In a recent announcement reported on Episcopal News Service, church leaders citing the pandemic announced that that they have decided to delay the 2021 General Convention. As a result, the meeting will be deferred to 2022.
The move spells bad news for the church on multiple fronts.
On a tactical level, the move deprives the church of an opportunity to explore pressing issues, including racial reconciliation, diversity, inclusion, and this author’s favorite bugbear, clergy discipline. It also means that the various standing committees and task forces, which these days sometimes appear to outnumber active church membership, lack an outlet to discuss their work, obtain buy-in, and discuss next steps.
That’s a huge problem, for there is a pressing need for the church to engage in larger society. Equally important, the church is dying because it simply cannot get its act together. Not meeting eliminates any meaningful possibility for church leaders to turn that situation around.
On a related note, the executive committee made the decision behind closed doors, citing discussion of financial and contractual issues. These indeed may be legitimate reasons to go into executive session, but at a time when the church is struggling, transparency should be the watchword of the day.
On a larger level, the decision speaks to a church that simply cannot get with the times. The Democratic National Committee can hold a virtual convention and elect Joe Biden president, but the Episcopal Church (TEC) simply cannot figure out how to do something similar.
The church talks about creation care and careful stewardship of its resources. Yet by its own admission, each general convention injects $23-$25 million in tourism dollars to the relevant local enconomy—money that could go to feed to the poor, aid the homeless, and work towards racial reconciliation. (And no, I don’t feel bad for local bars. Episcopalians just need to get over the notion that booze is essential to a good time.)
So, why can’t GC go green and go virtual? True, there can’t be in-person communion, but that’s been true for a great many Episcopalians since last March. So, there’s no good reason not to go for “spiritual communion,” while going about the business of the church.
The decision also speaks to a church that is generationally clueless. In a day and age when even things like mental health care can be provided via an app, the church’s insistence that general convention must be in-person suggests a bunch of old folks who don’t get social media, but instead are locked in a madmen era concept of business. And don’t forget this is a church that continues to ignore the decision to offload 815, the church’s fusty old headquarters in Manhattan which, last I heard, doesn’t even have a visitor’s center.
And the cherry on top? The decision allegedly was unanimous.
Truly, watching a church that I loved for many decades is tramping the accelerator as it races towards its final days.