Looking Ahead: General Convention planning 2021 - July '20 update
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:
When we wrote to you in early June about the need to consider alternative plans for the 80th General Convention, we hoped that the summer months would bring us more clarity about the course of the pandemic and how we might reasonably plan for 2021 and beyond. But as summer stretches on, infection and death totals in the United States are climbing ever higher, even as the virus has been brought under control in other parts of the world. We continue to grieve for the children of God who have been lost to this terrible disease, for those whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered, and for those whose spirits are suffering from long months of physical distance from those they love.
In the midst of this devastation, however, some reports offer hope that the fast-track development of effective vaccines and therapeutics could change the course of the pandemic and allow some aspects of our communal life to resume. Because the situation continues to be so uncertain, we are not yet ready to make a decision about how and when we will hold the 80th General Convention. But thanks to the work of the task group we convened in May, we are closer to knowing how we will proceed if it is not possible to gather in Baltimore next summer.
In the event that we cannot convene safely in person from June 30 to July 9, 2021, we will postpone the 80th General Convention to 2022, working with our partners in Baltimore as we determine appropriate dates. During the summer of 2021, we will hold an online convocation of worship and prayer to help us hear what the Spirit is saying to the church as we prepare to gather at General Convention. And to make best use of the adaptive moment now facing us, we will appoint both deputy and bishop legislative committees well in advance of the new dates of General Convention, charging them to begin their work virtually using the new online and Zoom skills that we have all gained in the last several months.
The decision about how to proceed is a weighty one. Both lives and millions of dollars in convention contracts are at stake, and we have very little way to know what the prevailing public health and economic conditions will be by next summer. But in all things, our primary values continue to be the common good and the health, safety and welfare of General Convention attendees and the people we would encounter while traveling and meeting.
In the fall, we will reevaluate the public health situation and consult again with epidemiologists who have given us their time and advice so generously. In October, we hope to ask Executive Council for their advice and consent to our final decision about how the 80th General Convention will proceed, but we recognize that it may not be possible to finalize our plans that quickly.
We know that the continued uncertainty about the timing of General Convention makes it difficult to plan budget and schedules for 2021 and beyond, but we hope that understanding the alternative plan will help you prepare for what might be in store. It represents our best efforts to love one another as Jesus commanded, which is our greatest witness and highest calling.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies