Saturday, July 25, 2009

Story and Public Narrative

One of the things we were asked to do at General Convention this year was telling our stories through the use of Public Narrative. The focus of our conversations was mission. The idea is for each person in the group to tell a one to two minute piece of their story that tells how they began doing mission work. The next step, after hearing each of those stories, is to create the story of the group and then to move the combined story into a story of now - what our combined story is telling us we need to be doing together now.

Public Narrative wasn't my favorite part of the Convention. In fact, we were arranged in table groups with our dioceses and most all of us had done this same exercise - in diocesan groups - at our synod meetings. So, after the first day, we opted out. Frankly, it was time we used to rest and our daily lunches together were, in a less structured way, our time of sharing story and hearing how we need to move forward now that we are home.

But there was one example of Public Narrative - me, us, now - that I realize I didn't share with you all and that I didn't think of in those terms at the time. One day, we had many ecumenical visitors. They were from all kinds of Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations. One of them spoke to us and then asked a cantor, a muezzin and a priest to chant the Abrahamic Prayer that we share in common (The Lord bless you and keep you....). The cantor began and his chant transported us all. As he ended, the muezzin took up the prayer with equal power. He was followed by the priest whose chant was Anglican in form. And then all three of them chanted together. Rather, they chanted in their own style at the same time, sometimes creating blissful harmony and at other times dissonance that should have been jarring but seemed to be right.

When the last note faded away, our combined story woven together in incomparable manner, the need to love, honor and respect our brothers and sisters of all faiths was made clear. We don't have to sing the same tune. There doesn't have to be perfect harmony. But we must recognize our common bond and work together for the peace we cannot achieve separately.

Friday, July 17, 2009


We have concurred, adopted, amended, heard millions of points of personal privilege or clarification, moved to suspend the rules, moved to change the rules, probably moved to ignore the rules forever and still finished all of the remaining business by 4:30 pm on the last day.

I have carefully weeded out my five inch wide three ring binder and thrown out all the now useless paper. My Blue Book is about to be deep sixed here in my room. For those of you who are concerned about the environment, this area sorts and recycles anything that can be recycled, something I wish more cities, counties and states would consider. So all of that paper as well as the cardboard cover of the notebook and the metal binder will find itself becoming something else.

It is now time to pack, to discover just how much I can get in my suitcase, how much will go in my backpack and what "extra" bag I can pass off as my purse for boarding purposes. I don't think there is much more I can throw out at this point and I have done my best not to pick up and/or buy too much in the exhibit hall while I was here. Okay, there are those two bags of books from Church Publishing but no one who knows me really expects me to pass a book display and come away empty handed. ;-)

For all the times when we wished people would stop talking, when tempers flared and we found ourselves taking sides even if we didn't express that out loud, the tenor of this General Convention has been reasonable. We weren't always quiet in expressing our opinions but, with only two exceptions that I know about, no one was rude or out of line - both times it was the same person.

We do have fun. The rules are a good thing but we tend to break them appropriately. One of them is that we do not applaud; however, when someone is introduced, we usually applaud before being given permission. We sing together in the House. We do laugh, especially the last two days when the president and secretary kept referring to each other by the wrong title and then getting the giggles. And we have been blessed this year with meditation and prayer twice a day done by The Rev. Frank Wade of the Diocese of Washington, a deeply insightful man who has an incredible way with words.

Despite the fact that most of the deputies are over 50, our young deputies are increasing in number and also in voice. They speak well and passionately and I am very proud of them. Since my first General Convention 24 years ago, the number of persons of color has increased dramatically as well. The Episcopal Church is not monochromatic or geriatric as we are often led to believe.

And so dear friends, I bid Anaheim a very fond farewell. I have seen old friends, made new ones and look forward to getting back home to friends and family and my animals.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Money, mission and courtesy

Today began with a special order to consider the budget. We had the rules for the special order read to us. Then we spent more than 30 minutes asking questions about the rules. Then we began talking about the budget and promptly forgot the rules. When we finally settled down, it was almost time to go to Eucharist. We started at 9:30 and hadn't adopted the budget by 11:30. I give thanks that this is not how we do business in East Tennessee!

After church and lunch, we did finally adopt the budget but the last 19 minutes of debate took us about 45 minutes. Except that there were no commercials or color announcers, passing the budget was much like a football game. What is supposed to take 6o minutes really takes three hours. :-)

And then we put on our running shoes and took off. All the courtesy resolutions have been passed and sent on to the Bishops. We passed resolutions on the environment, the Defense of Marriage Act, Honduras, some changes to the canons and we defeated a resolution to give the Official Youth Presence the vote. A deputy who is about 18 got up and said if the youth presence wanted to vote, they should run for General Convention like everyone else. That pretty much convinced those on the fence!

