WHAT'S HAPPENING AT GC
Scroll down for previuous day's reflection
Back home in Virginia Beach with a chance to catch up and write a final reflection. The last couple of days saw a lot of votes on a wide variety of subjects. For me one of the most significant votes came from the House of Deputies where we voted for an additional $2.5 million dollars to support evangelism and church planting. This requires an extra .5% from the endowment, but the draw down was at 5% prior to this change so 5.5% is well within prudent guiedlines.
I had the chance to be on the floor as a voting delegate for the second time as one of our deputies needed to leave early. The real thrill of the final day was the Eucharist where the The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry the Presiding Bishop Elect was the preacher. Here is a link to that sermon. There is also a great interview of Michael which can be watched following this link.
I am very excited that Michael will become the Presiding Bishop on November 1 at the National Cathedral. I assume that there will be a live feed of the service and I will work to make sure we can watch it at church.
While the experience was exhausting I would not have missed this for anything. What a pleasure to be at a General Convention where people will look back and remark that this is probably a true watershed moment for the church. I truly believe Micahel will lead us into a new period of evangelism and growth. We join several other denominations in our move to marriage equlity. It is worth noting the large majority of diocese and bishops that all voted in favor. Somewhere around 85-90% of the deputies and bishops voted in favor. The dissenting bishops wrote a minority report but nowhere did they say, we are leaving. They agreed to stay with us and work with us to bring the Kingdom of God to a reality. This is an enormous change in response from the period following the consecration of Gene Robinson.
I will try at a later date to convey to you the powerful testimony in front of the marriage committee. Over the three days of hearings we heard from about 40-50 witnesses. Again the vast majority 75% is a guess spoke in favor and told incredily stories of what this means to them and their families. Again I know this is painful for some. We heard equally passionate testimony from those opposed. Attending the Eucharist planned and sponsored by Integrity was a wonderful experience. This is the first time this service was held in the worship space where all the other services was conducted.
Lost in the two Supreme Court decisions, the vote on marriage and the election of Michael Curry is the decision to begin the process to revise both the Prayer Book and the Hymnal. IN a normal year this would be the lead story. Prayer Book revision is a slow process that can take no less than 9 years before a final book is produced. My guess is that we will see trial liturgies over the next three years and then some formally designated trial liturgies. The final book must be approved by two General Conventions with no changes allowed. The last book took over 24 years from start to finish. I do believe it is important because our world has changes so radically since the the 1960s and 70s when our current book was produced. One thing I learned in my work on the marriage committee was how different the social structures of the world are today compared with that time 50 years ago.
Today was a very busy and historic day at General Convention. This morning and into the early afternoon we worked on the restructuring of the national church. We reduced the size of the Executive Council and made several other changes to make our national body more efficient and able to adapt more quickly in these changing times. We also heard the presentation of the budget for the next 3 years.
Then in the late afternoon it was time to turn our attention to the resolutions on marriage that had been passed by a huge majority in the House of Bishops. The deputies had already passed the first resolution on the continuation of the task force to study marriage and families. What was before the deputies today were two resolutions, one that provided for liturgical rites for trial use over the next three years. Trial use is a critical term as this resolves a potential conflict between the prayer book and the canons. At the next General Convention we will revisit the rites and recieve the report from the committee that we authorized earlier in the week. This could become part of the revision of the Book of Common Prayer.
The second resolution this afternoon was to bring the canons of the church in agreement with the Book of Common Prayer and authorize clergy to perform those rites. Both passed by large margins. The votes were taken by order as is required for approval of a trial use. This means each deputation votes as a whole. 3 or 4 votes in favor means it passes in that deputation. 2 in favor and 2 opposed is a divided deptutation and counts as a no.
The Liturgy resolution passed with 94 clergy and 90 lay votes in favor, 12 clergy and 11 lay opposed and 2 clegy and 3 lay divided.
It is important to know that know bishop is going to be forced to allow the marriages in his/her diocese if they disagree. The bishop is the person in our polity that decides what liturgies, especially trial liturgies can be done in their diocese. No clergy person can be forced to conduct one of these services. Clergy have the right to decline any wedding regardless of the gender and I have refused weddings where I feel there is a serious concern about proceeding.
Just as important however is the bishop if he/she forbids these services must make provision for those couple desiring to be married. For example in Northern Illinois, the priest and the couple can have the service if they use a church in the Diocese of Chicago.
Everyone is aware that this is a cause for great joy for many and great pain and sorrow for others. At the announcement of the results there were no cheers or applause out of respect for the side that did not prevail. The bishops did the same thing.
