July 9, 2012
Yesterday was incredible. So much happened and so many things cleared committees so that we will be able to engage them today. By the time I got back to my room late last night there was now way I could write anything sensible or appropriate. I needed to sleep on it before I attempted to sort it out for you. So, with my first cup of coffee “brewing” in the little machine here in my room….
The big news, in my mind, is that the House of Bishops has passes A049 – Authorization to Bless Same Gender Relationships. That means that the resolution will probably come to the House of Deputies today. If it passes it will become an act of Convention. The House of Bishops approved the resolution by an overwhelming margin: yes – 111, no – 41, abstain – 3. They did however make some changes to the text. You can download a copy of this resolution as a pdf file here. Scroll through the list to the number of the resolution and click on “English, current.”
Everywhere the original text used the words, “same-gender” the Bishops have substituted the words “same-sex.” And everywhere the original document used the words, “Resources for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships,” the Bishops substituted, “Witnessing and Blessing of a Life-Long Covenant in a Same-Sex Relationship.” If you look at the document linked above you will see that there were other changes made, mostly wordsmithing of the liturgy itself, and I am looking forward to hearing some explication from the chair of the Committee on Prayerbook, Liturgy and Church Music today when he introduces the resolution on the floor of the House of Deputies. You will find and ENS article about the debate in the House of Deputies here.
There were three other resolutions passed yesterday in the House of Deputies. Each of these had already passed in the House of Bishops so we were asked to vote on a resolution to “concur.” When those resolutions passed the House of Deputies they became acts of the General Convention.
D019 Amend Canon I.17.5 – Extending the Rights of Laity
This resolution says that no one shall be denied rights, status or access in the life, worship, and governance of this church. This resolution adds the transgendered community, the “T” in LGBT to the list of people already contained in the canon.
D002 Affirming Access to Discernment Process for Ministry
This resolution is rightly paired with D002 because it adds “gender identity and expression” to the list of people who cannot be denied access to the discernment process for Holy Orders in this church.
A050 Create Task Force on the Study of Marriage
As the church has wrestled with the issues around the blessing of same-sex relationships we have come to realize that we do not have a clear theology of marriage. Are we blessing something that has already happened, something that has happened in our presence, or are we in fact the agents in the creation of the union that we are witnessing and blessing? How doe we navigate the reality that when we preside or officiate at a marriage we are functioning as agents of the state? There are a lot of questions on the table here. This resolution does ask specifically for a study that will allow us to continue to explore the blessing of a life long covenant between same sex couples, and it will allow us to explore these fundamental questions that pertain to anyone who comes to the church asking to be “married.”
OK… Second cup of coffee in hand…
Yesterday we also completed nominations for President of the House of Deputies. There are three candidates running. We will elect a President for the coming triennium today at noon.
We will also see two resolutions regarding the Anglican Covenant today. Dorota Pruski, a senior at Virginia Seminary from the Diocese of Milwaukee, has been following this debate through committee and the House of Bishops. Dorota and I both studied with The Rev. Doctor Kathy Grieb, New Testament Professor at VTS, who is a part of the group who helped to draft the covenant. We have been luck to have someone so familiar with the covenant process to help the deputation understand the reasoning behind the two resolutions that come before us today. The first resolution affirms our commitment to and place in the Anglican Communion. The second states that opinion in this church is too divided for us to vote on the measure at this time. There are some who are describing this second resolution as “kicking the can down the road.” Dorota’s sense is that this is a way to keep everyone at the table, to find a pastoral via media, that will allow us to continue the dialog with our brothers and sisters around the world. Stay tuned for a lively debate!
An Article at The Episcopal Cafe: World Mission “punts” Covenant resolution
This afternoon we will do something that has not happened in the 6 days that we have been in Indianapolis. The House of Deputies and the House of Bishops will come together in one place for a conversation about the budget. Being a newbie to General Convention I don’t know how this will work yet. Will the Bishops come to the floor of the House of Deputies and sit together or will they come and sit with their deputations? I am looking forward to being together in one place more than I am to the debate about the budget!
There are several pieces to the budget debate. On the revenue side we will need to address the “asking,” Currently each Diocese is asked to give 19% of its operating budget to the work of the larger church. The Diocese of Milwaukee gives the full asking but there are many, in fact a majority of Dioceses, that do not. There was actually a resolution on the floor several days ago that would have required any deputy who rose to speak to identify themselves by name, diocese (something that we all do now), and by stating what percentage their diocese gives. Happily, this resolution was defeated but it does demonstrate the tension around the resourcing of the work of the larger church and the way we all share that burden.
One of the ideas that will come to the floor suggests that we reduce the asking to 15% and require all dioceses to meet that level of asking by the end of the next triennium. What I know from talking with friends from other dioceses is that the hardship this would impose might mean the loss of jobs at the diocesan level in many of our dioceses.
On the expense side, the resolutions that come before us on the floor of convention all indicate whether or not the cost of the action contained in the resolution is already part of the proposed budget. We have passed many resolutions that were not funded in the draft budgets that have been proposed. Restoring funding for the national Episcopal youth Event is an example that I have written about already. The language of the resolution to restore funding “directed” Program, Budget, and Finance to restore $300,000 for this important ministry. PB&F has completed their work on the budget. It had to be delivered to the printers yesterday at noon in order for us to have it by 2:15 today. Directing, requesting, urging PB&F to fund something doesn’t ensure that the money will be allocated. The revenue side of the budget will be set by resolution and a realistic projection of actual revenues will be made based on conversations with each diocese and their commitment for the coming triennium. The conversations that we all have: at home, at work, in our parishes, and in our own dioceses will happen on the floor of convention today. Given our limited resources… what will we fund, and what will we cut? Please pray for the convention today.
Third cup of coffee in hand… awake but feeling the need to find some food to moderate the effect of all this caffeine…
I want to close this morning with some thoughts about our common life together. Yesterday was an emotional day for me. We were sitting in the House of Deputies following the twitter feed on the Episcopal Digital Network Media Hub as the House of Bishops began their role call vote on A049. I have been very invested in the debate around this resolution. When we saw that the House had passed it I was literally shaking. A sense of relief, exhilaration, of exhaustion were all competing with a real need to respect the decorum of the floor and to respect the people around me who might be grieving even as I longed to celebrate. We are not of one mind in this church. That is a good and Holy thing! Our ability to rise above our differences and to stay together at the table as we work to find our way forward is a unique and wonderful part of what it means to be an Episcopalian and an Anglican. We will need to be sensitive to our differences for a while as we unpack and process the events of General Convention. We need to be sensitive because we value our diversity of opinion as much as we value the other diverse aspect of our church.
When I got back to my room at midnight last night I wrote a post for this blog that was less than sensitive to my brothers and sisters who may be grieving. I celebrated in the way that anyone who has been as engaged in the debate as deeply as I have would celebrate when the outcome is in line with their hopes and goals. I left that post up for about fifteen minutes and then realized that I needed to remove it. I thank my brother, The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Grieser and his blog post asking us all to be careful of the many and varied sensibilities that come together under the big tent that is the Episcopal Church. I am delighted at the outcome of yesterday’s legislative sessions but I know that there are many in our church who are not. In the days to come we will all have to work through the implications of these resolutions, at the diocesan, parish, and personal level. Please my brothers and sisters in Christ, stay at the table. We need to hear everyone’s voices. We need to hear everyone’s stories. When people leave we are diminished as a whole.
I am committing myself to a prayerful, civil, and open conversation, one that will honor and value all perspective and concerns as we, guided by the Holy Spirit, “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).