Change Font Size:   A A A

Jul 05, 2018

David Harvin - Lay Deputy #GC79 Reflections

So what is it like to be at General Convention?  Like the old Buddhist parable of the blind men and the elephant, it can feel like a lot of different things.       

 Because General Convention is the governing body of the Episcopal Church, it is foremost like participating in a session of the state legislature or Congress.  GC enacts resolutions through a very similar legislative process, including committee hearings, reports, floor debates, and votes.  To be enacted, resolutions must pass both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, where I serve.   In the House of Deputies the debates are sometimes illuminating, but they can also be tedious, particularly when we are always hearing from the same speakers.    The most popular deputy is a clergyman from western New York who regularly moves to terminate debate—and his motions always pass! 

Many of the resolutions have to do with the business of the Episcopal Church, including its organization, governance, funding, liturgy, and mission priorities.  Two big church issues this year relate to possible revision of the Prayer Book and the trial use of new marriage liturgies.    In some cases GC is asked to express its views on hot button “political” issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, immigration reform, or climate change.  While I am confident GC can take care of its own church business (although I don’t always agree with its decisions), I am pretty skeptical that we have much wisdom about the problems in the Middle East.

If you are on a legislative committee, as I am (Safeguarding and Title IV), the schedule can be pretty exhausting.   On many days committees start their work at 7:30 am then break for the legislative sessions and worship and then go back to work in the evening until 9:00 pm.   I may be getting too old for this!

General Convention can also feel like a “family reunion,” particularly for the bishops and clergy who know each other well.  Although the business schedule is quite full, there is time for various social events. For my part I like to reconnect with the chancellors of the other dioceses, whom I have gotten to know through chancellor conferences and prior General Conventions.  

General Convention is also like a “trade show.”   Hundreds of vendors and other organizations are represented to show off their goods and services.   Our own Seminary of the Southwest has a very visible presence this year—of which (as a former Trustee) I am quite proud.

Worship is of course always an integral part of General Convention, and this year our Diocese of Texas hosts have organized a “Revival” at the Palmer Center on Saturday night at which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will speak.   It is always a treat to listen to Bishop Curry preach—as fans of the recent royal wedding learned. —and I expect that in the Revival setting he will be at his best.   I am really looking forward to that.

 Finally, it is great to have the Church here in Austin and the Diocese of Texas.  Maybe something Texas will rub off on them!

Harvin is a member of St. Martin’s, Houston. This is his third General Convention.