General Convention final reports

I am pleased to provide these final reports from this past summer’s General Convention. Each section is posted separately as they are large files. All are downloadable pdfs. [Read more…]

Julia Reflects on General Convention Official Youth Presence

From time to time I will be publishing reflections from General Convention Official Youth Presence (GCOYP) participants. If you haven’t already read them, please take a few minutes to read the reflections from Sarah and Ariana.

GCOYP, which was part of this past summer’s General Convention of the Episcopal Church, was an especially sacred experience of the power of young people to make a difference and a glimpse into the dynamic future of the Episcopal Church.

Even if you weren’t at General Convention, these reflections allow you to witness these forces at work through our youth.

The following reflection is from Julia Robinson, Diocese of Ohio.

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When I think back to General Convention, it’s almost hard to remember. Not because the memories are fading—they’re there, vividly. But it feels distant, in a strange way. I have to ask myself, did it really happen? We were constantly moving. Constantly. It’s all become one big blur. Now that I’m home, I feel like spinning on a Merry-Go-Round, watching the world fly past. I can recognize the slide and jungle gym because I know they’re there. My favorite play ground… twelve perfect, exhausting days in Indianapolis.

I’ve often said that at the Episcopal Youth Event last summer, I learned how to love – I learned what it truly means to be “Christian.” At General Convention, I learned how incredible it is to be part of the Episcopal community.

I realize now that I went into the entire process sort of cynically. After my training in April, I was less than enthused. I expected that when I got to Convention, angry, jaded adults fighting one another not because they love Jesus, but just because they want to be right would surround me.

I found something much different.

The first committee meeting I spoke at was in regard to a resolution about Open Table. I spoke in favor; another member of the Official Youth Presence and close friend of mine spoke against the resolution.

As I listened to the testimonies of all the people, I realized: It wasn’t an argument between two dueling viewpoints. It was a conversation about the best way to honor Jesus. Protect the sanctity of the body or share it with all of God’s children?

No one appealing to Program, Budget and Finance was trying to cut anyone down, and the committee members had the hard decision of deciding not who was the most legitimate, but how to facilitate groups, each as Holy as the next, with limited funds.

There was fierce determination from some people to truly “Welcome” people to the church as we declare we do on websites, posters and bumper stickers everywhere.

I was blown away. And I realized, that’s what’s truly different about putting a group of Episcopalians together. Generally speaking, we’re in it for the love.

On one of our last nights together, Emma, Official Youth Presence from Minnesota talked about how she knows she wants to go into politics, and she expected to come to Convention and get a lot done. She didn’t expect it to be “clean” because we’re so used to the dirty, slimey game of American politics.

I think it goes so much deeper than politics—it applies to so many aspects of our everyday lives. You shine a bad light on someone else to make yourself look better. Selfish intentions. We’re so used to not really trusting one another. But not in our Christian community—at the heart of it all is love.

Call me naïve, but at the end of the day, this is why I won’t really fear for the Episcopal Church. The world will always need love, and after my experiences at General Convention, I know the Episcopal Church is based on love.

I entered Convention a sixteen-year-old, not sure of who she was or what the world is really about. And I left, a sixteen-year-old, not sure of who I am or what this crazy world is all about. But I also left Convention one hundred percent positive what type of person I’d like to be.

An Episcopalian.

Sarah’s reflection on General Convention Official Youth Presence

Here’s another in our ongoing series of reflections from participants in this summer’s General Convention Official Youth Presence.

This reflection is by Sarah Neumann, Province 1 participant from the Diocese of Massachusetts.

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Imagine What Young People Can Do
by Sarah Neumann

It would be impossible for me to put into words the impact that being a part of the Official Youth Presence has had on me.

Ever since I first applied to be part of the GCOYP, I had a profound sense that God was calling me to do this unique work. I couldn’t explain exactly why I felt so drawn to apply, but my interest in church polity coupled with my desire to connect to the worldwide Episcopal community seemed to make this the perfect opportunity for me. I was ecstatic when I was selected, and my excitement only grew as I attended training, met the other members of the GCOYP, and learned more about the work I would be doing at General Convention.

