Monday, June 29, 2015

The Fourth Legislative Day

This being Sunday, the big event of the day was the celebration of the Eucharist, at which the Presiding Bishop presided and preached, and at which the United Thank Offering ingathering from each diocese was presented and announced. One of the occupational hazards of my trade is a tendency to want to critically evaluate the planning and execution of liturgy when I am not myself the one doing the planning and executing. This is not an altogether spiritually healthy habit, and I'm trying to condition myself to put boundaries around it. So, without going into any of the details, I'll simply say this: One would think that if there were ever a time when it is appropriate to be squeaky clean with regard to compliance with Prayer Book texts and rubrics, it would be at the principal liturgy of General Convention.

The Presiding Bishop's homily merits some commentary. As always, it was well-crafted, with insights from the scripture text (from Mark: the raising of Jairus' daughter and the healing of the woman with the chronic hemorrhage) imaginatively applied to the sitz im leben of her listeners. She's a better than average preacher. And in that context, I was dismayed by the level of political and ideological triumphalism that she expressed. She congratulated the Episcopal Church for the very behavior that has effectively sundered the Anglican Communion and contributed to massive losses of communicant numbers. I can understand that, if one considers the agenda that has been pushed consistently for the better part of four decades to be a gospel-driven justice issue, then these losses come under the rubric of fidelity and "counting the cost." Nonetheless, her rhetorical tone left me breathless.

The long afternoon legislative session began with an executive session to discuss the details of what we expect of one another as bishops in certain sensitive areas. I believe we got it sorted out. We opened the doors and then got into a fairly protracted debate on a resolution that calls for disinvestment by TEC and related entities from any companies related to the fossil fuel industry--this to make a statement about the need to reduce the world's aggregate "carbon footprint." An amendment to exempt the Church Pension Fund from this requirement eventually passed, and then, at long last, the entire resolution passed. (I voted No, as I'm very leery of disinvestment as a strategy.) There was a lesser amount of debate on a resolution to create task forces in each province that would help dioceses and parishes be "greener." This one got deferred to a later time to allow for certain "technical" issues to be worked out--namely, to bring the project under the umbrella of the DFMS.

The "big one" was next--the first report from the Special Committee on Marriage. They had two resolutions for us--one that tweaks and refines the rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships that convention approved for use in 2012, and another that would amend the marriage canon to make it gender-neutral, and to make "these canons" rather than "the laws of the Church" (which would include the constitution and the Prayer Book) the rule to which clergy are accountable when it comes to marriage. But before we could get very far down the pike, the committee chair and vice-chair and the Presiding Bishop and the technology gods seemed to all go off the rails in their ability to articulate exactly what it was we were doing. Then, as a sort of deus ex machina, the powers-that-be realized that we had a time certain to gather with our Deputy colleagues for provincial caucuses, at which our sole duty was to elect--and this will sound a little strange--members of the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of a Presiding Bishop. Yes, the JNCPB has, by canon, a perpetual existence, "just in case." So we will take up sex and marriage again tomorrow.

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