Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Third Legislative Day

Less committee time, more legislative time. That's the point we've reached in this convention.

Committee 13 heard testimony on B009, Authorize Use of the 1979 Lectionary. There was one "expert" witness who showed up to testify against it. He was given five minutes--more than double the usual allotment. All he did was put forward a rationale for the Revised Common Lectionary, but this seemed pointless, as B009 does nothing to challenge the official status of the RCL. As the author of the resolution, I was given equal time. I characterized it as an act of pastoral charity. We won't have an opportunity to debate it in committee until Monday.

We then spent the rest of our time discussing the details for tonight's hearing on A049--in effect, a rite for same-sex weddings.

The House of Bishops was a legislative machine. I made my stock speech once on the folly of passing resolutions that speak to public policy on matters about which Christians of good will and an informed conscience might legitimately disagree. I then proceeded to vote No several times--on issues ranging from statehood for the District of Columbia to advocacy for the Affordable Care Act. I was, of course, on the losing side each and every time. If I were in charge, we would dissolve the Committee on Social and Urban Affairs. IMO, they just clutter the docket with a secular political agenda.

  • We defeated a resolution that would have restricted the votes of various categories of bishops who are not active diocesans when a matter involves the allocation of funds. I voted with the winners on this one.
  • We rejected funding (if my notes are correct) for the General Board of Examining Chaplains, despite the fact that their existence is canonically mandated, effectively killing the General Ordination Exams.
  • We agreed to a slow phase-in of the mandatory requirement that parishes and schools provide pensions plans for lay employees.
  • We passed a resolution that affirms our continued full-communion with the ELCA, but calls for more focused attention to two issues on which our paths diverge: lay presidency at the Eucharist and the nature of diaconal ministry.
  • We reaffirmed our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals
  • Rather to the consternation of anybody in the room who is involved with theological education, we narrowly passed a resolution that tasks the Standing Committee on Ministry Development with some rather unwieldy and intrusive oversight work in connection with the seminaries and other formation programs.
  • We had long debate, with several attempts to amend, of a resolution that seeks to increase the pressure on dioceses (like Springfield) that pay less than the full asking from the national church. Eventually, with a push from the Presiding Bishop, it got re-referred to committee for further work.
  • We passed, on second reading, a constitutional amendment that will remove the House of Deputies from the consent process for bishops elected within 120 of General Convention, and send everything to the Standing Committees. This is now in the hands of the Deputies.
These are just some of the highlights. I'll mention one more: A059 passed. This is the one that amends the Prayer Book (thus requiring passage at two successive conventions) in order to fix the discrepancy between the lectionary for Ash Wednesday and Holy Week as printed in the back of the Prayer Book since 2006, and the readings set forth on the actual pages where those rites are found. There is much confusion about this, and I fear that many of my colleagues did not understand what we were doing. I'm certain that many on Committee 13 did not. Maybe somebody would like to carry this water in the House of Deputies.

At the beginning of our afternoon session, there was another hour of private discussion regarding the complaints from the Bishops of Fort Worth and Quincy stemming from the amicus brief that I and several other bishops signed. The rules of the house prevent me from saying anything more about that here, but I believe things are headed in a positive and helpful direction.


Jody Howard said...

Bishop Dan,

Thank you for your efforts and for these continued summaries. My prayers are with you and the entire HoB and General Convention as a whole.

Abu Daoud said...

Helpful comments for this Episcopalian missionary in exile.

Michael said...

Thank you Bishop, these are the only comments i read on the convention

Katie said...

Bishop Dan,

Could you talk a bit about the potential implications of the following? "We passed, on second reading, a constitutional amendment that will remove the House of Deputies from the consent process for bishops elected within 120 of General Convention, and send everything to the Standing Committees. This is now in the hands of the Deputies."

Scott Kammerer said...

Bishop Dan,

First of all: thank you for your faithful work at GC and special blessings for your presence on the liturgy committee. I saw you in passing several times but didn't get the opportunity to thank you in person as I would have liked.

As a deputy who agrees with you far more often than not, please allow me to say a kind word for the committee on which I served - Social and Urban Affairs. You specifically mentioned voting against a resolution for “advocacy for the Affordable Care Act.” I was on the subcommittee that considered A040 on health care and I disagree with your take on that resolution.

To be sure, the “Explanation” for A040 made the author’s intent to advocate for A040 clear. But like you, I and some others on the committee were loathe to commit the church to specific legislative acts on which thoughtful Christians can disagree. Therefore our subcommittee made some subtle (apparently too subtle) but significant changes to the resolve.

First, the original language called upon the church to commit to “health care for all of [sic] citizens and legal residents.” Not wishing to get bogged down in the debate over benefits for non-citizens we simplified this language to make the commitment include health care “for all.” This struck us as non-controversial as our Lord Jesus commands us to care “for the least of these.”

More significant was the change to the language supporting “the full implementation and funding of the health care reform law in the United States.” The subcommittee removed the “and funding” and, most importantly, the word “the.” To our reading, the resolution now called not for specific support of the Affordable Care Act but for a broader support of health care reform law in general, without regard to any one specific solution. It was our belief – and one I still hold – that the church ought to be an advocate for “health care reform law” in the abstract regardless of one’s personal regard for the ACA.

Perhaps that’s still too political for some. And certainly the nuance of our edits were lost in the House of Deputies as well, who went on to remove “the full implementation of” and the word “law” from the final language that was passed, making the connection (as you did) with the ACA. I’m not unhappy with the final result, however.

I share your distaste for “political” resolutions (even ones I agree with) but I think Committee 10 tried to be mindful of that as best we could. Even we tossed our hands up when given resolutions like the one on “fracking” that we had to deal with.

Bishop Daniel Martins said...

Scott, as you know, if one serves on a committee, and is trying to follow other legislation one has a keen interest in, it's just not possible to stay abreast of anything else. So I had about 10 seconds to read A040 as your committee "perfected" it when it came up on the daily calendar. So, for me, the changes WERE to subtle to notice in such a quick read. I wish I knew a better way.

Scott Kammerer said...

I understand. Like I said, the subtlety was lost on the other House too. I apologize for my defensive screed above. I do think it's important for the church to be shining a light on injustices in our society, while staying away from endorsing specific political solutions. Often that's a difficult line to walk.