Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday, June 30

Tuesday, June 30

Late yesterday when I served on the Media Panel briefing the press on the day's events, I spoke particularly about two things we accomplished yesterday. I'm delighted that we've authorized a comprehensive revision of the Book of Occasional Services. It will be a resource for many different occasions, both for the church and for family use.  I also commented on our continued process of creating a calendar of observances, A Great Cloud of Witnesses. We also spoke of major initiatives to increase our support for Hispanic Ministries and our presence on the internet and in social media.

I was so tired when I finished, I felt like I didn't have enough energy to go to the Integrity Eucharist, one of the highlights of every General Convention. My friend Bishop Mary Glasspool was preaching, and I love her preaching. It was a disappointment, but my reserves are spent.

I didn't sleep well, so I felt pretty bushed this morning. I didn't even try to put my contact lenses in. Wore my glasses – usually a sign that I'm really tired. We had hearings on most of the other legislation that our committee is responsible for. It was enjoyable and passionate testimony. I particularly liked the witness who made an analogy between the early Church's Judaic roots – everyone who was part of the early community was circumcised – and today's conversation about the necessity of baptism for being in the Eucharistic community. The early Church let go of that profound biblical precedent in order to be inclusive. Maybe we should be more welcoming to communion, not requiring either circumcision or baptism before incorporation which leads to baptism.

Our preacher at this morning's Eucharist was The Rev. Kimberly Johnson, preaching on the celebration of James Weldon Johnson, the author of the wonderful hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing." We sang it with gusto (and I can't sing it without some tearful choking). During her sermon, Kimberly told a story of her student communities working to delay or commute the execution of a Georgia death row resident whose guilt had come into great doubt. He was executed. A dejected group, many angry, gathered in defeat. At some point, a tall, black student stood and began to sing Life Every Voice and Sing, including these words from the second verse:

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
where the white gleam of our star is cast.

This morning we had a special joint meeting of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies to have discussion within each diocese, including alternates and members of the Episcopal Church Women Triennial. Our topic: the Five Marks of Mission.
They are:
   1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
   2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers.
   3. To respond to human need by loving service.
   4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
   5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

We had a set of three questions for each of the Five Marks, identifying and imagining ways we can implement them in our congregations and dioceses.

We also had a celebration of the ministry of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts-Schori in an event hosted by PBS broadcaster Ray Suarez. Former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold was with us and addressed the house.

We passed two resolutions supporting alcohol responsibility supporting policies similar to St. Paul's alcohol policies.

We celebrated 75 years of outreach ministry through Episcopal Relief and Development and its predecessor, the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief. Members of the Convention set a $75,000 fund raising goal. Through many creative means, we raised over $120,000. Many of the leaders celebrated on the podium.

I got word from a friend that the House of Bishops has declined by two votes to authorize a task force to study the theology of opening communion to the unbapized. I'm disappointed. This is one of those issues that creates strange bedfellows. Many believe that we should be inviting people primarily to baptism and that Eucharist is for the family of Christ. Others believe that Christ's example of eating with all is our strong evangelistic tool for inviting seekers to the table and then bringing them to baptism. The discussion has theological implications.

We went into a special session to discuss three significant resolutions about the structure of the Episcopal Church. I'm sorry, but I'm not a very good reporter on this topic. I find I cannot generate much energy and interest around it. One of the most significant aspects would be for the funding of the church budget to change from an "asking" for 19% to an "assessment" of 15%, with some sanctions. I like that. We would have only two permanent standing commissions – Constitutions and Canons, and Liturgy and Prayer Book. Otherwise, we would have Task Forces with sunset dates. We had a long period of questioning about the structure resolutions, which were extended when there were more questions that were not answered within the time frame. Then we had extended debate, which was ended when we realized that we did not have Spanish translations for the resolutions in question. We will take them up tomorrow. We are making such quick progress that the translators can't keep up with the texts. So, instead of recess at 7:30 p.m., we are getting off early at 6:45. Hurray!


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