Friday, July 10, 2009

General Convention, Day 3, Friday, July 10

Friday, July 10, Day 3

7:30 a.m. – Legislative Committee meetings.
Our Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee began our deliberations on the various resolutions addressing the blessing of committed same-gender relationships and the questions about pastoral responses in states where civil unions and marriage are legal for gay couples. We began with a free form conversation about our thoughts following the hearing yesterday. One deputy remembered similar hearings in 2003. He said he recalls feeling exhausted after those hearings; yesterday, he said he felt energized.

One of the questions before us is what to do about dioceses in states where same-gender marriage or civil unions are legal.

One of the bishops on our committee has written about a tradition in the Orthodox faith which allows Bishops the pastoral authority to do what is necessary to care for their parishioners.

Available on-line – theological studies about blessing, marriage, baptism and sexuality:
From the Chicago Consultation, Christian Holiness and Human Sexuality:

From the Diocese of San Diego, Holiness in Relationships

We will need to look at the resolutions that offer changes to the Canons of the Church.

We will need to look at the resolutions that address questions about rites.

It seems that there is a wide range of options that the House of Deputies might confirm; it seems that there is a narrower range of options likely to be considered in the House of Bishops. Whatever we recommend will go first to the House of Bishops. We would like to create something with a likelihood of passage.

One possible resource that might come out of this process could be another publication in the Enriching Our Worship series. Rites from that series must have the permission of the Bishop to be used in a diocese. One suggestion: a volume in EOW that would include appropriate theological essays as well as gender neutral alternate rites for: 1. the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, 2. Blessing of a Civil Marriage, 2. A guide for a Rite 3 form of celebration.

We want to craft resolutions that have a chance of passing and which try to honor our responsibilities to our baptized members as well as our responsibility to achieve the highest possible degree of union with our partners in the Anglican Communion.

We created two sub-committees to work on language to craft resolutions for the committee's consideration. I'll be serving on the sub-committee working on rites.

I left the committee work a bit early in order to go to the morning Media Briefing where I was part of a team of three deputies and two bishops who were to field questions from the press. There weren't too many questions. Most questions had to do with our impression of the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit.

I responded to one questioner asking what impression the Archbishop's two-day stay with us might have made on him. I remarked that I recall the year when press from all over the world came to report on the consent process on Gene Robinson. There was a delay of almost two days, and the press was stuck. They had to watch the General Convention while we waited on a process before deciding on Gene Robinson's consent. Several reporters who unexpectedly had to watch our debate and processes wrote articles and editorials commending the quality of our deliberations. Several editorials said that Washington's governmental bodies could take instruction from the Episcopalians, with our passionate debate combined with great care and respect for the members. "These people really love one another," they noticed.

I remarked on the unprecedented number of Primates from across the Communion who are visiting this Convention. I hoped that they would enjoy our legislative process, which is rather unique in the Anglican Communion. We share power among the orders. Whenever any important issue is decided, it must pass a majority of each order: Bishops, Clergy, Laity. (In many other Communions power is lodged pretty exclusively with the Bishops.) I believe our tradition of energetic and shared decision making might be a gift to the rest of the communion.

9:30 – We returned to our Legislative Session.

Chaplain Frank Wade was addressing the Women's Triennial meeting, so Elizabeth Anderson from the Youth Presence read his meditation. Some highlights:

Richard Tawney is famous as a historian of economics and for his advocacy of humane systems of finance and economics. He also had great insight into the Christian community. Tawney said, "Those who seek God in the absence of their fellows find not God, but Satan, whose countenence bears a striking resemblance to their own." Left to our own, we tend to worship ouselves.

Ubuntu. We need community, differences and perspective. The "other" is not an enemy to be conquered, but a book to be read. We need the otherness of others to be our best selves. Because that is hard, we need to ask God for humility to hear and love the other. When my truth can be joined to your truth, a great truth might emerge.

There followed a brief legislative session.

Then we entered into our second "Committee of the Whole" to allow conversation, not debate, about our thoughts concerning B033, passed at the previous Convention. (B033 continued a moratorium on the election or consent to election of gay bishops.) The chair created a random process for conversation, using a lottery to choose 30 members of the Convention to speak. Each speaker had two minutes to speak. Over the time period we had good balance – 16 people wanting us to take a next step beyond B033; 10 speakers wanting us to continue the policies of B033.

