General Convention Day 5

July 8, 2012

This was the day that I have been waiting for.  And I was not let down!  This morning’s Festival Eucharist was glorious!  I was too far away to count the number of people in the choir, the brass players, and all of the musicians who supported our worship this morning but I am still giving thanks for the gifts that they gave to us today.

The worship space was packed.  Members of our deputation got there over half an hour early and they had to work hard to hold seats for all of us.  The room was full fifteen minutes before worship started and others “late arrivers” were directed to another room where they got to experience the liturgy via the Episcopal version of the “Jumbo Tron.”  Now before you feel too sorry for the people who were in that second room I want to tell you that both the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies went to that space to distribute communion.  John Washbush, a member of our deputation from St James Milwaukee, told me that the highlight of the day for him was watching the Presiding Bishop administer a young boy’s first communion with his family standing around them.  John was quite touched by the sight of the Presiding Bishop, on her knees offering communion to this young member of the Body of Christ and he speculated that, in her position in the church, she probably doesn’t get to participate in that kind of moment very often.  He was still glowing at the recollection late this evening.

The Presiding Bishop was the Preacher and Celebrant at the Eucharist this morning.  Her sermon was wonderful.  She was playful, funny, authentic and spot on.  I hope that you will follow this link and watch, listen to, or read the sermon for yourself.  My favorite moment came when she delivered the following lines:

“What about your hands?  They, too, are instruments of healing, reconciling, re-creation – let’s see those hands!  Here is a sacrament of God’s mission.  How will you use those hands in an impudent and rebellious house?  These hands can be instruments of warning, or to comfort and strengthen the wavering.  Hands can be instruments of prophetic communication, a gift only some among us have learned.”

What you don’t know from reading the transcript is that she paused at this point and looked across the platform at the sign language interpreters.  The interpreter was so engrossed in her work that she didn’t know that the Presiding Bishop was looking at her.  When the interpreter finally looked over and realized what Bishop Katherine had side she smiled and signed “I love you” to the Presiding Bishop.  It was a wonderful moment!

After the Eucharist the Diocese of Indianapolis had a treat for us.  Victory Field, home of the AAA Indianapolis Indians baseball team sits across the street from the convention center.  The Diocese of Indiana had converted the stadium to a “Diocesan Fair” complete with all kinds of food, entertainment and games.  ON Saturday the Secretary of Convention, Gregory Straub, had extended an invitation in behalf of the Diocese of Indiana.  The deputations on the floor let out an audible groan when we were told that we would have the opportunity to play the worlds largest game of musical chairs.  But we all sat up straight in our seats when he told us that the grand prize would be a brand new Kindle Fire!  As the Eucharist concluded people were pouring across the street to join in the festivities.

As I was leaving the building I ran into some old friends of the Diocese of Milwaukee.  The Reverends John and Rachel Gardner were in the hallway with their three children.  The three of us, John Rachel and I, were classmates at Virginia Theological Seminary.  After we graduated John was the chaplain at St John’s Military Academy and Rachel was the Associate at Trinity, Wauwatosa.  We spent a long time catching up and sharing stories.   Catching up with old friends has been a big part of the General Convention Experience but it really took center stage today.

In many ways the General Convention is like a big family reunion.  I have been keeping a list of people that I know that I have seen here.  Between people I know from seminary, people I know from the dioceses of Maryland and Washington, and people I know Credo and my trip to Atlanta last year, I now have the names of 32 people scribbled in the margins of my notebook.  I know that there have been more people than that (believe it or not I do not always have my notebook in my hands) and it has been wonderful.  So today, rather than join the throngs streaming into Victory Field I went out to lunch with Caroline Black, Canon for Formation in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia.  Caroline and I had adjacent offices at All Saints Episcopal Church in Frederick, Maryland when I was the Assistant Rector and she was the Director of Christian Formation.  We caught up on family news, recollected our time together in Maryland, and talked about the church, Christian Formation, and our experience of General Convention.   It was wonderful to connect with an old friend and to hear about another part of the church.

By the end of the day, as our deputation gathered in the lobby of the Hotel the highlight of the day for many people was the time that we had today to be with old friends, to gather for fellowship and support, and to enjoy the relationships we have with one another in the larger church, the Body of Christ.

