completed.  Many will be dealt with via consent calendars which ask for a “yes” or “no” vote on a whole group of resolutions at a time.

Some of the high profile topics receiving individual consideration include:

• three resolutions on immigration that the legislative committee on social justice and U.S. policy is putting forward.  These three, according to Episcopal News Service, here, “combine parts of several resolutions on immigration into broad, forceful statements on the issues of separation of families in immigrant detention, the sanctuary church movement and the dignity of immigrants in the face of federal policies that, deputies and bishops say, go against the Episcopal Church’s Christian values.”

• a resolution on full access churchwide to two trial-use marriage rites for all couples, which, after many amendments, passed the House of Deputies on Monday and now goes to the House of Bishops for consideration (read more here).  The rites were approved for trial use in 2015, but bishops of eight domestic dioceses subsequently refused to allow their use.  This resolution seeks to remedy the situation.

• a resolution on financial investment in Israel and Palestine, passed by the House of Deputies and now going to the House of Bishops for consideration, that seeks “to end the Episcopal Church’s complicity in the 51-year old occupation” by directing “the Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility to develop a human rights social criteria investment screen.”  This topic was controversial enough when proposed at the last General Convention that it didn’t make it to the floors for action.  Read more here.

• the resolution approved by the House of Deputies to begin a process toward prayer book revision stalled after much debate in the House of Bishops yesterday, which The Living Church covers here.  It is scheduled for a vote in the House of Bishops today.

“Words matter, words matter, they really matter,” Massachusetts deputy Fredrica Harris Thompsett says in this video by Katie Forsyth for House of Deputies News, which includes several Episcopal Church leaders discussing #MeToo and the church.

MeToo Video Screen shot

The Episcopal Church is here


DebbiePhillipsHere, Massachusetts alternate deputy Debbie Phillips reflects on her experiences at Sunday’s public witnesses on ending gun violence and reforming U.S. immigration policy:

“Sunday was an amazing day of witness and prayer for all God’s beloved here in Austin and beyond.

“The day began with a morning rally held by the Bishops United Against Gun Violence. I watched a little toddler peacefully playing in the grass next to me as one speaker after another spoke about the insanity of our gun culture. As I listened to the parents of Carmen Schentrup, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who was killed by a school shooter, speak of their grief and struggle to prevent further violence, I prayed that the mother of this little one next to me would never have to experience their anguish. As I listened to a young girl talk about her experiences in Sandy Hook, I kept watching this precious one next to me and wondered, ‘When we will come to our senses about guns for her?’

“An hour later, we boarded buses. What started as a Facebook posting, by the Rev. Megan Castellan asking a question about detention centers a few weeks ago, turned into a highly organized, powerful witness at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center. More than 1,500 members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement traveled to Taylor, Tex., to let the asylum-seeking women detained there know that they are not forgotten, that they matter and that they are loved. As we sang to them, a woman waved something white out the window to us, letting us know they could hear our prayers. As Megan later reported, ‘the women were glued to the windows until the last bus left…[they] were crying, saying they weren’t alone after seeing so many people there.’

“It will take me some time to digest what we experienced today, but one thing is for sure: The Jesus Movement rolls on.”

Read more in Episcopal News Service’s report here.  Thank you to deputies Bill Parnell and Billy Boyce for these photos from the witness at the detention center.

Parnell Detention 5

Parnell Detention 1



Love, love, love (and BBQ)

It took 30-some buses making two trips to transport 2,000 people to last night’s revival, according to Episcopal News Service, at which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached for 45 minutes, to numerous standing ovations, about living lives of love:  “The key to following Jesus, the key to being his disciple, the key to life is love, is love, is love, it’s love.

“The older I get, the more I am convinced that we waste a lot of time in life on stuff that doesn’t give life. And, some of that’s human; we’re human … but at the end of the day, we’ve got to live, we’ve got to live in world where little children are not separated from their parents at our borders,” he said to rousing, sustained applause.  “And the work of love is to work to make a world with the possibility of life for all. That is the work of love.”

