Dear Deputies and Alternate Deputies:
I pray that you and those you love are well in the midst of this unprecedented season. I am glad to have had a chance to talk with so many of you in the days since we began staying home to flatten the curve of the pandemic. I am especially grateful to those of you who are doing the tireless work of caring for the sick, comforting the grieving and feeding the hungry.
Many of you have also learned new skills and helped us rise to the challenge of observing Holy Week and celebrating Easter online with enormous style and grace. Even now, my social media feeds are full of daily office broadcasts and invitations to pray on Zoom and other platforms. Each Sunday, I can choose among hundreds of services offered by congregations large and small across the church. (I should note, however, that in order to promote stay-at-home harmony, I choose my husband’s broadcast from St. Timothy’s in Macedonia, Ohio.)
We have also dived deeply into discussing the canonical, rubrical, and theological issues to which the pandemic has given rise. Many of you are working with your interim bodies, dioceses, and deputations to identify how the next General Convention should respond to the questions and ambiguities that have arisen during this time.
While we have been quick to explore the internal issues and challenges that have been raised by the pandemic, we have been slower in speaking to the injustices and systemic racism the coronavirus has laid bare. Since early March, the virus has made clearer what we already knew: that our health care, employment, housing and voting systems are unjust, and that the working class, the poor, people of color and immigrants suffer disproportionately. As people of faith, we must insist that our elected officials prioritize not only short-term relief for people who have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, but also deep systemic change that will address inequities that have long been at the heart of our economy and our politics.
I long for deputies and alternate deputies across the church to take a lead in working for justice through advocacy and organizing. The leaders of Bishops United Against Gun Violence are often known to say that their network prays not as a substitute for action but in preparation for it. I hope that, as deputies, we can help inspire our colleagues across the church to embrace that way of thinking.
The resolutions of General Convention guide our advocacy for justice in all of these areas. Especially now, I commend to you the tireless work of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations and its efforts to carry out these resolutions. You can find detailed information about their work on behalf of the most vulnerable among us on their website. I hope that if you are located in the United States and are not already an active participant in the Episcopal Public Policy Network, you will sign up today and use the resources they provide to contact your elected officials about the urgent policy and funding issues now before our federal government.
As the pandemic unfolds, Presiding Bishop Curry and I are holding a series of meetings online with both the Executive Committee of Executive Council and the entire Executive Council. The Executive Council is the board of directors of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the corporate entity of The Episcopal Church, and is charged by our canons with overseeing the execution of the program and policies adopted by the General Convention. In those meetings, I am encouraging my Executive Council colleagues to explore ways to orient the General Convention budget toward supporting dioceses and congregations. I would also like us to consider how the churchwide structures can provide resources that dioceses need to support congregations, schools, camps and conference centers, social service organizations, and other Episcopal entities. Executive Council is meeting online on April 29 prior to its regularly scheduled meeting, which will be held online June 8-10, and I hope that you will be in touch with me or the members from your province if there are concerns you would like to bring to our attention.
This Eastertide is like no other we have experienced. But even in the midst of sorrow and death, we are called to be agents of resurrection and followers of the Risen Christ. Especially now, as we face an uncertain future, I am grateful to serve our beloved church with you.
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings