Wednesday, July 15, 2009

General convention, Day 7, Tuesday, July 14

APOLOGIES!!

I was so tired last night. I sent my email to the Arkansas Clergy and to my congregation's list, but I forgot to post in this blog. VERY SORRY.

Tuesday, July 14, Day Seven of Ten

Last Night
We had a Liturgy and Prayer Book Committee meeting last night starting at 7:00 p.m. We finished editing a major contribution to our pastoral and liturgical resources – "Rachel's Tears, Hannah's Hopes" – Liturgies and Prayers for Healing from Loss Related to Childbearing and Childbirth. Throughout the past three years the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has worked with "Anglicans for Life" and with the women of the church and others in chaplaincy ministry to craft a pastoral resource. The work has been profound, carefully bridging the fault lines of abortion. It has been endorsed by leaders on both sides of the abortion debate.

In this work, the Episcopal Church has been able to have constructive conversation and prayer over one of the most emotional and divisive issues in our day. It has been a delight to work on the final steps of this fine composition.
_________

I meant to mention it in my Sunday report, but at the main Convention Eucharist on Sunday our own Archdeacon Joyce Hardy read the gospel and served as the deacon for the service. A proud Arkansas moment.
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7:30 a.m. – Committee Work
Liturgy and Prayer Book undertook a major editing project working with a series of new Commons – sets of prayers, readings and proper prefaces. Thanks to the sleepless work of Susan Williams of our committee, we have revised texts to consider. We worked through them, praying the Rite 1 versions out loud in order to perfect the language. Remarkable work.

It always impresses and encourages me how carefully, skillfully, and seriously the Church takes its work of creating prayer and liturgy. There is great wisdom and passion for this work. There is no way to exaggerate the passion and scholarship that is brought into this process. It makes me proud to be an Episcopalian and a person of "the Book" of Common Prayer and its other resources.

8:45 a.m. – Media Briefing
I left early from the committee in order to be a member of the Media Briefing Team for the morning press conference. Most of the questions were directed to the Bishops on our briefing team asking about their work in yesterday's passage of D025. We did talk about financing and the mission of the MDG's.

9:30 – Legislative Session
Morning Meditation by Chaplain Frank Wade: notes
Refugees, sojourners, immigrants, sojourners. Each seems different from the other, but taken together, there is a common point to consider. As Michael Battle writes in his book "Ubuntu," it is communities that teach us to be individuals. The community in which we grow up gives us its ethos as raw material from which we fashion our reality. We know we are beautiful because of the reference points of beauty we have learned from our environment.

Frank says, "I think of community as a gathered thing, with homogeneity." People who look a lot like us. But communities don't always hold together. Sometimes they leak, break off, rupture, spewing the parts in distant domains, creating refugees, sojourners, immigrants, sojourners.

These ruptured communities also form us. The mere fact of them, requires us to define ourselves. When a homeless person asks me for spare change, when I see a refugee on TV,
I know that they will get some of my money or some of my soul. Either I will empty my pockets a bit, or I will demean my spirit by turning away from their claim on me.

Amos warned those who lived well – people like us. We are in danger before God, not because we enjoyed good things, but because we were not grieved over the ruin of others. Jesus' story about Dives and Lazarus condemned Dives not because he was rich, but because he failed to see the hurting person at his doorstep. The very fact of their hurting requires us to respond. These broken pieces of community require us to behave one way or another. There is no formula of how we should respond, no guidelines. Except God's expectation that our humanity will emerge as we respond.

There is the call to hospitality. There is God's preoccupation with the little, the lost, and the least. The prerequisite is that we actually see them. No good is possible until we do; every good is possible when we do.
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The vote-by-orders on C061 that was not announced before we adjourned yesterday was announced. It passed overwhelmingly.
Total number of Votes: 109.
Needed to pass: 55 Yes
Lay: 82 yes // 21 no // 6 divided
Clergy: 72 yes // 28 no // 9 divided

The next order of business will deal with the new proposed church calendar of feasts and the principles for adding commemorations. I'm excited about this offering. We are adding more than 100 new commemorations for trial use. We'll be able to pray them and use them during the next three years, and then report back on our experience. We'll edit the feasts, prayers and readings for the next General Convention. If approved, it will become an updated version of "Lesser Feasts and Fasts," titled "Holy Women: Celebrating the Saints."

On a Vote by Orders, the calendar was passed overwhelmingly.
Needed to pass: 55
The Vote
Lay: 102 Yes // 5 No // 6 Divided
Clergy: 103 Yes // 3 No /// 6 Divided

Before the break for the Eucharist:
An enormous group of guests came into the hall as Ecumenical Visitors and Interfaith Guests. Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Christians lined up across the front of the hall.

