They are posted below as they are received, with the most recent at the top.
Photos of the activities are available in a constantly updated photo gallery: http://www.episcopalpgh.org/
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Reflections on the 76th General Convention
On the day after General Convention, I hopped on a train to Oakland, California. The twelve hours or so on the rails, wending through mountain passes and along the dramatic seacoast, gave me ample time to reflect on General Convention. I am now in residence at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, where I am one of the presenters in a mini-course called "Anglican Insights." My paper is entitled "The Elizabethan Unsettlement." The Elizabethan Settlement, of course, was the great Anglican Compromise wrought by the first Queen Elizabeth, which in many ways gave birth to Anglicanism as we know it — a blend of the best of Catholicism and Protestantism, a reverence for comprehensiveness, and, of course, the three-legged stool of Scripture, tradition and reason which has for half a millennium informed our theology. Now, I will argue, owing to unforeseen pressures on church and society, the "big tent" of Anglicanism is no longer able to provide shelter, as it has for so long, for "all sorts and conditions" of adherents.
General Convention, a mixture of county fair, family reunion, worship and legislation, is, as Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, reminded us in her opening address, the "largest bicameral legislature in the world." That legislature approved a concordat with the Moravians, the addition of about 100 "holy women and holy men" to its calendar, and even authorized the development of liturgical resources for ministering to those who had suffered the loss of their companion animals (a.k.a. pets). GC is admittedly unwieldy and outrageously expensive. Indeed, one resolution calls for a shortening (by two days) of GC in subsequent years. But its process is also probably the most transparent. Most resolutions come before one of the legislative committees, which consider them before they are forwarded to one of the Houses (Deputies or Bishops) before being sent to the other House for concurrence. Both the hearings and the sessions of the House are, with rare exception, open to the public.
I served on the World Mission legislative committee, but we did not deliberate much about "sending heralds forth to bear the message glorious." Instead, we spent most of our time talking about human sexuality. Why? Because at the eleventh hour of the 75th General Convention, a resolution, known as B-033, was passed, which stated that TEC would refrain from electing to the episcopate any person whose "manner of life" was offensive to the other provinces of the Anglican Communion. This was a euphemism for gay, partnered bishops. As a result, a virtual avalanche of resolutions were submitted, some calling for the repeal of B-033. They all came across our desk.
One of them, D-025, amended the canons to make it clear that all baptized persons are granted access to the discernment process leading to ordination. Such things as gender, race, and sexual orientation would not be barriers. I voted for this resolution, the only clerical deputy from our Diocese to do so. Another resolution called on the Government to abolish the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I was the only clerical deputy to vote in favor.
Another resolution, C-056, called, among other things, for the development of liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships. I voted against that motion. Given the fact that I have long been an advocate for full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Church, this action doubtless came as a surprise to many in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, not least of all myself. It is even more surprising since in the section on human sexuality in my book, Christian Social Witness, I suggest that the church give serious thought to blessing same-sex unions, given that the sacrament of matrimony, as we understand it, has not been an option for gay couples who wish to make a lifelong commitment to each other.
I voted against the resolution because it is, in my opinion, seriously flawed. Its first resolve "acknowledges the changing circumstances in the U.S. and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons . . . call forth a renewed pastoral response from this church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships." I think the resolution skips a beat. What is needed in the first instance is a theological response. What does the church say about such relationships, and does it say the same thing about all such relationships, be they marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships? Are all recognized by the church and "eligible" for its blessing?
We can take a page from the church’s actions during the civil rights era. The General Conventions at that time did not pass resolutions just because various states had enacted laws. The Church made it very clear that racism and discrimination against racial minorities, since they did not affirm the dignity of every human being, was sin. Are we not entitled to a clear theological statement from GC making it clear where the church stands on issues relating to sexual relationships, on the basis of which liturgical resources can then be developed?
Of more serious concern is the Resolve that bishops may provide "generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church" especially in those jurisdictions where marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legally possible for homosexual persons. This means that the bishop of Connecticut, for example, can authorize a rite for the marriage of homosexual persons in his state, while the bishop of Indianapolis might not be able to do so in hers (or if she did, she would run afoul of the law). Is this any way to run an airline? Seriously, the disparity and confusion which are the potential results of this legislation might well exacerbate the situation and in some cases prove unhelpful for the very people it was intended to support. Moreover, I am troubled by a GC resolution which seems to suggest that the state should somehow dictate how the church should respond to this crisis.
