By Kirk Petersen
No decision has been reached about whether there will be a General Convention in Baltimore in 2021, but the church has announced Plan B.
“In the event that we cannot convene safely in person from June 30 to July 9, 2021, we will postpone the 80th General Convention to 2022, working with our partners in Baltimore as we determine appropriate dates,” according to a July 29 letter from Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings.
“In the fall, we will reevaluate the public health situation and consult again with epidemiologists who have given us their time and advice so generously,” they said. “In October, we hope to ask Executive Council for their advice and consent to our final decision about how the 80th General Convention will proceed, but we recognize that it may not be possible to finalize our plans that quickly.”
The letter (understandably enough) leaves many open issues:
- What happens to terms of office that are pegged to the triennial General Convention? They number in the hundreds, including members of the Executive Council (essentially the legislature between General Conventions); standing commissions and limited-purpose commissions that have geared their three-year efforts toward ending in 2021; offices in the various provinces, and more.
- Of special note: Jennings is serving her third and final three-year term as president of the House of Deputies, and is scheduled to step down at the end of GC 2021. Curry’s nine-year term as presiding bishop expires in 2024.
- The Church’s three-year budget normally is passed at General Convention, then adjusted as necessary over the course of the triennium. The current $134 million triennial budget expires at the end of 2021. How will the Church decide what it can spend beginning in January 2022?
- How will the Church conform to (or finesse) Article I:7 of its Constitution, which states, “The General Convention shall meet not less than once in each three years, at a time and place determined in accordance with the Canons. Special meetings may be held as provided for by Canon.”
In an online meeting of the Executive Council in June, Sally Johnson, chancellor to the president of the House of Deputies, said in a committee meeting, “it feels like a three-dimensional chess game that a core group of us are looking at … if we move this piece then that happens, everything from economic impact, to cost to dioceses and the Church, to what does the constitution say, what does the canons say, what does the Church need, how are all these things interpreted, who decides?”
A previous version of this article misstated the term of office of the presiding bishop.