[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal leaders plan to recommend enhanced public health precautions for a shorter in-person meeting of the 80th General Assembly in July, which would include frequent rapid testing for COVID-19 and wearing high-quality face masks at almost all times.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, Speaker of the House, announced the additional precautions May 26 after a meeting with the General Convention Design Group, which advises the two presiding officials on how best to scale down the General Assembly Baltimore, Maryland.
The final plan will be submitted to the Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements and the Executive Board for approval on June 7. If the plan is supported by these two bodies, the 80thth General Convention will be shortened from eight to four days, July 8-11.
“We are grateful to all who are working to make this general assembly safer and to all who are enduring the disruption to travel and summer plans with grace and forbearance,” Curry and Jennings said in a letter to the church. “As COVID-19 rates continue to rise in both Baltimore and the United States, please continue to pray for all those who are sick and who have died.”
The General Convention was already preparing to require all participants to have a vaccination certificate against COVID-19 and to wear a mask. The new mask mandate, outlined May 26, would make exceptions only for people speaking in legislative sessions physically distant from others.
To facilitate rapid testing, the church would provide participants with five tests when they picked up their badges, and they would be asked to test after checking into their hotel rooms and each morning of the four-day meeting, per the design group’s suggestion.
Church leaders continue to deliberate on another important change of the 1980sth General Convention, prioritizing legislation to be included in July while non-critical matters are postponed to 2024 when May 81St The General Assembly meets in Louisville, Kentucky.
“We know that for some of you, this is like asking to choose between your children,” Michael O. Glass, vice chancellor of the House of Representatives and chair of the Resolution Review Committee, said during a meeting between the general and the general on March 25 May Convention Design Group and Legislative Committees.
The revised legislative process under consideration would likely extend the work of online committees into next month, with a June 6 deadline for the submission of resolutions and June 25 as the last day for committees to submit their resolutions can complete work. The design group is expected to make its final legislative recommendations next week.
In addition to a shorter general assembly, the chairpersons’ design group recommends limiting attendance to bishops, alternates, key staff and volunteers, and limited media exposure. Visitors are generally not permitted. Dioceses are asked to send only two alternates and inactive bishops are asked to stay at home. There will also be no exhibit hall under the pending plan, and church organizations are asked not to hold events in Baltimore during the general convention.
The General Convention is the governing body of the Episcopal Church, and its triennial gathering is typically the church’s largest gathering, drawing between 5,000 and 10,000 people to the host city over a two-week period. As a bicameral parliament, it consists of the House of Representatives and the House of Bishops, which are made up of representatives and bishops from each diocese.
The 80th General Assembly was originally scheduled for July 2021 but was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay gave legislative committees time to start work much earlier than normal – and online for the first time.