To top it all off the deputation and anyone else from the Diocese of Milwaukee that we could find, gathered for dinner at a restaurant a couple of blocks from the hotel.  We had made reservations for thirty two people and as we were preparing to sit down to dinner they were bringing in more chairs!  Kate McKey, representing the Official Youth Presence and the Christian Formation staff, Dorota Pruski, a seminarian from Diocese who is now at Virginia Seminary, Diocesan Staff, members of the Diocese who were there in official and unofficial roles…  It was a great way to end a day of Sabbath and rest…  Rest?  Did I say rest?

Of course there was also a four-hour legislative session and a meeting of the Province V Caucus to nominate four people to stand for election to the committee that will identify candidates to run for Presiding Bishop in 2015.  There is never a dull moment here at General Convention.

The legislative session was relatively uneventful.  In fact we were given a one hour recess during that session because we were waiting for committees to get their resolutions through dispatch of business and onto the floor.  I will write more about today’s legislative happenings tomorrow.

Tomorrow Committee meetings and hearings begin at 7:30 am.  We have legislative sessions from 11:15 to 1:00 and from 2:15 to 6:30.  The rest of the day will be filled with committee meetings and hearings.  The budget needs to be completed ad to the printer tomorrow afternoon so that will be coming to the floor soon.  The Committee on Prayerbook, Liturgy and Music is meeting tomorrow to work on A049 – Authorizing the Blessing of Same Gender Relationships.  The Committee on Structure will be meeting again tomorrow.  I plan on closing the day by having dinner with a friend who went through the discernment process and was ordained to the Diaconate with me in Maryland.  Then I will attend the Eucharist sponsored by Integrity (The Preacher will be Bishop Gene Robinson and the Celebrant will be Bishop Mary Glasspool who was the Canon to the Ordinary when I was in Maryland) then spend some time with two of my closest friends from seminary.  It will be a full day and I am sure that there will be lots of interesting things to report!

Peace, Andy+

General Convention Day 4

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.

Here is the Episcopal News Service Article

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!

Here is an ENS article related to the budget 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.

ENS Story

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?

Peace,  Andy+

Day 3 of General Convention

July 6, 2012

Day 3 of the 77th General Convention is winding down.  I have lost track of what day of the week it is and am amazed that t is only Friday.  We will be here for another week!  It is a little hard to imagine how we will keep up this pace but I am expecting that as we get into some of the more controversial issues there will be plenty of adrenaline to go along with the caffeine that we are already consuming.  I experienced a little of that adrenaline rush today.

At our afternoon legislative session we addressed an issue that has come before the convention on numerous occasions.  Should the church sell the property that it owns at 815 Second Avenue in Manhattan?  Why would we want to sell prime real estate in New Your City?  The article from Episcopal New Service that describes today’s deliberations on this resolution offers some insight:

The resolution’s explanation noted that the building will cost more than $11 million to operate over the next three years. Debt service amounts to $8.7 million, with facilities management nearly $6.5 million. Rental income offsets those expenses by just over $4 million, for a net cost of $11,093,156.”

That is a lot of money for a building that is underutilized by the church.  We have been renting space to other organizations but the cost of owning and maintaining this piece of property is hard to justify today.  Another clip from the ENS article:

“The Rev. Frank Hubbard, deputy from New Jersey, urged deputies to agree. He said, ‘815 Second Avenue is the relic of our delusions of being an established church from an imperial era. Constantine has left the building. Unfortunately, Constantine has left us the building.’”

This line got a good laugh but I think that it demonstrates the mood and mind of this convention.  Here is a quote from Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas:

“The governing system is broken and we can fix that. We can change that. People are not happy with us spending this much money to talk to each other about people who are not here. … People are not happy that we have a building in New York that takes millions of dollars out of our missionary operations. They are not happy, and we have known that for years. How many studies have we done? Do we need to study it again? … Let’s force change. Don’t study it. Let’s sell [815]. We in this committee have the power to make change happen.”

I wrote last night about the hearing on the structure of the church.  There were 51 resolutions on the table, each of them attempting to address the need for change.  Today the Committee on Structure began the work of synthesizing all of those resolutions into something that we can address on the floor of convention.  The ENS article that reporting on the structure debate has some great lines:

“Diocese of Central Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe led off the testimony insisting that ‘the church structure as it is now is on the verge of imploding.’ 

