A day and a half have passed--I have a lot of catching up to do.
The first full day of GC was yesterday. There are all these little parlimentary niceties involved in the opening day. Once all the motions necessary for the House of Deputies to be fully operational are finished, a priest and layperson are sent to the House of Bishops to inform them that we are 'ready to begin business' and the bishops send two folks to tell us they are too. Since this is the first GC for Bonny Anderson, the new president of the HD, we weren't as ready as we thought! Lots of thing went wrong but major parlimentary snafus were avoided. An awkward moment was when Bonny elaborately introduced the President of the Episcopal Church Women who are holding their meeting upstairs in the Convention center and she wasn't there!
We approved the election of 2 new bishops (Long Island and South Dakota). the bishop from the dakota is John Tarrent who was in Middlebury when the Greater Waterbury Episcopal Ministry was going on. I've talked with him a couple of times and in spite of his willingness to be a bishop, he seems as sane and humorous as he was back in CT.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is here as a guest of the Presiding Bishop. There was a reception last night (which I missed for an Angels game!) and he was the homilist at the Eucharist today. His sermon was elegant and seemless, as all his writings are. He admitted he was a tad anxious about whether this convention would pass legislation regarding gay issues that would be troubling to parts of the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, he was thankful for the invitation and gracious in his humorous Welsh way.
Integrity (GLBT Episcopalians and their friends) printed up hundreds of tee shirts that said, "Here am I, Send me. I am witness to God's inclusive love." for that Eucharist. The several thousand folks had those tee shirts sprinkled all through. We all posed infont of the Conv. Center for video and photos singing "Jesus Loves me" and "WE ARE MARCHING IN THE LIGHT OF GOD". St. John's own Barbara Curry is in charge of media for iNTEGRITY--they've already done one short video about the opening of Convention that you could watch on Integrity's website. Barbara is as busy as the deputies, plus she has to lug equipment around....Sort of like Ginger Rogers doing all the steps Fred Astair did, only backwards and in high heels....
The narrative program I mentioned had its second meeting. We sit at tables--ours has bp ahrens, tom fuhr, jerry caroon, rachel downs and john sutton plus one of the ECW folks from CT--ECW and the Gen Con worship and do some things together. It was a good session once the leader, who loves to talk, let us talk to each other. I learned things about those people, all of whom I know (some of them for years and years) that I'd never known. We talked about 'our story' that led to the passion we have in ministry.
It was truly revelatory to me because I'd never thought of some of my personal psychology as leading to what I truly believe in about the ministry I have lived out. In short, it goes like this--I have always felt like an outsider. My parents were in their 40's when I was born and therefore the age of most of my friend's grandparents. Plus I was very sheltered as a child (one because I was an 'only' of older parents and secondly because, hard as it is to believe, I was sickly and not able to play well until I was 10 or 11.) I was always one of the 'smart kids' and that, in childhood, is it's own burden to carry. In high school I wrote a column for the school newspaper called "The Outsider". At Harvard I felt like a hick and in the larger Episcopal Church I've always seen myself on the margins--theologically, politically and even socially. Even as an aging white man, I feel intimidated by wealth and social status of many of the leaders of the EC. I don't think I've ever recognized before how that led me to be committed to the church's marginalised--racially, socially, economically, on issues of gender and spirituality. I am committed to a church 'with nobody left out'. I need to ponder all that some more, but it was an insight I've not been fully conscious of.
Much of these first two days is given over to committee meetings. A failure of past GCs has been we never got finished--even in 11 days--because the committees never had time to finish their work. So we are front loading the committee work in hopes of being about to legislate more completely later on. Perhaps it will work, or perhaps the GC simply tries to do 'too much'.
The committees--there are over 20--have open hearings and any deputy can go to testify about various resolutions. I spoke at the social concerns committee yesterday about a resolution from the bishops in states where same sex marriage is legal. That reality has posed difficulty and a large quandary for bishops. The canons and prayer book define marriage as between a man and a woman, yet more and more states are saying civil marriage between two men or two women is equally legal. The priests are put in the untenable position of having to have two policies regarding marriage. In CT we can do the blessing of a marriage from the BCP for same sex couples but cannot sign the marriage license. So, to have the marriage in the church, a JP or other civil authority must be there to take the vows and pronounce the couple married. "Separate is NOT Equal" and the full sacrament of the church is being denied to some of the baptized.
This is one of those issues the Archbishop is anxious about!
The resolution, which all three of our bishops signed, asks for the GC to grant a great pastoral laditude to bishops in those states where same-sex marriage is legal. No one at the hearing spoke against it--but it has the potential for a floor fight in both the Houses.
The Budget is also a potentially divisive issue. The E C, like everyone, is struggling with less resources to do what mission we would like to do. So various groups in the church--minority ministries, education, seminaries, poverty ministries, etc--are being pitted against each other for their part of the pie. Program and Budget, the committee where the budget is written, meets in a very large room as people come to plead that their 'part' of the budget not be cut.
I've kindof caught up now except for some non-church stuff.
1) the Texas Rangers beat the Angels 8-1 in the game I went to last night. It was a sloppy and not very interesting game and the 'home team' never had a chance so of the 37,000 who were there at the beginning, less than 10,ooo saw the last pitch. The reason we stayed was the chance to see history made. Andrue (that's the way he spells it) Jones, a Texas outfielder hit home runs in his first three at bats. Only 14 people in history have ever hit 4 homeruns in one game and no one has for years. So we stayed and those left--even the Angel fans--were cheering him on. Jones popped up leading off the 7th, but the Rangers got men on base so it was clear he's get one more chance in the 9th. Drum roll--he struck out on 3 pitches....But we met fascinating characters at the bus stop and on the bus back to the hotel! My contention is buses are one of the best place to meet characters--but the quality of the characters in southern Cal is more dramatic and, how shall I say it? wierd than in CT. (one example--a guy got on with huge, mickey mouse gloved hands and a blue hat about a foot and a half tall and a shirt that said, "Rent a man". He proceeded to announce that he could be rented on line and kept repeating the web site address for several stops....)
2. Never ending sunshine isn't all it's cracked up to be. my nose is sunburned and lots of people have farmer's tans already.
3. One of the resturants in the hotel has biscuits and sausage gravy on the breakfast menu. My faithfulness in going to the fitness center is in grave danger of being cancelled out each morning....
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