Thursday, July 16, 2009

General Convention, Day 9, Thursday, July 16

General Convention, Thursday, July 16, Day 9 of 10

I slept until the alarm clock went off. Finally, my body has adjusted to the Pacific time zone. We finish General Convention's work tomorrow.

7:30 a.m. – Final Committee Meetings
We acted on all of the legislation before the Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee. The committee had a total of 63 resolutions to consider for the Convention. Everything from our committee goes first to the House of Bishops.

We sent the resolution about prayers for animal companions to the Consent Calendar.
We recommended rejecting some proposed alterations to Eucharistic Prayer C and continued authorization of the BCP Eucharistic lessons, reconfirming the RCL. (Note: According to Bishop Smith, the Canadian Church has done a good job of editing Prayer C. Alleged quote from ancient liturgical scholar: "If Prayer C sounds like it was written in a laundromat in New York City on the evening of the moon landing, it is because it was!"

Some things that leave the committee today may not have time to get through the House of Bishops and back to the House of Deputies for action.

We are also at the time when amendments are likely to kill legislation because there is not enough time for amendments to get through a committee and the other house.

Our chair Sam Candler said that the collegiality of this committee with deputies and bishops working together so well is a model of how the church should work. It has been an effective group, listening carefully to one another and working to find language that will create likely support in both houses.

9:30 a.m. – House of Deputies Legislative Session

Chaplain Frank Wade's Meditation (notes)
Things that go without saying, usually do. In marriage we sometimes stop saying "I love you." Sometimes nations and churches fail to continue to tell their founding story. Saying our truth is a way of keeping our truth.

Paul said, "woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." Paul is saying that in order keep the gospel he must preach it, he must continue to tell the story.

The word evangelism has largely been stolen from the Episcopal Church, Frank said. Evangelism is not my trying to talk you into something, it is about sharing my story. T.S. Eliot said, "Take no thought for the harvest, just for the proper sowing."

I need to tell my story. If I don't tell it, I'm in danger of losing it. Because that which goes without saying, tends to go, without saying.

According to Frank, we're not that good at reflecting on and sharing our ongoing relationship with God. We Episcopalians can be woefully inarticulate. Suppose we as a church have assumed that our ongoing experience of God is something that goes without saying. Suppose for want of saying our story, we might lose our story. If the living God is only a remembrance of our ancestors, it doesn't matter what we say, for we will be adrift, cut off from the ongoing story that gives us life and validity. Without the story to tell, The Episcopal Church is an ancient service organization that meets weekly for a meal, listens to a speaker, and talks about how we give money to others to do good work elsewhere.

Keep first the Kingdom of God and live into gospel truth. We must begin to consider the importance of Evangelism in whole new light. We are part of a story worth telling. Let us tell our story and the story of what God is doing in our lives.

Our first business is a special order to discuss and vote on the budget for the next three years of the Episcopal Church. Our deputy Pan Adams-McCaslin is the chair of the appropriations committee, Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F). It is a $140 million budget. Lots of people are lined up at microphones. There will be an emphasis on reducing costs of meetings – less money for travel. It is expected that more of the work will be done electronically and digitally.

The Black Caucus initiated the conversation with resounding endorsement of the budget, even though their interests would lose significant funding in the proposed budget. They offered the church a model of sacrifice and community as we began our debate.

We had several proposed amendments to the budget. The most dramatic vote was a proposal to add funding for the President of the House of Deputies support staff (she works for the House as a volunteer). The amendment failed 394 to 400.

I'm pretty pleased about something that I urged as the Convention debates our budget. I suggested that as each deputy speaks, the speaker identify what percentage of asking their diocese gives to the church budget. Asking is 21%. Arkansas gives 12%. Since we do not give our full asking, I believe people should know that and be able to take that into account as they listen to any suggestions or amendments I might offer with regard to our budget. So whenever I've spoken to a revenue issue, I've introduced myself as "Grisham, Arkansas, 12 percent." That's something I'd like to know about others speaking to the budget.

Many of the deputies are taking up my suggestion. As they introduce themselves, they are identifying what percentage their diocese gives in support of the budget. I've noticed that it is more frequent for deputies to claim their 21% giving than to self-identify at lesser amounts. (I noticed that one deputy from a diocese that gives no money from its diocesan budget, but only contributes through congregations and individual contributions to the national budget, did not offer that percentage in his introduction.)

We adjourned for church with about ten minutes left in our budget debate.

Well known author an commentator on the emergent church movement Brian McLaren gave the sermon today. Some notes from his address:

For many Episcopalians, the "E-word" is an ugly word. Evangelism. It carries hints of colonialism, religious supremacy and bad televangelists. Imagine what the religious landscape would be if Evangelism were only the purview of Pentecostals and Southern Baptists, ignored and surrendered by Episcopalians. It is time to get away from our your reactionary prejudices, McLaren said to us. We need to link together E-piscopal and E-vangelism. It is a holy union. Religious moderates and mainline Christians need to rediscover a commitment to evangelism.

