Report on the 110th Convention of The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia

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Friday and Saturday, October 23rd and 24th, 2020

The Convention was held October 23-24, as we gathered virtually for workshops and worship, assembling remotely to do the work of the Diocese. Meeting virtually was quite an undertaking. I was surprised with how well it went. We were able to conduct Convention business with only a few snags in the process.

However, what made the Convention truly special was the involvement of the Circles of Color. The Ethnic Ministries Circles of Color are mutually supportive communities for resource sharing, networking, providing personal support, addressing issues of racism, encouraging leadership development among our people of color (POC) church communities, and connecting them with what they need emotionally and spiritually to be who God is calling them to be. Currently the various circles are the Clergy of Color Circle, First Nations Ministries Circle, African American & Black Ministries Circle, Asian American Ministries Circle, Hispanic & Latino Ministries Circle and Postulants of Color Circle for those POC in the formal ordination process.

The Circles of Color presented to Convention: A Listening Circle of Voices in The Wilderness. In it people from many different ethnic backgrounds shared experiences of pain and perseverance in the Episcopal Church. We talked about what we love about the Episcopal Church as well as how we have been hurt in it. Finally, we spoke of our hopes for this Church we care about so deeply. It was a powerful time of sharing. You can see the event at https://youtu.be/WzjDSF7VSG0.

The Circles of Color proposed six resolutions to convention:

Resolution 4 – Promoting Diversity on Diocesan Council
This resolution proposed changes to Canon 6 to restore the representation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) people on the Diocesan Council. The critical change in the language reads:
Section 2: The Diocesan Council shall consist of the Bishop, Bishop Coadjutor, Suffragan Bishops, if any, one member (clergy or layperson) representing each of the ten Regional Ministries, four at large members (two clergy and two laypersons), and up to six BIPOC members (clergy or laypersons) appointed by the bishop. The bishop may seek recommendations from existing Ethnic Ministry Communities as may be helpful.
The resolution was adopted as submitted.
 
Resolution 5 – To Make Diversity Explicit in Canon 17: Diversity in Appointments
This resolution proposed to clarify what diversity means. The language in Canon 17 now spells out what we mean when we say “diversity” and reads as follows:
Canon 17: In appointing members to diocesan commissions, committees, boards, and other bodies, and in issues of clergy deployment, the appointing authority shall give due consideration to the value of diversity in such areas as gender, sexual identity and orientation, physical ability, neurodiversity, age, race, ethnicity and income and wealth status.
A substitute version of the resolution was adopted as amended.
 
Resolution 6 – Toward a More Representative Partnership: A Resolution to Change Diocesan Canon 22 regarding the composition of the Commission on Ministry.
This resolution proposed expanding representation in the Commission on Ministry by changing its composition from a body fully appointed by the Bishop to a body of which half is appointed by the Bishop and half elected by Convention. Additionally, it proposed that the Commission’s composition be changed from being 1/3 priests, 1/3 deacons, and 1/3 lay people to being 1/2 clergy and 1/2 lay people.
The critical changed language in Canon 22 is:

Of the remaining members of the Commission one half shall be clergy canonically resident in the Diocese and one half shall be lay adult Communicants in Good Standing in the Diocese. One half of the Commission’s members shall be appointed by the Bishop at the Annual Convention for three-year terms, while the other half of the Commission’s members shall be elected by the Annual Convention for three-year terms. No member may serve more than two successive three-year terms.
A substitute version of the resolution was adopted.
 
Resolution 7 – Establishing a BIPOC Ministry Fund
This resolution proposed establishing a BIPOC Ministry Fund (hereafter referred to as BMF) to support non-stipendiary BIPOC diocesan clergy leading ethnic congregations. BMF will be annually maintained using 2% of the Diocesan budget except that the Richard Young Curacy Fund and the Bishop Nedi Rivera Fund for Hispanic Ministry are not to be included in this 2% distribution.
The resolution was adopted as submitted.
 
Resolution 8 – To add a Cultural Interpreter to BIPOC Ordination Process
The resolution proposed directing the Commission on Ministry to offer to each Applicant, Postulant and Candidate who is self-identified as Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian or other Person of Color the assistance of a cultural interpreter to accompany them through the entire duration of their process. The cultural interpreter’s role is to interpret the cultural identity and assumptions of the Applicant, Postulant or Candidate to the Commission, and the cultural identity and assumptions of the Commission to the Applicant, Postulant or Candidate.
A substitute version of the resolution was adopted.
 
Resolution 9 – Anti-Racism Covenant
This resolution proposed that the Convention of the Diocese of Olympia join other Episcopal dioceses in signing Bishop Deon Johnson’s Anti-Racism Covenant of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. It also proposed that the Diocese of Olympia use this covenant for promotion and education in the diocese and commended this covenant to all congregations in the diocese for study and meaningful local action that promotes further racial understanding, reconciliation, and partnership.
The resolution was adopted as submitted.

To view the details of the resolutions and convention action they can be read in full at https://resources.ecww.org/resolutions-actions-2020.

Also at convention the Bishop’s Award for Preaching was won by an African American priest, the Rev. Carla Robinson. You can see her sermon at https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=319999959234153.

The 110th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia was a remarkable event. However, as many people noted, it is the beginning of our work, not the end.

Written by the Rev. Carla Robinson

Click here for further information on the Diocesan Convention.

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Daniel W. Jones, President
PNW Chapter of the UBE