Some of the comments from various speakers:

An historian told us that B033 tends to turn us into a professing church rather than a creedal church. That is not traditional, she said. Requiring conformity is not Anglican. She does not want to be morphed into a Presbyterian.

Do we really think our relationships with the Anglican Communion are fragile? No! They are not. The church's involvement in the MDG's has developed relationships and involvement of parishes and dioceses with many partners throughout the Communion.

Our relationships with the Anglican Communion are indeed fragile.

A deputy told how upset an elderly woman was after the deputy returned home from Convention in 2006. The woman was returning soon to South Africa and Rwanda to work with children with HIV, many orphaned. She had made many close friends in those countries, and knew they would be disappointed, because they are looking to the U.S. and the Episcopal Church to help end the discrimination and persecution of gay people in their countries. She wept for their sadness.

Peter's vision of a sheet descending with clean and unclean animals, and the voice telling him, "God has shown me not to call anyone unclean or profane." B033 does that; calls some people unclean or profane.

There are two kinds of change. There is modification of the way things are. And there is adaptive change – the change of a whole system. Adaptive change takes time. The longer a system has been one way, the longer adaptive change takes. The temptation is prematurely to jump out of the chaos and the anxiety that accompanies adaptive change. B033 is a crucible for adaptive change.

If you say "wait," please tell us how long.

A deputy remembered the advice given during pre-marital preparation. "Would you rather be right, or would you rather be married?" It is time for us to wait; be still.

We should act with modesty and self-restraint. This church is not the entire Body of Christ.

Many planes approached the sound barrier. The planes shook, and the pilots turned back in fear. Only Chuck Yeager had the courage and perseverance to continue to fly through the shaking. He broke the sound barrier and emerged into the peace and quiet of super-sonic flight.

Lunch conversation about the upcoming debates. Then at 1:00 I joined a sub-committee of the Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee to work on the resolutions dealing with same-gender rites. We did some efficient work and developed a text that the committee can consider at our next meeting.

Legislative Session: 2:00 - 6:00.

Fairly uninspiring stuff for the most part. Slogging through legislation. There was a dramatic debate over the contested election of the Bishop of Central Ecuador. It was not resolved.

We passed a Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation. We passed a significant resolution on Immigration Justice. We passed a resolution decrying extra-judicial killings and disappearances in the Philippines.

We heard a presentation from Episcopal Relief and Development.
Our outreach ministry has achieved:
Highest rating possible from Charity Navigator
Met all 20 standards for the Better Business Bureau's Charity Accountability
90 cents of every donated dollar goes directly to the relief ends.

Very moving and exciting presentation about the work of Episcopal Relief and Developmentf, inluding the MDG Inspiration Fund. We've reached and surpassed a $3 million goal despite the economic downturn of the past year.

Left to do the Media Briefing for the press at 6:15.

News from other parts of the Convention. The committee that was looking a lay pension and insurance inclusion proposal passed it as recommended, unanimously.

And the House of Bishops passed "Holy Women, Holy Men," a new expanded calendar of observation for the great "cloud of witnesses." I'm pretty excited about this. We've added over 100 people to our calendar, for trial use. The church will set up a process for praying these propers and for reporting back our experience. There will be a procedure for the whole church to respond and to critique the calendar, collects, readings and proper prefaces between now and the next General Convention which will reconsider the calendar for permanent acceptance.

I hope everyone in the diocese will contribute to the trial evaluation of the new calendar and its readings.



At 8:03 PM , Anonymous Lesley K said...

I think that y'all should know that the GC's debates are being very closely followed on a number of mailing lists and blogs that I follow, that include large numbers of Christians of all denominations, Jews, Muslims, pagans, atheists -- peoples of all faiths and no faiths at all.

Despite the mainstream media's insistence on hyping up the "controversy", I have seen many favorable comments about the Episcopal Church's commitment to open-hearted listening, community, and love. PB Schori's condemnation of the "heresy" of focussing on individuals at the expense of the community came in for especial praise and thoughtful discussion.

I am so proud to belong to a loving, tolerant, respectful faith community. So many of my gay brothers and sisters are counting on the Episcopal Church to witness for them, in the name of a God they do not know or even acknowledge.

Blessings upon y'all in this incredibly difficult and important task.

At 11:37 PM , Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks, Lesley,

My experience of this House of Deputies is that it is a very sane, balanced, mature healthy gathering. Hope that holds through the end.

It is a good church.



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