The work that the GCOYP did at Convention was difficult at best, frustrating at times, and thoroughly exhausting. But I wouldn’t change a single thing about my experience at Convention. It opened my eyes to what it means to be an Episcopalian today, the direction our Church is moving, and the challenges that we will face together in the future.

Even when I disagreed with the people around me, I have never felt so deeply connected to a community as I did each morning when we worshipped and celebrated the Eucharist together.

I am confident in saying that my experience at General Convention was by far the most formative experience of my life. I discovered the truly global community that I as an Episcopalian am a part of, and every day saw the diversity that makes us who we are and the love that binds us together.

I met Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bonnie Anderson, and countless other leaders who inspired me and who truly valued the presence of the OYP at Convention. And perhaps most importantly for me, I found my voice in hearings and on the floor of the House of Deputies, and when I spoke to the issues I was passionate about, I finally understood that even as a youth I have an influence and a voice in this Church that I love so much.

Even now as I have returned to my normal routine, I think about General Convention and the influence it has had on me every day. In particular, I reflect on how it affirmed my call to do the work of the Church in my life as I returned to my parish and diocese, and the voice it showed me I had and could use.

For future OYPers, my only advice is to cherish and make the most out of your time at Convention. Live in the moment, ask for help when you need it, and use plenty of hand sanitizer!

Remember that it’s impossible to do everything, but to use your voice and your presence wisely – you will have an impact and people will listen to you.

For the wider Church, remember the passion and optimism and spirit that are intrinsic to youth ministries and the young people they serve. Now imagine what those young people can do when you give them a voice and the power to bring change and new life to our Church.

Ariana reflects on General Convention Official Youth Presence

Just about three months have passed since the General Convention of the Episcopal Church adjourned in mid-July. I have asked youth who participated in the General Convention Episcopal Youth Presence (GCOYP) to reflect on their experiences, what it meant and how it continues to have an effect on their lives.

This first reflection is by Ariana Gonzalez-Bonillas, Province 8 participant from the Diocese of Arizona.

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Hope as the Episcopal Church
by Ariana Gonzalez-Bonillas

Day after day after day I think about my time at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church as part of the General Convention Official Youth Presence of 2012.

GCOYP, Province VIII: Ariana and Patrick

No vote, all voice, and a loud one too, both figuratively and literally. All other 17 voices of my fellow GCOYP 2012 have made an impression not only on the 77th General Convention, but on my life as well.

In April, when all the GCOYP met each other for the first time, I knew that I was going to learn something about the Episcopal Church and all these young adults I was going to be stuck with for ten straight days in July, I just underestimated what a lasting impression they would leave.

At the end of those three days in April, they were already stuck on my heart. (We’re all at that awkward stage where we are teenagers, half-adults, half-children, half-serious, half-play, and its only fun to be awkward together.) We made our own decisions, but we also followed each other around like ducklings from time to time, just for the fun of it.

In times of seriousness at legislative sessions or hearings, we tried to support each other as much as we could. At a committee hearing for C040, a resolution about Open Table, at 7:30 in the morning, 7:00 for those of us that wanted to speak, some of the GCOYP came just to support the speakers. For those of us speaking, three of us were for open table and one of us against it, and yet we were all nervous to speak in front of a full room and committee.

We respected each other’s opinions and listened to each other’s reasons and that is the kind of respect I wished I saw every day. We even congratulated each other on speaking and delivering our message well. Another way I say support was for me personally with my Dream Act resolution, D067.

The adults, our friends and temporary parents that are still young at heart, read my resolution to make sure I got my point across. The deputies that helped turn in my resolution helped make my idea into a reality. Of the GCOYP, there were two speakers at the first hearing for D067, and more than two supporters for each of us.

I am so grateful to those that got up super early just to sit there and watch Nora and I to speak at 7:30 for a resolution that did not even have to matter to them. Also, the ones that did speak at the second hearing for the resolution and had stories to tell are amazing in my eyes.

