Thursday, July 16, 2009

The day after tomorrow...

That's when I'll come home. We've been here so long that when people part for the night--like after dinner--we say to each other, "are you going home?"--meaning the hotel!

Day after tomorrow I can answer that--YES!!

I'll check my email tomorrow at the Con Center but won't blog since I have to have a 4 am wakeup call tomorrow night to catch a cab to the airport. I've been packing a bit so it won't all be left to do tomorrow.

Today the HofD got really moving. We covered three days of legislation in two sessions and didn't have to meet tonight. But I did go out to dinner with 4 others from CT and it was a 2 hour dinner....

Well, we got moving to a greater extent than we have been but there were times of absolute madness. Here's the best example: We elected members of the committee for the nomination of the Presiding Bishop. It is a committee no one wants to ever meet. Katherine j-s was elected in 2006 to a nine year term. So the real nomination committee will be elected in 2012 to report to the GC of 2015. But just in case she should die, be incapacitated or decide to join the circus (though what 'circus' could be more circus-like than the Episcopal Church?) the mechanism to replace her would be in place. That's hints of something that it is hard to imagine unless you've been a part of it: the Episcopal GC is so weighed down by inertia that it must be tightly administered or it would spin out into space by it's own centrifugal force. It is one of the reasons that the HofD is so hard to keep moving AND so hard to control. 800+ deputies (about a third of which are new every three years--three of CT's 8 deputies and 2 alternates had never been in that role before and a 4th was an alternate who was a 1st time deputy...and that's CT, the land of consistency...) left to their own devices would either bog down completely or run away to chaos. So the level of control and parliamentary strictness has to be intense. But even with that, things fly apart. Today for instance, we had a vote on a paper ballot (most voting has been electronic and just as we got it right, it's time to go! But a paper ballot to elect the hopefully never meeting committee for the nomination of a Presiding Bishop became a comedy not too far removed from the Keystone Kops (sorry for the ancient allusion for those who are under 50!). Vote for one lay person and one clergy from each of the 9 provinces of the EC and since it makes counting the votes easier, put all the page 1's of the ballot in one pile and all the page 2's in another for them to be collected from each deputation. Sounds like something a group of 800 people whose average IQ is probably well above the national average, right? But there was no picture or biography for Province 9, which is the
Spanish speaking Province of Central America. Lost in translation is not an idle phrase. Bear in mind that the Provincial Caucuses met last night but due to the magic of email and digital photos that can be sent by email, the pictures and biographies were ready for us this morning. (The print shop must work through the night on this stuff to produce 800 copies of that only a few hours after it was emailed!) Province 9 thought they were to elect their representatives rather than have the whole house vote on them so they did and didn't send in their information, so it wasn't printed, just the four names.

Someone rose to say they could not possibly vote for people they knew nothing about and had no picture of and who had Latino names. Another rose to ask if they failed to vote for candidates for Province 9. That was asked three times by three different folks before the Voting Secretary, a wondrous young priest names Winny (who, for those who were part of our adult forum using the LIVING THE QUESTIONS videos, was the Hispanic woman who was always sitting in a room with a fireplace and various Hindu gods/goddesses on the mantle) told them 'yes' their ballots would be invalidated if they didn't cast votes for each province. (A rule of the HofD is 'you have to vote!', there are no abstentions--which the HofB's can do). Then there were several deputies who rose to point out that if page one and page two (where province 9 was) were handed in separately, how would the elections committee know which page ones to invalidate. (Now, imagine, we are supposedly marking out simple paper ballots during all this conversation!) Finally a deputy moved that if people did not vote for Province 9 that only page two should be invalidated. There was some debate and then a vote. the motion carried. Winny said, "I cannot imagine a reason someone would not simply mark two names from Province 9." Vote for somebody, for God's sake, just because you should and the House's rules demand it. Vote for someone because you like their name. or vote 1-2 or 2-1 or 1-1 or 2-2, just mark the ballot and turn it in. This is, after all, a committee that we pray will 'never' meet!!!

Perhaps the average IQ of the HofD is a detriment. People are constantly overthinking things. It took over half-an-hour to have everyone finally mark and hand in their ballots that took 18 pen strokes....

On the same level of insanity--the Hof B DID DEFEAT the constitutional change which took the vote from retired bishops--the change the bishops have wanted for decades!!! Apparently, since the origins of this movement came when the Hof B was what someone called "the most exclusive men's club in America", to remove the retired bishops' vote would disenfranchise a disproportionate # of women and minorities. 30 years ago there were no women and only a scattering of minorities in the HofB. What did Bonhoeffer say about how the church 'moves'? We move so slowly the entire context changes....