‘We don’t need out-of-the-box thinking,” he said. “We need to proclaim that there is no box.’”

“Atlanta Bishop Neil Alexander warned that ‘we can’t have any idols, we can’t have any sacred cows’ while deciding how to develop ‘a new structure and a new approach to doing mission in the 21st century.’”

“Lynn Schmissrauter, chair of the East Tennessee deputation, said her diocese is ‘longing for a different, joyful, life-giving, energizing, nimble, courageous, aerodynamic structure for our church.’ But, she said, if something is tried and it fails, ‘we’re not going to get all wadded up about it.’”

So what did we do this afternoon in the midst of this call for change?  We voted to direct the Executive Council to sell the Church Center at 815 Second Avenue!  There is talk of moving the church staff to a more appropriate size facility, with easy travel access, and lower upkeep and maintenance costs.  I wonder if we could get cities to compete for the right to host the Episcopal Church the way they compete to host the Olympics?  Stay tuned because the resolution passed by the House of Deputies now goes before the House of Bishops.  The book isn’t closed on this one but the movement is becoming clear.  We are about to engage in some intentional change!  Thanks be to God!

 

Yesterday I wrote about The Acts 8 Moment gathering that I attended.  There is another piece of that experience that I would like to share.  At the conclusion of the Bible Study, after we had had the opportunity to come to the microphone and complete the sentence, “I dream of a church….” we began to talk about next steps.  What did we want to do to keep this conversation moving?  There were some in the room who thought that we should nominate someone who shared our passion and dream to run for President of the House of Deputies.  Others thought that we should write and propose resolutions for the convention that would help the church to become the church that we all dreamed of.  As we broke up into affinity groups to continue our next steps conversations I joined a group of people brainstorming about “extra legislative” ways to keep the movement alive.

I think that what we were all experiencing last night was a longing for a spiritual re awakening in the church.  We were talking about a church that was willing to open its doors, take risks, love the people who were on the “outside,” and to proclaim the Gospel boldly.  That doesn’t feel like something that we can legislate.  In fact, I believe that attempts to legislate the kind of movement that we were dreaming of would be antithetical to our purpose.  I think that there is another way.

I think that we need to have a conversation using every channel, method, media, and opportunity available to us; a conversation that will help people to describe the church that they long to know.  I think that we need to have that conversation and then let it inform the legislative process, the leadership that we elect, the decisions we make about structure, and our future together as the Body of Christ.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think that we should walk away from the legislative process.  It is through our participation that our voices will be heard.  We need to elect leadership that is open to the kind of change that we long for and we need to push for structural changes that will free us up to do the reconciling work we are called to do.  But if The Acts 8 Moment becomes politicized, if it becomes, in the words of one of the Diocese of Milwaukee’s seminarians, “an occupy General Convention” movement then we are lost before we begin.  We have to do the transformative relational work first.

That is why in last nights report on day two of convention I urged people to read about The Acts 8 Moment and to begin to formulate their own response.

“I dream of a church….”

Earlier today I posted a link to a YouTube video of people responding in the moment.  I hope that you will look at that video and continue to dream.  This is a conversation that we need to have in our churches, in our convocations, in our dioceses, and yes, here at our General Convention because “The Episcopal Church is in an Acts 8 Moment. Everything is changing, and the only thing to do is to go where the Holy Spirit leads!”

Tomorrow we have a 4 hour legislative session on the floor of the House of Deputies.  We won’t know until the morning which resolutions have cleared committee and dispatch of business.  But four hours is a long time to be on the floor of convention no matter what you are talking about!

Tomorrow night there is a legislative hearing on “Resolution A049 – Authorize Blessing of Same Gender Relationships.”  I will be at that hearing and will report out to you tomorrow night.

Peace, Andy+

General Convention Day 2

July 5, 2012

It has been a very long and full day here at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church!   We started with a legislative sessions at 8:00 am and I have just now gotten back from my last meeting at 11:30 pm.  Let me give you some of the quick highlights and I will write more in the morning when I can see straight.

The Legislative session this morning was about “organizing” the convention.   The President of the House of Deputies appointed a Chaplain and a parliamentarian (strangely complimentary positions) for the House.  A quorum was certified.  We elected a Secretary of the House of Deputies…  Lots of prep work so that we could report to the House of Bishops that we were organized and ready to proceed to business.   We are a bicameral legislature so while we were organizing the House of Bishops was busy organizing itself and sent representatives to report to us that they were likewise ready to proceed to business.  It was most fitting that at this point our “business” meant adjourning for the opening Eucharist.