I will be reporting more fully to the parish when I get back and we have work to do to look at the liturgies that were approved and decide how we as a parish will respond. I have not heard anything official from the bishop, but will talk to him Thursday or Friday. My guess is we will proceed as before with parish discernment. I urge everybody to keep an open mind until you see the material the task force has prepared.
I cannot begin to describe the care and prayerful discernment I saw in the House of Bishops, on the joint Marriage Committee and the house of Deputies. Each presentation and vote was prefaced with prayer from the chaplain.
Links to news stories. ENS the official news forum Huffington Post article by Susan Russell past president of Integrity.
June 28 and 29 reflections
Sunday started off the Bishops march against gun violence. While I did not attend since it would have meant getting up at 5:00 a.m. to get downtown in time, those who attended said it was quite the rally with lots of people besides the bishops attending. Click here for a short video. Remember a lot more information is available from the links I have posted above.
This was followed by the Eucharist to celebrate the
United Thank Offering or UTO. Over the past 3 years UTO has raised in excess of
4 million dollars and we celebrated this with procession representing members
of every province. The Presiding Bishop gave a wonderful sermon, which is
available on line. Click here to read the sermon.
The rest of the day was devoted to legislative action in
both the House of Deputies and Bishops. Among the many resolutions the House of
Deputies needed to work through a long list of elections to various offices.
Those who have been to annual council know how tedious this can be. Once they
got the new voting system and the virtual binder coordinated they were able to
move fairly quickly through this process.
What is the virtual binder? Every voting deputy and the
first alternate have a iPad that has the entire 600+ page blue book loaded on
to it. Also every resolution is listed on the binder and the secretary of the
House of Deputies and his staff can update immediately as amendments are made
from the floor. Overall this system is working very well and has cut down the
large amount of paper that has been used in past years.
Monday saw the beginning of the debate on the three
resolutions regarding marriage in the House of Deputies. This resolution had already been passed by the House of Bishops and authorizes the continuation of
the work of the Task Force on Marriage that was begun in 2013. That passed by a
very large majority.
The other two went to the House of Bishops and were
debated for a large part of the day. These two resolutions provide trial
liturgies to be used with the permission and direction of the bishop. The
liturgies are a non-geneder specific version of the BCP rite. The other is the
one that was approved three years ago as a Blessing of a Life Long Covenant.
This was worded so that the civil act of marriage could be included where it
was not present before. This will also be available in parts of the Episcopal
Church where civil law does not permit same gender marriages. Remember the
Episcopal Church is in quite a few countries in Central and South America,
Europe, Japan and other countries. The second was to amend the marriage canons.
This is required so clergy are not violating any canons when they perform a
same gender marriage. Those two resolutions passed by large margins. The canon
changes were a vote by role call. 127 voted in favor, 26 opposed and 6
A word on how the process works. The committee that
proposed these three resolutions is one composed of both Bishops and Deputies.
It goes to the House of Bishops first because they are the house that initiated
these resolutions. Now that the Bishops have passed them they go back to the
committee for review since the bishops amended them. Then they will be sent to
the House of Deputies, probably on Wednesday.
The day ended with a Eucharist sponsored by Integreity the LGBT support network for Episcopalians founded by Louie Crew. It was a powerful service as you can imagine given the events of the last four days. This was the first time the service was held in the daily worship space. All previous years the group has had to look for a nearby church to hold the service. The Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool of LA was the preacher. A significant portion of the service was time spent to honor Louie Crew, who founded the organization over 40 years ago. That's how long this has been an issue for the church. That is before the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. So when you hear people say it's been a long time that we have been studying in talking it really has. Once again being with this group of people makes me realize as what is known as a straigth ally, this group love God, loves Jesus and despite how they have been treated, love the church.
I contrast my experience with sitting at the Eucharist with listening to the House of Bishops earlier where one bishop said something like, "LGBT people are fully welcomed into this church by their baptism" and then in the next breath saying, "That said, they must refrain from any sexual activity for their entire lives." Bishop Gene Robinson did argue that point.
Well it is now 7:30 a.m. and time to drive back downtown for a committee meeting to look at the two resolutions from the Bishops prior to forwarding them to the House of Deputies.
Sunday at GC is a much quieter day at General Convention. Saturday the big story was the election of The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry as the Presiding Bishop elect. He will be consecrated as the PB at the National Cathedral in D.C. November 1. However my committee also met two times to finish up their three resolutions on marriage. More on that in a couple of paragraphs.
As many of you may know, Michael Curry the diocesan bishop of North Carolina which is the center of the state was my favoriate for this position. I believe he is ideally suited to lead our church over the next 9 years. He is a powerful preacher and if you want to see him, click on this link. As I preached on last week, racism may be one of the great sins that we as a country must now address. In a resolution passed we heard from a young black priest saying that racism isn't dead in the millenial generation. It is better, but it is not gone. Michael certainly can lead us in this area. To learn more about Bishop Curry please click on this link to an article in the House of Deputies newsletter.