Massachusetts deputy Bill Parnell said of the revival:  “Great music. Great preaching. At the end everyone extended their hands in blessing our amazing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Then we all adjourned outside for ‘Texas Night’ and food trucks with BBQ and Tex-Mex.”  Here are a couple of photos, one from Bill of the congregation extending hands in blessing, and one of Massachusetts deputy Byron Rushing receiving a blessing from Bishop Curry (thanks to Phil Dinwiddie for that pic).  You can watch the full revival here (sorry, no BBQ).


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During a session earlier in the day, the convention heard from April and PhilSchentrups image1 Schentrup, pictured at right with their children Robert and Evelyn. Their daughter Carmen was among the 17 killed on Ash Wednesday at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.  Read more here.  The Schentrups are members of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs.  Their presentation helped set the tone for today’s public witness outside the convention center, organized by Bishops United Against Gun Violence, pictured below (with thanks to Bill Parnell for these photos).

BUAGV rally

New prayer book possible, but not soon:  The House of Deputies approved yesterday a resolution that would set the stage for the revision of The Book of Common Prayer.  If the House of Bishops concurs, a revised prayer book would be created by 2024, with three years of trial use after that. Final adoption of that revision by two successive General Conventions would result in a new prayer book in…2030.  Read more here.BCH award

The houses go back into legislative sessions later this afternoon following a trip to Taylor, Tex., to make a witness outside the Hutto Immigration Detainment Facility.  Immigration policy was an important topic at a joint hearing yesterday–read more here.

Hallelujah, Anyhow!:  We close this post with this nice photo, from Massachusetts deputy Karen Montagno, of Bishop Barbara Harris, honored yesterday at an Episcopal Divinity School at Union luncheon.  Speaking of well-deserved awards:  Did we mention that this is Bishop Barbara’s 19th consecutive General Convention?  Her memoir, Hallelujah, Anyhow!, will be out this fall.




“We have to decide…”: Houses reflect together on racial reconciliation

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TBrownHere, Massachusetts deputy Thomas Brown reports on yesterday’s joint session on racial reconciliation and some of the day’s legislative highlights (with thanks to deputy Bill Parnell for these photos of our hardworking deputation, above, and racial reconciliation session speakers, below):

Joint sessions—when deputies and bishops meet together—are not a frequent occurrence at General Conventions, but at this particular one we are meetingArno Michaelis 2 IMG_1890 together several times. Friday morning’s joint session gave us opportunity to address racial reconciliation. It was an outstanding presentation in which several individuals told their stories, followed by each deputation speaking together about what Jesus is calling us to do (as individuals) and how the church can help us heal our racism. The first testimony was from Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist and member of the KKK, who told his story of conversion from hate to forgiveness and compassion. The second was a young person from Austin, Charles Dawain Stephens, aka Chucky Black, who is a poet and rapper who presented his poem claiming the goodness of his family heritage. The third was from Dr. Chuckle Black IMG_1894Catherine Meeks from the Diocese of Atlanta, who is the director the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta and has spent her life helping people believe that God loves every person equally, and moving people ‘to decide that being well is more important than being white or black.’ A priest from Los Angeles, Nancy Frausto, is a ‘Dreamer’ who came across the border between Mexico and the United States when she was seven years old. Her witness helped me understand that if we are working for racial reconciliation, we must also work for justice in every other place and moment which requires truth telling. Read more via Episcopal News Service here[You can also watch it on demand on the Media Hub (click Catherine Meeks IMG_1895on “TEConversations”).]

“After the presentations we discussed in pairs our reactions, and also, how we hear Jesus calling each of us to reconciliation. Then, along with our three bishops, all eight deputies shared (or pledged) something about how our church can help us respond. I can’t say we have a great set of suggestions, only that we affirmed that to get started we ought to know each other’s stories. How might that happen in each of our faith communities?

“For my part, I offer this pledge: to help our diocesan community continue (or commence) these courageous Nancy Fausto IMG_1898conversations.  I am eager to dismantle my own racism, and to join with others in returning the world to peace, that is, in deciding that being well is more important than being white or black.

“In other news on Friday:  Compensation for the president of the House of Deputies was approved (read more here); the bishop of Honduras called out the General Convention for lack of language translation (read more here); and there was passionate testimony about Israel-Palestine (read more here).”

Schedule highlights for today, Saturday, July 7:  Joint Session on Evangelism at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and a revival-style worship service with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.  Watch on the Media Hub here.  Also, Episcopal Divinity School at Union will honor Bishop Barbara C. Harris today at a special luncheon.

The list of resolutions receiving legislative committee hearings today is available here.  The flow of resolutions out of committee and onto the floor of the houses for action is now increasing.  Track the progress of specific resolutions, by number or topic, here.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, Sunday, July 8, a day of public witness:  Bishops United Against Gun Violence will host an outdoor public witness at 10:30 a.m. Eastern, followed by the convention daily Eucharist at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.  Then, convention-goers will board buses to the Hutto Immigration Detainment Facility for a prayer vigil at 1 p.m. Eastern.



Inching toward prayer book revision, more on marriage equality, and Deputy Madsen reports on work of Social Justice and U.S. Policy

Among the high profile deliberations of yesterday, July 5:  The committee tasked with considering resolutions on prayer book revision voted yesterday to propose a plan for comprehensive revision (read coverage here); marriage equality resolutions got lengthy hearings (read coverage here); and the House of Deputies approved a plan for paying its presiding officer–a controversial topic that went unresolved at the 2015 General Convention.  Massachusetts deputy Byron Rushing, who is vice president of the House of Deputies, chaired the session.  The measure now goes to the House of Bishops for consideration (read more here).

Resolutions scheduled for hearings today, July 6 are listed here.  Today’s joint session on racial reconciliation is at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.  Watch it on the Media Hub.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, July 7:  Joint Session on Evangelism at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and a revival-style worship service with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Witness against gun violence:  The Bishops United Against Gun Violence coalition, of which our Massachusetts bishops are members, is hosting daily pop-up prayer sessions for victims of gun violence, and is distributing 96 of these crosses every day in remembrance of the 96 people who die from gun violence every day in the U.S.


Betsy Ridge MadsenHere, Massachusetts deputy Betsy Ridge Madsen reflects on her Wednesday experiences at General Convention.  She serves as a legislative aide to the Committee on Social Justice and U.S. Policy, which is working on resolutions having to do with immigration (find them here), among other concerns.

“So much has happened in the first two days in Austin. Sharing, reuniting with friends from other parts of the country, yea, even other parts of the world, challenging one another, coming together in what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry passionately calls ‘the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.’

“From the first moment in the line to pick up certification badges, sharing began for me. The deputy just ahead of me told how excited she was with her assignment on the Congregational and Diocesan Vitality Committee. The person next in line told about her first meeting on her diocesan Standing Committee when she had to consider a church closing. She had gone to our Diocese of Massachusetts guidelines for our marks of congregational vibrancy and used them to support her work. In a short moment, three deputies from three different parts of the country had connected with networking, resource sharing and energetic problem solving. The Holy Spirit was amongst us in what Presiding Bishop Curry dubs a ‘holy convocation.’

“My committee is Social Justice and U.S. Policy. I am a legislative aide, the part of the leadership team who handles hearings and various aspects of filing legislation. Tuesday was the commissioning of officers and legislative aides. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, reminded us of the long legacy of our Episcopal polity, reading from the journal of the first convention in Philadelphia in 1785, and citing numerous examples of how General Convention can change lives. Presiding Bishop Curry once again reminded us of the need to ‘help the world learn to love again.’ How moving it was to hear our presiding bishop speaking to us in a small group echoing the words of his royal wedding sermon heard around the world.