The problem is that in a church with no identifiable systematic theology of its own, its Prayer Book embodies its theology. People seeking to understand Anglicanism are always encouraged to read the Prayer Book or better yet, go to church and see Anglicans at worship. Once rites find their way into a Prayer Book, even if it be a transitional or trial book, they may well become the practice of the church. This is suggested in the old maxim, Lex orandi, lex credendi, roughly "the practice (law) of prayer becomes what we believe."
Stephen Sykes, my dean at St. John’s College, Cambridge, who later became professor at Durham and bishop of Ely, was, I believe, the first person to describe Anglicanism as "messy." He meant by this that the beauty of Anglicanism was its ability to embrace a broad range of theological, Biblical and liturgical views; and that unlike Rome, it had no magisterium, or central teaching authority. I am as messy as the next Anglican, but I think this most recent promulgation of General Convention, mired in ambiguity, pushes the envelope perhaps a little too far, even for this dyed-in-the-wool, Sixties-liberal, progressive Episcopalian.
Harold T. Lewis+
Saturday, July 19, 2009 10:15 PM
Driving in from the airport this evening Pittsburgh looked wonderful to me. The sunset over the city was brilliant, sweet, elegiac. Or so it seemed. The Diocese of Pittsburgh has been a major focus of my efforts for many years, and it still is. I value TEC and fought to keep our Diocese in its fold. I value the Anglican Communion and would be very distressed if it should feel the need to alter its relationship to TEC. But the Diocese of Pittsburgh is where my heart lies, and I am very glad to be back.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is very impressive when he talks of the global economic crisis and our mission responsibilities.He is less impressive when he speaks of the role of TEC in the Anglican Communion. From where I sit he has been ambiguous and contradictory about TEC. He has not shown a consistent vision and trajectory for the Anglican Communion. Such a vision would include an unambiguous position concerning the price of membership in that body. Not only for TEC but for the other Provinces as well.
The leadership of TEC is impressive. Since I have had some serious misgivings about some of the actions of our denominational leadership I was pleasantly surprised with the overall tone and grace with which things were done. I was more impressed than I expected to be with their thoughtfulness, thoroughness and comprehensiveness. They are remarkably careful and caring in their work and response to the expressed needs of the church. Their solutions do not please all of us, but they try hard to make hard decisions and support them. They are not careless about the needs of those who disagree with them although their answers do not satisfy those in opposition. They are also slave drivers! We worked really hard night and day while we were there.
Our deputation worked well together, respecting our differing viewpoints, holding each other in affection as well as respect. We took pictures of the votes by orders where we all agreed. We wanted proof that it actually happened! We got to know each other better. Some deputations caucused every evening and got their marching orders! I somehow doubt that procedure would fly with our deputation. We often gathered in the evening for meals or just fellowship, but we didn’t tell each other how to vote. Perish the thought.
Meeting deputies from other parts of TEC was interesting and fun. I met the rector of my nephew’s church in Geneva, Switzerland! They are part of the Episcopal Churches in Europe, a Province of TEC. I met people from Hawaii and Alaska, from Missouri and Kansas, from California and Texas. This church may be small in number but they all seemed to be in
Anaheim. They all have their own interests and opinions and they are quite willing to share them with you!
The most important thing we did, in my view, was hardly remarked upon in the world outside Anaheim. We passed the budget for the next triennium. TEC faces a fiscal crisis that has cut the budget by 14% from the proposed budget that was delivered to us in April. Like everyone else in these economic times we have lost endowment income and pledge income. This situation is going to change the way this church operates. The next GC will be shorter, by how much remains to be seen. There will be less than 25 lbs of paper delivered to each deputy. 30 people employed by the Church Center will loose their jobs as of January 1, 2010. Some of our favorite programs will be cut back or cut out entirely. While we have been in the papers for issues involving gender the church is facing transformational changes due to the financial crisis. In the end this crisis is what will cause TEC to look different in the future than it does now, and we better pray for the church.
Saturday, July 19, 2009 9:00 AM
And then it was over
Today is the 12th day I have been at General Convention in Anaheim, California. A week ago it seemed I had been here forever. I could hardly wait to leave and return home. And then, all of a sudden, it was over. Today was the last day of General Convention. We had our closing Eucharist, with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Primate of The Episcopal Church, preaching and celebrating. We had two legislative sessions, one from 9 to 11:15 am and another starting at 2 pm. At approximately 4:30 pm, one hour and a half before the deadline, we adjourned. It was over. What had seemed so desirable just a few days earlier was now a let-down, almost sad. For the better part of two weeks we had been thrust together in a strange setting but with a common mission: to do the work of the Church. We worked together, prayed together, and shared fellowship with one another. And now it was over. Most of our Pittsburgh deputation gathered for a farewell dinner before heading home on Saturday morning. We had all gotten to know each other better and had formed closer bonds of affection. When we returned to the hotel after dinner, the lobby, crowded with fellow Episcopalians each night of the Convention, was now largely deserted. It was a bittersweet time: happy to be returning home to family and loved ones, yet sad at the sudden loss of community and common cause shared so intimately for so many days.