Following the introduction of Christian Ecumenical Visitors, we had introductions of our Interfaith Guests. To close the visit, three cantors from the three Abrahamic faiths chanted the Aaronic Blessing. It was breathtakingly beautiful. A Jewish cantor began, with flowing, melodic prayers in Hebrew. It was gloriously haunting. As he ended his last note, a Muslim cantor sang a ringing sound of prayer like a clarion, and sang the same blessing in Arabic, clear and resounding in the echoing hall. His tones morphed into a gentle hymn from a Methodist singing blessings in an English style that sounded like a folk chant. As he finished his round, the Muslim singer joined and then the Jewish cantor – all three singing in their dramatically contrasting styles, yet flowing together with such complementarity that tears welled in my eyes and the Spirit rose palpably in the room. They finished one a single note and a holy silence descended upon us. It was an unforgettable experience. Jew, Muslim, Christian – each blessing us with our shared tradition. Incredibly beautiful.
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Eucharist: Theme – MDG's – Millennium Development Goals
Preacher: Abagail Newlson of Episcopal Relief and Development
Notes from sermon: Jeffrey Sachs told this convention six years ago that ending poverty is not a matter of resources, it is a matter of will. Last year Episcopal Relief and Development touched the lives of 2.5 million people. We have a great hope.

She spoke of meetings among the CEO's of major food companies and another meeting among some of the dozen wealthiest individuals – all wanting to step up to alleviate poverty and suffering. Everything is connected; it's all one system.

Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of Ohio is biking 4000 miles immediately following this Convention in a significant fund raiser for the MDG's. "We can do this," she said.

"I am a daughter of many injustices," she said. Her mother is the descendent of slaves and of Cherokees who had hidden with slaves when being evicted from North Carolina. Her father's family fled England on explorer ships and established tobacco farms in South Carolina where they owned slaves for the labor for their business. One of her ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence in order to gain freedom from England. Her aunt was a Black Panther. In 1967 her father and mother met and fell in love. It was illegal for them to be married in her father's home state. His bishop refused to ordain him a priest. The family rejected them. They created a new family, a new nation. "I stand on their shoulders," she said. "How will my daughter stand on our shoulders?"

Working lunch. (Also, I had to retrieve my credit card from lost and found, having left it earlier in the quickie continental breakfast line.)
________

2:00 – Legislative Session

The first legislative work for the afternoon was for the House to respond to the Bishop's amended version of D025 concerning our witness to the Anglican Communion. The text that the deputies passed is in a previous report that I've already sent.

The bishops added the following language and passed the resolution by more than 2/3rds: "...that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church;" and, "...the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters."

After debate, we again had a vote by orders and D025 passed
Lay: 78 yes // 21 no // 9 divided (72% yes)
Clergy: 77 yes // 19 no // 11 divided (72% yes)

The Church has reaffirmed its commitment to following its Constitutions and Canons in its discernment processes.
________

In his capacity with the Education Committee, Chris Keller made that committee's presentation in support of establishing a committee to examine the theological dimensions of marriage. In his statement, Chris quoted nicely from Bishop Charles Gore:
"The Church, standing firm in her old truths, enters into the apprehension of the new social and intellectual movements of each age: and because 'the truth makes her free,' is able to assimilate all new material, to welcome and give its place to all new knowledge, to throw herself into the sanctification of each new social order, bring forth out her treasures things new and old, showing again and again her power of witnessing under changed conditions to the catholic capacity of her faith and life."

As we adjourned, I went to the Media Briefing room to meet with the press to talk about the day. It was a significant day. We had questions about many of the resolutions that occupied the houses. One questioner seemed to be railing at us about numbers and the decline in the church. The Episcopal Church statistics mirror those of the other "mainline" churches and the Roman Catholic Church, when you take out the increase due to Hispanic growth. In other words, our demographics track the demographics of white Americans, particularly those who go to college. That's our base, and the base is not growing demographically. Two things that bode well for this "too white - too elitist" denomination. One is a new strategic plan intended to attract Hispanic members to the church, and the other is all of the resolutions that intend to honor the full participation of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. Every survey of young adults shows that they accept the full equality of gay people. The biggest negative factor in surveys about young adults' attitudes toward church is that they believe Christians to be prejudiced, bigoted and anti-gay. Our welcome and full inclusion of gay people is one of our evangelism strengths, especially for the next generation.
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As we closed the day, there seems to be some stuckness or controversy in the House of Bishops. They have not yet reported out the resolution D056 on same-gender blessings that my committee sent to them. It is to my mind a very good statement. I hope they can come to some resolution tomorrow. The convention clock is ticking, and there is only so much that can be done and ratified in the time remaining.

Lowell

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