Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Last Day -- The Big Decision

Wednesday, June 21 -- the last day of General Convention

Presiding Bishop Griswold celebrated and PB-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori preached for our final Eucharist this morning. Our own Cindy Fribourgh was the Deacon for the service.

Bishop Schori's sermon was as good as any sermon we've heard during this Convention. I'll send either the text or the web link once it is posted on the Episcopal Church site.

She spoke of her awaking early Sunday morning before sunrise, the morning after her election. It is an overcast day, with rain in the forecast. As light was beginning, she went out to run. She told of meeting or passing by various people -- hotel workers, newspaper deliverer, street person, two business people going to work, another runner, etc. And a rabbit. She greeted each of these in some way. In each of these meetings, she said, there was some degree of wariness, however. She invited us to dream of a world in which all human and other creatures meet in such a way that their meetings are not tinged with fear.

Jesus said, "my Kingdom is not of this world." Jesus' kingdom is a kingdom in which there is no fear. Fear has no impact in the presence of the cross. Jesus calls us friends, not agents of friends.

We will not be fearless until we find ourselves rooted in the soil of internal peace, planted in the infinite love of God. Fear really is our idolatries of self-interest. We say, "that's mine; you can't take it, because I can't live without it." If you threaten my self-interest, I will respond with fear. Unless we can respond like Jesus, who brings us peace through the blood of the cross.

The Godly messengers always say to us, "Fear not." When we know ourselves to be God's Beloved, we are then able to recognize another as Beloved as well, and we can reach beyond our defenses toward the other. We can lay down our sword and shield, and seek the image of God especially in those we find hardest to love. We need to lay down our need for power and control and see Jesus in the weakest and poorest.

I'll send a link or text of the complete sermon.

We entered the legislative hall for a Joint Session of both the House of Deputies and House of Bishops.

As the Presiding Bishop said, "Would the deputies and bishops please take their places," there was a five-second sound of rolling thunder from the storm that is passing by outside.

Bishop Griswold said that when he was elected as Presiding Bishop eight and one-half years ago, he called the church to the costly discipline of conversion. He said then that the words conversation and conversion come from the same root. Conversion is a new way of seeing one another, seeing Christ in one another. It is less a change of mind and more a change of heart.

Our Convention has passed two resolutions indicating our desire to commit to the Anglican Communion and to be in the conversation about a possible Anglican Covenant, but we communicate to our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion that they have been taken seriously, our further conversation is threatened and our bonds of affection will be further strained. For our voices to be heard, we must communicate clearly that we have not ignored those who sincerely cannot understand our actions.

"Conversation works," said Bishop Griswold. He spoke of his experience at the Primate's meetings, which have often been difficult. Sometimes he's had to receive quite a bit before he was able to give. Humility and restraint are necessary precursors to conversation. Sometimes it appears that we are taking a step backward, but that step may be necessary before we may go backward.

We have very different views in this church. Many believe that an expression of restraint constitutes a betrayal of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and have opposed the earlier resolutions. Others are looking for justification for their intention to walk away, and have also opposed the proposed expressions of restraint. We have had an odd joining of opposite ends to resist our making a statement of restraint. Bishop Griswold urged the great middle to express itself so that we don't avoid taking steps that preclude conversation. Bishop Griswold looked toward Bishop Schori and said, "Give the 26th Presiding Bishop a chance to be at the table."

What we yearn for has not yet been enacted. The Presiding Bishop asked both houses to consider the following resolution, B-033 (starting in the House of Bishops):
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace the Windsor Report's invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further
Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

The Bishops left to begin their consideration of this resolution.

Our House began to work through a prioritized series of resolutions. Most of the first ones have to do with our structure and organization, how we do our business.

We're working pretty efficiently through our business.
One of the good pieces of work is the creation of a new Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Education and Formation to develop and recommend comprehensive and coordinated policies for children, youth, adults, and seniors for lifelong Christian formation.

At 11:50 a bunch of bishops started walking into the visitor's section. They've obviously finished their work on B-033. The rain has increased and provides an intense, roaring background for our conversation. It is getting more difficult to hear.

Rumor has it that there was a failed attempt in the House of Bishop to amend B-033.

After noonday prayers, we are moving to suspend our rules in order to allow B-033 to be returned to the house. The rain outside has silenced.

A series of deputies from conservative dioceses are trying under the Robert's Rules to prevent our consideration of the resolution on the grounds that we have already voted not to reconsider a similar resolution. To my mind, this is an attempt to sabotage the Episcopal Church by preventing us from making a statement to the Anglican Communion. If we don't pass anything, they can then justify their attempts to deconstruct the Episcopal Church.

We passed the special order to allow the House to consider B-033.

Presiding Bishop Elect Schori has asked permission to speak to the house. We have granted that permission.

We are debating. Louie Crew, the founder of Integrity, has said that this resolution would "cut the tongue out of the Holy Spirit." As we talk, it is becoming clear that there are liberal/progressive members who do not like this resolution but will vote for it for the sake of our engagement of conversation with the Anglican Communion. One who called himself part of the "mushy middle" said that he is troubled by the pull from the edges.