Being a part of the GCOYP was amazing, not just because of the friendships I made and hope to keep strong, but because of the support I could see from those friendships and from the entire Episcopal Church. It gives me hope, not as the future of Church, but as the Episcopal Church.

Thanks for being a friend and a temporary parent that is still young at heart :),

ENS story includes D067 (DREAM Act resolution)

[Episcopal News Service – Indianapolis] The House of Deputies on July 11 approved a number of resolutions on how the church can address issues of social and economic justice, and others that dealt with internal church matters.

It concurred with the House of Bishops on resolution A135, a compilation of several other resolutions that responds to issues of poverty and injustice. It commits the church over the next three years to “teaching, preaching, organizing, advocating, and building mutually transformative relationships with those who are poor to focus our hearts and the mission of our congregations and dioceses on reducing poverty and increasing economic and racial justice.”

It also calls for every meeting that takes place in the church to include time for prayer and reflection “on how our work engages issues of poverty and economic and racial justice networks” in order to “cultivate mindfulness about poverty in our communities and world.” The Episcopal Association of Deacons had advocated for setting aside this time of prayer in all church gatherings.

It approved and sent to the House of Bishops Resolution A021, which calls for the release of all those held in Cuban prisons “for religious activities or peaceful advocacy of political change” and urges the Cuban government to stop exiling released political prisoners. It also calls for advocacy efforts for humane treatment and pastoral care for four Cuban nationals convicted of spying for the government of the Republic of Cuba, who are serving prison sentences in United States.

At the request of the youth who make up convention’s Official Youth Presence, deputies considered and passed Resolution D067, which urges passage by Congress of the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and young adults. It also encourages congregations and dioceses to create academic scholarships for young people who are undocumented and to find ways to encourage them to apply for these funds. This now goes to the bishops for consideration.

The House of Deputies also sent to the bishops Resolution D055, which urges the United States government to enact stricter controls on the use of carbon-based fuels and encourages all Episcopalians to urge members of Congress to enact such legislation; and Resolution A167, calling for creation of an “HIV Welcoming Parish Initiative” to help congregations become more engaged with people with HIV/AIDS.

Turning to internal matters, deputies concurred with the House of Bishops in affirming the Episcopal Church’s teaching that Baptism is the norm for those who wish to receive Holy Communion while recognizing that pastoral concerns sometimes are required in individual circumstances. That action was in Resolution C029.

In Resolution B026, deputies agreed with bishops to give dioceses and parishes an additional three years to meet the requirement that they provide parity in health insurance cost-sharing between lay and clergy employees. That deadline now is extended until Dec. 31, 2015. Dioceses and parishes still must offer health insurance to employees through the Church Medical Trust by the end of 2012. It also calls the Medical Trust to continue to explore “more equitable sharing of health care premium costs.”

Deputies concurred with action that gives Episcopal schools more time to comply with the requirement that employees working at least 1,000 hours a year be enrolled in the Church Pension Fund this year. It now extends that until Jan. 1, 2018, and it also provides the option of establishing pension plans through TIAA-CREF, a non-church pension find available to many teachers, instead of the church’s fund.

They also concurred with the House of Bishops on Resolution D049, which calls for creating a pilot student loan fund for seminarians who agree to exercise three years of ministry in under-served areas of the Episcopal Church.

Deputies agreed with the bishops on Resolution A036, which commends the 11-year relationship of full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and asks the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee to address areas where Episcopal and Lutheran practices differ, especially around the matter of who can preside at Holy Communion and the role of deacons.

The changing world of communications was acknowledged when deputies adopted the “social media challenge,” a companion to the “website challenge” it had adopted earlier in convention. Resolution D069 calls on every congregation and diocese to use social media, in its current and future forms. That matter now goes to the House of Bishops, which repeatedly has raised concerns about the use of electronic devices during its sessions.

– Melodie Woerman is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.