Bicentennial Convention: Something For Everyone

Episcopal News Service. August 8, 1985 [85169]

NEW YORK (DPS Aug. 8) -- So, you've got this convention in California?

Right. In Anaheim, in the Diocese of Los Angeles, from Sept. 7 through the 14th. It should be interesting.

Why? Conventions are usually pretty boring.

Well, for one thing, this is the 200th anniversary of the Episcopal Church's General Convention and anniversaries like that are sort of special. For another, we're electing a new Presiding Bishop who will take office in January, so we will be saying 'Thanks' to Bishop and Mrs. Allin and there is a lot of interesting stuff on the agenda.

Like what?

There are discussions on social issues, ecumenical matters, the budget for the next three years, elections and a review of the ministry canons.

That sounds like a sure winner! I'll go for that. But there must be thing else going on? You can't just work all the time.

Of course not. Worship is a big part of the Convention. There will be convention-wide worship services daily and Archbishop Runcie of Canterbury will preach at the opening service and United Thank Offering Ingathering on Sunday morning the 8th.

The In-what?

Ingathering. All through the year, Episcopalians put money in boxes they keep as thank offerings. It's gathered by dioceses, and, in Convention years, a symbolic presentation of the gifts is a central part of the offeratory. Later, the Triennial will vote on the use of the money.

You and your shorthand language What's a Triennial?

Sorry. Triennial is the Triennial meeting of the Women of the Church, although now, some men are delegates, too. They meet concurrently with Convention, share in the joint sessions and have a terrific program of their own lined up, including a variety of worship services, workshops and, something new this year, a series of luncheons.

Everybody has to eat. What's so special about luncheons?

Don't be dense. These will include a gathering with the women deputies to Convention -- that should be lively, and a presentation by Bishop Allin's wife Ann on her ministry, especially over the last 12 years. A number of other Church leaders will also participate.

It still sounds pretty intense. What do you do for fun?

Well, apart from an occasional good floor fight or wellplaced amendment, most of the entertainment is in the hands of the Diocese of Los Angeles. We don't have official "host dioceses" any more. The financial burden became unfair. But the people of Los Angeles are setting up systems to show visitors as much of southern California hospitality and culture as is possible in the time. The big planned event is "Los Angeles Night" on Wednesday evening. We're told that will involve a lot of well-known talent.

OK, that sounds like fun. Can anyone go?

As many as can fit. The Arena seats 8,800 people, and they are planning a supplemental area into which the show will broadcast.

Say, how any people go to this wingding, anyway?

Hard to say. Let's see. About 200 bishops are expected. Their meeting had to be shifted to the Pacific Roo to provide more space. More than 900 deputies are registered. Triennial draws about 500 delegates. Then there are the exhibitors, about a 100 press, and convention officers are anticipating that about 1400 visitors will take part. Don't forget, a lot of deputies, delegates and bishops bring their spouses. We should make a tidy little mob.

Sounds like it. I suppose a lot of other things are planned for special interest groups.

Right. All the seminaries hold dinners. The Armed Forces chaplaincies have a buffet reception Sunday afternoon. The Episcopal Communicators are meeting Saturday night. Of course, the real place for interests -- special and general -- is the exhibit hall in the North Exhibition Hall.

What's in that? People selling things?

There's that. Many of the vestment makers have booths. So will the Episcopal Church Center and most of the other organizations that you find in the front of the Episcopal Church Annual. Anyone who has a point of view, a service or a ministry to offer the Church will be found in that 100,000 square feet of space.

A lot of action! How do people keep up with it all?

Quite a few ways. There will be an information center and a local telephone number to help participants. There are also three daily newspapers -- the General Convention Daily, Issues, and the Episcopal Convention Monitor, and the Triennial will also have a daily paper.

Didn't past conventions have something called "Where Its At"?

That's now the Monitor. The Evangelical & Catholic Mission decided to yield to the grammarians. But I'm not finished. There will be two press rooms. One for the Convention in the Orange County Room of the Center and the other for the Triennial in the Marriott, where they are meeting.

Sounds like a lot of paper.

Someone once said that every deputy should be made to go home and plant a tree. In fact, though, we've cut way down on paper. The procedures are streamlined, and the secretarial teams have been together for a long time. The system really works, and it has to, when half the deputies are new each time.

What is the system?

Roughly akin to Congress' except that the sources of legislation are wider. Any deputy, bishop or diocese can submit a proposal and an additional 170 pieces are submitted by the Convention's boards, conmissions, committees and agencies. The presidents of the two houses -- Bishop Allin and Dr. Charles Lawrence -- decide together which House will deal with an item first and assign it to one of the house committees for scrutiny.

Does all legislation go through committee?

That's the plan. The proposals go to the committee, which does the actual writing. Both Houses have to agree on exactly the same wording, just like Congress, so messages fly thick and fast between the Houses, especially toward the end. Some of the committees will start work before the Convention opens on the 7th. It looks like Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be the heaviest plenary sessions, since no new legislation can be introduced after Sunday, and all committee reports have to be made by Thursday night.

Sounds like a lot of energy down the tubes, what with legislation, informal gatherings, worship and touring.

The Church Periodical Club members are the Convention "energy angels." They roam the halls and rooms giving out free hard candies. They're a welcome group. By the way, if you are out there early, they are meeting at the Jolly Roger Motel from the 3d through the 6th and are co-sponsoring with Bishop and Mrs. Allin a benefit performance by Rosalind Runcie, the wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury. She is a well-known pianist and, I'm told, quite a raconteur. That will be on Friday night, the 6th.

You're right. There's enough going on so that it will be interesting. How about the people?

Same thing. There are at least 170 women among the lay deputies, and the men and women lay deputies represent every race and nationality in the Church and most professions, including military, law, medicine, education, public service, homemaking and the trades and crafts. Also, the diocese is working hard to assure that people with handicaps can participate fully in the Convention.

I suppose there will also be "distinguished visitors."

Fewer than last time, but there are some. Betty Ford is addressing a luncheon sponsored by the National Episcopal Coalition on Alcohol Sept. 11, and economist John Kenneth Galbraith is speaking to a luncheon Sept. 10 sponsored by the National Commission on Social and Specialized Ministries and the National Hunger Committee.

OK, let's say that all this comes off and you have a successful convention. How does anybody hear about it?

That is basically the job of the bishops and deputies. They have to go back to their dioceses and make the Convention programs known and understood. But there will be a lot of things to help them. The Convention Daily has 4000 subscribers and will print an 8-page summary issue that will be mailed to subscribers and available at Anaheim. Both The Episcopalian and The Living Church plan full coverage, and the Church Center has sent out order forms for both a 30-minute color video, which will be called Celebration, and a slide-tape program, and many have ordered those. Of course, there will also be the "Newsphone". Interested church people can call (714) 758-6450 for a brief recorded daily summary of the Convention's activities, which will be updated each day at 6 p.m., PDT.