Newly Styled Agenda Proposed for Special General Convention

Diocesan Press Service. April 1, 1969 [76-3]

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- A new style for a General Convention of the Episcopal Church will be presented to delegates of the Church when they meet in special session this year August 31 to September 5 at the University of Notre Dame.

* For the first time in Episcopal Church history, the proposed agenda will provide not only for the traditional legislative functions of a Convention but also will include equal time for conference purposes.

* The proposed Convention agenda also will provide for the participation of women, ethnic minorities and young people.

* It will be the first time that an Episcopal Church Convention has been held on a university campus.

The Special Convention was authorized by the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies in Seattle in 1967, and the agenda for the 1969 meeting is being drafted by an advisory committee headed by the Rev. David R. Thornberry, of Shaker Heights, O.

The Rev. Mr. Thornberry explained that the Notre Dame meeting is a Convention in its own right with a focus which will be both "post-Seattle and pre- Houston." A regular session of the Church's General Convention will be held in the fall of 1970 at Houston, Tex.

The proposal of the agenda committee, serving as an advisory body to the Rt. Rev. John E. Hines, Presiding Bishop, and the Rev. John B. Coburn, president of the House of Deputies, has been approved by the two presiding officers and commended to the delegates who will attend the Indiana Convention.

Bishop Hines and Dean Coburn both emphasized that the proposed agenda must be approved by the Bishops and Deputies but expressed "warm support" of the plan.

They said in a joint letter to Convention members:

"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 life which are often 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. "

The agenda proposal which Convention members will be asked to approve seeks to utilize the time available at Notre Dame "to lay the groundwork for the new directions the Church should take unitedly" through Joint Sessions supplemented by task-oriented discussion sections.

Another proposal of the agenda advisory committee is for the presence, in significant numbers, of women, ethnic minorities and young people at the Special Convention, and it is recommending that representatives of each group be included with a seat and voice in the Joint Sessions. They would not have a voice or vote in legislative sessions of the House of Bishops or the House of Deputies.

"We recommend that each Diocese choose one person in each of these categories," the report says, "to share with its Bishops and deputies in the discussion 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 out 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, in which the special representatives would have neither voice nor vote.

The Rev. Mr. Thornberry emphasized that visitors, individually or as representatives of special interest groups in the Church, would be welcome at the Special Convention sessions, as at regular General Convention sessions.

Three main areas of concern will be central to the discussions planned by the advisory agenda committee -- "Mission, " "Ministry" and "Authority. " They would be dealt with in Joint Sessions and in smaller groups.

"We can see," the committee report said, "workable ways in which both in plenary sessions and smaller committees the whole assembly can effectively consider such themes. "

The agenda advisory committee, representative of a wide cross-section of the Church, is made up of the following members in addition to its chairman, the Rev. Mr. Thornberry:

The Rt. Rev. Ned Cole, Bishop of the Diocese of Central New York; the Rev. Kenneth W. Cary, Diocese of Los Angeles; the Rt. Rev. John P. Craine, Bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis; William Ikard, Diocese of New Mexico and Southwest Texas; Hiram Neuwoehner, Jr., Diocese of Missouri; the Rev. Joseph A. Pelham, Diocese of Michigan; the Rt. Rev. Anson P. Stokes, Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts; Hugh R. Jones, Diocese of Central New York.