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First woman Deputy to GC Lueta Bailey on PB John Hines and UTO

First woman Deputy to GC Lueta Bailey on PB John Hines and UTO

Lueta Bailey, first woman seated as a Deputy to General Convention in 1970 tells the story of how the Episcopal Church Women responded to a request from Presiding Bishop John Hines for three million dollars from UTO in 1967 for the General Convention Special Program (“This is an excerpt from a forthcoming film about Bishop John Hines with the working title “Justice is the Corporate Face of Love” by Charles and Robin Sumners.):


The General Convention Special Program was very controversial in those days. Here are some background items:

From the Archives:

The 1969 Special General Convention was a moment of self-recognition when the Episcopal Church confronted its place in public life and tested the theological understanding of the baptismal covenant and the true meaning of catholicity in the diversity of God’s creation. “General Convention II,” as it was first known, was an unusual event in the Church’s history and spotlighted the Church at a time of extreme turmoil, division, and dramatic confrontation with the past.

Youth representatives at the Special General Convention held in South Bend, Indiana from August 31 to September 5, 1969

Following an eye-opening tour of Harlem with African American activists, Presiding Bishop John Hines pushed through the regularly convened General Convention of 1967 a “Special Program” (GCSP). The program was intended to respond to the poverty and injustice of the American ghetto. Executive Council re-directed the Church’s funds to community organizations and grassroots efforts aimed at the urban underclass throughout the United States.

The GCSP represented an enormous break with the status quo and past leaders – black and white. Its potential for change was so important to Bishop Hines that at the 1967 Convention, Hines planned for a special Convention to continue and monitor the progress of the GCSP. The General Convention of 1967 also requested that the Special General Convention include additional delegates to ensure that youth, women, and minority groups be represented. Recognizing an opportunity to alter power relationships and representation, the women of the Church, notably through the venerable United Thank Offering, were the earliest to respond favorably to Hines’ expanded concept of the Church’s “domestic mission”

From Episcopal News Service about Lueta Bailey by Mary Frances Schjonberg in 2010:

Bailey, 89, is also a veteran in the campaign against racial discrimination. In the mid-1960s, she and her husband, Seaton, along with fellow parishioners at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Griffin, Georgia, played a key role in desegregating two lunch counters in Griffin in the face of Ku Klux Klan opposition. During her leadership in the Diocese of Atlanta, she also helped achieve racial integration of the diocesan camp and conference center.

Bailey went on to serve nine years on Executive Council and was the first woman to chair the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance.

According to a story written by Jim Naughton for the Diocese of Atlanta’s Pathways publication, Bailey was first introduced to the issue of women as deputies in 1955 at General Convention in Honolulu, when she was first a delegate to the Triennial Meeting of the Women of the Church (now known as the Episcopal Church Women).

“I heard my first debate about women being seated as deputies and walked out because I was so angry I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

In 1967, Bailey was the presiding officer of the women’s gathering and the convention, meeting in Seattle, was again debating the issue of female deputies.

She became the first woman ever to address the General Convention when she spoke in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops after each had passed the resolution to permit women to serve in the House of Deputies.

“There had been a great debate over whether I would go if the vote was no,” Bailey said in a 1983 interview for the Archives of the Episcopal Church. “My feeling had been yes, I go no matter what … I was not going to be ungracious. It didn’t mean that I had to go in there and say beautiful things to them. I had two speeches.”

Jim Naughton writes more about Bailey and General Convention Special Program on pp. 20-21 of Pathways, Diocese of Atlanta:

By 1967, Bailey was the presiding officer of the women’s gathering and found herself in the midst of not just one controversy, but two. Presiding Bishop John Hines had proposed a “special program, a $9 million initiative which he said would allow the Episcopal Church to “take its place humbly and boldly alongside of, and in support of, the dispossessed and oppressed peoples of this country for the healing of our national life.” He wanted the Triennial Meeting to contribute a third of the program’s budget.

Because the women of the Triennial Meeting were scheduled to vote on the issue before General Convention considered it, some male deputies complained that the women were exercising too much authority. “We were constantly—harassment is not a good word, but you never walked anywhere that some man who was a deputy didn’t bring up the subject,” Bailey said. “Some were encouraged but others were not and that’s why we kept the doors locked. Because

I knew some of those prominent men, and they could come in and influence us.”

The women’s meeting voted to give Hines what he had asked for. Not long afterwards, Bailey became the first woman ever to address the General Convention, speaking in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops after each had passed the resolution to permit women to serve in the House of Deputies.

In 1983, Bailey recounted that day to Mary Donovan in an interview for the Archives of the Episcopal Church. “There had been a great debate over whether I would go if the vote was no. My feeling had been yes, I go no matter what…I was not going to be ungracious. It didn’t mean that I had to go in there and say beautiful things to them. I had two speeches.”

“I decided early that morning to wear a red silk suit and announce that to the whole Triennial meeting, that if they voted no I was dressed properly for the martyr and if they voted yes I was dressed properly for the celebration.”

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