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General Convention 2021: plans made for alternative format

General Convention 2021: plans made for alternative format

We have concluded with regret that we must plan as if our traditional 10-day gathering of 10,000 people or more will not be possible in 2021.

A letter to Episcopalians from Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings.

Dear Bishops and Deputies:

As this pandemic season stretches on, our profound grief for those who have died is compounded by daily reminders of the economic hardship the plague has brought to many of our communities. Even those who have not suffered great losses are enduring smaller ones, such as the cancelation of graduations, summer camps and other occasions to gather in person. The experience and feeling of loss is real for us all, yet it is important for us to remember that our canceled plans represent our best efforts to love one another as Jesus commanded. That commitment to live and act in the way of unselfish, sacrificial love must guide all of our decisions and actions.

In light of our moral conviction and the realities we now face, it will come as no surprise to you that for many weeks, we have been considering how the pandemic will affect our plans to gather in Baltimore in 2021 for the 80th General Convention. Although we all pray that an FDA-approved vaccine or other safe and effective therapeutics will be available soon, we have concluded with regret that we must plan as if our traditional 10-day gathering of 10,000 people or more will not be possible in 2021.

Last month, we convened the chairs and vice-chairs, parliamentarians, and chancellors of both houses and the executive officer to consider alternative plans for General Convention. Our primary values are the common good and the health, safety and welfare of the people who would come to General Convention and the people we would encounter while traveling and meeting. With these priorities in mind, our task group is working actively to consider various scenarios, including virtual options and postponement, and will make a report to the Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements. That body will make a recommendation to the two of us, and we will ask Executive Council for their advice and consent to our decision about how and when the 80th General Convention will proceed. We hope to have more news to share as the fall begins.

As we explore new ways to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we share the authority and responsibility of governing our church, we are also committed to supporting our hosts in the City of Baltimore. General Convention represents economic impact of $21-23 million to that city, whose longstanding racial disparities and economic distress have been intensified by the virus. We are grateful for the counsel of Bishop Eugene Sutton of Maryland and his staff as we face these uncertainties together.

Thank you all for your faithfulness to the ministry of governance and your forbearance with what our friends in the Church of England call “the changes and chances of this fleeting world.” May we all rest in God’s eternal changelessness during these extraordinary times.


The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies


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Thomas Rightmyer

The General Convention of 1795 met in the midst of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever epidemic. A virtual General Convention will take longer, but there is no reason why it cannot be held on line – perhaps with greater participation / observation from the wider church. About 45 years ago Bishop Frazer of NC recommended a General Convention with one deputy from each diocese in each order. Or we could have provincial representatives meet. One of each order would give a meeting of fewer than 50 – with decisions to be ratified by each diocese?

Eric Bonetti

In a day and age of rapidly dwindling church budgets, and robust, environmentally friendly online platforms, I don’t see how it makes sense to have 10,000 people holed up for 10 days to discuss governance issues. Just imagine what might happen if this time and these resources were devoted to things like church planting or caring for those in need.

Scott Bellows

Eric – I agree with your point, but just to add another facet: please note that the positive economic impact on the host city is in the range of $20 – $23 million. As a priest currently serving in Baltimore I would argue that the trickledown effect of this financial infusion would be of significant benefit to our city which includes a great many “people in need.”

Marshall Scott

Planning and exploration are simply prudent.Over the past several conventions we have expanded our use of communications technology, and perhaps there are opportunities here we haven’t yet seen.

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