Saturday, July 11, 2009

General Convention, Day 4, Saturday, July 11

Saturday, July 11 – Day 4

6:30 a.m. – Early meeting to discuss upcoming legislation.

7:30 a.m. – Committees Meet. Prayer Book & Liturgy had hearings on nine resolutions.

There seems to be strong support for a process of hymnal revision, funded by Church Publishing.

We had a series of supporters addressing a request for the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music to prepare resources for the Death or Illness of a companion animal. Last Convention I sponsored a similar resolution that didn't get passed.

I was impressed about a couple of testimonies. First, a priest from St. Francis, Fair Oaks, CA told us about their ministry for training service dogs, especially for Veterans. Vets suffering from post-traumatic stress help with the training of the service dogs and find that their work helps in their own healing. Second, a disabled priest told of her journey from hospice, to wheelchair, to walker, to cane, to Kona – she introduced her service animal. She told us about their ministry, "Dogs for God" in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Great stories and fine ministries.

We had opposing views over revising Eucharistic Prayer C. This should be an interesting conversation. It starts with the suggested inclusion of matriarchs in a paragraph about the patriarchs. There are quite a few other ideas about Prayer C. We'll have a lively conversation about this.

There is also a proposed alternative version of the baptismal covenant which would have the congregation speaking the words of the covenant rather than responding to the covenant, "I will, with God's help." We heard testimony that also included the possibility of setting the baptismal covenant liturgy to music.

After the hearing was ended, the committee began our conversation about same-sex blessings. The sub-committee that I served yesterday presented the version of a resolution that we constructed and the chair asked for comment, especially from the bishops on the committee, since whatever we produce will go first to the House of Bishops. We had some helpful, constructive conversation. We'll take this work up when the committee reconvenes Monday morning.

9:30 – House of Deputies Legislative Session

We opened with the chaplain Frank Wade's meditation.

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times..." Charles Dicken's words are applicable to every age, ours as well as Benedict of Nursia's age – today is his feast day. Benedict's life was during the golden age of the Mayans, the age of gold in west Africa; in the Pacific Northwest, they discovered how to catch salmon, and the Angles and Saxons were competing in England, not knowing their tribes would one day be joined linguistically. But in Benedict's world, the Roman Empire was dying slowly.

Benedict turned away from the crumbling world and turned toward the Kingdom of God, creating a Rule for community.

There is a truth – basic to the genius of the rule and basic to Ubuntu: Christianity is a Verb. Christianity is something that people do.

Phyllis Tickle says that there are three ways that people connect to Christianity. To belong, to believe, to behave. She says that Christianity of the heart needs all three. The Rule of Benedict says that we have to do, to have community. Ubuntu says community has to do to make us. We have to do our faith.

Do you know why we are called followers of Jesus? Frank asked. Because Jesus is going somewhere. Jesus is moving on, stepping into the future, Jesus is a verb. We are followers of Jesus.

Christianity is a verb. Mission is a thing done. In the best of times; in the worst of times. We must be about the doing of it.

We had a 15 minute presentation from Kay Myers, the president of the Episcopal Church Women. One note: among the keynoters for the ECW Triennial meeting are two speakers that we have enjoyed in our McMichael Speaker Series at St. Paul's, Steven Charleston and Phyllis Tickle.

Back to legislation. A couple of committee recommendations were turned down. We endorsed faith-based reconciliation training. We debated and passed a policy for transparency about members of church committees and organizations.

The preacher for the Eucharist was Ray Suarez, Senior Correspondent for the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. "We are forced to fight the battles history has conspired to present to us," he said. Quoting Benedict (today is his feast day), "Let the house be led by the wise." Suarez told about his son and daughter going to the Gulf Coast to help with post-Katrina cleanup, to the Sioux nation and to Honduras with their Episcopal congregation's work and worship trips.