There will be an opportunity to digest and communicate what we have done during the 76th General Convention. I hope you have followed the stories as they have unfolded on Episcopal News service, accessible through our Diocesan website. If you are able, please join Bishop Johnson and some of the Convention deputies at St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon on Saturday, July 25 at 9 am to hear a report about General Convention. Here’s my short take on what happened here in Anaheim. We listened carefully and respectfully to one another. We focused on the mission of the Church. We took a few actions that might seem controversial and difficult to some, and life-giving and Spirit-filled to others. Most of us felt that at worst we could agree to disagree, coming together in mission, worship and the love of Jesus Christ. As Bishop Katharine said in her sermon at the closing Eucharist, as Episcopalians we can live with tension and stay together, emphasizing mission and the love of Jesus. She sent us out with this urgent request: to feed all of God’s sheep.
As I prepare to return to Pittsburgh, I do so with a greater appreciation for and love of the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and my fellow Episcopalians around the world. This is an exciting time for the Church. I pray that we can all come together in prayer, worship, fellowship, and mission, sharing the love of God, the Good News of Jesus Christ, and our abundance with a world that is hungry to be fed spiritually and physically. Thanks be to God!
Alternate Clergy Deputy
Thursday, July 16, 2009 9:20 AM
Evangelism is alive in the Episcopal Church
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists…, to prepare God’s people for works and service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …
People may not think of evangelism first when they think of the Episcopal Church, but I saw otherwise in Anaheim at this general convention. I had the opportunity to work with a group of 30 people, lay, clergy, and bishops, on the Evangelism committee. The committee was co-chaired by Bishop David Jones (formerly Pittsburgh’s Consulting Bishop) and the Rev. David Ota of California. It included lay people who were very excited about bringing the word of the Lord to more people, clergy who worked in inner cities and college campuses, and bishops from several countries, all with the passion to bring the word of Christ to people who had not heard it before.
The legislation that came through our committee was of several different types. Some of the legislation had to do with measuring the effectiveness of our evangelism, by making sure that all people who came to a parish (or mission) in a week were counted, instead of just those who came on Saturday night or Sunday. Other legislation gave guidance on creating new congregations and working with our partner denominations (such as the Lutherans) to create new missions. Another piece of legislation set up a group to develop evangelistic events at the next General Convention in Indianapolis.
The two main pieces of legislation, however, were the development of a tool kit to help congregations and dioceses do evangelism to youth and under-represented groups which are not currently being served by the church. It is envisioned that the tool kit will give resources that can be used to show people how to bring people into the church.
Another main piece of legislation we dealt with was a very detailed plan to help increase the number of Latino/Hispanic parishes and missions by 15% in the next three years. This generated a large amount of testimony during our hearings, and a very excited response by people who had worked in Hispanic communities as a way that we could increase the size of our church. It was even able to get put on the budget for the next three years, which in these economic times is no small feat.
I am very confident that evangelism does exist in our church and I am hopeful that through its use we will be able to build not only our diocese, but the greater Episcopal Church.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 4:30 PM
This has not been an easy Convention for me. The schedule is long and some of the votes have been out of accord with my understanding of the Christian Faith. But today was different.
a. My wife Diane flew into town yesterday
b. Today is my birthday
c. The deputation will have a dinner tonight with our Bishop
Finally, the theme of today’s worship service was one of great importance to all of us, namely “Creation and the Environment.” Our Episcopal church has taken this topic seriously over the years and is continuing to do so at this convention.
Bishop Steven Charleston, Assistant Bishop of CA spoke passionately at the communion service of our need to be serious about taking care of our fragile planet. Bishop Charleston is a strong advocate of the healing of our planet. He is a former President and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge MA and is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
One of Bishop Charleston’s current projects is the Genesis Covenant. He is working on getting the Church to sign on to this Covenant and make a stand for the future of planet earth.
This topic is not often thought to be a proper one for the Church. Indeed some Christian Churches feel that our only focus should be on one’s personal salvation. While I do not doubt that personal salvation is an important concern, we can not so sharply divide the theological loci of Redemption from that of Creation. After all, it is Creation (Romans 8: 18-23) and Humanity that are redeemed by our Lord Jesus. And it is the earth on which we now live!
