By Kirk Petersen

To the surprise of nobody, the 2021 General Convention has been officially postponed until July 2022, still in Baltimore.

Church leadership signaled in June that this was the most likely outcome. Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings announced June 5 that “We have concluded with regret that we must plan as if our traditional 10-day gathering of 10,000 people or more will not be possible in 2021.”

A refrigerator magnet distributed at GC2018

The November 20 announcement from the same leaders said “it is unlikely that even highly effective vaccines and robust federal intervention would permit us to gather as many as 10,000 people safely by next summer, as we had originally planned.”

The 80th General Convention is now set for July 7-14, 2022. Assuming the pandemic is under control by then, it the convention will end two weeks before the twice-postponed Lambeth Conference, a gathering of bishops from the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is held roughly every 10 years.

General Convention is the governing body of the Episcopal Church, and meets every three years. It was last held in Austin, Texas, in 2018. Between General Conventions, the Church is governed by an Executive Council, which includes members elected at General Convention.

The General Convention provides a considerable tourism boost for the host city, and that played a role in the decision to hold the meeting in person in 2022 in Baltimore, rather than try to do it online in 2021.

Budgets and deadlines for Church business are tied to the General Convention, so the Church has to make adjustments. The Church will hold “an online convocation of worship and prayer to help us hear what the Spirit is saying to the church as we prepare to gather at General Convention,” Curry and Jennings said in the announcement. “And to make best use of the adaptive moment now facing us, we will appoint both deputy and bishop legislative committees in 2021, charging them to begin their work virtually using the new online and Zoom skills that we have all gained this year.”

Terms of office that conclude at General Convention will be extended until the convention actually is held. This includes Jennings, who is in her third three-year term and is term-limited. Curry’s term as presiding bishop lasts until 2024, and a joint nominating committee for his successor will be elected online in 2021.

“Postponing or moving a General Convention is rare but not unprecedented,” according to Episcopal News Service. The 6th General Convention was postponed from 1778 until 1779 because of a yellow fever outbreak, and there have been a handful of other disruptions over the years.