Wednesday, July 04, 2012

General Convention on the 4th of July

Morning

Up early to claim a projector so we can pray together as we have our first committee meeting at 8:00 a.m. this morning. 

As our committee sang an opening hymn - no accompaniment except the first three notes from a cell phone app - I looked around at the gathering of around 40 of us. There is a love and passion for worship and singing that you can feel here. Yes, it is the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music committee, but, oh, the presence and intensity and intention and, yes, even joy at making our morning oblations together. It's one of the things I love about this church. It's one of the things I love about General Convention. We may disagree about much and be all over the map - liturgically, politically, theologically, temperamentally - but we love our God and our Church, and we love to express that in worship.

We've got a big committee, and we are situated in a large hall with a circle of tables that feels about fifty feet in diameter. Last convention we were in a low ceiling room, and there must have been fewer people. It's far less intimate this time.

We set some of the ground rules for the committee's work. We went around the room doing some minimal introductions. What a delightful cross section of humanity and of the church.

We can't do any substantive work on any piece of legislation until we have had public hearings on that resolution. So this meeting can't accomplish much more that getting organized. We were able to schedule hearings for all 30 of the resolutions that are assigned to our committee. That's as much as we can do for now.

I had a great lunch with an old friend. Kee Sloan and I have known each other since we were both teens in Mississippi. We went to seminary at the same time, and we used to direct camp session for the mentally and physically challenged. It was great to catch up together. Kee is now Bishop of Alabama, and our mutual friend Sam Candler of Atlanta joined us. One of the best things about General Convention is renewing old friendships and making new one.

One of the guiding principles for the church as we set spending priorities is the Five Marks of Mission, developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990. The Program, Budget, and Finance Committee (PB&F) will be using the Five Marks as a framework for funding priorities.

The Five Marks of Mission:

The Mission of the Church Is the Mission of Christ

    To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
    To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
    To respond to human need by loving service
    To seek to transform unjust structures of society
    To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

This Convention will try to establish our program and planning around these priorities. They make a good outline for thinking about our work in our local settings as well.

Reminder:  Maybe the best link to what's happening at General Convention:  The Media Hub 


Afternoon

Opening session of the General Convention.  The House of Bishops join the House of Deputies for the opening addresses from the presiding officers:  Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeffert-Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson.

Eighteen flags from the countries that comprise the Episcopal Church hang from behind the dais.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori opened her address with a meditation on breathing and breath.  Nice quote:  "the left jab and the right jab come from the same body" -- we need both hands.  If this is the Episcopal Church's family reunion, then find someone from the 'outlaw' side of the family.  Have coffee together.  Reconciling work.

Missional partnerships within the Anglican Communion are growing.  Relationships are healing.  She spoke of the SBNR's -- "Spiritual But Not Religious" -- we are developing ways to speak and be in relationship. 

Go out into the community to listen for ways to connect with the world.  Make the church a better tool or instrument for God's mission. Mission, governance, and support for that mission.  The wider church is interested in the vitality of the local congregations, young people, and ministry in the wider context.  Our cause is to make common cause with God's intention.  Gather the parts of the Body of Christ with any partners who will work with us, to contribute to the work of the Kingdom of God.  We're in this together.  Build bridges with unlikely folks. 

Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies

Today is Independence Day. 
Our church and the United States were formed at the same time and were influenced by many of the same things.  First Bishop, William White, was a fan of John Locke and a proponent of shared authority. 

A reflection on independence and a quote from Fredrick Douglas about those who did not enjoy the privileges of independence.  There is much yet to do to overcome racism and poverty to give voice and power to all.  1852 -- emancipation was not for all.  Remember the stories of liberation -- Israel as well as ours.  We are all liberated children of God, moving from slavery to the Promised Land.  Let us work to extend fullness to all.

We have a record of bringing liberation.  She's going to regard this meeting as one long Bible study about how we the people of God can be the people of God.  Bonnie closed with a quote from my dear friend Fredrica Harris Thompsett, from her book We Are Theologians:

If our vision of the church is meager or even modest, we have missed the mighty acts of God. If we think of Christians as hopelessly embattled, we have lost our ancestors’ experience of the expansion of God’s reign. If we reject biblical wisdom because we see the Bible used as a tool for legalistic oppression, we have forgotten the gospel’s response to Pharisees, the way in which Jesus’ liberating ministry threatened the religious establishment of his own day. If we think religious complacency and indifference are modern habits, we have overlooked the complaints of the biblical prophets. And if we think the question “What does the Bible have to do with my life?” sheds more light on heaven than on our work on earth, we have lost the creative essence of God’ work.
The Bishops left our house and there followed an Orientation:  Extensive instruction on how the House of Deputies works.
__________

We adjourned at 4:30 and went to our committee meetings at 5:00.

My committee held hearings on 13 of our resolutions.  A handful of witnesses spoke.  We then began our first substantive deliberation and debate on the resolutions before us.  We passed 11 of the 13 resolutions that we have had hearings for.

Several were very easy.  We had a tedious debate about how to fix a problem between the Revised Common Lectionary readings for special services (such as the Easter Vigil) and the readings as they are listed in the Book of Common Prayer.  There was some debate about proposals for authorizing Bible translations for public worship.  We amended two resolutions and sent to the bishops a bill to remove The Good News Bible and not to authorize The Message for common worship, and to authorize the Common English Version, The Contemporary English 1995, and the Contemporary English Global 2005.  The bishops may amend this one.

We got some important funding resolutions out early, as we should.  Good two hour session.  I’m hungry (and thirsty).

Lowell

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