Thursday, June 25, 2009


Every three years representatives from each Diocese of the Episcopal Church meet in Convention to make decisions for the life of the whole Episcopal Church. This is called General Convention and it is modeled on the legislative model of our National Government. There is a Senate (The House of Bishops) and a House of Representatives (The House of Deputies.) The Deputies are from both the Lay and Clergy order.

I have never been a Deputy to Convention, but I have attended several, the first one The Special Convention held in Indiannapolis, ID in 1969 (boy that dates me!) I was in Seminary then and I went with a delegation of Seminarians from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale supporting the efforts of Seminaries. It was a politically turbulent time, racially(Race Riots in many cities), politically(with the Viet Nam War),Sexually (the sexual revolution was in full bloom) and educationally.

The last General Convention I attended was held in Minneapolis/St.Paul in 1976. What follows is a synopsis of that Convention.

1976 Minneapolis

Issues, Discussion, Actions:
Ordination of women- Lengthy debate with alternating speakers pro and con - Passed. 114 clergy votes (58 needed for affirmative action: 60 yes; 39 no; 15 div. 113 lay votes; 64 yes; 36 no; 13 divided. Minority resolution states “stand committed to the EC, determined to live and work within it, but cannot in good conscience accept.
Proposed Book of Common Prayer - Extensive amendments debated - Vote by orders on main motion — 113 clergy (57 needed) 107 yes; 3 no; 3 div.; 111 lay (56 needed) 90 yes; 12 no; 9 div.
Human Affairs - Standing Commission on Human Affairs and Health charged with concerning itself with theological, ethical and pastoral questions inherent in such aspects of human affairs as human health, sexuality and bioethics

Historical note: Talk of schism; General Convention recommends that the dioceses and the Church in general engage in serious study and dialogue in the area of human sexuality as it pertains to various areas of life, particularly in living styles, employment, housing and education.

That Convention set the ground work for the Modern Episcopal Church. Women Clergy are now fundamental with Bishops, Priests and Deacons throughout the Church and Worship has been molded by the 1976 proposed Prayer Book(finally approved in 1979).

Once again I am headed to the General Convention to be held in Anaheim next Month as part of the delegation from TransEpiscopal. The last Convention I attended affirmed my right to be a priest as a woman. I am hoping that this convention will affirm the rights of all people to fully participate in all facets of the Church no matter the gender, gender orientation or expression, or sexual orientation. It has taken me 33 years to attend another Convention and I pray this will be as successful as the 1976 Convention. I am however more expecting more on the scale of what happened in 1969. At that time there was hardly any recognition of the presence or needs of Seminarians. All the Clergy had been to Seminary, but most left it behind as a fond remembrance, forgetting that Seminaries and seminarians needs change with time.

I am hoping at least that there will be a dawning of awareness that transgender people exist in the Church and that we are equally God's children. I am also hoping that issues of sexuality will not be swept under the rug and avoided. We will see and we will report here.

God's Peace,

The Rev. Michelle Hansen, S.T.M., M.Div.

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