Author: Deputy Martha Bedell Alexander

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God , and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know god; for God is love.” I John 4:7-8

Over the past seven General Conventions, I have had the privilege of attending as a deputy from the Diocese of North Carolina, I have been struck with the breath of our church. Upon my arrival and checking in I have been aware of the diversity, the relationships that have been made through the years, the willingness for people to serve in various capacities from deputies to volunteers as well as those who are exhibitors or visitors. I have encountered visitors throughout the world, made new friends, connected with various networks and organizations within or related to The Episcopal Church (TEC). To be a part of and see this work of TEC is exciting and rewarding. And, to take seriously the theme “Together in Love” is paramount in all our areas of Convention, including worship, meetings, legislative sessions, and special events.

During the General Convention will be elections for President, Vice-President of the House of Deputies. and Secretary of the House of Deputies, as well as elections for Trustees of the Church Pension Fund. embers of Executive Council, Treasurer of the General Convention, Trustees of General Theological Seminary, General Board of Examining Chaplains, Disciplinary Board for Bishops, Court of Review and The Joint Nominating Committee for the election of the Presiding Bishop.

The House of Bishops will be electing the next Presiding Bishop with the House of Deputies voting to confirm or not to confirm the choice of Presiding Bishop.

With all of the excitement and planning for all of the above, I  think it is very important for us to keep focus on the numerous resolutions that will be before us, paying attention to them as they are being debated. I find it helpful when I disagree with someone on an issue that I do not become disagreeable. Even though there will be a Consent Calendar and there will be many resolutions which will be placed on it, it is important to also have an understanding of these resolutions as well.

One of the resolutions that I am excited about is Resolution C009 Petition of the Episcopal Church in Navajoland to become a Missionary Diocese. I am a member and Assistant Secretary of the Governance and Structure Committee where the resolution was heard. Those speaking for the resolution indicated various issues which are important to the people of Navajoland including self-determination, justice, empowerment, being able to be the ownership of worship by including some of  the traditional ways of the people of Navajoland. Becoming a missionary diocese allows for the election of their own bishop. This request ensures that the people of Navajoland have been heard and how it is important for them to move from an area of mission to a missionary diocese. Since I am aware that we have been saying a Land Acknowledgement at the start of many of our meetings, on the diocesan and  local level, it is only fitting that we have the opportunity to take legislative action to make this area of mission a missionary diocese a reality. During the committee deliberation, there were thirteen people speaking for the resolution and none against.

I imagine an area of debate will be around diocesan assessments. I think we should take note of what is being proposed and carefully consider what a reduction would mean to TEC as a whole. From discussion around this issue varies and people have very definite opinions. This indicates that there is not an easy solution. My hope is that there will be a full discussion of this issue on the floor of the House of Deputies and that it is one where both sides are fully pronounced. Money discussions can be difficult to have, whatever the subject matter and my hope is that all that we debate will be done in a civil manner. which brings me to the topic of governance.

Going through Covid was challenging. Major changes including how to proceed – in person? Zoom? Masks? Have Covid Tests on hand personally and within other entities? There were discussions on the diocesan and local levels about how and where to worship as well as wondering about other church activities. What about diocesan conventions and how should they be handled? What about  the General Convention? There were innumerable ways we accommodated the pandemic. The Diocese of North Carolina in 2021, for example, had a drive-in convention which lasted one-half hour in order to make necessary changes to Canon 33 to allow for the conduction of meetings and voting by remote technology. I recall people were still trying to figure out how to make things work and to somehow keep the church doors open. For some things worked out well. Remote technology became a norm.

It will be interesting to see how many committee meetings will actually be taking place at the General Convention. My hope is that many deputies were able to join one or more meetings if they were not on a committee before the convention and those who are committee members actually were able to participate. However, there is something to be said about having hearings on site. This enables all the deputies who are now present to be able to join some of the meetings and that also includes visitors as well as others. I realize there is the desire to have many people within the wider church, not just those who are part of the General Convention to be able to voice their opinions which is more likely to occur online. There are benefits both ways, but I hope they will be given consideration as we move forward. I think we should be very conscious to ensure that our business is conducted in an open, fair, and transparent manner. And, shortening the number of days of the General Convention which occurs every three years is also curtailing the ability to really make the best decisions for TEC. A Consent Calendar has its’ value as long as it is used properly. The work done is serious and for the good of TEC at large.

There are so many issues that are of interest to me besides the ones I have mentioned, but here are a few that sparked my interest.

I am aware there have been two resolutions dealing with Artificial Intelligence (AI):  D020 A Task Force on AI in TEC and D017 Support Regulations on Generative Artificial Intelligence. I think TEC needs to reflect on how it might be helpful in seeing this as a significant issue that society in all aspects is facing; whether in business, education, our own searching for information on the internet and I that we are cognizant of how it is affecting the parishioners, personally, as well as how it is affecting  society as a whole.  I sense TEC needs to be at the forefront of how TEC might be affected as well.

One of the issues facing society is homelessness. C003 is one of the resolutions that has been submitted dealing with this issue. This resolution comes from the Diocese of North Carolina and requests the establishment of a Task Force on Affordable Housing and Homelessness and how TEC can document what is being done at this point and to recommend approaches to increase involvement of  dioceses and local congregations on this issue.

Another area of interest of mine is World Mission. There are resolutions that engage others beyond our borders. I believe that by knowing and reaching out to our brothers and sisters in other areas of the world is necessary in understanding the benefits of our shared ministry to God and others.

In closing, I want to consider for a moment or two the passage listed above from 1 John. As an Episcopalian and follower of Christ, I know the importance of love. Love is throughout the Scriptures and from a very early age I learned about the two great commandments:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:36-40

The General Convention is a place where TEC comes together with the underpinning of serving God and our neighbors, here and around the world.

As we travel to General Convention, worship, meet, deliberate, enjoy events together, may we remember that there are so many topics we will be undertaking, whether those listed here or the many others that have been addressed through multiple resolutions, that will need our thoughtful thinking and I am looking forward to doing it all “Together for Love.”