Walking the Road Toward General Convention 2018


By John Michael Sophos

[John Michael Sophos is a member of St. Peter’s Church, Lewes. This will be his ninth General Convention (his first being in 1985) but his first in an elected capacity (1st lay alternate deputy). At previous conventions he has served as a journalist covering the House of Bishops, an exhibit booth manager, and a legislative aide.]

The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will be held from July 3 – July 13 in Austin, Texas, with Thursday, July 5, being the first legislative day. The General Convention, the governing body of the Church, is a bicameral legislature with a House of Deputies and House of Bishops. Our 2018 deputation to the House of Deputies, which consists of four clergy and four lay people plus an equal number of alternates in both orders, was elected at our Diocesan Convention in 2017 and includes, in order of election:

Clergy Deputies

The Rev. Brad Hinton, St. David’s Church, Wilmington

The Rev. Patty Downing, Trinity Parish and Old Swedes Church, Wilmington

The Rev. Russell Bohner, St, Anne’s Church, Middletown

The Rev. Ruth Beresford, Christ Church, Christiana Hundred

Clergy Alternates

The Rev. Donna Jean Kiessling, St. Peter’s Church, Smyrna

The Rev. Kenneth Athey, All Saints’ Church, Delmar

Deacon Cecily Sawyer Harmon, St. Thomas’s Parish, Newark

Deacon Susan Phillips, All Saints’ Church & St. George’s Chapel, Rehoboth Beach


Lay Deputies

Ms. Lee Ann Walling, Christ Church, Dover

Mr. Jon Rania, Christ Church, Dover

Ms. D-L Casson, Church of Sts. Andrew and Matthew, Wilmington

Mr. John Crossan, Christ Church, Christiana Hundred

Lay Alternates

Mr. John Michael Sophos, St. Peter’s Church, Lewes

Ms. Sylvia Banks, Church of Sts. Andrew and Matthew, Wilmington

Ms. Nancy Benson, Christ Church, Milford

Mr. Eric Valentine, St. Paul’s Church, Georgetown


Led by Brad Hinton and Lee Ann Walling, this team has been at work since late last year, holding monthly meetings to become familiar with and discuss the process of navigating the legislative thickets of General Convention successfully and being the best representatives of our Diocesan family that we can be.


Because the General Convention only meets every three years, it creates various commissions, committees, task forces, agencies, and boards to carry on its work and implement its decisions in the interim. Each of these interim bodies issues a report prior to the General Convention, and these reports are published in what traditionally is called The Blue Book, which these days is available online. Our deputation is currently reading, marking, and inwardly digesting these reports from such interim bodies as the Standing Commissions on Liturgy and Music; Structure, Governance, Constitution, and Canons; the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance; the Task Force on the Study of Marriage; and the House of Deputies State of the Church; amongst myriad others. To  see the scope of issues being covered by General Convention, visit https://www.generalconvention.org/bluebook2018/.


The Diocese is well represented on key General Convention 2018 committees. Both the Rev. Ruth Beresford and the Rev. Brad Hinton have been appointed to the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music; the Rev. Patty Downing to Program, Budget, and Finance; Lee Ann Walling to Evangelism and Church Planning; Jon Rania to Credentials; and D-L Casson to Dispatch of Business. Also, the Rt. Rev. Kevin Brown sits on the Committee on the Church Pension Fund. Donna Jean Kiessling, in addition to being our 1st clergy alternate, is also serving as a legislative aide to the Committee on the Church Pension Fund; and Judi Gregory, our diocesan business manager, will be serving as a legislative aide to the Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance. So, the Diocese of Delaware will indeed be in The House!


It is going to be a busy two weeks – late to bed and early to rise. Our days will be filled with legislative sessions, committee meetings, open hearings, and nightly deputation caucus meetings. Those of us who do not have a designated committee appointment will be monitoring other committees and open hearings, as well as the House of Bishops, so that our deputation can stay abreast of the legislative flow and the mind of Convention. To refresh our souls and keep us centered in the midst of it all, there will be daily worship services and several optional social events sponsored by various host groups.


Please keep us, your diocesan deputation and Bishop Brown, in your prayers as we walk the road toward General Convention 2018. If you are interested in seeing what the House of Deputies does, has done, and continues to do, check out https://houseofdeputies.org/.

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