Thursday, July 02, 2015

Thursday, July 2

For our morning Eucharist, I sat in the front near the children's area in our worship space. We had lively, driving Latino music that the children and many from the Youth Presence enjoyed with dancing. The Epistle Reader held a child in her arms as she read the lesson.

Our preacher was Colin Mathewson from the Dominican Republic. We had the calendar observation for Charles Barnes, martyred in 1938 after writing letters to contacts in the American State Department objecting to the slaughter of thousands of Haitians order by the dictator Trujillo.

Dean Mathewson told part of the story of the massacre. Trujillo's soldiers stopped people in an organized way and asked them to pronounce the Spanish word for "parsley." The French and Creole speaking Haitians, unfamiliar with rolling their "r's," mispronounced the word, and were killed, "for the sake of a word." Today there are tens of thousands of Haitians being forcibly deported from the Dominican Republic. Dean Mathewson decried the way we divide what should be united – all humanity, for we are one – united by the Word made flesh. During our time here in Salt Lake City, black churches continue to burn. People continue to die for the sake of a word, for their faith, for their race. It is time to stop. Just stop. Stop "we/they" and "us/them." We are all one. Every person is created in the image and likeness of God.

I mentioned the "housing first" model that Salt Lake City has adopted, which is successfully lowering homelessness and costs. At the busy crosswalk outside the Convention Center and elsewhere there are red "parking meters" where 100% of the change goes to the housing first project. There is a sign discouraging giving money to panhandlers. A friend of mine and several of his friends took fruit, food and beverages around to those who are sleeping outside around the neighborhood. Deacon Sara Milford carries energy bars to give to anyone on the street who asks her for money. Others shared their "brown bag" when coming back from a restaurant serving more than they could eat. I am impressed with the Salt Lake City work to combat homelessness.

We returned to debate the budget. There is a proposal for increasing the draw on our endowment (from 5% to 5.5%) in order to fund some new church initiatives. According to our treasurer, doing so would be likely to lower the capital in the endowment. It is a four-million dollar gamble. We took the gamble by a 60/30% vote. We also moved some money from the Development Office to the Stewardship Development (TENS) office. That did not seem like a good idea to me. With those two changes, the $127 million budget was passed. (my numbers may be wrong)

We continued with many, many resolutions, most of which did not prompt too much discussion or disagreement. Just taking care of the good business of the church.

Each deputation has its name on a pole in the area where it is designated to sit. We have a hog hat on the top of our pole. Yellow ribbons identify deputations where a senior deputy is so that they can be consulted over questions of procedure. That's my ribbon. You get one after being a deputy for seven conventions. This is my ninth as a deputy, the 11th I've attended. I'm an old deputy.

One of the more interesting resolutions calls for the Church Medical Trust to reevaluate our church health plan. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has been so successful that almost one-fourth of the dioceses can obtain health insurance more economically through the Health Insurance Exchanges if that were allowed. We passed an option for churches to consider other options, but it will probably not be accepted by the Bishops.

We voted to concur with the House of Bishops to encourage divestment from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in clean renewable energy. The matter does not affect the Pension Fund, but does instruct other organizations like the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund and the Episcopal Church Foundation. The resolution urges dioceses and parishes to engage the topic within the coming year.

We concurred with the Bishops to begin a plan for the possibility of a revision to the Book of Common Prayer.

One of the highlights of the Convention has been the wonderful leadership of our Chaplain, the Rev. Lester V. Mackenzie of California, a native of South Africa. Great energy and love. He added so much to our prayers and spirit.

I just learned that my friend The Rev. Gwen Fry has been elected Vice President of National Affairs for Integrity! Delighted. Congratulations Gwen.

The last resolution of the day (past 7:00 p.m.) is an attempt to equalize same-gender couples in the benefits of the Church Pension Fund, including time that they would have accrued had they had the opportunity to marry. We passed the resolution without the sound of a single "nay." This is a good church.

Away for pizza with the Arkansas deputation on the last night we will all be together.


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