Friday, July 03, 2015

The Last Day!

Our Presiding Bishop Elect Michael Curry was the preacher and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was the presider for our closing Eucharist. The members of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Presiding Bishop were given seats in the front of the worship space, so I got some good pictures.

Bishop Curry gave a rousing sermon, calling us to "Go" in the strength of the Jesus movement that we have all been baptized into. I encourage you to go online and enjoy the sermon. He is indeed an outstanding preacher and will bring unique energy to the church and to the world.

One of the most contentious debates has been around the church's strategy toward Israel and Palestine. The House of Bishops took out language endorsing divestment in companies doing business in the occupation and continued growth of settlements in Palestinian territories. We did pass a thoughtful, nuanced, and controversial resolution B013 calling the church into active participation in reconciliation toward a just and peaceful two-state resolution.

A group of 20 bishops have released a statement objecting to the General Convention's endorsement of same-sex marriage rites. Among the signers were 7 U.S. bishops, 7 bishops from Province 9 outside the U.S., and 6 retired or resigned bishops. The resolution passed the House of Bishops 129 in favor, 26 opposed, 5 abstaining on Monday. The House of Deputies also passed same-sex marriage on Thursday in a vote by orders – each diocese getting one vote in each order (clergy/lay) determined by the four deputies in each order. It passed:  Clergy – For 85, Against 15, Divided 6. Lay –  For 88, Against 12, Divided 6. These are overwhelming votes of affirmation.

We passed three compassionate resolutions D033 Supporting Refugee Rights in Central America, D041 Advocacy and Prayer for Syria, and D062 Addressing Prison Conditions and Areas for Advocacy. All of these are available on the General Convention website.

I learned something new in our committee testimony some days ago. In many places, creative priests are doing remarkable Sunday liturgies – many outside of the church walls, many appealing to the "spiritual-but-not-religious" and the "nones" and others who are unlikely to be drawn toward our prayer book liturgies. They are vibrant and growing communities. I spoke in support of a resolution making it explicit that bishops can encourage these imaginative and creative "Rite 3" liturgies on Sundays. It passed.

We passed some new canonical regulations that, among other things, will require each diocese to pay it full assessment (15%) by January 1, 2019. The Executive Council of the church will have power to grant waivers. Without such waivers, failure to make full payment would render the diocese ineligible to receive grants or loans from the Church. In my opinion, this is a change that is long overdue.

Late in the afternoon, the President invited our whole committee to the platform to sing a hymn I wrote in praise of the Virtual Binder, our paperless i-pad that we are using for all of our legislative processes and for our worship. It also references our new digital process for voting and for getting in the digital queue to speak.
Here's my hymn:

A Hymn in Praise of the Virtual Binder
Sung to the tune of St. Patrick's Breastplate

My binder and my self today
   will follow Convention so virtually.
With invocations and play-by-play
   my binder leads me day-by-day.
I love my binder, it guides me on.
  Amendments, motions, that blue, blue book.
With optional kick stand
    it frames attention
in endless meetings with just one look.

Pad be with me
Pad beside me
Pad before me
Pad below me
Pad to guide me
   and control me
Pad in hand of friend and stranger.

My binder and my self today
   will follow convention so virtually.
By invocation of the same
   I pray the queue-master sees my name.
My hands empowered to vote and sing,
   My card secured in the voting thing,
Such power for me is a great temptation,
   salvation comes NOT from i-Pad-ing.

It was a big hit and a lot of fun.

After our song, the House passed by a large margin a resolution proposing we explore the development of a new hymnal. We have set in motion a process for updating both the Prayer Book and the Hymnal in tandem as we did in the 1970's.

We passed a resolution commending the efforts of dioceses to reconcile with and welcome those who have previously left The Episcopal Church and wish to return. And one of the last courtesy resolution thanked the PB Nominating Committee that I served on. That was nice.

Our next to last item brought up our opposition to the Dominican Republic's constitutional court which has been ruling as ineligible for citizenship Haitians living in the DR if they were children of migrant, checking birth certificates back to 1929, potentially making hundreds of thousands stateless because of race. Horrible. Our last resolution also decries the suffering of stateless persons. It is nice to end on a compassionate response to the suffering of some of the most vulnerable people in our hemisphere.

It's been fun to blog again for this General Convention. I started this blog so many years ago that I was able to claim the name Now various forms of social media make following General Convention ubiquitous. So... this is my closing entry. I'm not sure what you do with a last blog. How do you close one of these things? Oh, well. I am thankful to you for reading. It has been a delight and honor to serve the church this way and to share it with you.



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