This General Convention has been dominated by conversations around inclusivity, diversity, and expansiveness. These issues have been the focus of most legislation, regardless of committee of origin. They have been cited in conversations about prayer book revision, racial reconciliation, marriage rites, constitutions and canons, governance and structure, and world mission. Translation issues have taken on an added urgency both in liturgical texts and in real time here at GC with resolution literature and live translations during debate, and almost every other area of the convention. The Spirit is moving forcibly in this regard. Are we bringing everyone to the table? Is everyone’s voice being heard?  After all, translation is just a first step in giving people voice.

 This raised some important questions in yesterday’s House of Deputies session regarding prayer book revision. During the 78th General Convention, we did a shake up of our structure and shimmied our way down to only two standing commissions. But do these central and continuing commissions represent the breadth and depth of our entire Church?

 Our canons (I.1.2) state that all standing commissions shall be composed of five Bishops, five Priests and/or Deacons of this Church and ten Lay Persons. The Priests, Deacons, and Lay Persons are not required to be deputies to General Convention. They are appointed by their respective Presiding Officer of General Convention. Liaisons from Executive Council are also appointed, jointly, by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies. Liaisons shall have seat and voice, but they are not members of the commissions.

 Knowing all of this, it is important to know the make-up of our Standing Commissions, particularly as we face debates on prayer book revision and governance structures, along with canonical changes and improvements. The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has 27 names listed under membership in it’s latest Blue Book report, including two ex-officio members, a representative of the President of the House of Deputies, two liaisons, and two consultants. Of the 20 appointed members as dictated by the canons, this is the provincial breakdown:

Province # of members on SCLM
I 1
II 3
IV 5
V 6
VI 1
IX 0

This shows an extremely weighted Commission. The liaison from the Executive Council is from Province VII, which brings at least one other voice into the room, but otherwise there is a heavy contingent of Province III, IV, and V voices with very little representation anywhere else. If inclusion, translation, expansiveness, and diversity matter, then we are doing a poor job. And this is only a single analysis not inclusive of gender, ethnicity, or other anything else.

 The Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution, and Canons is as follows:

Province # of members on SCSGCC
I 1
II 2
IV 2
V 3
VI 2
IX 1

There is a much better balance on SCSGCC, but this simple, very limited analysis, which does not show the numbers of Episcopalians in each province, does reveal a clear truth: we need to urge those who lead us at the multinational level to do a better job of including representation for all of us on these commissions. If we want to take the movement of the Spirit seriously as it moves us onward toward truly welcoming all into The Episcopal Church, we need to take a serious look at how we are represented at the multinational level and who is doing the representing.

Posted by Eileen O'Brien