Opening General Convention by The Rev. Mary R. H. Demmler

The President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop officially opened their respective houses this morning, thus beginning the first official legislative day of General Convention. Gay Clark Jennings called the House of Deputies to order at eight o'clock this morning. One of the first orders of business at every General Convention, required by canon, is the placement of the Bible front and center in the meeting hall for all to see. President Jennings chose the Bible to be open to 2 Corinthians 4:5-11 for this year's convention. The placement of the Bible and President Jenning's choice of text can leave no doubt as the centrality of Jesus Christ and the story of God in Holy Scripture to the work and mission of The Episcopal Church.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry continued with the theme of the centrality of Christ in his sermon at the Opening Eucharist this morning as well as an invitation to the whole of The Episcopal Church. In his conversation with the Official Youth Presence last night, he said that an important question emerged, "How do you love in a world that is profoundly unloving?" He used the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water to illustrate how we are called to love and follow the example of Christ, not once the storms settle, but in the midst of the wind, rain, waves, and darkness.

The Presiding Bishop paraphrased Deitrich Bonhoeffer and encouraged us all to "throw (ourselves) into the arms of Jesus and then (we) might know how to love (our) enemy." He also called on the words of the Civil Rights anthem, "Eyes on the Prize," to say that if we keep our eyes on the unconditional, unselfish, and self-sacrificing love of Christ, we can persevere in doing the work of ministry, even in the most divisive of times.

Curry's invitation comes in challenging every Episcopalian to adopt a "way of love." Volunteers handed out small pamphlets and tri-fold business cards that explain this invitation. Part of the text reads as follows,

"As the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, we follow the Way of Jesus. His way is the Way of Love, and that love has the power to change lives and change the world. Do you seek a life centered on Jesus? Do you seek to explore and live his Way of Love? How will you or your church, ministry, or network commit to follow the Way of Jesus? How could you join or gather a community for practicing Jesus-centered life?" For more information on this invitation, visit www.episcopalchurch.org/wayoflove or text WAYOFLOVE to 51555.

Curry reminded the congregation that we are branches connected to the vine of Christ and of the importance of abiding in Christ in order to succeed in doing God's work in the world. Through this work, he believes The Episcopal Church, "can help Christianity reclaim its soul." His closing words were, "Throw yourself into the arms of Jesus and let those almighty hands of love lift you up." Then he spoke words, again, from the anthem, "Eyes on the Prize."

During the opening session for the House of Deputies, memorials were read. These are the names of former deputies and other leaders who have died in the past triennium. Included in those remembered were people dear to the Diocese of Atlanta. The Very Rev David Collins served as President of the House of Deputies and was a past dean of the Cathedral of Saint Philip. Lueta Bailey was the first woman elected as a deputy to General Convention in the whole Episcopal Church, and she was elected by the Diocese of Atlanta. Finally, Suzanne Foucault was included in the memorials. She was the consultant to the diocese for the nominating process for the tenth bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta.

After lunch and dinner, the various committees held hearings on their respective resolutions. These hearings are growing in activity and energy as deputies attend to speak passionately in favor or against the various pieces of proposed legislation. The committee on which the Very Rev. Sam Candler serves has had particularly energetic debates in their hearings. We can expect to hear much out of the Committee to Receive the Report of Resolution A169 in the days to come.

Deputies voted on a number of resolutions in the afternoon legislative session, mostly pertaining to Order of Business matters. One significant resolution that was debated and passed was B014. This resolution provides for a Director's Fee for the President of the House of Deputies. To date, this has been a volunteer position despite it demanding full-time work of the person holding the office. This resolution will allow for the President of the House of Deputies to be compensated for their time and expertise. 

A reminder about the bicameral nature of General Convention: resolutions must pass in both houses without amendment in order for the resolution to pass General Convention. If either house amends a resolution, that resolution returns to the other house for consideration.

A highlight of the after legislative session was a filmed greeting from the many international leaders visiting General Convention. The deputies heard greetings from primates and secretaries from Episcopal and Anglican churches in Ghana, New Zealand, South Africa, the Philippines, Canada, Korea, Japan, Italy, England, and more. It is moving to witness the relationships the Episcopal Church enjoys around the world.