Our Prayer Book has several prayers in it that center our thoughts on the wonder of Creation and the need for “the wisdom and will to conserve it” (Prayers of the People Form I, p. 384). One prayer is:
Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation,
that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others
and to your honor and glory (Prayers of the People, p.388)
- For Knowledge of God’s Creation
- For the Conservation of Natural Resources
- For the Harvest of Lands and Waters
- For Rain
- For the Future of the Human Race
And of course there is my favorite Eucharistic Prayer C (page 369 of BCP).
We can be thankful that these prayers are so readily available to us and remind us in our daily prayers that we must keep alert in our day to day walk and be those people who are helping to conserve and care for the planet that God has created for us in which to live. We have been assigned the task of being stewards of creation: Let us be about our Father’s business.
Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 10:00 AM
Lou Hays, Steve Stagnitta, and I went last night to the annual Convention Dinner for bishops, deputies, alternates, ECW Triennial delegates, and guests at a very pleasant outdoor Italian restaurant in the "Downtown Disney" commercial area not far from the Anaheim Convention Center.
There was lots of good social conversation. We sat with folks from Central Pennsylvania (I diocese where I served for a decade or so earlier in my ministry) and Southern Virginia. Our neighbors were interested in the "Pittsburgh story," and so we found ourselves talking about the events and personalities that have been so prominent for us the last couple of years. Though Steve, Lou, and I have essentially the same common foundation in telling that story, we also have some different life experiences and perspectives, which made the conversaton very interesting.
After dinner we walked back to the hotel and ended up meeting some friends and sitting up for another hour and more talking about the events of Convention thus far and about the impact of what is happening both in our dioceses and parishes and in the wider Anglican world.
So, lots of sitting, eating, and talking!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 4:45 PM
Reflections on the GC
There is nothing like ten thousand Episcopalians gathered together at their family reunion! What a wonder! Ten thousand Episcopalians of every people, tongue and nation gathered together in one place to work, eat, sleep, fellowship and worship. As we walk the streets, we see and can recognize each other… and not just by the red badges we wear… but by the Holy Spirit inside us.
Like Alice, I have slipped through the looking glass and find myself in a new world. A world where people greet each other with family terms like: I am a cradle from Minneapolis, or I am Joseph from Navajoland, or I am Elizabeth Von Trapp, or I am Bishop Singh from Rochester… The family is wearing buttons that say: ‘The Episcopal Church welcomed me!’ Or ‘I found Ubuntu!’ Or ‘ECW!’ Or ‘Covenant!’ Or ‘Faith Alive!’ Or ‘Integrity!.’ All who are here… every one is accepted for who they are
While there is a beautiful tapestry of diversity woven here, it does not come without tension. Yet, in the House of Deputies when tension becomes division, a deputy begins softly and 1000 members break into hymn song. Imagine 1000 voices spontaneously singing in the Holy Spirit with one heart and mind: ‘A Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ Her King!’
And worship! Imagine ten thousand Episcopalians at daily Eucharist together! Ten thousand voices raised in prayer and song! A digital reredos! A city block long, the daily, colorful processionals contain crosses, banners, and altar dancers with flags… These are followed by hundreds of Episcopalian bishops, each in their own traditional vestment from around the world …and last but not least … Rowan, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Katharine, our Presiding Bishop.
Daily celebrants say services in both Spanish and English… Traditional hymns are sung from every tongue and nation. There are multiple, varied 200 member choirs from every family and nation too. African drums beating… Indian bells tinkling… Hymns are sung in English, Latin, Swahili, Spanish…
The lessons and Gospels are read by priests and lectors in their own languages with translations provided. There are even translators for the deaf! At Communion, twenty deacons bring huge baskets of loaves of freshly baked bread accompanied by deacons bearing tables with a hundred flagons of wine to communion stations where one hundred and twenty daily volunteer chalicists distribute communion to the daily faithful gathered in Christ.
This Church is alive! Vital. Moving forward in Christ. This is a Church claiming full inclusion for all. And full inclusion to this cradle Episcopalian and life long member of Christ Episcopal Church, Greensburg and member of St. Stephen’s, Mckeesport. I found myself free … to worship … listen… evaluate…free to vote my conscience… Ubuntu … I find my humanity is caught and inextricably bound up with others, yet I am free to be who I am in Christ.