The reading from the epistle visions a new creation. We live in a new creation and invite other into that new creation. Paul and the other early adapters invited everyone into the new beginning. The new beginning includes dying to the old paradigms of dominion and religious shame and entering into the new politics of service for the common good, the new economics of sustainability, the new sociology of ubuntu, and the new religion of grace and compassion. This is a new way.

For Paul the E-word is the R-word – Reconciling. He saw a vibrant new identity. No longer insiders speaking from stained glass ghettos. An identity of peace, pleading with others – "Be reconciled to God." Pleading. Re-think everything. In Christ, God offers amnesty to all.

In John's gospel (1:35-42 – the call of the first disciples, including Peter). We see intelligent, earnest people in respectful conversation. Jesus asks, "What are you seeking?" Asking the right question. Important. Then, "Come and see." See what kind of adventure will unfold. That's exciting evangelism. That is happening in the Episcopal Church, McLaren said. At this convention, you have turned a corner, a page, and hearts – from the inside, outward.

For continued health, he said there are three distractions that we need to overcome.

1. Institutional Conflicts. McLaren told us: Your denomination has been offering a valuable service for the whole church in your brave and open work to extend full grace to all the baptized, and in many parts of the church you have been met with mockery and criticism. But you do not want to win that debate and lose your balance. Do not let it deform your fundamental incarnational identity.

2. Institutional Identity. We are tempted to lodge in our identity of trying to save our institutions, but the best way to save the institution is not to focus on self-preservation. He urged us to leverage our institution for saving the world. The MDG's and evangelism are both related aspects of our outward missional focus. It is all one piece. Resist a focus on institutional maintenance; make disciples; go into the world; do the will of God for the good of the world.

3. Institutional Rigidity. From McLaren's perspective, one of the most troubling issues facing the Episcopal Church is the complex way we have for our ministry candidates to go through discernment for ordination. He says that it would scare away anyone with a gift of evangelism. McLaurin says that he's one of those. Many years ago he was drawn to a calling and drawn by an attraction to the Episcopal Church. He felt call to church ministry, but found that call to be at odds with his call to evangelism. "Help people like me," he said, and tell those with a gift and call for evangelism that indeed, "The Episcopal Church welcomes you." McLaren closed with an energetic affirmation of the ethos and vitality of the Episcopal Church.

We finished debate on the budget and passed it in the form that PB&F proposed. Congratulations to Pan Adams-McCaslin for her good leadership. (Later this afternoon we got word that the House of Bishops had passed the budget, and Pan released an audible sigh of relief.)

At our passage in the House of Deputies, we paused for prayer for those who will lose their jobs because to the cut-backs authorized in this budget.

Returning to legislation.

We passed by a handful of votes an endorsement of a "single-payer" health care system for all – 404 yes / 398 no

A resolution opposing the "Defense of Marriage" acts raised some civil rights questions. I spoke in favor of the resolution, saying, "My wife Kathy and I celebrated our 34th anniversary last month. Our marriage is not threatened by the loving relationships of gay couples. I know gay couples who have been together longer than Kathy and I have. Those loving families are denied over 1,000 federal rights that I possess because I am married. That's discrimination, and it is wrong and un-American. I support this resolution to oppose the wrongly-named "Defense of Marriage" acts." We had a vote by orders.
Vote by orders:
Needed to pass: Lay 55; Clergy 56
Lay: 70 yes; 28 no; 11 divided 64%
Clergy: 60 yes; 35 no; 14 divided 55%
It passed.

A resolution condemning torture passed without audible opposition.

We had a resolution addressing the situation in Honduras. The resolution, largely informed by the bishop and deputies from that country, passed.

We had compelling witness from a lovely deputy who told the story of her 27 year old daughter's murder when a man proposed marriage to her and would not take "no" for an answer. In her grief, this mother set herself to learn about the pandemic of domestic violence. She said that clergy do not know how to respond when victims of domestic violence come to us. We tend to recommend anger management, or couples counseling, or restraining orders, which simply step up the abuse. Thirteen hundred women are killed annually. This is a hate crime. In the last five years, more women in the US have been killed by the men they live with, or used to live with, than American soldiers have been killed in war.

We need a change of culture, she said. The mover of this legislation recommends a training program by the Alabama Council Against Domestic Violence which that group offers to share at no cost.

We passed a courtesy resolution commending the continuing dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin. The rules of the house were suspended, and the four deputations stood to robust applause that rose into a standing ovation. There were tears of joy among many deputies.

We are doing well enough with our legislatvie calendar that we will not have to have an optional evening session. Hallelujah!



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