She spoke of living in a church with two minds. She offered an image of conjoined twins -- parts of two bodies united in one being. When physicians/ethicists worry about separating those twins, they worry that it is wrong to separate those twins unless they are both able to live. Our church is not really one and is not really two. This resolution is far from adequate, she said. The language is extremely challenging, but it's probably as good as we can do today. She said she is fully supportive of the place of gay and lesbians in our community. This is not slamming the door. But this is probably the best we can manage at this point in our history.

South Carolina, Quincy, Fort Worth, and Central Florida have asked for a vote by orders.

Sally Johnson, chair of Constitutions and Canons, a grounded progressive said, "This resolution tears me apart. It goes against everything in my very being. And as a gift to the Presiding Bishop Elect, I think we should give it to her." Another progressive said that this is a resolution that gives in to the spirits of fear and timidity. A conservative said that we need to sacrifice our personal needs for the sake of the whole church and approve the resolution. Another conservative objects because this resolution is less than what we can do; send it back to the Bishops. A deputy from Virginia said we have embraced a listening process, and this resolution will help keep us at the table, in part, so that the voices of gay and lesbian Christians can be heard. A conservative said that this resolution is tossing a half a carrot to the rest of the communion, defeat it. Another conservative spoke of his shame yesterday when we refused to be humble enough to speak to our brothers and sisters Anglican Communion; we need to adopt this to say that we are listening.

The first amendment has been proposed to add the words "until the General Convention 2009" in order to give a time limit to this commitment of restraint in episcopal elections.

Frank Wade, the chair of the Special Committee, said that the acts of one General Convention cannot bind another General Convention. We could add these words to every resolution the house passes. This amendment doesn't add anything and complicates much. A liberal deputy expressed his frustration that those who have been so critical of the actions of our Convention have not been willing to be in conversation with us.

The amendment was defeated on a voice vote. The chaplain came forward to lead us in prayer before the vote on the main resolution.

For me (and for most of us) this is a difficult and conflictive vote. For the sake of remaining in conversation with the full Anglican Communion, we are denying some of the gifts that are ours and the potential for leadership from some of our gay and lesbian leaders. If we pass this, we do so on the backs of some of my friends; some of the priests who I hold in highest regard and hope one day may be bishops among us. I voted "yes" along with the rest of the Arkansas deputation, but I felt my throat choke as I cast my vote.

The Electronic results of our vote by orders is:

Needed to pass:
Lay: 72, yes; //21,no // 11 divided -- Yes 72 // 32 No & Divided 77%
Clerical: 75, yes; // 24,no // 10 divided -- Yes 75 // 32 No & Divided 76%
The resolution carried.


To add your voice to the conversation, please post a comment. Click below.


At 11:51 AM , Blogger hapax said...

Does the "manner of life [which] presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion" include episcopal candidates who display racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry in their daily life and speaking? Will the other provinces also make this pledge?

-- Lesley K
I am grieved, angry, bitter, and disappointed. My throat would have choked too -- possibly too much to speak.

Yet I am grateful to all who, like Lowell, I am certain voted in a spirit of love, listening, and reconciliation. May their humility and graciousness evoke a similar response.

May our gay brothers and sisters find it in their hearts to forgive us this great wrong we do them. And may the the Spirit "who blows where it pleases" forgive our efforts to constrain the Divine Grace.

At 12:14 AM , Blogger Lisa said...

I have merely been a silent lurker here, but I have very much appreciated your thoughtful comments on this blog. Thank you for the time and the sleep-deprivation it has surely cost you.

I am struck by the fact that PB-Elect Schori preached/spoke of fear, only to come back to the Deputies and urge you to vote for B033, apparently out of fear of what +Cantaur, +Akinola, et al might do to The Episcopal Church.

It breaks my heart that the Deputies voted as they did today. I think I can understand why you voted as you did – when I consider the political issues you were facing. But please understand that it has cost some of us in the pews a great many tears. Folks talked about GC “thumbing their noses at the AC.” Well, those folks in the WWAC are thousands of miles away. But this no-count sister in Missouri feels like everything GC gave us in 2003 was ripped away today. Tomorrow, I won’t be able to evangelize people in my small Midwestern town the way I could do before today, and I regret that deeply.

And it breaks my heart that we wasted so much time [given that the Network crowd has now spoken as they have] on Windsor, to the point that you all did not have time to get to the more important resolutions on our mission and ministry. My heart goes out to all of you who had to make these awful votes. May God have mercy on us all.

At 12:42 PM , Blogger jencole said...

thank you for all you all did at teh convention.
I know sometimes chainge is to slow for us fast moving souls , but i am greatful these issues are even on the table.
I am very impatient but i see the needs of every one being considered, not every one is able to open there minds and hearts but they two deserve our love and prayers.
You all acomplished allot i am greatful so much time was spent on all the issues it was spent on so many of them close to my heart. I feel that you all did all you could in the alloded time (never enough time).
many blessings, Gods eternal lite and grace to all, any one who's needs where not met yet, trust in God he knows your heart and needs he is here carring you thru the things you cannot bear.


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