Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Report on Tuesday, July 7

Tuesday, July 7

8:00 a.m. Our Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee met from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday and organized 56 resolutions referred to our committee thus far into 6 groups, and we scheduled our first hearing for Tuesday evening to allow public comment about the proposed new calendar of "lesser feasts" – "Holy Women, Holy Men." An important part of this proposal is a clearer set of guidelines and procedures for our continuing alterations of the Calendar of the Episcopal Church.

Noon: Lunch conversation.

I heard that the English parish that created the original Alpha program for evangelism has changed their presentations. Previously part of their teaching was a statement about the sinfulness of gay relationships. Although their leaders have not changed their minds about that, they are now silent about homosexuality as they present the Alpha program. They have found that if they say something negative about gay people, they lose people who had previously showed interest in the church. It was a negative factor for their evangelism, especially among young adults.

Overheard: "Difference doesn't have to mean division."

2:00 p.m. A joint session; Bishops Deputies and Visitors

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori opened the joint session by framing the context of our meeting with the word "Crisis." In a crisis, we focus on the most essential things first – caring for the most vulnerable. The financial meltdown has provoked a worldwide crisis, she said. The sins of the few have wreaked suffering on the many. We will need to consider the "needs of the poorest around us and inclusion of those who do not have full ascess to the life of the church.."

The PB also criticized the "great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God." She called individualism a form of idolatry, because it puts my words and my self in the central place that only God can occupy. Ubuntu insists that "I" only emerge as we connect; there is no "I" without "you," and "We" reflect the image of the Creator.

she said that we may face some "cross-shaped decisions" but that we would also experience resurrection.

President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson told of her story of being raised in a multi-racial neighborhood, a white kid with divorced parents, being welcomed and embraced by the entire neighborhood. Although she walked to mass daily at their Catholic church, "no adult knew her name."

She told about visiting an Episcopal Church with her husband 35 years ago, and being welcomed and invited to take on a ministry of creating a nurserty so mothers could engage in community outreach work during the week.

These are tough times, she said, but today, for the first time in human history, we have the resources, technology and capacity to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide (quoting Jeffrey Sachs). More than 50% of our congregations have embraced the Millennium Development Goals; 82 of 110 dioceses give 0.7% of their budget to the MDG's, and Episcopal Relief and Development aids 2.5 million people in 42 countries.

Quoting Deputy Byron Rushing, she said, "The church does not have a mission, God's mission has a church."

A highlight for me was a presentation by Marshall Ganz, a lifelong community organizer who now teaches at the Kennedy School at Harvard. He dropped out of Harvard undergraduate school in 1964 to go to Mississippi during the "long, hot summer" of Civil Rights organization. He returned home to Bakersfield, California with new, "Mississippi eyes," and began helping organize farm workers.

Using the story of David facing Goliath, he asked, "How is it that the powerless sometime prevail? Why doesn't Goliath always win?" Commitment, motivation and resourcefulness. Ganz teaches "public narrative" as a way to access courage and communicate values corporately.

Public narrative is pretty natural stuff for Southerners. It's telling stories. Our stories. Stories that tell about our choices in uncertain situations; stories that each us how to act. They convey our values and passions, and they link us in community. Our stories tell us why we have hope, and our shared stories can link us together in action. We'll practice public narrative at our small tables this week.

"Who discovered water?"
"I don't know, but it wasn't a fish."
(We need outsiders to know ourselves.)

4:00 The House of Deputies gathered for an organizational session

The Episcopal Church includes 16 nations. There are 18 flags behind the head table in the House of Deputies.

Michael Battle, the author of "Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me" addressed the House. (He'll be at diocesan convention in February in Fayetteville.)

We are created in the image of God, and God is Trinity. God is community, not an individual. We are made in the image of God – being community.

Good story from Michael Battle: Roman Catholic School. There is a sign posted by the nuns: "Apples. Take only ONE: God is watching." Further down the aisle. A sign in a child's scrawl: "Cookies. Take all you want. God is watching the apples."

Battle said that we in the west have been socialized to make the adjudicating reality "Me." Decartes said, "I think; therefore I am." We emphasize our difference, our individual consciousness. Doing so locks in and limits our world view.

He offers Ubuntu as our entrance into the "mystery of being one and many, without lessening either." He says that is an image truer to our reality as creatures made in the image of God.

7:00 p.m. – Committee Hearing on the proposed new Calendar of feasts: "Holy Women, Holy Men" – adding over 100 observances to our calendar.

Bishop Jeffrey Rowthorn who worked for eight years on this project began our testimony. He reminded us that these calendar observances are optional. They are proposed for trial use during the next three years. The vision is for our calendar to be of more global character and to reflect a broader, more ecumenical flavor, recognizing people from many traditions and cultures who have influcenced and contributed to our inheritance as a "great cloud of witnesses."

Overall there was a good bit of enthusiasm for the project.

We heard testimony taking exception to the inclusion of John Muir, who left his organized church to embrace mystery and life in nature. (It was pointed out the church he left was a rigid, fundamentalist one that most of us would have left as well.)

There was criticism by several of including John Calvin in the calendar. A deputy suggested that the proposed collect for Richard Hooker is not as good as the current offering in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. There was a critique of some languge in the collect for DuBois, an oblique reference to the title of one of his books could be misinterpreted as an insult.

The Committee then discussed the work. Strong support for the principles laid out for inclusion of observances. We need a defined way to allow people to offer critique, editing, and suggestions for editing the calendar and lectionary during the three year trial period. A sub-committee will meet tonight to work on a proposal for our committee to look at.



At 8:32 AM , Blogger Bill Fulton said...

I like the idea of gathering feedback on the calendar observances. has the committee thought of establishing a website where people can comment throughout the three year period between conventions?

Do you think we're adding too many observances? Will the calendar become as crowded as the Roman Catholic calendar of saints? I seem to remember that Cranmer pruned the calendar in place at his time.

Also - I'm glad to hear about the changes in Alpha, that they don't feel the need to condemn gay and lesbian persons in the content of the course. When I led that course, I had to make a disclaimer when we came to that segment of the course.

At 8:33 AM , Anonymous Laura said...

I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying your comments. Thank you. I don't live in Arkansas, but I am a member of an episcopal church in Oklahoma and I will look to see if my rector is posting any comments. Thank you again.

At 8:41 AM , Blogger Doug said...

That is a lot for one day, and I'm sure it only goes up from there. We are all think of you and praying for all of you at General Convention!

At 11:08 PM , Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the comments.


Send your idea about a website to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and to Clay Morris at the Church Center. His office will collect the calendar comments.



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