Now for some information on the Marriage Committee. I will now be referring to this committee's work as on marriage because as the resolutions are being written they represent far more than same gender blessings and marriages. The task force has identified the wide variety in what defines a family in today's world. Rites are included that might be used for an older couple that for whatever reason, often related to social security rules may want a relationship blessed that is other than marriage. The committee is aware that more and more people are coming to us for what is know by socialogists as capstone weddings. This is a marriage that occurs sometimes after 10 or 15 years of being in a relationship. The committee is asking that the task force be continued and we do more work in looking at the meaning of family in our modern world.
What the committee is working on is three resolutions. One to continue study of families in our changing world, one to ammend the canons which need to be changed so clergy are not violating any canons when the do one of the services. The last resolution is to approve the Blessing of a Covenanted Relationship and three additional rites for trial use that will then be studied for evaluation three years from now at the next GC. These rites will be considered for the next revision of the prayer book. Think in terms of the Enriching Our Worship liturgies that we often use on Sunday. The first passed the House of Bishops without change and is headed to the House of Deputies. The others were hopefullyfiled last night.
Wow! How to describe today at General Convention? Great joy at many committee meetings whent the Supreme Court decision was announced including the Marriage Committee where I am the aide. For me the most profound moment was when the secretary of the committee and a good friend of mine embraced his husband knowing that now Ohio had to recognize their marriage. I've known the Rev Brian Wilbert since my first days in the Epsicopal Church and it gave me great joy to share this moment.
Then we moved into the Eucharist for the day with a wonderful jazz band for a energetic Eucharist. They changed the prelude to the humns Sia humba, We are marching in the light of God. I've rarely experienced such energy in a service. Then I got to serve communion for a second day, standing next to Toni Hogg who was a chalice minister for the first time in her life! Then it was back to work with the marriage committee. More revisions to proposed changes and getting ready for our third hearing with public comment in three days.
In between the legislative session I was able to join a large group of Episcopal clergy and lay people who made the walk up to the park where Equality Utah was having there celebration rally. The people there were very happy to see support of their joy from clergy and church members.
Then it was back to the Marriott for our final hearing and another night of touching stories and concerns from those who feel deeply wounded by today's decision. The challenge my committee faces is how to move forward in a manner that includes the largest number of people. What our PB calls drawing the widest circle possible. I have heard from bishops in dioceses that are trying to put the pieces back together (South Carolina and Pittsburgh) where a large number of parishes left as well as the bishop. Their plea is take care of the majority but please don't tie their hands as they try to pull break away parishes back. As you can see this committee needs the wisdom of Solomon.
As one person said tonight, "My Lord, what a morning."
I'm writing this at 11:00 at the end of the first day of convention. By this time I have helped facilitate 3 committee meetings and two hearings for the Marriage committee. The committee is working to combine 10 different resolutions down to three that will go to the floor of both houses. This is a joint committee of the House of Deputies and Bishops so we have members of both houses working together. My duties include making sure the meeting room is ready, sound system is working and for any hearings that those who wish to testify have signed in and declared if they are speaking in favor or against. The policy is that we alternate between those in favor and those opposed to a resolution. This convention is working to be as paperless as possible so everything is on iPads that the deputies are issued and revision show up on a special internet connection. I also make sure all those iPads are connected while in the committee rooms. As resolutions are completed I then make sure that the electronic file has been transmitted to the central office. (That means I walk a piece of paper to the office and they look it up) This is the first convention this system has been used. BTW the iPads are most certainly not brand new and have seen a lot of service. However this saves huge amounts of paper as the original book of material is over 650 pages and that is without any resolution being amended
Our deputation is made up of 6 clergy and 6 lay people along with Ann Turner our communications person and Bishop Holly. Each of us is assigned a committed to follow and a few folks have two to keep track of. We meet each day for a quick 45 minute lunch and each person reports in on what is happening so when resolutions come up on the floor in legislative sessions we know what we are voting on.
This is an incredible experience. With all of the work we had the opening Eucharist with the Presiding Bishop preaching. I had the pleasure of being a chalice minister for the service (along with 60 others which should give you an idea of how many people were at the service). What a joy to worship with several thousand other faithful members of the church. I have also had the chance to reconnect with almost half of my classmates from Virginia Seminary who are all here most as deputies. I also had a chance to talk to five young people who are looking at going to seminary and were at the VTS booth in the exhibition hall. I must say talking with these wonderful prospective priests I feel the future for our church is bright.