Last month in Indianapolis, representatives of the Episcopal Church’s 109 dioceses in the United States gathered for the church’s General Convention, held every three years. At the convention, church leaders discuss and vote on changes to church policy and direction.
This year, the church passed 460 resolutions, making changes to everything from the church’s stance on same-sex blessings to procedural and structural changes in the church’s hierarchy.
Matthew Zimmerman, a priest at Lawrence’s St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church who attended the convention, sat down with the Journal-World to discuss some of the changes and how they’ll impact local Episcopalians.
One of the more publicized resolutions passed was allowing dioceses to approve blessings for same-sex unions. What’s been the local reaction?
“Many are accepting of it,” said Zimmerman, who said he hasn’t heard any local objection to the resolution. “Some think it’s about time.”
Performing a same-sex union blessing is discretionary, not mandatory, so churches have the autonomy to make that decision. Zimmerman said he is open to performing a same-sex blessing if the circumstances were appropriate.
Q: What were some other larger changes passed at the convention?
A: Some of the resolutions were aimed at a “decentralizing” of the Episcopal Church, moving more to a “locally based” leadership. In Lawrence, for instance, that would mean St. Margaret’s, 5700 W. Sixth St., and Trinity, 1011 Vt., Lawrence’s two Episcopal churches, would be more free to allow church practices to reflect the needs of the local community.
Q: You’ve been an ordained Episcopal priest since 1996. What do you see as some of the larger trends and shifts in the Episcopal Church?
A: It’s a focus on “how you live,” and the prioritizing of social justice issues such as fair wages and environmental activism. “Be in tune with creation, and not on top of it,” Zimmerman said.
Q: Some media coverage of the convention focused on tensions within the church, including a Wall Street editorial titled “What ails the Episcopalians?” Would you say there was a lot of tension and division at the convention?
A: The debates at the convention were a “healthy conflict” and a byproduct of the democratic process. “We’re not seeking uniformity, we just want unity,” he said.
For more about the convention, visit generalconvention.org.