The Presiding Bishop’s sermon was a good one, calling us to action as a church and asking us to leave our self interest behind to “work together for the commonweal of God’s created world.”  Here is a passage that I thought was one of the highlights of her sermon:

“Our ongoing challenge is to look beyond our own interests to God’s intent for this world.  That will continue to be our challenge until the end of all things, for there is nothing so characteristic of sin as the centrality of our own self-interest.  We will have repeated opportunities here to remember and to turn around.  We will have opportunities to reach beyond ourselves to neighbors here and far away.  The good gifts that we crave for ourselves and our own families are the same ones that God intends for all his children. “

The full text of the sermon is available here.

An afternoon of Committee meetings was followed by another legislative session, this one from 4:30 to 6:30.  We passed resolutions giving consent to the election of 8 bishops elect, my good friend from Seminary Jeff Wright Fisher, suffragan, Diocese of Texas being one of them!  We tweaked several rules of order, passed resolutions expressing gratitude to our Presiding Bishop and to the past Presidents of the House of Deputies, and we passed two resolutions that could have a real effect on the budget.

We passed resolution A007:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church re-affirm resolution 2009-D027 (Five Marks of Mission:

  1) To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

  2) To teach, baptize and nurture new believers

  3) To respond to human need by loving service

  4) To seek to transform unjust structures of society

  5) To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth)

as the framework for the 2013–2015 budget.

If you have been following the budget debate you know that the Five Marks of Mission form the organizing principles behind the budget that the Presiding Bishop proposed a couple of weeks ago.  I think that this is a solid step.  It feels like we may be moving towards some form of consensus.  That is really good news!

The effect of the other two resolutions on the budget is other resolution that we passed is a little more murky.  I’ll talk about one of them to illustrate why their impact isn’t so sure.

We passed resolution C100

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 77th General Convention directs  PB&F to restore $300,000 to the Youth Ministries Budget for the Episcopal Youth Event.

The funding for the triennial national gathering of Episcopal Youth (EYE) was stripped from the budget proposed by Program, Budget, and Finance.  The de-funding of Christian Formation programming at the national level was one of the reasons people were so opposed to the original budget.  We heard from many members of the official Youth Presence at convention this afternoon and there was no way that we could ignore their impassioned please to restore the funding for this ministry.  But of course nothing is simple in the real world.

The House of Deputies directed Program, Budget, and Finance to restore the funding for EYE, and the President of the House of Deputies told us that she has directed PB&F and Dispatch of Business to give priority resolutions that might impact the budget, but if PB&F cannot find the funding for this ministry they may propose a budget that does not include underwriting this important program.  How was that for a run on sentence?  I think that it was absolutely perfect in its description of the position that we are in.  We can pass all of the resolutions that we want.  In the end we will need to make some hard decisions about the budget and what we can fund and what we cannot.  It will be interesting to see how PB&F balances the House’s desire to fund this program with the other needs and desires of the church.

Which leads me to the real nuggets of the day.

After dinner this even there was a two hour hearing led by the Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church.  We now have pages upon pages of resolutions offering a way forward as we seek to restructure the church for mission in the 21st century.  These resolutions have been proposed by commissions, committees, dioceses, and deputations and I was amazed and very pleased at the tenor of the conversation as people came forward to speak to the resolutions.   We seemed to be of one mind!  We all acknowledged that, “our 18th century structures no longer serve us.”  And that we need “creative, significant, adaptive change.”  That “we need a new structure that will allow us to make, equip and send disciples into the world.”  So if we are of one mind why do we need so many resolutions?  Well there is the rub.  There are a lot of ideas about how we go about changing and how fast we should move.

Should we call a Special Convention that will be scheduled between now and the next triennial gathering in 2015?   Do we call a Constitutional Convention to address our constitution and canons?  Do we assemble a special commission to look at ways to restructure the church we love?   Now you begin to understand the monumental task that faces the Committee on Resolutions and Dispatch of Business.  They are going to take all of the resolutions that deal with the structure of the church and try to distill them down to a few representative resolutions that we will be able to deal with on the floor of convention.   That will be quite a job!

