Episcopalians gather for General Convention

Finance and proposed additions to liturgical texts will be among the issues facing members of the Episcopal Church when they gather today for their General Convention in Anaheim, Calif.
Clergy, laity and bishops will convene, as they do every three years, to review proposed resolutions as well as pray and reflect upon the church’s identity. The 10-day convention will draw “deputies” from each of the 109 dioceses in the United States and Europe.
The convention’s theme is “Ubuntu,” an African word referring to the interconnectedness of all people.
“It describes the paradox of uniqueness within community,” said the Rev. Paul Stephens, rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo.
The Episcopal Church is one of 38 autonomous member churches that form the worldwide Anglican Communion. The communion spans 164 countries with 77 million members, including the 2.4 million members of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Like many churches, those within the Anglican Communion have recently experienced tensions over issues such as homosexuality and, according to Stephens, the convention’s theme is meant to invite people into serious discussions about how to respect each other’s differences while remaining unified in the body of Christ.
The Rev. Chip Davis, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez, is one of four clergy deputies attending this year’s convention from the Diocese of Mississippi.
Davis serves on the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Legislative Committee, one of 21 legislative committees. He said one resolution of particular importance to his committee will concern proposed additions to a supplemental worship text titled “Enriching Our Worship,” which deals with issues of child bearing.
There are already liturgies for the birth of a child, and the proposed additions would form liturgies for prayer and healing after such painful events as birth defects or abortion.
Another resolution proposes the creation of a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions. There is no such liturgy currently in the church’s Book of Common Prayer or its supplemental texts.
Each diocese sends four clergy deputies and four lay deputies to convention. Together with bishops they form a bicameral legislative body that functions much like the U.S. Congress.
“We vote our conscience,” said Davis. “I have the people of the Diocese of Mississippi in my heart, but I’m not bound by a constituency in the same way a delegate is.”
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.

Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal