JULY 7, 2012
It is late. It has been another long day. I am going to try and keep this brief…
This morning I went to the 7:30 am meeting of the Committee on the Structure of the Church. I was astounded as they passed Resolution B013. Several members of the commission referred to this as the most exciting resolution to come before the convention this triennium. During the afternoon legislative session that resolution was passed by the House of Deputies.
Resolution B013 removes from our canons the language that requires the Presiding bishop Elect to resign their previous jurisdiction. That deleted language meant that if you were the Bishop of Utah and were elected Presiding Bishop you had to resign as the Bishop of Utah. This change to our canons must still pass the House of Bishops and must be adopted at two consecutive General Conventions but if it does pass it would mean that a person could be the Presiding Bishop and be the Bishop of Utah.
The language that requires the Presiding Bishop Elect to resign their previous jurisdiction in only 65 years old. Prior to that the Presiding Bishop was both a diocesan and the Presiding Bishop. Some people see the modern scope of the Presiding Bishop’s role as a vestige of the Corporate Church model that this convention seems intent upon changing. It was very interesting to me that Bishop Doyle of Texas, a member of the Committee on Structure told us that he had some real concerns about the resolution, that he wasn’t sure how it would work… and he pointed out that we are going to elect a new Presiding Bishop in three years. If we really are intent upon restructuring the church we should pass this resolution now and give ourselves the flexibility to re-imagine the role of the Presiding Bishop as we call a new person to serve in that role. If we don’t do this in the next three years we will likely have to wait for the election of the next Presiding Bishop: nine, twelve or fifteen years from now…
In that session a member of the Committee on Structure said that we had heard a lot of calls for change, that people wanted to put everything on the table and to declare that there are no “idols” as we move towards restructuring. Bishop Howard, Co Chair of the Committee said something I found very hopeful. He said that the job of the committee was not to answer the questions about how we would restructure. The job of the committee is to create a framework and to give permission to the process so that we can move forward and find the answers to the problems in our current structure. I think that is just what resolution B013 has done.
Meanwhile in the House of Bishops… a resolution calling for $105,000 to fund the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music failed to pass the House. The Episcopal News Service that describes this debate in the house of Bishops quotes Bishop Doyle of Texas:
“But Bishop Andrew Doyle of Texas said he was rejecting the resolution because ‘this is an example of how our system does not work.
‘PB&F is already making decisions on this,’ he said. ‘We spend time in a committee now on this. We sent it through a secretariat; now it’s come to us. We’re going to spend time debating it and at the end of the day they (PB&F) are already making decisions about it.’”
Who sets the priorities and controls the spending? When the House of Deputies was debating the resolution to fund the Episcopal Youth Event a deputy said, “I like this resolution because this is General Convention directing Program, Budget, and Finance – not Program, Budget, and Finance directing General Convention. We clearly have some work to do restructuring the visioning, priority setting and budgeting process!
On a much more uplifting note… If you didn’t see my facebook posting with the link to today’s sermon by Bishop Michael Curry of North Caroline you really do need to take 17 minutes and watch the video here. Bishop Curry is a wonderful preacher and his sermon this morning was a treat and a gift.
This evening I attended the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music’s hearing on A049 – Authorizing the Blessing of Same Gender Relationships. The hearing was scheduled for two hours and I would guess that the room was set for over 500 participants. The time was to be divided into two hours. The first would allow people to address the resolution itself, and we signed up to speak for or against the resolution. The second hour was to be devoted to people who wanted to make suggestions or amendments to the documents, the resources proposed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.
We spent the first hour alternating between speakers for and against the resolution. There wasn’t anything new or radically different from what I expected. People objected over the harm that proceeding would cause to our relationships in the Anglican Communion. Some people objected because they thought that moving forward would hurt attendance in their churches. Others objected on Biblical or theological grounds. The speaker for the resolution argues that the scriptures don’t really address committed life long loving unions between people of the same gender, on issues of justice and fairness, and on the need to remain relevant in our ever changing society and in the eyes of people under the age of 30. Others, including me spoke of the incarnational evidence, our experience of the Holy in the same gender couples we know and pointed to that experience as evidence that God is at work and manifest in those unions. “How,” I asked, “can the church decline to bless what our experience tells us God is doing amongst us?” Most moving of all were the personal stories told by Gay and Lesbian men and women, both lay and ordained, about their desire and longing to be recognized by their church or about the gift that the blessing that they had received in their parishes and dioceses had been to them.
At the end of the evening the chair of the Committee commended us on the respect we had shown one another and the our ability to come together in one room for a conversation. The committee will meet again on Monday morning and, I assume, sometime shortly thereafter the resolution will come to the floor of convention. I will be there and I will let you all know how it goes.
Here is a related story about the House of Bishops: Gender identity should not be basis for exclusion, bishops agree
This just breaking news from the Committee on Structure on their efforts to synthesize the 51 resolutions pertaining to restructuring the church… I will get more information about this one and report tomorrow.
Tomorrow is our festival Eucharist. People have been arriving since Friday evening, guests, visitors, and friends of the church, since Friday afternoon. I saw Fr. Mike Tess of Good Shepherd Sun Prairie and his family as they arrived this afternoon. There will be a much larger crowd at the Eucharist tomorrow. I am looking forward to hearing all of those voices lifted in prayer. I am looking forward to another fabulous sermon by the Presiding Bishop. But most of all I am looking forward to hearing all of those people, people who love the church, singing together as we work to find our way forward.
That was brief…. right?