By Kirk Petersen

The Executive Council voted February 15 to hold the 2024 General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, after hearing a presentation from the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, executive officer of the General Convention.

The decision was one of several matters considered by the council at its thrice-yearly meeting, including the previously reported vote to readmit Cuba as a diocese of the Episcopal Church. The 43-member council, which serves as the legislature of the Episcopal Church between the triennial meetings of the General Convention, met in Salt Lake City from February 13-15.

2024 General Convention

Barlowe said Louisville was selected over two other finalists, Detroit and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He told the council that the financial considerations among the three cities were not critical to the decision, which was reached after site visits to each prospective venue by staff and by the top officers of the church.

The General Convention is a hugely expensive, nearly-two-week gathering held every three years, attended by nearly 1,000 voting deputies and bishops, and hundreds of staff, journalists, exhibitors and guests.

How expensive is it? God only knows. The budget line for the meeting in the triennial budget is $2.183 million, offset by $1.353 million in registration and exhibit fees. But that captures only a fraction of the total expense, much of which is distributed elsewhere, both in the central budget and in the budgets of the more than 100 dioceses that send deputies.

Factors in favor of the Louisville location included the fact that the city is within a day’s drive of 60% of the nation’s population, Barlowe said. The Diocese of Kentucky is in Province IV, the largest province by membership, but the General Convention has not been held within the province since the 1982 meeting in New Orleans.

The 2021 General Convention in Baltimore will officially begin June 30, 2021, although committees will already have been meeting for days before the opening Eucharist.

Episcopal Migration Ministries

The Church’s agency for resettling refugees has been living from extension to extension since the beginning of the Trump Administration, when the government began drastically reducing the number of refugees allowed to enter the country. Episcopal Migration Ministries is one of nine organizations responsible for resettling refugees in the United States, in a public-private partnership with the U.S. Government.

EMM Director Demetrio Alvero told a council committee that “the refugee program is in disarray,” adding that the Trump Administration’s goal is to dismantle the program entirely. He believes the government plans to reduce from nine agencies to four or five, and EMM has no assurance of being part of the program after its current extension expires May 31. The agency has reduced its field offices from 31 partner agencies to 12, and staffing has been slashed.

EMM is a successor to an agency formed in 1940 as the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief. Since early in the Trump Administration, it has been developing strategies for continuing its mission even if the resettlement partnership with the government ends completely. “As the refugee program grows smaller, we’re looking at how else we can assist with migration issues,” Alvero said.

Last year, EMM launched Partners in Welcome, a network of organizations and individuals devoted to advocacy and to sharing information and best practices. The network currently has 377 members from 82 dioceses in 43 states. The agency also offers a toolkit for congregations wishing to support asylum seekers.

Diocesan Assessments

The Rev. Mally Lloyd, chair of the Finance Committee, told the council that 104 out of 109 dioceses are now in compliance with the policy on providing financial support to the Church, either through paying the mandated 15% or through obtaining a waiver.

Reading from the enabling resolution, Lloyd said “failure to make full payment, or to receive a waiver in one year shall render the diocese unable to get loans, grants or scholarships in the following year” from the Church center. “So those five dioceses that have not received a waiver for 2019 are ineligible for grants in 2020,” she said, adding that dioceses have until August 31 to apply for waivers that would enable them to receive grants in 2021.

The five dioceses are Albany, Dallas, Florida, Rio Grande and Springfield. Waiver applications for Albany and Rio Grande were incomplete; Florida and Springfield did not apply for waivers; and Dallas’s application was denied. Last July, TLC published a comprehensive survey of the 12 domestic dioceses that were not yet in compliance at that time.

Lloyd noted that the committee had done an enormous amount of work with the various dioceses to try to bring all of them into compliance. “It’s been a success,” she said. “We have moved from 44 dioceses being compliant two years ago to 105 dioceses” currently compliant.

Creation Care

The council heard an update from the General Convention’s Task Force on the Care of Creation and Environmental Racism. “For today’s youth and young adults, environment is the number one issue,” said task force member Delia Heck from the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, and the task force is developing tools and a support system to help congregations incorporate creation care into their ministries.

Task force vice chair David Rice, Bishop of San Joaquin, said every clergy member in his diocese, and “an extraordinary number of lay people,” took a creation care pledge last year, and the diocese is devoting resources to integrate creation care into its formation efforts. By the end of next year, every church in the diocese will have solar panels, he said.

Racial Reconciliation

The council heard a sobering presentation about the lingering effects of the Church’s historic complicity in the oppression of Native Americans. Among other things, the Episcopal Church helped maintain a system of boarding schools intended to “Christianize” indigenous children, who were separated from their parents and often subject to physical and sexual abuse. The presentation is described at length in a report from Episcopal News Service.

Racial reconciliation is one of the three primary ministries the Church is pursuing under President Bishop Michael Curry (the others being creation care and evangelism). Council members discussed a need to integrate reconciliation efforts into every meeting of the council, as was done at the October meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, which included a day-long pilgrimage to the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

The next council meeting, in June, will be in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which will give the council an opportunity to examine the effects of colonialism. The council last met in San Juan in June 2017, just three months before Hurricane Maria devastated the island and killed nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans.

Bishop-Elect Logue

It was the final Executive Council meeting for the Rev. Frank Logue, a committee chair and leadership sparkplug, who will be consecrated Bishop of Georgia in May.

“I am grateful for the ways in which the Holy Spirit has been in our midst these days, and I thank you for the pleasure of serving with you,” he said, touching off an extended standing ovation.

“Frank has been a holy disturber in our midst,” Curry said, adding that Logue “brought a spirit and life that is just infectious.” The Finance Committee, which typically ends its reports with a song parody written the evening before, serenaded the bishop-elect with a knockoff from The Sound of Music, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Frank Logue?”