Saturday, July 07, 2012

Saturday, July 7 at General Convention

Today's Update from General Convention

Saturday, June 7
General Convention Notes

7:30 a.m. -- Committee meetings.  Our Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music committee first had hearings on two resolutions:  A166, Week of Prayer for Healing of AIDS and B009 which would Authorize Use of the 1979 Lectionary.  

Afterwards we spent the rest of the time of our meeting discussing and creating the policies for our hearing tonight on the proposed Rites of Blessing for Same-Gender Couples  This will be a big hearing in one of the large ballrooms, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.  We will spend one hour listening to opinions about the proposal to have rites of blessing.  Then we will spend a second hour taking suggestions for ways to edit or improve the liturgy.

9:30 a.m. -- Today's Eucharist
Kettle drums, jazz/blues piano, and soulful music.  Our commemoration today is Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Our preacher is Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina.  He electrified the congregation.  There is no way I can do justice to his sermon which was repeated punctuated by laughter, applause and an occasional "Amen!"  I hope it will be posted as a video.

I beginning to have a sinking spell.  The pace of activity is pretty tiring.  A stop by Starbucks helps.  But I may need to find a time for a nap today.

11:00 a.m.  House of Deputies in session.  Fairly routine legislation.  The Youth Representatives have challenged a proposal to define the way that they are selected.  We cast our first ballot for members of the Church Pension.

Lunch -- Best lunch I've had since I've been here.  Usually I've just grabbed a chicken salad and fruit cup in plastic containers and run to a brown bag meeting.  Today, the committee chairs were invited to lunch together to visit a bit about how the flow of legislation is going.  It is going pretty well, except...  It seems that some bishops have prevailed in omitting the funding for a number of basic functions -- things like what happened to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, having their program funding cut to zero by the House of Bishops.  It seems like immature and passive aggressive behavior to me.  Part of what that means that we have to send three members of our committee, who will miss our major hearing tonight, to testify before the Program, Budget and Finance Committee so that we will be able include the funding for the SCLM in the budget.  There is something very strange afoot.  It's okay with me to talk about wanting to restructure the church and to set up some deliberative ways to discuss that, but it's almost childish to de-fund major Commissions without notice.  That seems dysfunctional at best; like sabotage at worst.
   
2:15 p.m.  The House is back in session.  We have a second ballot for the Church Pension Fund.  We had a voting glitch, and we're stuck in a slow resolution discussion.  During the pause, I think I'll write a bit about the resolution proposing to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of "gender identity and expression" in the discernment process for ministry.  I've learned a lot about sexual identity in the past few years.  Tomorrow during lunch, and a mother and child from my congregation will offer a program telling their story of Noah's journey as a transgender person.  
   
I have a transgender person in my family.  He is much beloved.  But read these statistics:  In a nationwide 2011 survey of transgender people -- 78% reported being bullied or harassed as children; 41% said they had attempted suicide; 35% had been physically assaulted and 12% had been sexually assaulted;  47% of respondents had suffered employment discrimination; 19% had suffered housing discrimination and a similar number had been denied health care due to their gender identity.  The gut kicker in that for me is 41% saying they attempted suicide.  And this survey only includes those who survived such attempts.  I'm am hopeful that our church will be a community of compassion.
   
Here is a link to an excellent video (27 minutes) called "Voices of Witness: Out of the Box" that is a good introduction. 
   
I had my first opportunity to present some resolutions to the House on behalf of the committee.  We ran into issues before I ever hit the podium  We had a canonical problem with the first one, and pretty quickly (for this House) we re-referred the resolution to the committee.  A document that we referred to in the second resolution had not yet been printed, so we withdrew that resolution for later.  The third resolution, authorizing three new Bible translations, passed, with an amendment to add the English Standard Version to the other list of translations we had approved.  I felt pretty fortunate not to get stuck in one of the procedural quagmires that we've had earlier.

Later in the session, the translations resolution was recalled.  We're going to have some sort of fight about the ESV.  At issue is a pretty biased "translation" that many would regard as polemical toward gay people.
   
We adjourned around 6:15.  I had to hurry to our hearing which was to start at 7:00.  This is the hearing for the resolution enabling blessing rites for same-gender couples and about the texts for those proposed rites.  It is scheduled to be a two-hour hearing. 

We were in one of the very large ballrooms -- I guess there were 600 people there.  I shared the chair with my colleague on the committee, Bishop Wayne Smith of Missouri.  We heard testimony from more than 40 people.  I'm pretty tired now, so I'll try to find another opportunity to summarize some of the things that people said.  There were many moments that were very touching and poignant.  But for now, I'm tired and headed to bed.

  Lowell

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