Thursday, July 09, 2009

Convention Journal, Day Three (Wednesday)

What in General Convention parlance is known as the First Legislative Day got going at 8 AM. There wasn't much to actually do, but it was necessary to jump through several hoops by way of "organizing" each House--electing a Secretary, Treasurer, and a bunch of other officers, sending two emissaries to the House of Bishops to let them know formally that we are ready to do business (and receiving parallel emissaries from the HOB). I was kind of impressed by all this stuff at my first convention in 2003, but am less so now. It's a pretty boring way to blow an hour, but I understand that it has to be done.

Adapting the Anglican dictum regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation--"All may, many should, none must"--I applied it to the question of attending the first daily Eucharist, and opted to troll the Exhibit area instead. One of the exhibitors is Sue Grisham from the Diocese of Chicago. Her vocation is to raise the church's consciousness about animal rights. It's not a passion I particularly share, but I certainly honor the strength of her commitment. She and I "met" in 2003 when I successfully amended on the floor a resolution of hers that spoke of animals as "our neighbors" whom we are bound to love. Since I was planning a steak dinner that evening, I was trying to reconcile loving my neighbor with eating my neighbor and it wasn't working for me. But I'm glad to say Sue and I have had a cordial relationship since then, and I was glad to tell her that I could support her agenda when it comes to the "pupply mills" that are alarmingly numerous in Indiana.

I also had a good visit with David Kalvelage and his assistant at the booth operated by The Living Church, a publication I have read consistently for 30 years and which I feel a special kinship with since my good friend Christopher Wells is taking the reins there as Executive Director this coming September.

Toward the beginning of convention, time is weighted in favor of committee meetings and away from legislative plenaries, since the committees are the engines that feed legislation to the Houses, and they need time to crank up their output. Once again I sat in on Committee 13's deliberations on the sanctoral calendar project (Holy Women, Holy Men). Last night they kicked the matter to a subcomittee, and this morning the subcommittee recommended moving ahead, with some minor technical corrections, into a sort of "trial use on steroids" period, wherein certain congregations (presumably those with a daily Eucharist) would be proactively asked to provide feedback during the next two years. Then, in the final year of the triennium, the SCLM would evaluate the feedback and propose deletions of some names (presumably), and alterations in the propers. In 2012, those additions that survived intact (i.e. no changes in propers) would be up for an official second reading and, if passed, inclusion in the BCP calendar. Those that are omitted would be omitted, and those where changes are suggested would remain in trial use for yet another triennium. My own personal mission with respect to this project will be to work on the collects and pester the SCLM, piecemeal, with proposed emendations that restore the word "Lord" to the standard doxological conclusion of most of them, as it the norm in Christian liturgical prayer. Privately, during a break, some key members of the committee indicated to me that there is a widespread perception of weakness in the collects, so I am cautiously optomistic about getting some traction.

After a discussion of some technical issues regarding how the new volume will be printed, the subcommittee's report was adopted, thus sending HWHM to the HOB, which is the designated "House of Initial Action" on all resolutions having to do with liturgy. The Deputies will see it only if the Bishops approve it. My general impression--and this is more intuitive than anything else--is that the committee did what they did without a huge amount of enthusiasm, but realized they don't have the time during this convention to pick through the 112 newbies individually and hear testimony and hold debate. I'm fairly certain that if somebody had made the motion, John Muir and John Calvin would have been shown the door peremptorily. But they just didn't want to open that can of worms, and rather than slap the hand of the SCLM, whose members have poured hundreds of hours of labor into this, they crafted the "enhanced trial use" proposal. I would have hoped for re-referral, but I'm willing to give this idea a chance.

After lunch, there were more committee meetings scheduled, but I took the opportunity for the sort of down time that introverts need and caught up with some parish duties by email and a VPN connection to the St Anne's server.

Both Houses re-convened at 4:30, and this time there was actual legislative work to do (i.e. resolutions that had emerged from committee meetings earlier in the day). We gave consent to two episcopal elections (South Dakota and Long Island) that had occurred within the time frame that feeds the question to General Convention (rather than Standing Committees). We gave Forward Movement (official purveyor of tracts) its triennial mandate and funding, authorized the production of AIDS education materials, and approved a set of Mission Budget Priorities for the coming triennium; these are 1) Networking the members of the Body of Christ (vagaries re collaboration and communication), 2) Alleviating Poverty & Injustice (MDGs, etc.), 3) Claiming Our Identity (jazzing up awareness of an identification with the Episcopal "brand"), 4) Growing Congregations and the Next Generations of Faith (evangelism, lifelong learning, spiritual discipline, etc.), and 5) Strengthening Governance & Foundations for Ministry (leadership development, collaboration with seminaries, structural issues).

