By Matt Townsend
Shedding tears of joy, the Rev. Canon Gay Jennings, Ohio, sang the hymn “Sing a New Church” with the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, Bishop of Florida, after a committee vote July 9.
As co-chairs of General Convention’s Structure Committee, the two helped lead the Structure Committee to a unanimous passing of Resolution C095 (substitute), calling for the creation of a task force with members of “critical distance” from institutional leadership of the church. The work of the committee now proceeds to the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.
The resolutuion would establish a task force of no more than 24 with some members who must not be in institutional church leadership. The resolution would authorize as much as $400,000 for this group charged to plan reforms within the church.
The committee’s vote inspired committee members and observers to break out in “Sing a New Church” and to applaud.
“Members of this committee, both deputies and bishops, come from a very wide spectrum politically, theologically, spiritually,” Jennings said. “The consensus and cohesion that emerged around this resolution really signals a level of cooperation, unity and collaboration that I wasn’t convinced that we would see at this convention.”
Jennings said either house could amend the resolution. “But for that [committee vote] to come as a unanimous decision with the kind of commitment and energy seen, I think, is a great signal for the church,” she said. “The whole convention’s waiting for this resolution.”
Deputy Thomas Little of Vermont led the drafting subcommittee, which he said worked past midnight and arose early to complete the resolution substitution. “I started working on this at usually about 5:30 or 6 o’clock in the morning,” Little said. “We all understood that we didn’t have a lot of time to work with, so we stretched the clock and the calendar.”
Lyrics to “Sing a New Church” are available here.