There was also a different spirit at this convention exemplified in a desire to find a way forward in spite of differences and disagreements. Some of that was demonstrated in the actual legislative sessions. But, there was quite a bit of work around the edges as folk who come at things quite differently engaged one another to find principled compromise. This was true of deciding whether and how to compensate the President of the House of Deputies, a position that has historically been volunteer. It was true our decisions regarding revising the Book of Common Prayer. And it was true when it came to working out how to honor the convictions of more conservative bishops and others while honoring the desire of gay and lesbian couples to have access to the rites of blessing/marriage in their churches. In the end, both “sides” agreed to give in order to make space for the other. There was a good deal of anxiety about potential contentiousness around these and other issues leading into Convention. That there was so little of the spirit of contentiousness suggests to me that the Holy Spirit was moving among us in Austin. I could feel it.
Finally, it is my sense that, at least in the House of Bishops, we are in the midst of a significant generational change. Newer bishops seem more interested in reaching across some of the divisions of the church. And it is my sense that, while there are more conservative and more liberal bishops, the majority of bishops, whatever their disagreements about other issues, are solidly committed to the catholic faith contained in the creeds and determined to prayerfully live as followers of Jesus. That is a good thing.
Read the wrap up from General Convention here. The Episcopal Church is a big tent that includes a wide variety of members with a wide variety of convictions about various things. That brings challenges with it, but it also brings gifts. After General Convention #79, I am more hopeful that whatever challenges we face might also be opportunities to manifest the gifts.
Matt Gunter is Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac. To learn more about our General Convention Deputies, visit diofdl.org/gc.