God has prepared us to be who we are for this time in history, he said. We don't agree on everything. We bring Jesus to a suffering world. In a world where they are telling us that Jesus wants us to be rich, our church is telling us Jesus wants us to be holy. So many people need what we've got, he said. A church willing to love them back, calling the whole world to change. We can cling to what is eternal, understand what is changing, and open our arms like Benedict, saying, "Welcome. You're home."

Break for lunch

We have protestors shouting things like "the worst thing in the world is a woman lesbian bishop" and carrying signs like "Gene Robinson Minister of Satan." Some lovely young people walked silently in front of these protestors waving rainbow kites.

I took a "power nap." I got a chance to go to the exhibit hall. Found some books, ordered some clerical shirts and suits, learned about some interesting ministries – MicroPlace investments among world's working poor ( – cooperating with the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice; is raising concerns about the impact of uranium mining on indigenous peoples, their health and environment. I found new material from ; the Episcopal Community Federal Credit Union at the Los Angeles cathedral www.ecfucula , a ministry called St. Benedict's Toolbox , and some new publications from an old favorite Affirming Catholicism

4:00 Legislative Session

Guests from Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and New Zealand spoke. All thanking the Episcopal Church for its witness of hospitality and inclusion. The South African spokesman spoke of violence being enacted upon gay people in Africa, including "reparative rape." If someone is identified as a lesbian, she will be raped in order to fix her, he said. Africa needs the courageous witness of the Episcopal Church on behalf of their gay Christians.

The most amazing moment of the Convention so far was the address by New Zealand representative Jennie Te Paa. She told the story of the New Zealand church's being the only province that has been punished by the Anglican Consultative Council for "raising indigenous people above their station."

Dr. Te Paa served on the Windsor Commission. I started trying to type what she was saying, but I had to stop and simply listen. Her word were incredible and moving. (After we adjourned I ran to the Media Center to see if they had the text of her speech, but it was hand written. Someone is typing it. When the text is posted, I'll send the part of it that was so captivating.)

She said that as she worked on the Windsor Commission, "We were never fully apprised of your policy." She said that they didn't understand the policy of shared leadership that is so core to the Episcopal Church's decision making. She regrets the vilification of the Episcopal Church, especially its leadership, within the Windsor process. She thanked us for "Your generosity of spirit, despite what you have suffered through these years." "I am a little surprised and saddened that too many Episcopalians are being affected by their sense of loss of face or vulnerability in belonging to the Anglican Communion," she said. "I am dismayed at the extent to which that seems to be prevalent."

As the others nodded in agreement, Te Paa said, "I don't believe that that is so … it is not how I perceive the rest of the communion regarding the Episcopal Church to be honest." This is another perspective of the Anglican Global South she said of the group on the platform.

"What's been good about being here and what's good about being able to repeat the message, is to assure the convention that that is far from the reality of the perception of the rest of the communion," she said. She cited the Episcopal Church's communion-wide support of theological education, its networks that organize Anglicans around causes such as the environment and peacemaking, and outreach efforts such as the NetsforLife program.

"The communion treasures you," she concluded. "It can't do without you."

She said that she hoped to invite other Christian educators to help the members of the Anglican Communion understand the "sheer ecclesiastical nonsense" of recent claims of certain provinces declaring themselves to be "out of communion" with other provinces, and threats that have been leveled to kick certain provinces out of the communion.

The fear mongers are at work, she said. Our gaze must be fixed beyond the boundaries of fear.

(I'll try to get some of the other quotes from her speech. I stopped typing as she extended something of an apology toward the Episcopal Church for the way it has been treated in the aftermath of the Windsor Report. It was a moving and significant speech.)

We had a couple of elections.

We debated and passed a resolution recommending the creation of a comprehensive definition of "basic healthcare" and to ask federal and state officials to establish a system to provide basic healthcare to all. The diocese of East Tennessee has offered to lead this work on behalf of the church.

We adjourned at 6:00. Tonight is the night for seminary banquets. I'm headed to the General Theological Seminary event at 6:30. I'll post my report afterwards.


The Rev. Lowell Grisham
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR


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