With the exception of the episcopal election consents, I voted No. Here's why: With the exception of basic and specialized services from agencies that are quasi-independen--like the Church Pension Group, and the Church Deployment Office--I have very little confidence in anything that comes out of 815. Were I the dictator, we would sell the building, fire the staff, and move HQ to some place in the middle of the country close to a major airport, have a General Secretary who shares office space and a receptionist with an insurance agent and a solitary CPA or lawyer, and a Presiding Bishop who is in charge of an actual diocese and just shows up to wield a gavel at HOB meetings. Eventually I'll get my way, not because I persuade anyone, but because of economic necessity. In the meantime, I vote No on anything with funding implications. But nobody should worry; I'm invariably a lone voice!

One item I feel positively about is a resolution from the Committee on World Mission regarding the Five Marks of Mission. These were enacted many years ago by two successive meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council, but have never been formally adopted by the Episcopal Church. If the House of Bishops agrees, they soon will be. They are:

1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. To teach, baptize, and nuture new believers.
3. To respond to human need by loving service.
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society.
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The resolution calls for these Five Marks to guide the preparation of funding priorities, not for the immediate coming triennium (the priorities for which have already been set), but for the one following. These five marks, and the order in which they appear, are something I can heartily endorse. I voted Yes, along with an overwhelming majority. (Oddly, the deputation to our left, from the Diocese of Olympia, voted No because of their principled opposition to one convention presuming to bind the will of a following convention.)

The only potentially controversial item on the afternoon's agenda was a proposal to adopt a Special Order to adjourn into a Committee of the Whole on Thursday afternoon. This will be for the purpose of discussing the 2006 resolution B033, which effectively created a moratorium on the consecration of any more bishops who are in partnered same-sex relationships. There would be no resolution on the floor and no vote taken. The Committee on World Mission would make a brief presentation, and then Deputies who had drawn "winning" lottery numbers would be allowed to speak for up to three minutes each. In the time alloted, this means that no more than about 20 or 30 individuals would be able to speak.

The presumptive purpose of this exercise would be to give the HOD an opportunity to epxress its mind informally on an issue about which some quite passionate convictions are held. My inner skeptic (yes, I have in inner skeptic in there somewhere, though I am not by nature skeptical) sees it as an attempt to exert extra pressure on the Bishops. The "Integrity & Friends" coalition sees--rightly so, IMO--the Bishops as the only force standing between them and complete political victory at this convention. They believe they have a lock on the HOD, and I suspect they're right. But they fear (and others hope) that the Bishops heard a persuasive "come to Jesus" talk at last summer's Lambeth Conference, and are more keenly aware than the deputies of what's at stake in further "straining the bonds of affection" in the Anglican Communion that are still not recovered from 2003. So I tend to see the Committee of the Whole maneuver as a way of turning up the heat under the Bishops' feet, and perhaps turn just enough of them to concur with whatever the Deputies do. Despite my No vote (and those of a few others), the motion carried handily. So we shall see.

I am told that the Committee on World Mission will hold a hearing on D020 tomorrow at 2 PM. I will be there to testify. If you are so inclined, be in prayer.


Mousie and Christy's Mommy said...


Thank you so much for this "runnig commentary!" I have found it most interesting and informative. I will be in prayer for D020. I'm sorry your votes don't have more weight but I am pleased that you continue to vote your conscience even if it isn't the "in thing" to do!

Jeff Marx said...

I remember the comment about eating your neighbor. I laughed pretty good at that one.
Thanks for the update. Wwe are praying for you folks!
I really respect your willingness to stand and speak out from such a minority position.
God be praised!

Sue Grisham said...

I accidentally found this while Googling for something else.

The original wording for GC2003 Resolution D016 was actually an "Americanized" version of one by a group of Canadian Anglicans who couldn't find anyone to submit it for them there. So my former rector did it as a favor to me. It was amended in committee. I had little to do with the version you saw (with the reference to "neighbors"), except to insist that it include a resolve to acknowledge that animals are recognized as being part of the environment. You would be surprised how often they aren't included -- most noticeably in the Church. It is almost as if "earth" is a euphemism. As a recent example:

Anyway, nothing happened with that resolution. So I'm happy that D015 passed this year. Maybe we'll become a humane Church within my lifetime.

Thanks for stopping by our booth.

I don't know if I forgot to hit "send", or if this is awaiting moderation. I'll try again.