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SALT LAKE CITY, UT: 78th Episcopal General Convention Begins This Week with Controversy in the Air

SALT LAKE CITY, UT: 78th Episcopal General Convention Begins This Week with Controversy in the Air

June 22, 2015

Dear VOL readers,

I am winging my way to Salt Lake City, Utah and The Episcopal Church's 78th General Convention. I will be there with my team of three including Fr. Michael Heidt from the Diocese of Ft. Worth, Canon Gary L'Hommedieu from the Diocese of Central Florida and Mary Ann Mueller, VOL's full time researcher and correspondent who will live stream it in Texas and help us to cover this triennial convention which will be spread over ten days. We are all credentialed media.

A special General Convention blog link is being set up at www.virtueonline.org so you can read the coverage by my team every day.

The election of a new presiding bishop to replace Katharine Jefferts Schori is high on the list of major changes and possibly a new direction for the Church as well as proposals to change the definition of marriage in the Church's doctrine, discipline and worship.

Proposals to "reimagine" the church under the rubric TREC will also be considered as well as questions being raised as to why the national headquarters in NYC has not been sold even though a resolution at the last General Convention called for it to happen.

The most explosive issue will the redefinition of marriage and there are four separate liturgies under consideration, including one that would borrow from the 1928 prayer book marriage service declaring same-sex unions "an honorable estate, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church."

There will be questions raised as to whether millions of dollars will go on being spent on litigation for properties as well as a number of hot button public policy resolution that include anti-Israel activists from three dioceses who have introduced legislation calling for the church to divest itself of financial holdings in companies that do business with Israel.

The Episcopal Church is shrinking and the leadership of the Episcopal Church's 10 seminaries will meet with alumni and prospective students to try and forge a way forward even as the seminaries themselves shrink with fewer students and even less money. Merging will clearly be on many minds. Recent articles by VOL on the state of General Theological Seminary in New York and Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts only highlight the mess most of them are in with two notable exceptions -- Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge and Nashotah House in Wisconsin. Both are thriving.

The Episcopal Church is still in "impaired communion" with the bulk of the Anglican Communion and that will only worsen and the distance grow greater if TEC proceeds down paths they deem theologically unacceptable.

Cultural changes do not mean the Church must change its message, only to find ways of presenting it that is winsome and appealing. The Global South will not drop its understanding of the gospel as the 'faith once for all delivered to the saints' and they will not be forced into accepting changes to the Church's received teaching on faith and morals. Whether that resonates with delegates to this convention remains to be seen. This might well be my last General Convention having attended seven over the last 20 years.

My team and I ask for your prayers.

In Christ,

David W. Virtue DD

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