This is a summary of the 165th Convention of the Diocese of California. For a more detailed account, please see the DioCal website: http://bit.ly/1FKxzed
St. Mark’s was well represented at the convention. The Rev. Salying Wong served as chair of the Committee on Dispatch of Business, and also addressed the convention on the theme of the Asian American experience in the Diocese of California. Carla Bliss and Lorna Paisley staffed an informational table for the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Carla also served as a delegate, substituting in place of Kaye Crawford.
The theme of Asian experience comes from a progression of several years of exploring the concept of the Beloved Community. The history of Asian involvement goes back to early days in the Diocese of California, and includes times where cultural insensitivity caused misunderstanding and sorrow to Asian members. Thus, the convention theme sought to create a setting for conversation and reconciliation.
Key features of each annual convention are the resolutions passed each year. In addition to routine resolutions, the convention managed to consider and vote on eight resolutions. Several of these are to be forwarded to the national Episcopal Church (where they may be altered and combined with resolutions of other dioceses) for consideration by the 78th General Convention, to be held in Salt Lake City in 2015. With one exception, the following resolutions passed.
2. “Laying the groundwork for an Episcopal state policy network in California” seeks to give the Episcopal church a presence in public policy discussions, as many other denominations already have.
3. “Liturgical marriage equality” is a resolution for the 78th General Convention to authorize liturgy for use in same-sex marriages. It remains the individual cleric’s discretion to decline to solemnize any marriage.
4. “Socially Responsible Investing in the Episcopal Diocese of California” is a follow-on to a previous directive that investments of the diocesan endowment fund should reflect the values of the church. While there is broad agreement that “SRI” is a worthy goal, how to achieve it remains a complicated discussion.
5. “Climate change” considers climate change as both an environmental and a social justice issue, to be submitted for the 78th General Convention. Since the people most adversely affected are often the poorest, the resolution calls for divestment from energy companies that supply environmentally damaging fuels, and a move to sustainable energy companies.
6. “Benefits cost-sharing” was a response to the rising cost of benefits, though historically, Episcopal employees in California have had excellent benefits because salaries are well below those in the private sector, compounded by the high cost of living here. One debater shared a concern about harming clergy wellness (and by inference, congregational wellness). This resolution was rejected by the convention.
7. “Promoting justice and peace in Israel/Palestine” is a resolution for the 78th General Convention to divest from corporations that support the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as Israeli companies that operate out of those places. Delegates on both sides of the question made impassioned statements. In the end, the resolution carried.
8. “Statement on General Theological Seminary.” Over the years that I have attended the DioCal convention, this was first time a resolution was submitted from the floor of the convention, rather than months in advance. The event that drove it was also most unusual, the irregular firing of eight (of ten) faculty members from the seminary in New York. Unlike other Episcopal seminaries, there is a direct line between the Episcopal Church and the institution, thus the perceived call to action for the Diocese of California. At the time of this writing, there appears to be a path opening for reinstatement and reconciliation.