It has been our honor to work for the Diocese of Albany, the Episcopal Church, and most importantly for our Lord Jesus Christ, at the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas. At all times we aimed to hold the responsibility entrusted to us in the highest regard.
Much was considered and decided at the 79th General Convention. While the headline grabbing discussions and debate on same-gender marriage and Prayer Book revision dominated much of our time, there were other important actions taken by the General Convention. Much of our work centered around the three pillars of our church’s mission as defined by our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry: Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation, and Creation Care. We passed resolutions that call the church to action on issues such as human trafficking, domestic violence, and equality in mission and ministry. A highlight of our time together came on the 6th Legislative Day when the General Convention took a great step toward reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba by readmitting their bishop and deputies to their respective houses of the General Convention. We look forward to the continuing reintegration of the Diocese of Cuba into the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church.
As we move to discussion of same-gender marriage and Prayer Book revision, we first must acknowledge that there are differences of opinion on these issues throughout the diocese. We respect that people of good conscience may hold different views and expect to continue in love and fellowship with people of all views. We also wish to offer our appreciation and gratitude to the Communion Partner bishops and deputations for the support and fellowship which we shared during our time in Austin.
After much discussion and debate the General Convention passed resolution B012 concerning same-gender marriage across the dioceses of the Episcopal Church. The resolution continues the canonical authority of the Rector or Priest-in-Charge to direct the use of liturgies, including marriage, within their parish. The resolution also calls on bishops who “hold a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,” to make those rites available in their diocese, by inviting, if necessary, another bishop to provide “pastoral support” to those couples and congregations looking to utilize these rites within their congregation. While we are appreciative that this resolution still upholds the canonical authority of the clergy, and some oversight of the bishop, we acknowledge that this General Convention has required dioceses of this church – including our own – to permit services which they cannot in good conscience permit. The Bishop and Standing Committee will have more to say about this in the coming days.
As part of its continuing deliberations the General Convention also passed resolution A068 which endorses a two-fold future for the Book of Common Prayer within the Episcopal Church. The resolution calls for “memorializing” the current Book of Common Prayer 1979, while continuing further development of supplemental liturgies. Some have equated this to the processes currently used within the Church of England and the Anglican Church of Canada. In the cases of England and Canada the church’s official Prayer Book remains an older Prayer Book but many utilize liturgical resources from supplemental texts. For the foreseeable future the Book of Common Prayer 1979 will remain the official Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church and will remain largely unchanged. At the same time, supplemental and revised liturgies will be developed for the use of the church. Also emphasized was the continuing process of producing translations of current and future liturgies which are accurate and more culturally sensitive.
We acknowledge that there will be a multitude of reactions to the actions of the 79th General Convention. Some will laud these changes, while others will lament them. We believe there continue to be reasons for cautious optimism within our Episcopal Church. We continue to be encouraged by our Presiding Bishop’s emphasis on the importance of evangelism for the future of our church. This is something we highly support. Our most important work within the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Albany, and the local church, has been and will continue to be the work of sharing the love and hope that comes from faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We commit ourselves to this continuing work with you and others in the Episcopal Diocese of Albany.
May God Bless you,
The General Convention Deputies of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany
The Rev. Scott Garno, St. Stephen’s, Delmar (chair) The Rev. Katherine Alonge-Coons, Grace Church, Waterford The Very Rev. Dr. Leander Harding, Cathedral of All Saints The Rev. Jill Stellman, Christ Church, Herkimer & St. John’s, Richfield Springs Mrs. Jennifer Dean, St. Stephen’s, Delmar Mrs. Sarah Garno, St. Stephen’s, Delmar Mrs. Maggie Hasslacher, Christ Church, Schenectady Mrs. Mary Jones, Christ Church, Schenectady The Rev. Bradley Jones, Christ Church, Schenectady (clergy alternate)