Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10, 2012 - General Convention Notes

Tuesday, June 10 - General Convention Notes

At the end of yesterday's session, Frank Wade returned to the House to be our Chaplain for our evening meditation.  He read a great quote from Evelyn Underhill which was something I had read just a couple of weeks ago on her feast day.  I thought I could find it on my computer or on line, but a quick search was futile.  It's in a book at home.  (That says something about this incredible age of information.)  But I had fun going to a couple of web "quote" sites and reading a touch of her wisdom.  Wonderful stuff.  

Here are a few to start your day:

Deliberately seek opportunities for kindness, sympathy, and patience.
Every minute you are thinking of evil, you might have been thinking of good instead. 
Adoration is caring for God above all else. 
Never forget that the key to the situation lies in the will and not in the imagination.  ...The will is what matters -- as long as you have that, you are safe.
God is acting on your soul all the time, whether you have spiritual sensations or not.
God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment.  Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament.
(Evelyn Underhill, 1875-1941)

I was so tired Saturday night that I neglected to mention that I was nominated by Province 7 to be a candidate for the Nominating Committee for Presiding Bishop.  Election will be later.

And speaking of being absent minded -- I now have 6 plastic card room keys.  I've walked out of my room without my keys four times now.

One of the reasons I was nervous about taking the appointment to be a committee chair at Convention is that I am pretty scattered.  All the staff at St. Paul's knows the rule -- "Never give Lowell the only copy of anything." 

Last night I got to bed early and got a great night's sleep.  Woke up at 6:00 to work on the committee agenda as we work to get every piece of legislation considered.  Got a great list together.  Ran out of time and had to get to the meeting (grabbing breakfast on the run).  Got there and realized I had left the excellent list on my desk in the room.

But we did a good job clearing a few things.  Our committee concurred with the House of Bishop's amendments to the resolution on same-sex blessings.  That will go to the House of Deputies floor at 5:00 this afternoon.  If we concur, the official provisional rite of blessings will be passed.

We also passed out of committee our considerably reworked version of Daily Prayer for All Seasons, a resource for what some call Prayer of the Hours -- a rich collection of brief offices at set times of the day, cued to the seasons.  I think it is something that will be appreciated by many people for generations to come.  It now goes to the House of Bishops for first consideration.

We also passed a collection of prayers for animals, including a rite for the death of a domestic pet.  Again, some great sub-committee work in editing, including adding a verse in Lakota from a familiar hymn that comes from their tradition.

We recommended rejection of a resolution that would make the 1979 Lectionary optional.  (As chair, I didn't vote, but would have voted to retain that option.)  We also forwarded a recommendation for a week of prayer for AIDS. We set some hearings for some things tomorrow.  Time is getting short.  The pressure to get things handled is mounting.

At the end of the meeting I had to miss church in order to try to work around one of the problems we've been having.  We've had some of our legislation delayed because it had not been translated into Spanish.  Evidently there has been a snag in the system.  I think (hope) I have a workaround.  After the committee meeting I gathered the Daily Prayer and Animal texts as amended to get them to an officer at the Episcopal Church Center who I think will facilitate the translations and distribution to the Spanish speaking deputies.  Late in the day I learned they they had translated them in New York and sent them to the Secretariat that runs things in Indianapolis.  I hope this will help us get everything to the floor early enough for consideration.

The daily 9:30 Eucharist is streamed online.  I'm hoping they also are archiving them.  I'd like to see what I've missed these last two days.  Today, I was especially disappointed to miss the sermon by Fr. Albert Cutie, former Roman Catholic priest from Miami.  We've been communicating and he has promised to come visit St. Paul's as one of our McMichael speakers next year.  (We've also got Bishop Gene Robinson confirmed, and I'm hoping to tie down a date for Winnie Varghese while I'm here.  We've crossed paths several times as she is our voting secretary.)

Being a committee chair means that I'm not as good an observer of the overall Convention (or as good a blogger), and I've missed some other things.

11:15 a.m. Morning Legislative session.  We have a couple of resolutions about the Anglican Covenant.  They are polite and respectful resolutions, but you can feel the relief in the room that the threats the Anglican Covenant once held over the Episcopal Church are no longer shadowing us the way they once were.

