A Big Episcopal Family Reunion

Written by The Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, Cathedral Dean

I am excited to share with you the highlights of my experience at the 81st General Convention of the Episcopal Church, a gathering that was both inspiring and deeply enriching.

As you know, our Church has traditionally gathered every triennium to set the priorities in our participation in God’s mission, to approve the triennial budget, to engage in legislations that set the tone for the work of the wider church staff and for Episcopalians from around the globe to worship and join in fellowship together.

During the week, someone asked me what the highlight of General Convention for me was. The first thing that came to mind was Worship. Then, later in the evening, I paused to reflect on my experience of the past 10 days at what I call a big Episcopal family reunion.

The Worship Team and volunteers worked for four months to prepare for this gathering, a task that has usually been assigned for a three-year period of preparation. The challenge was to provide a worship as diverse as possible while keeping simplicity. God was praised! The music, the diversity of languages, and most of all the joy of the gathered community was a gift to many.

In addition to Worship, a meaningful highlight was an evening function. The Wider Church Staff hosted a Reception for Bishops and the HOB Staff to honor Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The entire evening was delightful. The greatest impact for me was a moving tribute offered by the Rt. Rev. Michael Hunn, who served for many years with Bishop Curry. Bishop Hunn’s words were a testament of the kind, empowering, and caring leader Bishop Curry has been throughout his episcopacy. 

The Diocese of Kentucky did a remarkable job as hosts! Their Bishop, volunteers, Diocesan Staff, Cathedral Dean and Staff showed so much care. I am particularly thankful to Bishop White and his team for all the support we received in accommodating worship needs.

From a legislative standpoint, there were several highlights for me, most of them reflective of a changing church in a changing world, being the gift of adaptive leadership and collaboration the underline force:

  • A historic milestone was reached as Navajoland was recognized as a missionary diocese, granting them, among other things, the authority to elect their own bishop. This marks a significant step forward in empowering local leadership and honoring the unique cultural and spiritual heritage of the Navajo people. My heart smiled and rejoiced hearing their Deputation sing Amazing Grace in their mother tongue.
  • The way the bishops managed and interacted in relation to resolutions about the crisis in the Middle East was a testament to their mutual respect and desire to find common ground without compromising their beliefs. This ongoing dialogue is crucial, and the commitment to articulate their shared values and responses was evident throughout their discussions. This is hard and holy work.  
  • I was also moved by the engagement of our newest bishops in the legislative process within the House of Bishops. Their passion, clarity, and spirit of collaboration set a hopeful tone for their collective work and common mission.
  • In another significant development, the Convention approved the merger of the Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan, after nearly five years of experimentation and collaboration, officially merged into one: The Diocese of the Great Lakes. Both dioceses are familiar to me through colleagues from the wider church or through leaders who have been involved in missionary work in the Dominican Republic. It was a joy to see their hard work and openness to the Spirit culminate in what is indeed a new and strong beginning.
  • Additionally, three dioceses in Wisconsin received approval for their merger request, reuniting as the Diocese of Wisconsin. This decision reflects a commitment to fostering stronger, more cohesive communities within our church.    

Other dioceses are in conversation and collaboration about the possibility of merging. This is happening at a time when we have elected a Presiding Bishop who is clear about the need for adaptive leadership and structural changes. The Presiding Bishop-Elect was a member of the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church in which he contributed largely to the vision reflected on the final report.  

On a more personal note, let me share that my first experience at a General Convention was in 1997, when I attended as Provincial Youth Coordinator, serving as one of the chaperons for the Official Youth Presence. At this Convention, I saw clergy and lay leaders from the 1997 Official Youth Presence serving this week as deputies. Words can’t express the joy and pride my heart felt seeing them serving God in this manner.

Finally, as one of the Chaplains to the House of Bishops, along with my chaplain colleagues, I had the honor of leading Bishops in prayer during the election of the 28th Presiding Bishop. We led a moment of prayer, silence, and readings. The election happened in closed doors at Christ Church Cathedral, Louisville. The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe was elected on the first ballot. 

Right before the election, the chaplains tried to guess how many ballots the election would take. We prepared worship for four ballots. We agreed that the chaplain who guessed correctly would get free ice cream. Clearly, none of us got ice cream for free!  

These highlights represent just a fraction of the transformative experiences and decisions that took place at the convention. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this significant event and look forward to how these developments will shape our journey together as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Now, I get ready to start sabbatical and depart Kentucky with a thankful heart and great anticipation for the many possibilities of a future unknown but held in God’s hands.

This piece was also published through Christ Church Cathedral’s media channels.

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