It is now going on 12:30 and I need to sign off but I don’t want to leave you under the weight of this massive undertaking.  I would rather leave you with word of my final meeting this evening.  The Acts 8 Moment started out as the brainchild of three of the bloggers I have linked to on the Saint Andrew’s General Convention Resources web page.   Here is their premise:

The Episcopal Church is in an Acts 8 Moment. Everything is changing, and the only thing to do is to go where the Holy Spirit leads!

We gathered tonight to pray, study the scripture, and to dream.

“That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, 7for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:1, 4-8).

By the end of the evening we had begun something very powerful.  One by one people came to the microphone at the front of the room and in one sentence completed the statement, “I dream of a church…..”

I will write more about this tomorrow but I hope that you will take a look at a couple of articles about The Acts 8 Moment that is happening at this General Convention.  And I hope that you will begin to formulate some answers to the open ended statement above.  You can even go The Acts 8 Moment facebook page and add your dream to the growing list.

Like Phillip we need to face this crisis with an act of Proclamation.   When we do, when we begin to dream and to share, when we follow where the Holy Spirit leads us there will be great joy!

Peace, Andy+

“The Center Aisle” reports on The Acts 8 Moment

The Rev. Susan Brown Snook writes about The Acts 8 Moment

The Rev. Scott Gunn writes about The Acts 8 Moment

A YouTube Announcement about The Acts 8 Moment

General Convention Day 1

July 4, 2012

I got a text message from my wife Suzanne today.  It included a picture of the thermometer on our screen porch in Madison.  That thermometer read 102 degrees!  My response was to send a photo of the signboard in the lobby of the hotel that listed the temperature here in Indianapolis as 100 degrees!  It is hot all over as the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church gets under way.

One of the big issues at this convention will focus on the budget for the next triennium and what that budget says about who we are and who we believe God is calling us to be.  There has been some high level infighting over the budget process and what has felt like an attempt to legislate through funding/defunding ministries, programs, and positions in the church.   The conversation has not been pretty but there is some redeeming grace in the history that has brought us to this point.  The process around creating a budget for the next three years has become a conversation about the need to restructure, to become more “nimble,” and to position ourselves for ministry in a changing and evolving context.  Who is God calling us to be?  God is calling us to be the Church, the Body of Christ, working “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”  God is calling us to “pray, worship, proclaim the Gospel, and promote justice, peace, and love” (BCP page 855).   The call has not changed but there are some realities that we need to recognize and acknowledge.   The debate, the fight that we have been having about the budget has pushed those realities into the light in a way that makes it impossible for us to ignore them.

We: parishes, dioceses, the larger church, are all grappling with the need and desire to live into our vocation, to be the Church with diminishing financial resources in an increasingly secular world.  The numbers in the Report of the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church are not encouraging.  We need to look seriously at the way that we are structured, the way that we do evangelism, and the way that we talk to the people who are not coming to church on Sunday morning.  How can we fulfill our mission, how do we live into our vocation, if people don’t hear what we have to say, or even worse, hear what we have to say and find us irrelevant or even offensive?  The struggle over our budget is forcing us to begin a conversation that is long overdue.

The Episcopal News Service article about a new direction for the budget process is here.  Reading the article you will hear echoes of the conflict.  You will also hear echoes of that conflict, and you will probably wonder about the history behind it, in the opening remarks by the President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson.  I hope that you will spend some time with the opening remarks of our Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori.  As this convention heats up, I hope that we hear her words over and over again:

“I would invite everyone here to take a deep breath. Breathe in Holy Spirit, the source of life. Remember that we depend on that divine gift for all that we are and all that we have. Breathe deep, for the spirit is blowing a fresh wind, and bringing new creation out of the chaos of the deep. Contemplating that chaos frightens some, for we never know what is coming, but there is no creation without it – like the death that must precede resurrected life. We struggle with it because we can’t yet see what is aloft on that breeze. Yet we are the stuff of God’s creation, we are borne on that wind as partners in God’s re-creation, reconciling, and healing of this world. Breathe deep, and be not afraid, for God is at work in our midst.”

Tomorrow we begin with a legislative session at 8:00 am followed by our opening Eucharist at 9:30.  I’ll have more to report tomorrow afternoon and evening.

Peace, Andy+