We had the election for President of the House of Deputies.  Gay Jennings was elected.  She'll be good. 

Jenny Te Paa gave the noonday meditation.  She cited Thomas Cahill's book "Everlasting Hills."  Cahill says that history is usually the record of war after war and outrage after outrage.  Sometimes in the church there is a similar narrative from our own "noisy gongs."  Sometimes we don't realize how significant all of our mission stories from past and from the present really are.

History is also a narrative of grace.  She went through a compelling list -- a life saved, a generous gift.  He has his personal experience, a history of a life overwhelmed by a narrative of grace -- he is the beneficiary of generosities and sheer goodness.

Do not be disheartened, Jenny said to the Episcopal Church.  (She speaks as an Anglican from New Zealand, and one of the authors of the Anglican Covenant).  One day history will remember you as the great gift givers, she said. 

We are all on a sacred journey and we each create our script.  In some essential moments when everything is at stake, you are great gift givers, she said.  You have been instruments of transition and transformation, awesome and delightful, making life more beautiful and strong.  "Let me salute you, the great gift givers."  Your work is part of the transformation of the world.

During lunch Ruth Meyers and I shared in an interview with the New York Times.  They are preparing a story for the anticipated passage of A049, Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships.

Afternoon Session -- The House of Bishops joined us to receive the Budget and the report from the Program, Budget and Finance Committee.  You'll have to ask John Tisdale about all of that.  I'm not too good with money. 

We received the BIG resolution from the Structure Committee -- C095.  Over 50 separate resolutions were submitted to this Convention having intention to ask for the church to pursue some form of re-structuring our General Convention and/or other parts of our governance.  It looks like the committee has done good work -- calling for a Task Force of as many as 24 persons, diverse membership with some people with critical distance from the Church's institutional leadership, accountable only to the General Convention.  There would be a special gathering with representatives from each diocese to gather responses and recommendations.  They would make frequent reports to the Church, and would make a final report by November, 2014. 

At the heart of this process of discernment should be the five marks of mission, asking that our structure and governance be oriented to support our mission:  * Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; * Teach, baptize and nurture new believers; * Respond to human need by loving service; * Seek to transform unjust structures of society; * Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

We paused to have elections for the Executive Committee.  That takes a while.

When we got back to eh big structure resolution, we prayed before the vote, and (for the first time in my memory on a big, controversial issue) it sounded unanimous.  I didn't hear a "No" in the room.  Amazing.  We burst into applause and sang a hymn. 

Right after that the time came for our consideration of A059 -- our Authorization of Same-Gender Blessings.  I had the honor to present the resolution on behalf of Committee 13.  We had a vigorous debate of 30 minutes, with motions to refer back to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, a request for a vote by orders, and a motion to divide. 

While I was standing on the podium of the dais in front of the General Convention, I had a memory flash-back.  Years ago at a previous Convention, I was standing in a long line for a microphone, hoping to speak in favor of a similar inclusive resolution.  I got a note from one of the pages.  It was "addressed" to the person standing in line, describing what I was wearing.  On the other side of the paper it said, "I'm proud of you, Dad.  Love Allie."  I've kept that piece of paper since that time as a treasured memento. 
General Convention screen
As I stood on the platform, I saw so many people in line before the microphones, and I thought how happy I am to be standing here seeing this church making another major stand in a spirit of compassion and inclusion.  I feel so fortunate and glad to be here.

After debate was ended, we had a very complicated procedural affair, including the House overturning the chair's ruling about a motion to divide.  The short version is, we voted not to divide the resolution.

Then we had a vote by orders.  The results: 
In the Lay Order:  Yes 86 / No 19 / Divided 5 -- it passes by 78%
In the Clergy Order:  Yes 85 / No 22 / Divided 4 -- it passes by 76%

We have an authorized rite of blessing for same-gender loving couples.

It feels pretty exciting to participate in something historic.  At the same time, our joy is tempered because good and faithful friends, whom we love and know, feel like their church has abandoned something important and essential to the faith.  They are hurt and are feeling marginalized, not unlike what our gay friends felt for so many decades when they were a powerless minority.  We need much love, restraint and respect for all, even as we rejoice at the affirmation and inclusion of those who were formerly excluded.  It's been a big day.



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