Sunday, June 11, 2006

Deputies Arrive at GC

Sunday, June 11, about 10 p.m.

Most of the Arkansas deputation is here. We've got a hospitality room for us to meet in to visit or caucus.
First committee meetings are tomorrow morning at 8:00.

Just a note about the difference between being a "deputy" and being a "delegate" or a "representative." It's an important distinction.

The members of the General Convention are the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. Each diocese has eight deputies, four clergy and four lay. We do not "represent" our diocese, in the sense that we might try to represent what we think our constituency back home would think. We are deputized by the diocese to be in conversation, debate, discernment and prayer and to make what we believe are the best decisions for the church. We are to try to find the mind of Christ and vote what we believe would be the will of God. So, I've made no promises about how I will vote about anything. It is the church's conviction that the role of being a deputy allows room for the Holy Spirit to move within the Convention and its deliberations.

So, for instance -- My Vestry last year completed an eight month process that led to their creating a resolution about their position supporting the possibility of our offering a rite of blessing to our committed same-gender couples. It was a statement that passed our Vestry unanimously. I carry that realization with me into our work here at General Convention.

But if my conscience is convinced that what our Vestry has stated is inappropriate for the church at this time, I am free to vote in a manner that would be contrary to the expressed position of my Vestry (and a strong majority of my parish, I would add). That's what it means to be a deputy. I am not bound or obligated ahead of time, even by my own Vestry's unanimous opinion.

Whatever decisions I make, I'll have to stand up and explain when I get back to Arkansas. But our primary allegiance as deputies is to what we believe God would want for the Church.


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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Clergy Deputy to General Convention


At 6:15 AM , Blogger The Rev. Jo Ann Barker said...

I can't agree with you more! Having formerly been a deputy from this diocese, I know how crucial it is for deputies to be OPEN. So much about GC is listening. No matter how much you read or discuss ahead of time, the influx of information at GC is almost overwhelming. What you thought you knew and understood is given a major boost. It would be antithical to the process to come with decisions predetermined. The presence of the Holy Spirit is truly palpable! Important also is talking to other deputies from the entire church. You talk together, you struggle together, and you pray together. It's a process that moves fast. But like Lowell I truly believe the Spirit moves where it will and God guides GC every step of the way.
I'm home recovering from surgery and will join you in prayer every step of the way. I trust all of you to be faithful to your responsibility of participating in making important decisions for the church. Peace, Jo Ann

At 1:17 PM , Blogger BillyHawkins said...

Lowell,thank you for your comments concerning being a deputy and the work that God calls one to at General Convention.All of you are already in my prayers and I pray that the decisions made in the next few days will bring peace and healing and unity to our part of the body of Christ.May Gods wisdom and the peace of Christ be with all of you. Billy Hawkins

At 2:52 PM , Blogger Van Windsor said...

Dear Lowell:
Thank you for a deeper explanation of what has become the definition for you of what it is to be a "delegate" at General Convention. Certainly with the number of years you have been traveling to these affairs you should have some idea, and I can't imagine a more thoughtful or better representative. Yet something is different overall, last GC and in the weeks leading up to this GC, not with you, necessarily, but something I can't quite put my finger on.... There has been a withdrawing from specific discussion and of informing...a defensiveness or justification of the role of a delegate or delegation. It seems that the most important aspect of being a delegate has become to not represent. I have noticed that many of the house organs of the national Church have been expressing these same points lately -- like the bulletin inserts we have been using at Trinity that are sent to us from the National Church.
I presume the issue of "representation," or lack thereof, has come about because of the intensity of feelings related to so many issues coming before GC over the last several years. I think too that there is an awakening to the fact that no one person, or group of people, can truly act "as" the Church. It is a little off-putting to think that our delegates believe, as you say, that they are operating under the assumption that their allegiance as deputies is to "what we believe God would want for the Church." Funny how we construct arguments for the building of our idols...
For that matter, it is surprising that any one person, or group of persons, would consider making " best decisions for the Church," without a sense of what the rest of the Body of Christ might consider, most especially given that it is Christ Himself who is the Head of the Body, His Church, not the delegates to GC...It all seems so willful and imperious...
Why would it have been so difficult for this delegation, and our bishop, to bring to the forefront the important issues facing GC, and discuss them in convocations, newsletters, etc. ... allowing those for whom you are thinking and feeling to inspire, inform, and learn from, your wisdom, conscience, and conscious...It seems that no one really cared, or (surely not!) that they cared too much for their own objectives to be informed of other opinions...Was there a fear of loss of control of agendas from the powers that be (of which our delegates are a part)?
While I think everyone in the diocese is proud of the ministry and outreach of the parish you represent as rector, you are not just their delegate, so you are well to say that you are not bound by their unanimous opinion. You represent us all, and that is what I strongly hope your conscious will keep in mind, and the consciousness of all of our delegation. We are not children to be thought on behalf of, but fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, worthy of consideration...
I actually don't think that delegates should be bound to a voting policy based on what majority opinion "back home" is either, except in the sense that they allow themselves to truly understand what those thought processes and opinions may be. To wait until after GC to explain, and then listen, is to say no one else's thoughts are important, or worse, that you don't give a damn...After the fact, is just that, after the fact...
We continue to pray for General Convention, that the mind and will of God may prevail in the hearts of all His Church...

At 3:18 PM , Blogger Matt said...

Lowell, thanks for blogging from the Convention. News from ENS and other professional sources is nice, but it's much better to have windows into the process provided by those who are actually deliberating, crafting legislation, and voting.


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