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Most of you are used to my blogging being 140 characters or less! However, after a historic day at the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church it seems like a little longer blog might be more appropriate. So allow me to use the next couple of paragraphs to give you a run down on my experience at #GC78 thus far. Let me begin by saying that this is my first General convention. That’s right I never attended as a deputy or a visitor prior to being elected bishop in 2014. I arrived on Monday blank slate with no idea what to expect.
I started by checking in with my assigned committee, dispatch of business, on Tuesday. The dispatch committee is chaired by Wayne Wright from Delaware and the Vice-chair is our neighbor to the north, Don Johnson, from West Tennessee. This committee is responsible for keeping the house on track in regards to daily agenda and calendar. Dispatch is also responsible for the supervising elections including the coming election of our new presiding bishop. The other members of this committee are outstanding and really know what they’re doing! Thank God for their wisdom!
Convention stuff began on Wednesday with an introductory remarks from the presiding bishop and the president of the house of deputies. After lunch both houses met in the house of deputies for a forum with the 4 candidates for presiding bishop, Ian Douglas, Michael Curry, Dabney Smith and Tom Breidenthal. The 3 hour forum provided opportunity for each to speak and answer questions. I was impressed with each of the candidates. My day came to a close after viewing a movie about Howard Thurman.
Convention officially started on Thursday. We worshiped together at a prayerful celebration of the Holy Eucharist followed by business in the House. In the evening I attended a hearing with the Task force on marriage. I got up early on Friday in order to work out with SALT Masters swim team. This team works out on the University of Utah campus. It was a great way to start the day but I quickly learned that Salt Lake City sits at a much greater altitude than Jackson (gasp)! Upon arriving at the convention center I learned about the Supreme court passage of the marriage equality act. A very joyful mood could be sensed. In the evening I attended the UTO banquet with our ECW contingency.
Saturday began with an early meeting with the dispatch committee. The major focus of the meeting was related to the election of our next presiding bishop. It is our responsibility to facilitate the election and count ballots. After our morning Eucharistic celebration the bishops boarded buses and we were driven to St. Mark’s Cathedral where we would be sequestered until we elected a new presiding bishop. After roll call, saying prayers and singing hymns the ballots were cast, collected and taken to a room for counting. It was really strange to be one of the tellers for the election! After counting the ballots the house was reassembled and the report was made. On the first ballot Michael Curry of North Carolina was elected.
The announcement of Michaels election was not only historic but extremely emotional! I think for me the most incredible moment was signing the testimonials. The first to sign the testimonials was a group of bishops of African American descent. I had to wipe away tears when Eugene Sutton of Maryland helped Barbara Harris make her way to front in order to be one of the first to sign the testimonial. We signed the testimonial while singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It was an amazing moment. I feel blessed to be part of it.
Michaels election was then reported to the House of Deputies who after following their procedures and rules consented to the election. After receiving word of their consent we boarded busses and went back to the convention center for him to be introduced to the House of Deputies. It was another amazing moment.
Yes, I voted for Michael. He’s been an amazing friend to me and our diocese. Most important, however, he has unique gifts for reaching people and inviting them to meet and know Jesus. While talking with other bishops I said, “he’s like a ‘jam band.’ You never know for sure how he’s gonna perform a song or sermon but you wanna listen because you know it’s gonna be amazing.”
We are blessed with the love of our Lord. We are blessed to have Michael as our new Presiding Bishop. He is full of joy and passion for presenting Jesus to the world. Thanks be to God!