I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served as a clergy alternate deputy and as a legislative aide for the Committee on the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music at The 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.
My experience participating in the bi-cameral legislative process in our church increased my appreciation for how the body of Christ manages its common life together. At the time I left here for Austin, there were over 200 resolutions to be considered.
By the next to last day of convention, there were over 500 resolutions. We managed to deal with every one of them. The process was orderly, organized, meticulous, and joyful. It was also troubling at several points.
Those moments when there was discord among the deputies and even among the bishops served as a reminder that we are present not only in North America, but Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Our largest diocese is Haiti. Ideas and attitudes that can feel “mainstream” here are still received as threatening in other places. Yet even in our times of strongly differing opinions, the whole deliberative body stayed together and made every attempt to think before speaking and to speak in love.
One of the most joyous moments was the “Homecoming” for the Diocese of Cuba. Sixty years ago when communism took over the country, the U.S. House of Bishops expelled the Cuban bishop and cut off the entire country peremptorily. Not only was this an emotional blow, but the economic consequences were disastrous, leaving postulants no option for seminary education, no funding for church plants, and no relief of any sort.
In a historic move, the Presiding Bishop along with the House of Bishops publicly apologized to Cuba, inviting its bishop and her deputation to take their rightful place in both houses. When the Bishop of Cuba accepted the apology and extended forgiveness, both houses spontaneously began to sing the doxology. The standing ovation lasted for several moments and is a scene that I am not likely to ever forget.
When I put my name forward to be considered for the deputation from our diocese, I bemoaned the ballot crowded with names of persons who had been going to General Convention for a decade. Why not give others a chance?
After seeing the incredibly important work that GC does and how pending legislation can carry over from one triennium to the next, I now see the critical need for “seasoned” deputies to be present, along with some new folks who can learn by watching them work. Our diocese is so privileged to have several of these seasoned veterans (Sam Candler, Bruce Garner, John Andrews, and Angela Williamson), and the credit for much of the amazing legislation that will come out of this 79th Convention is due to their steadfast hard work.
(Vote for me in 2020!)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Park