78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church
opens with prayers for Emanuel 9
June 25, 2015
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Emanuel 9 tragedy and issues of racism and reconciliation are at the forefront of prayers and discussions as the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church gets under way today in Salt Lake City, Utah, and local Episcopalians are present and represented at the triennial gathering that runs through July 3.
Pre-convention committee meetings held Wednesday night (June 24) opened with a prayer for the nine lives lost at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, on June 17. The prayer was authored by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the local diocese that includes Charleston and the eastern half of South Carolina. (The text is below.)
Both Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, referred to the tragedy and its aftermath in initial press conferences and opening remarks.
“We can help to build a different kind of road, one with light bearers rather than death dealers,” the Presiding Bishop said in her sermon at the opening Eucharist on Thursday. “The good news is there are forerunners at work in all the places of the world’s conflict and hate – forerunners pointing to the Prince of Peace. Members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston made their light-filled witness at the arraignment of the young man charged with shooting their fellow parishioners. They stood up and said, ‘we forgive you, even in the midst of our nearly boundless pain; hate must not win.’"
In a legislative session later in the day, the House of Deputies approved a resolution of condolence and support:
“Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, currently meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah joins in pain, grief, and sorrow with the families and friends of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Myra Thompson, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lance, who were slain in a racist act of violence. As our hearts go out to them, The Episcopal Church stands in solidarity with the people of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, our brothers and sisters of the wider African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the people of Charleston, South Carolina as they respond with acts of forgiveness, reconciliation, and justice.”
TECSC is represented at General Convention by Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg in the House of Bishops, and eight deputies, plus alternates, who sit among more than 800 clergy and non-clergy in the House of Deputies. The northwest half of the state is in the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, and also has a deputation at General Convention with Bishop Andrew Waldo.
People from across the church have welcomed the TECSC deputies in Salt Lake City, noting that this is the first General Convention since a breakaway group from the diocese declared it was leaving The Episcopal Church. At the 2012 General Convention, all but two of the Diocese of South Carolina’s deputies walked away along with Bishop Mark Lawrence in protest over resolutions concerning human sexuality. One of those who stayed, Lonnie Hamilton, is again a deputy in 2015 for the reorganized diocese.
This year, the Church’s responses to racism and gun violence are high on the list of topics to be dealt with in resolutions being discussed at General Convention. Also ahead are the election of a new Presiding Bishop, structural changes for the denomination, the church’s response to the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, positions on national and international policy issues, and discussions of liturgy and clergy discipline.
Bishop vonRosenberg testified Wednesday before a committee that is looking at what path The Episcopal Church can offer to priests and deacons who are released from their vows. South Carolina has used a reconciliation process created in the diocese after the split in order to welcome back two priests who had followed the breakaway group and subsequently been removed. As a result of his testimony, the Bishop is now working on a proposed canon that would allow such a process for clergy in other parts of the church. (Read the Bishop’s blog post about this topic here.)
Clergy deputies for South Carolina attending the convention in Salt Lake City are the Rev. Dr. Jim Taylor of St. Thomas, North Charleston; the Rev Dr. Wilmot T. Merchant II of St. Stephen’s, Myrtle Beach; the Rev. Richard C. Lindsey of All Saints, Hilton Head Island; The Rev. Canon J. Michael A. Wright of Grace, Charleston. The Rev. Wil Keith of Holy Cross Faith Memorial, Pawley’s Island; and the Rev. Jean McGraw of St. Francis, Charleston, are clergy alternates.
Lay (non-clergy) deputies are Thomas S. Tisdale Jr. of Grace, Charleston; Lonnie Hamilton of Calvary, Charleston; Mary Ann Foy of The Episcopal Church on Edisto, and Andrea McKellar of St. Francis, Charleston. Dr. Charles Geer of Holy Communion, Charleston, is lay alternate.
* * * * *
The following was read at the start of Legislative Committee hearings at General Convention on Wednesday, June 24:
As the Legislative Committees of the 78th General Convention gather for hearings at 7:00 p.m. today, it is exactly one week since nine people were murdered at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
We give thanks for the faithfulness of God's people and we pray that, as in the death of all martyrs, God may continue to be glorified in the lives of all saints. And we pray,
O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the pains of our woundedness, confusion and great sorrow, and continue to bring peace to our community, peace to your Church, peace among peoples, and peace in our homes. And may the balm of your reconciling love lived out among us continue to soothe our suffering hearts. All this we pray in name of our wounded and risen Savior, God with us, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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