“It’s always a surprise”

All was pretty quiet this morning at the Salt Palace Convention Center—our deputation’s home away from home for the next couple of weeks—but deputies and bishops are starting to stream in as legislative committees begin meeting and working today. The first legislative day is Thursday, June 25.

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The Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City

At an opening press conference this afternoon, the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer and Secretary of the General Convention, reported that, as of today, nearly 4,500 people have pre-registered and that twice that number of participants is expected over the course of the convention.

House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings; General Convention Secretary Michael Barlowe; and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at today's press conference.

House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings; General Convention Secretary Michael Barlowe; and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at today’s press conference.

The president of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, said General Convention participants are “servants of mission” and spoke about the wider societal context in which this convention gathers.

“I particularly want to note that we come together at a very tense time in our nation’s history,” Jennings said, citing the police brutality and gun violence that have claimed the lives of black men and boys and the recent racially motivated shootings in Charleston, S.C.

“I believe God is calling us to dismantle the systems of racism and privilege that are inextricably bound up in the history of the United States and of our church,” she said.  General Convention is a place where Episcopalians not only can proclaim that black lives matter, she said, but also take concrete action toward dismantling racism.  She announced that the coalition Bishops United Against Gun Violence will hold a march in downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday morning.

In response to a question about the Five Marks of Mission which help shape the Episcopal Church’s budget and programmatic efforts, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, “The great genius of them is that no one part of the church, no one part of the body can fulfill them all. It takes all of us working together to engage them thoroughly.”

She described the General Convention as “an enormous undertaking” for which she is grateful.

“It’s always a gift to see what the body decides and that cannot be predicted in advance. It’s always a surprise,” Jefferts Schori said.

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