“Here is nobility without conceit. Friendship without envy. Beauty without vanity. A place of willing servants… yet no slaves.” So it seems at the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
Alternate Lay Deputy
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 4:30 PM
The activities of the House of Deputies (HD), are at once slow tedious, exacting and exciting. Resolutions are presented. Resolutions are debated. Amendments to the resolutions are presented. Amendments to the resolutions, once presented, are debated. Points and words are clarified. The President of the HD, Bonnie Anderson, with the advice of her Parliamentarian Advisor makes a decision as to how to proceed. Points of order are presented. the President of the HD accepts or rejects the point of order, as appropriate to the process.. Motions are debated. Finally, voting takes place.
Minutes, interminable minutes have gone by and the first vote is taken. For a first timer like me, it appears that the subject has been decided. Little did I know that we have not even touched the original resolutions. We still have to vote for the amendment and then discuss the resolutions with details before the original resolutions is even talked about, none-the-less vote.
Some votes require two thirds majority. Others only a simple majority. If you think that this is complicated, this is just a simple vote. It is confusing and tiring, but exciting. Thanks be to God that the President of the HD, the Secretary, the Parliamentarian, and many others on the floor know the rules and the intricacies of the procedures. Checks and balances, it is the democratic system of government.
Point of personal privilege, point of order, and a myriad of other points are brought up in the midst of the processes that at times seems incomprehensible for the simple minded like me. Before an important vote, the Chaplain of the HD is called to the podium for a simple and encouraging prayer for God’s wisdom or will that always blesses and calms all the participants.
The government process of the House of Deputies … I think … although far from efficient, is extremely effective. After all is said and done, each member of the house has had the opportunity to participate as fully as they wanted to. It is exciting … it is our democracy in action.
Vicente C Santiago+
Sunday, July 12, 2009 9:00 PM
Ontology or Ethics? D025 and Our Canons
The View of A Lay Deputy
OK I may have gotten your attention with the rather pedantic title. I could have written: Being or Doing, or to be more specific sexual orientation or sexual behavior.
This afternoon (Sunday) the House of Deputies passed resolution D025 which can be found here and is summed up as follows:
1. We are committed to the Anglican Communion
2. We all should participate widely in the “Instruments” of the Anglican Communion
3. We will continue to financially support the Anglican Communion
4. We acknowledge that we have life long committed same sex couples in TEC
5. Many such same sex couples exercise ministry in TEC
6. We therefore affirm that “God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in TEC”
7. And that we realize that the Anglican Communion is not of one mind on this issue.
I voted against this somewhat contradictory set of statements. The resolution essentially negates the resolution B033 of the 2006 GC which pledged to halt the practice of consecrating partnered gay Bishops.
During the debate it was often stated that this position was consistent with our canons and no resolution should overthrow the canons. I believe the canon that was spoken of was III.1.2 which states:
No person shall be denied access to the discernment process
for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race, color,
ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation,
disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons. No
right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established.
Notice that this canon says we should not discriminate in the matter of entering the discernment process on the basis of “sexual orientation.” This refers to one being either “homosexual” or “heterosexual.” The canon does not speak to the issue of sexual behavior. That topic is covered in the Prayer Book (and elsewhere, for example in the Bible!) which is that only married persons or chaste single persons should be ordained. I do not need to add that marriage according to the Bible, our Prayer Book and Christian Tradition is between a man and a woman.
So what did the House do today? It has extended Canon III.1.2 to say that not only can the church not discriminate against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation (I agree to that), but now not even on the basis of their sexual behavior. That is, persons in life long committed same sex relationships may also be ordained to any office in TEC.
It does not take a prophet to predict that same sex blessings and same sex marriages will also be commended by the House of Deputies.
One final note: this matter is not the final word. All resolutions must also be approved by the House of Bishops. Word on the floor is that this may not be an easy matter!
David Laughlin, Lay Deputy
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
Saint Paul’s, Kittanning
Sunday, July 12, 2009 11:00 AM
I knew something was up when I saw the red theater ropes outside the convention center when I went to get something printed at for the committee meeting I had to attend at 7:00 A.M. Friday. What was going on only became clear at lunch the next day. The demonstrations had started. Saturday, it was three men with VERY large signs consigning Bishop Gene Robinson to hell and denouncing the church for following Satan. Everyone streaming out of the convention center on their way to lunch had to walk right by.
Gwen Santiago (our lay alternate) had been covering for me while I was at meetings of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, and we needed to exchange credentials at the special booth set up for that purpose in the short half-hour period allocated for this. We finished this about 1:15 p.m. and again had to go out right past these guys.
