General Convention in Anaheim – Tuesday, July 7, 2009 – Off and Running!
The alarm went off at 6:00 AM. I had to be at the first meeting of the Legislative Committee on Evangelism by 8:00 AM. We are staying at the Hilton which is the closest hotel to the Convention Center. This was a nice change. Last convention we were blocks away; in 2003, about a mile.
The forces started to gather yesterday and people were coming in all day Monday and Tuesday. There will be about 820 Deputies; 220 Bishops; and few hundred alternate Deputies, clergy and lay; 1,500 volunteers; 500 women meeting at ECW Triennial. These are the registered participants. In addition, through the next ten days, several thousand visitors from around the country and the world will join us, including the Archbishop of Canterbury who will address the General Convention. At the first meeting of the Legislative Committee, I got to catch up with Brad Whittaker, rector of Christ Church, Grosse Point, Michigan who was at General Seminary with me. One of the joys of General Convention is running into people around the church I have met over the years and don’t get to see otherwise – colleagues from other dioceses; former classmates; lay people from places where I have served.
Most Deputies are assigned to legislative committees. Resolutions that are to come before the General Convention must first go to a legislative committee. Each legislative committee holds open hearings on proposed resolutions. Bishops, Deputies, experts in particular fields and visitors are free to speak at these hearings. The Legislative Committee on Evangelism receives all resolutions that have to do with evangelism in the church. At present, we have had eight resolutions placed before us, which seems a small number to me considering that evangelism should be a mission priority, and that, at present we are a declining church situated in a country in which, according to the American Religious Identification Survey of 2009 (ARIS 2009) fewer and fewer Americans are identifying themselves as Christians. I am crafting a resolution that will seek to raise the profile of evangelism as a mission priority. We’ll see if it flies.
The Legislative Committee spent the morning getting to know one another. We then looked over the eight pieces of legislation that have been placed before us which range from adjusting the ways of measuring attendance and mission, to supporting the creation of a “toolkit” for evangelism for use by dioceses and parishes; to calling for a $3.4 million expenditure for a “Strategic Vision for Reaching Latinos/Hispanics.”
As a legislative committee, we were not allowed to discuss the legislation prior to open hearings being held. We did break up into subcommittees that each took responsibility for “perfecting” a particular piece of legislation once the hearings had been held. The meeting was adjourned before noon. We would reconvene at 7:00 PM for the first hearings that would address four of the eight pieces of legislation. The hearing would last until 9:00 PM. These are long working days at General Convention.
At 2:00 PM, Deputies, Bishops and Visitors filed into the enormous “worship hall’ in Convention area “D.” This is designed to hold more than 5,000 people for worship at one time. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson addressed the Convention to set the tone for the work that faces us over the ten days. When I have a few moments, I will provide an entry on highlights. Right now, I’ve got to run!