Monday, April 29, 2013

Information About Serving on the General Convention Deputation

Although I wrote this for use in the Diocese of Colorado as we begin preparation for our October Diocesan Convention (mailings to convention delegates go out in mid-August), I am posting this here, because some of the general information might be helpful to others beyond Colorado. My profound thanks to Zoe Cole for her great edits to this piece, which make it both more accurate, and better! I am so grateful to serve with such a stellar General Convention deputation!

General Information
Elected by Diocesan Convention in October 2013, General Convention deputies and alternates serve through General Convention in June/July 2015 until the next diocesan election in October 2016. General Convention deputies participate in the governance and discernment of The Episcopal Church through activities before, during, and after the General Convention for which they are elected. Deputies are also the diocese’s representatives to the Provincial Synod. Historically, the Diocese of Colorado funds the participation at General Convention of the four lay, the four clergy deputies, and the first lay and clergy alternates. All members of the deputation, including all alternates, are encouraged to participate fully in the preparation before and debriefs after General Convention. In some years, deputies and alternates have been able to raise sufficient funds to send additional alternates to General Convention. Both changes in status, residence, employment and the desire to continuously raise up and train leaders prompts the full participation of alternates so that they are able to step into the role of deputy effectively, as needed.

Before General Convention
Before General Convention, the deputation meets several times, by teleconference and in-person, to do team building; to discuss elections, likely legislation, and topics to be presented at General Convention; and to discern the assignment of focused topics of interest in which each deputy and alternate will take leadership. The teleconferences are set for mutually convenient times. The in-person meetings will likely occur in Spring 2014, at Diocesan Convention in October 2014, and in Spring 2015. The “Blue Book,” which contains reports of all the Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs) of the General Convention and any resolutions that they are proposing, will be published some time between January and April 2015. Deputation members are expected to review the Blue Book, especially those sections relevant to their focus areas. In the current triennium, the deputation also made a half-day presentation to the Standing Committee on the issues that would come before General Convention. Individual deputation members may volunteer to speak at congregational forums in Spring 2015 to give issues briefings; such briefings in the past have been part of the fundraising to send additional alternates to General Convention. In Spring 2015, there will be a Province VI Synod meeting that serves as a General Convention “training” session (at a place to be determined) to which deputation members are invited, but not required, to attend, and for which funding is extremely limited. One or more deputies may also have the opportunity to attend a special meeting as part of the work of the Structure Task Force, although no such meeting is currently scheduled.

During General Convention
General Convention 2015 is scheduled from June 25-July 3. For deputies in some leadership roles (such as Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary or Legislative Aide to a Legislative Committee), training will begin a day or two before the official start date of convention. During General Convention, deputies and alternates are expected to be present on the House of Deputies floor to listen to debate, vote, and track the progress of legislation. The Colorado deputation has a tradition of ensuring that all alternates present at General Convention have an opportunity to sit on the floor of the House and participate in the debate and voting. Each deputation member also is responsible for tracking specific pieces of legislation. This may involve attending and even testifying at legislative hearings before and after legislative sessions in the House. The deputation meets in caucus daily, typically at a very early breakfast or at lunch for 45 minutes. This practice assures the health of the team and that all members know the current status of legislation and other business and events. Often Episcopal Church Women (ECW) delegates and other visitors attend these caucuses. Some deputation members volunteer to write for the daily blog organized by the Diocesan Communications Director.

After General Convention
After General Convention, the deputation has a canonical duty to report to the diocese on the business accomplished at convention. In the past, the deputation has held briefings at Saint John’s Cathedral open to the entire diocese and made presentations at diocesan convention. Individual deputation members typically make presentations at their own congregations. Some have made presentations at other congregations and at regional convocations; the Standing Committee has also invited briefings at its meetings. The General Convention also refers a number of its passed resolutions to dioceses and congregations, and the deputation takes some responsibility for discussing and tracking these resolutions. The final duty of the deputation is to assist in the planning for the election of the next deputation by providing information and education about the work and process of General Convention. Individual deputies may also volunteer to be appointed by the presiding officers of General Convention to CCABs (although individuals may also be appointed to these bodies who are not deputies or alternates).

Time Commitment
To be a faithful and effective deputation member, the time commitment is substantial. The rewards of participation are also immense. As ministers in Christ’s church, we are called to participate and take our place in the councils of the church in accordance with our individual gifts and calling. A combination of interest and passion in the governance and future of the church as both Body of Christ and institution are necessary. Here is what the time commitment at meetings (not including teleconferences and optional briefings and opportunities) looks like:

Spring 2014                           
In-person meeting (not more than a day)

October 2014                         
In-person meeting/retreat just prior to Diocesan Convention

Spring 2015                           
In-person meeting (not more than a day)

June 25-July 3, 2015              
General Convention in Salt Lake City

The Future
At the 2015 General Convention there will be at least two momentous decisions for deputies and bishops (all diocesan bishops have seat, voice, and vote in the House of Bishops) to consider. These are 1) the election of the next presiding bishop – who will serve a nine-year term – and 2) the possible major restructuring of General Convention itself.

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