Something had changed. Now in front of the men, acting as a barrier between the convention center and the hate were two young men carrying long poles with rainbow-colored windsocks on the ends. They simply walked quietly back and forth with the rainbows waving in the sky. Other young people were sitting watching them and they started singing "You will know that we are Christians by our love." Gwen and I were now along side the men. We turned and joined the song, waving at the young people.
The church had answered hate with love.
Joan R. Gundersen
Sunday, July 12, 2009 7:00 AM
"A Part Of The Larger Church"
I am a first time participant in General Convention, as an Alternate Clergy Deputy. I have been amazed by the sheer size of the gathering. With over 1064 deputies and alternates present, the House of Deputies when in session take up the space of a football field. Up to four clergy deputies and four lay deputies from each of the 110 Dioceses of the Episcopal Church sit at tables with the name of their Diocese emblazoned on a pole. Looking out at the sea of deputies and Diocesan placards is reminiscent of a national convention of a political party. The backdrop behind the stage on which the leaders of the House sit holds the flags of the 16 nations in which the Episcopal Church is located. We have been reminded repeatedly that we are not the national Church, since we are in many nations of the world. (Unfortunately, no one has yet come up with a replacement name, so many of us still refer to the national Church.) We were told in the opening remarks by the President of the House of Deputies that General Convention is the world’s largest democratic bi-cameral legislature. The other House is the House of Bishops.
Our own Jim Simons (Rector of St. Michael’s Ligonier and President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh) is one of the dignitaries on the front platform. As Chair of the Committee on the Dispatch of Business, Jim is basically in charge of making the legislative train run on time, so far as this newcomer to General Convention can determine. The legislative process is very complicated; all legislative proposals must first be assigned to the House of Deputies or the House of Bishops and one of their respective legislative committees. In the House of Deputies, after a proposal is reported out of committee, it must be scheduled for action by the full House. If enacted, the proposal is then referred to the House of Bishops. If the proposal is enacted without change by the House of Bishops, the proposal goes into effect. If the proposal is amended by the House of Bishops, then it must return for further consideration by the House of Deputies. Jim is in the middle of all of this. Not surprisingly, we don’t see too much of Jim outside of our legislative sessions.
Another remarkable event is the daily community Eucharist. These take place in an even larger space – perhaps the size of two football fields. I have heard that about 3000 people attend the Eucharists. In addition to the Bishops, Deputies, and Alternates, there are many exhibitors, visitors, and volunteers who participate in the daily worship services. Amazingly the services have been taking approximately one hour, enabled by seemingly dozens of communion stations for serving the huge number of worshipers simultaneously. The services are vibrant, Spirit-filled, and have featured great music (some very traditional, some from a variety of more contemporary idioms) and great preaching. A highlight was hearing the Archbishop of Canterbury preach.
There is also a very large room full of exhibitors from all over the country. Some are official Episcopal Church exhibits, such as Church Publishing and the Church Pension Fund. There are several vestment and clergy supply booths, religious jewelry artisans, and dozens of fairly esoteric displays. It is truly a bazaar of church-related goods and services. It’s also a great place to run into friends and colleagues from around the country. One of the highlights for me, in addition to being with my colleagues from Pittsburgh, is the chance to see classmates from seminary and friends from my two previous Dioceses, Connecticut and Maryland.
Being here is a visible and tangible reminder that we are part of a larger Church. We are part of the body of Christ as made manifest through the Episcopal Church. We are very different, male and female, young and old and in-between. We are black and white, Asian-American and Hispanic. We are from the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Micronesia, and even Africa (Liberia). But we share many things in common. We love Jesus. We love the Episcopal Church, warts and all. We are all part of the body of Christ. And we are committed to mission: doing the work of Jesus Christ and sharing the love of God through our congregations, our Dioceses, and the Episcopal Church, and through Episcopal Relief and Development, our missionaries, and our partners in the World Wide Anglican Communion.
I am eternally grateful to the people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Mt. Lebanon, for making it possible for me to have the privilege of serving as an Alternate Deputy at the 76th General Convention.
Saturday, July 11, 2009 6:02 PM
"A Midcourse Reflection"
Friday, July 10, was Day Three on the Legislative Calendar of General Convention, and in the thematic organization of Convention this was the day that the overarching concept of Ubuntu (the African word meaning "I am because we are") was represented at the daily Eucharist by the word "Unity."
The centerpiece of this at the service was in the I think very fine sermon on Luke 10: 25-28 preached by House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson.
President Anderson’s meditation on "Unity" began with a citation of Louis Armstrong’s answer to the question, "What is jazz?" "If you have to ask," he said, "you don’t know it."
