Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
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Looking Back on the 75th General Convention

By Lay Cn. George J. Marshall

120+ bishops and 840 lay and cleric representatives from more than 100 dioceses gathered June 12 – 21 in Columbus, Ohio to attend the Episcopal Church of the United States’ (ECUSA) 75th General Convention. Daily temperatures on the Columbus city streets ranged from moderate to warm, but for those who gathered for 10 days in the Columbus, Ohio Convention Center, the climate was stormy and heated. Media was everywhere, anxious to hear from anyone willing to talk to them. It seemed as though the world was watching to see what ECUSA would do in three areas, 1) possible election of the first woman Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, 2) consent of a twice divorced, thrice-married Bishop-Elect, and 3) Convention response to the Windsor Report* on same sex unions and ordinations of non-celebant persons.

*After the Consecration of New Hampshire Diocese’s V.G. Robinson in 2003, the Anglican Communion created “The Windsor Report.” Among the many concerns listed in the almost 100-page document was an “invitation” to the Episcopal Church “to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate living in a same-gender union until some consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges” (Windsor Report paragraph 134.).

Soon after the start of Convention 2006, The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected the 26th, and first woman Presiding Bishop of ECUSA. The 52 year-old Nevada leader of 37 parishes with a 6,000 membership will replace retiring Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold this November, 2006. The media made this a front page story throughout the world, but the mood of the Convention was to quickly move on to other matters on the long agenda.

The next issue was to consider Consent of twice divorced, thrice married, Rev. Canon Barry L. Beisner as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Northern California. He was one of several seeking Consent to be bishop at this Convention (including our own Fr. William Love of Lake Luzerne). While others received Consent early, Fr. Beisner had to wait until the next to last day of the Convention to receive his. Now, one issue remained - Convention response to the Windsor Report.

This Convention was expected to address, and hopefully resolve, many concerns to the satisfaction of the Anglican Communion. After eight tedious and contentious days, (including one lasting far into the evening), the House of Deputies (HOD) completed a mere four of the nine days regular business calendar. During that time, two Resolutions relating to the Windsor Report were debated, amended and defeated. Two others slightly related to the Anglican Communion were approved, but considered by many to be a less than satisfactory response to the Windsor Report.

On the eve of the final day of Convention, the much-needed response to the Windsor Report was still unresolved. This prompted Presiding Bishop (PB) Frank Griswold to order a joint session of the House of Bishops (HOB) and House of Deputies (HOD) for the following - and final, day of the Convention. All present sensed that the PB was not going to leave this Convention without a document approved by both Houses to present to the Anglican Communion. On the last morning and final day of Convention, PB Griswold soberly addressed both bodies and offered the following Resolution:

“Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace the Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

All deputations were desirous of developing some kind of response, but many were troubled by the wording as presented. Conservatives thought it weak; liberals thought it strong. The phrase, “exercise restraint” did not seem satisfactory to either the liberals or conservatives. Conservatives thought it non-compulsory and ineffective; liberals thought it too restrictive. The phrase, “[continue] to engage in a process” would certainly be viewed unacceptable to the Anglican Communion, especially after three years of conversation and debate. In the end, both Houses overwhelmingly approved the Resolution as presented. Shortly thereafter, the 75th General Convention came to an end.

A highlight of this 75th General Convention for the Albany deputation was the privilege of being part of the Consent process of bishop-elect Fr. William “Bill” H. Love. Fr. Love met first with the Bishop Consecration Committee, comprised of approximately 24 bishops, priests and laity. Bishop Herzog introduced Fr. Bill, and several Albany deputation members followed to speak enthusiastically on his attributes. Questions addressed to Fr. Bill from the committee were deliberate and straightforward. Fr. Bill was just as deliberate and candid in his responses. When questions were exhausted, we were asked to wait in the outside hall so the committee could move into executive session. After almost 30 anxious minutes, we were invited back to hear their decision. Co-chairs from both Houses announced their intention to recommend Consent of The Rev. William H. Love to be bishop coadjutor of Albany. Shortly thereafter, both Houses gave their Consent.

In accordance with tradition of the House of Deputies, Fr. Bill was escorted by the Albany deputation down the long Convention floor, and up to the podium for formal introduction as the newest approved bishop of the Episcopal Church. He received a standing and resounding applause from the more than 1,500 deputies and visitors present. It was a proud moment for our deputation and the Diocese of Albany.

General Conventions have always had