The budget passed without amendment (not for lack of trying! there were at least a dozen proposals for changes, all of which failed). The budget was a $23million decrease from the last 3 year budget--about 13% (nearly the figure St. John's cut its budget for 2009 from 2008.) Much drama since everything cut meant a lot to some. The bishops approved it without change as well. I don't know, but $141 million seems enough to run the EC for three years....But pain is real and folks from St. John's Waterbury reading this need to know we will have to cut more from the 2010 budget unless we all suddenly decide to tithe (a minimum expectation for giving approved by several of the last GCs).

Two of the cuts that were not restored were for the Anti-Racism work of the church and the Mission Development Fund, which was poised to raise $250million. Those two I have great sympathy for. Since racism isn't eradicated from the church or our society (though we passed resolutions recommending it should be!) not funding that work seems odd. And, if we want to raise money--the EC is the only mainline church without a development office, per se--then why wouldn't we spend money to do so? You might notice that the $ the Development Fund was set to try to raise was nearly twice the 3 year budget for the whole church, it seems short sighted to cut the budget to eliminate the entire staff. I suspect it was a turf war of sorts, who would control all that money and decide where to spend it? So, rather than just raise it and figure that out later, we decided to NOT raise it! I am prejudiced since two of the staff of that project are dear friends of mine. But my prejudice not withstanding it seems a bit daft to not spend some money to make a lot of money. Call me crazy if you wish. I suspect the executive council--the EC's equivalent of the Vestry--could restore some money to that project. I hope they do.

The HofD also voted to discharge--that means simply, to remove from the agenda--a resolution approved by the Bishops and recommended by the Committee giving 'vote' to some of the Youth Presence at GC. CT has a young person, Rachels Downs 21/2 or something, in our deputation, who, by the way was the top vote getter among the lay deputies at Diocesan Convention. But there are only 20+ deputies under 25 out of 800+. The resolution would have provided vote as well as seat and voice to members of the official youth presence who sit on the floor, not far behind CT, and can speak but have no vote. By discharging the resolution we set the whole process back 3 years. It was a constitutional change which requires 2
GC's passing it in the same form. So, had we approved it, it would not have been constitutional until 2012 and no in force until 2015. Now 2018 is the earliest we can give voice to more young people. It was a sticky constitutional and parliamentary issue but by discharging it I will be 71 before it could possibly be true and all the young people in the Youth Presence will be in their mid-20s and we will have missed a whole generation of youth by not allowing them access to the decision making power of the church. God help us....

So today we pissed off the people of color and the young people. Tomorrow we'll royally piss off the Conservatives with a resolution passed overwhelmingly by the bishops that will start the process toward liturgies for same-sex unions and give wide interpretive laditude to bishops in states where same-sex marriage is legal to exert extraordinary pastoral concern. Some bishops will interpret that as letting priests officiate at same sex marriages rather than merely blessing those civil marriages and some will see as less than that. Vote by orders is certain, but I predict, feeling optimistic that the votes will be there. I predict 69-50 in the lay order and 66-54 in the clerical order. We shall see.
I read an interview on line tonight with Gene Robinson, who is the center of this firestorm over sexuality. When he was asked if he recognized the pain of the folks who are on the losing side of these issues he reflected that he had been on the losing side for decades and never left the church. Now it is the other side on the so called losing side. Gene thought it would be instructive to them.

I've been a priest since 1975. I began, in a remarkable but actually small way, with Gene Robinson's consent by the GC to be on the winning side in 2003. I was a priest for 28 years on the 'losing' side (though I never saw it that way--I saw it as being called to wait on the spirit to move. So I've been on the so called 'losing side' for 28 years vs. being on the so called 'winning side" for 6 years. And I never, in almost 3 decades considered for a moment 'leaving the EC". It is ironic for me that the 'other side' (a distinction I reject since the church moves with the Spirit and the Spirit claims all) is so quick to consider leaving. I actually feel, for the first time, that we as the EC are 'telling the truth' about 'what is'. I like that, feeling like a truth-teller and letting that stance be real and letting others react to it as they may.

The Church of England today said awful things about us. So be it. I'd rather have awful things said about me when I'm telling the truth than when I'm not. We haven't told the truth about the reality of the EC's struggle with human sexuality until now. Let the rest of the AC judge us as they may. God bless them. At least, in my mind, criticism of Who we really are is preferred to criticism of who we pretended to be.

I'll write to you from home. I am so glad to be leaving this place of eternal sunshine and endless blue skys. Bp. curry told me today that his daughter called from CT to say there was an astonishing thunder storm last night. I long for cloudy skies and thunder storms and weather that changes if you simply 'wait a while'. I will not regret flying away from southern cal. back to the unpredictable north east. I hope it rains on sunday--which, by the way for St. John's folks, I'll be preaching and celebrating at 8 a.m. For me it will be--in my body clock--5 a.m.! Does the request, 'don't expect too much" make sense???

See some of you Sunday....I'll see Bern and our creatures Saturday night. Alleluia and Amen!

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.