Church Leaders Call for a Special General Convention

Diocesan Press Service. February 5, 1969 [74-3]

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- A letter signed by the Rt. Rev. John E. Hines, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and the Rev. John B. Coburn, President of the Church's House of Deputies, suggesting tentative plans for a Special General Convention scheduled for this year at the University of Notre Dame August 31 to September 5, has been sent to all Bishops, Deputies and alternates who will attend the meeting at South Bend, Ind.

The text of the letter follows:

"To the Members of Special General Convention II

"As you know, in parallel actions :by both Houses of the General Convention at Seattle, the Presiding Bishop was asked to call a special meeting of the Convention at some time during the summer of 1969. Notice accordingly has been given of this "Special General Convention II", to meet at Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, from Sunday, August 31, through Friday, September 5.

"The House of Deputies, in their action, laid particular stress on the desirability of full consultation between us, the presiding officers of both Houses, as to the work of this Convention. In fulfillment of this, we jointly appointed an advisory committee on agenda to consider the needs of the Church at this point in our history and propose to us an appropriate plan for the five days. They have now put before us a proposal which seems to both of us to be an excellent design for the wisest use of the energies and abilities of the Church's leadership. This proposal is outlined in the attached paper.

"Of course, every meeting of the Convention has plenary powers, and it will be for the bishops and deputies at Notre Dame to decide what their agenda will be. We recognize and respect this, of course. But we both would nevertheless want to say that the plan wins our warm support. It would give our Church's central legislature an opportunity to consider, in some depth and without the inescapable pressures of triennial business, concerns in our contemporary Church life which often are painfully divisive and always are areas of uncertainty and perplexity. Such an opportunity does not often come to the Convention, and we feel the Convention would want to seize it and use it in some such way as the advisory committee suggests. And from such a session might well come proposals for action by the Convention in Houston -- proposals strengthened by the consideration given the great issues suggested for Notre Dame.

"We therefore commend the attached proposal to your thoughtful study. We jointly hope you will want to follow that course, and that the plan as a whole will gain your approval. "

Faithfully yours,

John E. Hines, Presiding Bishop

John B. Coburn, President House of Deputies

(Attached is a copy of recommendations made to the Presiding Bishop and the president of the House of Deputies by members of the advisory committee on agenda.)

Special General Convention II

Recommendations of Advisory Committee on Agenda

We see this meeting as a unique opportunity for our Church to reflect on some of the sharp, basic, issues in contemporary life to lay the groundwork for the new directions the Church should take unitedly. Free from the usual business of a regular Convention, we will have time to consider, in some depth, great elements in the Church's life and mission.

More specifically, we see this meeting as mainly preparatory for the 1970 Convention in Houston. While the Convention at Notre Dame will be fully qualified to amend canons, for example, we believe that the full usefulness of the meeting will lie rather in the discussion and formulation of new directions, specific suggestions, additional considerations, and the like, to the bodies preparing major proposals for Houston -- Joint Commissions or Committees, the Executive Council, etc.

Therefore, we have come strongly to feel that the meeting should be an assembly representative of the whole Body of the Church (as far as that can be), not alone a meeting of the two constitutional houses. If the recommendations of the gathering are to be dealt with seriously, they must no doubt be authenticated by formal action of the Convention's two houses. But if those recommendations are to reflect adequately the needs and concerns of great segments of our clergy and laity, we think that Dioceses will want to be represented in some way in addition to their Bishop and elected Deputies. We identify three groups of people – women because they are not yet free to sit as deputies; ethnic minorities (Black, Indian, or others) because only rarely are they fairly represented in our structures; youth because they have too little opportunity of direct participation. We recommend that each Diocese choose one person in each of these categories to share with its Bishops and deputies in the sessions of this Special Convention.

We envisage the major portion of this Convention's work being done in the context of joint sessions, in which the additional diocesan representatives would sit and take full part. The consideration and discussion of the major issues can be carried on in these plenary sessions of the wider assembly by adopting temporary Rules of Order. Whatever formal action is required by the Convention can be taken constitutionally by action of the two Houses.

Finally, we consider that great themes -- Mission, Ministry, and Authority -- be the main agenda for the meeting. We will have more detailed procedure to recommend; and we can see workable ways in which, both in plenary sessions and smaller committees, the whole assembly can effectively consider such themes. As our committee develops its own thinking about both themes and procedures, we will forward our recommendations in subsequent reports.


The Rev. David R. Thornberry, Chairman

The Rt. Rev. Ned Cole

The Rev. Kenneth W. Cary

The Rt. Rev. John P. Craine

Mr. William Ikard, II

Mr. Hugh R. Jones

Mr. Hiram Neuwoehner, Jr.

The Rev. Joseph A. Pelham

The Rt. Rev. Anson P. Stokes