“Committee work began with introductions, 31 of us from 29 different dioceses, including bishops and deputies. Half of our committee is working with the numerous resolutions on immigration issues and the other half is working on ‘everything else,’ which includes such issues as gun control, opioids, voting rights, economic justice, incarceration and women’s rights. Every resolution which has been submitted is subject to revision, and each one must have a public hearing before coming to the convention floor. Today we held a hearing on eight resolutions (C041, C047, D003, A057, B002, B005, C015, C013). After listening, committee members worked to perfect language for presentation to the convention. The hearing on immigration issues will be held by both the Social Justice and U.S. Policy and the Social Justice and International Policy committees on Saturday morning.

“The hours are long, but rewarding. At Wednesday night’s Union of Black Episcopalians 50th Anniversary Gala, our own Bishop Gayle Harris gave the opening prayer. It was a jubilant event, honoring leaders from the past 50 years, including, of course, many of our own Massachusetts heroes, Bishop John Burgess, Byron Rushing and Bishop Barbara Harris, and ending with a rousing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’

“I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to serve as your deputy.”

#GC79 officially opens, liturgical listening in response to #MeToo, UBE celebrates 50 and a celebrity sighting…

Parnell BillMassachusetts deputy Bill Parnell reports on Wednesday’s getting-started activities, and shares his photos from the opening joint session with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the president of the House of Deputies, The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings:


GC79Jennings Opening Parnell

“Though many bishops and deputies have been here since the beginning of the week, Wednesday, July 4 was the first day that we met in plenary.  In the early afternoon there was a joint meeting of bishops and deputies to hear from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings. Each gave an opening address to the combined Houses.  Episcopal News Service has reported on it here.

“Much of the afternoon was an orientation to the GC79 Curry Opening Parnellmechanics of General Convention.  This year, as was the case in Salt Lake City in 2015, each bishop, deputy and alternate deputy have been issued an iPad which contains all the documents for what is essentially a paperless convention.  The iPads enable legislation to be tracked and updated easily, provide worship materials for the daily Eucharist and a calendar of all committee meetings and events.  For those of us who remember the constant clicking of huge three-ring binders and bishops and deputies carting wheeled luggage around the technology is a huge advance.  [Everyone can access the Virtual Binder here.]

“Early Wednesday evening the bishops sponsored a worship service during which they read stories of abuse, harassment and unequal treatment that had been submitted from around the church.  The #MeToo movement has given voice to many women and men who have remained silent for many years and who now are telling their painful stories.  The service was an opportunity to listen, to confess the church’s failure to respond appropriately and to commit ourselves to creating a safe place for all.  [Read more here and watch it on demand on the Media Hub by clicking on “Worship” and then look for “Liturgy of Listening” in the list at the right.]

“Also on Wednesday evening, about 400, including most of our Massachusetts deputation, gathered for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Union of Black Episcopalians.  There was singing and a lot of stories were told about UBE and its leaders from its founding in 1968. A video produced by the Rev. Canon Dr. Lynn Collins (Long Island) conveyed a lot of UBE’s history and included interviews with Bishop Barbara Harris, Canon Ed Rodman and House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing.

“Thursday, July 5 is the first legislative day of General Convention so resolutions will begin to flow from the various committees to either the House of Bishops or the House of Deputies for initial consideration.  A resolution is not adopted until it has been approved by both Houses.”

Find the list of resolutions receiving legislative committee hearings today here.

Watch House of Deputies and House of Bishops legislative sessions live on the Media Hub.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, July 6:  Tomorrow is the resolutions filing deadline (334 filed to date…).  Also, the Special Joint Session on Racial Reconciliation convenes at 11:30 a.m. Eastern (watch on the Media Hub).

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We close this post with a celebrity sighting:  The pigeon strutting around the House of Deputies now has its own Twitter following @GC79Pigeon.  Check it out here.