Unity, then, not so much a formal agreement, not simply a sharing of common ideas, beliefs and values, but more deeply, "a spiritual practice." Unity as a way of life, intentionally leaning toward the other, with an openness to personal change, a sense of receptivity, a willingness to let go. An acceptance of the possibility of transformation, of death and resurrection.
(I believe her sermon is or will be available on the General Convention website–as all the sermons from these daily services are or will be–and I encourage folks to take the opportunity to read the whole thing . . . .)
The theme of Unity was represented at the service as well by the presence as Eucharistic Concelebrant, the Rt. Rev. Hopeton Clennon, a Bishop of Moravian Church.
(One of the very interesting topics we will be addressing legislatively at Convention next week will be a proposal to enter into a formal Communion relationship with the American Moravians.)
It was also very nice to be lead in worship–these always very energetic, colorful, and interesting services–by a combined Children’s Choir from the Diocese of Los Angeles, and I would just note as a side comment that the ethnic and cultural and linguistic diversity of the Episcopal Church here in Los Angeles has been very much an enrichment of the "Ubuntu" theme.
On the floor of the House of Deputies President Anderson’s idea of "Unity as spiritual practice" was certainly in play–in the sense that we were reminded that Unity is indeed not a steady state experience, but something uneven, to be worked toward, often three steps forward, two back. Perhaps sometimes two steps forward, three back.
It had seemed to me that there was the potential for some real ironic dissonance in naming so persistently these themes of unity in a time of so much stress, so many fractures and threatened fractures of relationship. And we may still get to some of that irony. But thus far, I think the expression has felt authentic.
One of the major events of our time in the House of Deputies in this first week, something that I suspect will be known as one of the highlights of this 76th General Convention, was a special order for the House to become a Committee of the Whole for the discussion of the personal and corporate impact of Resolution B-033, adopted at the 2006 General Convention.
B-033 specifically called on Bishops and Standing Committees to exercise "restraint" when considering the consents to the election of candidates to the episcopate whose "manner of life" might further stress the relationship of the Episcopal Church to the wider Anglican Communion. This consideration of restraint was focused principally on the concerns about the possible election and consecration of any futher partnered homosexual bishops, following the consent in 2003 to the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire.
The Committee of the Whole had three different parts.
The first began on Thursday evening with an extended reading by Deputy Gay Jennings of Ohio, the Chair of the House of Deputies Committee on World Mission, of a history of Resolution 2006 B-033. (I believe it also is available on the General Convention website.)
Deputies were then asked to move from our tables, to find a conversational partner, and to share together our personal perspectives on B-033, and our concerns for the Church as we move forward.
I was very pleased–blessed, really–to have as my partner the Rev. David Ota, the Chair of the Clergy Deputation from the Diocese of California. (David’s name was vaguely familiar to me, and we discovered that we actually had overlapped for a year, my Junior, his Senior, at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific back in the early 1980′s. We also discovered that we have many friends in common. Such is the family of this Church!)
David and I were both present at General Convention in 2006, he on the floor as a Deputy, I in the gallery as a representative from the Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations. We shared our memories of the events surrounding B-033′s passage and our thoughts about the way forward now.
It’s probably fair to say that David and I don’t have exactly the same thoughts about the best way forward for the Church now. But what I do think was really clear to both of us was that in the midst of some differences we share a deep love for the Church and an openness and a sense of respect as we try to sort through our differences. It was a fun and interesting conversation.
Finally, on Friday morning, in an extended final session of our Committee of the Whole, a randomly selected group of 30 Deputies were given the opportunity for (exactly) two minutes each at a microphone to share their stories and perspectives with the whole house.
Though the selection was random, I am glad to say that in this presentation there was a good and I think proportionate representation of different views about how the Church should go forward in the context of B-033.
Really without exception the speakers were articulate, thoughtful, careful, respectful. In my view it was a very dignified and graceful expression of the life of our Church. I was of course pleased to hear a number of speakers well-articulate some of my own thoughts. But I think even more I was thankful to have the opportunity to hear from those whose way of thinking about the challenges we face are different from mine. I learned a great deal from them, and I was moved by the sense of sincerity and real Christian discernment that all the speakers reflected.
So, "Unity" on Day Three in Anaheim. There clearly are a lot of very important items on the agenda between now and next Friday, and certainly with the possibility in the midst of things for some passionate disagreement as aspects of our different conversations come before us again in the form of specific resolutions and other legislation. But I think, perhaps unlike a few of the more recent Conventions, there is a healthful sense that, well, "we’re all in this together."
