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& Convention Center Charleston
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the REC:
Lenten greetings in this Passiontide!
I write to report the important decision by the General Committee to postpone the 56th General Council planned for the week of June 7, 2020. Our Constitution and Canons stipulate regarding the time and place of the meeting of a General Council: “If in the opinion of the Presiding Bishop there be sufficient reason to change the time or place . . . this may be done by him with the consent in writing of two-thirds of the General Committee” (Article VII, Sec. 2). On March 26, with the unanimous support of the Council of Bishops, I made recommendation to a called meeting of the General Committee, that our General Council be rescheduled for June, 2021, at the same location in Charleston, South Carolina. The General Committee unanimously approved my recommendation.
The reasons for this decision have to do with the collateral effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the necessary restrictions. It is thought that the lock downs and limitations all across the country will not relax until at least May and maybe into June. Perhaps in some areas they might be removed. Even then we can’t know where, how many, or even when. Some of our people in certain parts of the country might be free to travel, whereas others may not. Then, soon after the restrictions are lifted all over the country, people may still be reluctant to travel.
The result of the aforementioned effects is that if we try to stay with our June, 2020 date for General Council, we in all likelihood will not be able to fulfill our hotel reservation requirements at the Embassy Suites Airport Hotel in Charleston. If we do not, we could lose up to a $130,000. Thankfully the hotel will work with us on a reschedule for some time in June 2021. We are currently working with them on available dates. In addition, twelve major hotels in Charleston are presently closed until restrictions are removed. There is the possibility that if the restrictions for the COVID-19 virus run into the summer, hotels may not yet be reopened.
Another major concern is the restriction placed on European travel, which impacts the ability of our European REC family to attend General Council. Our anticipation is the possibility that European flight bans may still be in effect deep into the summer. Even if they are lifted, how soon will people be confident to fly again when the virus will still be around without a vaccine?
As for postponing a year, there’s actually not a good time prior to the following June. We considered a number of options. One would be to attempt to have General Council later this summer. Any time before the end of summer still runs into all of the above issues and uncertainties. As for late summer in the U.S., it collides with the re-opening of schools. The only other option for a council would be some time during the school year. We have found that councils which conflict with the academic year are a challenge for so many of our clergy and delegates who are involved in education at various levels. For these reasons, therefore, your General Committee upon my recommendation has approved rescheduling General Council for June 2021, in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Embassy Suites Airport Hotel.
On a number of practical matters, I realize that many of you may have already registered and purchased airline tickets for General Council. As for your registrations, we will refund what you have paid, or simply count your payment toward next year. The Rev. Jason Grote is the point of contact for this issue. You can email him directly at J2Grote@rechurch.org to discuss your situation. If you have already purchased plane tickets, the airlines are working with the large number of cancelled flights. Hopefully they will either refund or give you credit to be used for next year. The delegates for the new date of General Council should not change from those who have been elected for the original date.
On behalf of the General Committee, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience of rescheduling a General Council. Believe me, this is among the last changes I would ever want to attempt. Yet, I hope you understand that we’re responding to matters beyond our control. We want to have the best General Council possible, when the greatest number of delegates can attend, and without losing money for the church. Until then, let us continue to pray for so many who have been affected by this horrible virus. May God in His Divine and Gracious Providence provide a vaccine!
Your Servant in Christ,
The Most Rev. Dr. Ray R. Sutton, Ph.D.
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