It is a great privilege to be here representing our Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and I do want to share that many times each day people come up to me and to all of our Pittsburgh deputation to say, "we have been praying for you," and to express friendship and encouragement. That has been nice to hear.
It is also so much fun to share this time with my colleagues and friends in our clergy deputation–Jim Simons, Scott Quinn, Harold Lewis, Lou Hays, and Vicente Santiago–and with our lay deputies: Steve Stagnitta, Dave Laughlin, Joan Gundersen, Mary Roehrich, and Gwen Santiago. It has been good as well to spend time with Bishop Johnson, who is of course a very active member of the House of Bishops, the other body in our bicameral Convention.
We all share many hours ever day in very concentrated work. And we also have had some very enjoyable dinners and social events (including, for some of us, a quick trip out to Anaheim Stadium to see the Angels get thumped by the Texas Rangers on a lovely California evening). There is a great spirit–I think reflecting the spirit of good health that has emerged over this past year across our continuing diocese. I know all of us will look forward to getting back to Pittsburgh and, as summer moves toward fall, to sharing more of our thoughts and experiences with our diocesan family.
Saturday, July 11, 2009 12:09 PM
As far as impressions, I think this general convention is less confrontational than the previous ones (in Columbus and Minnesota).
I have found that the Pittsburgh delegation has been very well received here, and many people have told me that they are happy we are with them.
There was an open discussion as a committee of the whole in the House of Deputies about the effects of resolution B033 from the last convention. I thought that the discussion was very interesting and for the most part even handed (people on both sides of the issue). Since this was not a debate on a specific resolution for this convention, it was more of a vehicle to give feedback on what has happened since the last convention. I cannot say what will happen later in the week when the actual resolutions hit the floor dealing with this subject, but I am pleased with the openness of the discussion.
I had the opportunity to work on the Evangelism committee with Bishop David Jones and that was a very positive experience. Since it is the first time I have worked on a committee it was a little new to me, but some very good work came out of that group. Our resolutions will be placed on the floor for debate and approval probably today. I will fill you in on the results of that later.
Thursday, July 09, 2009 1:05 PM
Last night the Archbishop of Canterbbury addressed the GC concerning the "Global Economic Crisis and the Role of the Church. It was a more impressive speech than I expected about the conservation of global resources. While we listened we were sitting in a scandalously overpriced hotel, expending valuable resources on a convention that is way too big, way too complicated and way too expensive. The triennial convention takes up 9% of the proposed budget for the next triennium. The irony of the whole performance was ghastly.
If we reduced the length of the convention by 3 days we would save $300,000 on rooms alone, $450,000 if you throw in meals. BUT, there is always a but, the length and scope of the convention is established by CANON! In order to reduce the size and scope of the GC we have not just to persuade TEC that its GC is too grand, too complex and too costly, but also persuade a majority (perhaps even 2/3rds of the deputations and Bishops) to change the canons! Where are Superman and Wonder Woman when you need them?
Thursday, July 09, 2009 12:49 PM
"…and God saw everything he had made, and indeed it was very good." Genesis 1:31
"God’s people" represent the whole human race. "God’s people" are not only at the GC or in TEC but all over the world, in TEC, and next door, and the Bible tells us they were "very good," not flawless but "very good". Jesus tells us that we are to serve them, all those flawed but "very good" people of God’s.
So we have come to the GC of the TEC with a bunch of flawed people! We, of course, have only tiny flaws, almost invisible. We, the almost flawless, have come together to try to perfect the structure, rules, and organization of the church we all hold dear. But we are all flawed and we all have different notions of what contstitues perfection. So agreeing on what perfection looks like can get pretty messy. To assure that all these competing notions of perfection are heard, TEC has created very, very, complex (not to say ritualistic) structures and processes. Therefore GC is very complicated, very untidy, demanding and frustrating, but in the end we want it to work so everyone buckles down and tries their hardest to make it work.
The decisions we make are very difficult because although we may feel passionately one way, our colleagues whom we have come to respect and love feel passionately the opposite way. What do we do? Or perhaps we don’t feel passionately one way or another about some issue but we have colleagues who do, on both sides of the issue. How do we find our way through these thorny issues that sow the seeds of controversy? With love, caution, thought, and prayer.
This GC will have several very controversial decisions to make. They will be made by us, those "good people" whose invisible flaws become more obvious every day. Pray for us, pray for our Diocese, and pray that whatever decisions the GC makes they will further the unity of TEC and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Pray for the church.