I had a short meeting of the Prayer Book committee immediately following the 6:00 recess but our legislative day is now over. There is no session tonight for which I know we all give thanks. Many of the EAst Tennessee deputies are heading downstairs to have dinner together, having decided we are just too tired to venture out. I'm having breakfast with a friend - a real breakfast with eggs! - in the morning. This is only the second time I've had the time to go somewhere, sit down and be served that most important meal of the day.

Tomorrow will be the final sprint for the finish line. The finish line will happen even if we are not ready for it. So pray for extra stamina tomorrow and we will see you back in East Tennessee at post-Convention meetings next week. The one for Upper East is at St. Christopher's on the 22nd at 7:00. That's Wednesday night.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wild Wednesday

As is so often the case, we started off slow this morning. Lots of announcements, procedural questions and reports from the House of Bishops. Then we did elections for the Executive Committee and General Seminary's Board of Trustees (it is the only seminary owned by the Church so we have to do this).

Then it was time for the Eucharist and I was so tired, I came back to the room and took a long nap, almost missing lunch. I gave up coffee today and I guess it really does perk me up! This afternoon, we passed the Denominational Health Plan, Lay Pension Plan and a long document on interreligious conversations. We also heard from the Program, Budget and Finance Committee. The budget is seriously cut. They listened to our Bishop's resolution and cut the interim bodies' budgets by almost half. The House of Bishops and the Executive Council also took cuts so there will be fewer face to face meetings for everyone in the next triennium and that's a good thing. We are also going to try having an eight day convention in three years. While that feels like it is impossible, the fact that the interim bodies have less time to work will lessen our work as well.

The exciting news on the liturgy front is that the bishops passed an amended version of the resolution on same gender liturgy. It will come to the House of Deputies tomorrow at some point and we will move to concur. Rather than summarize, here is the text:

"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that 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; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consulation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological, and liturgical resources and report to the 77th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consulation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further

Resolved, That the members of this Church be encouraged to engage in this effort. "

I know there are many who will be upset about this and I am sorry about that. This is a justice issue for me. It affirms that there is but one baptism and it is not qualified in any way. Jesus made it pretty clear that the neighbor we are to love is more often someone it is hard to love rather than someone just like us.

And now I am heading for bed. Many of us went to LA night at the Arena and I'm sure one of them will fill you in. I needed the down time in order to make the next two days. We are pretty much assured of a night session tomorrow.

Peace to you all.

Do you want fries with that?

To say we are getting a little punchy at this point is to understate the obvious. As we sang All Things Bright and Beautiful this afternoon - at a pitch that basses probably loved but altos definitely did not - John Talbird and I began to waltz. Lynn Schmissrauter took the afternoon off and sent us cookies. We did remember our manners and shared them with Mississippi and Rochester, the deputations to our left and rear.

I would love to tell you we did lots of good stuff today; however, even though we have passed a special order that puts us in speed mode - 10 minutes for discussion and then vote - we are being slowed down by a group of dioceses that move all sorts or procedural things and ask for points of personal privilege. It feels to me like this is being done intentionally and I can only think that the point is either to get us so backed up that controversial resolutions cannot be heard or that the point is merely to stall convention entirely. I do hope I am wrong about this but the problem with having a legislative system is that this sort of thing can happen.

We have passed D025 fairly overwhelmingly. Bishops got it first, made a slight amendment that I like very much - pointing out that there is a mystery of the Spirit involved in being called - and then we approved their language. Now it depends on who you talk to what the effect of this resolution is. First of all, let me say that the committee that crafted it, World Missions, was very sensitive to the fact that many would be upset and took that into account. I have rarely seen a more pastorally worded document. Second, I need to point out that gays and lesbians have never been barred from the ordination processes according to the canons. Each diocese chooses, though, to interpret those canons and in our own Diocese, the policy is that we do not send postulants to seminary unless they are married or celibate. Celibacy applies to anyone not married and not just to gays and lesbians. I am required, for instance, to remain celibate unless I remarry (God forbid!).

So I am on the side of those who would argue that we have affirmed what has been in place for many years. Nowhere in the resolution does it say that we will consent to the election of a partnered gay/lesbian bishop or that we intend to elect a bunch of them. Am I picking nits? I'm sure many will argue that this is the case.

We are waiting to see what, if anything, will come from the Bishops on same-gender blessings. My committee passed a substitute resolution yesterday morning which was largely crafted by the six bishops on the committee. At the moment, it seems to be stalled in the HOB and I understand a small group of bishops are working on a rewrite. I will know more when our committee meets again tomorrow morning. I confess it is beginning to seem like we will have more meetings than there are days left to have them on.

Tonight, we had our East Tennessee dinner at a very good restaurant. There are enough of us here counting alternates and a few spouses and our communications director that we needed two tables. I know my table went solidly for the seafood. I couldn't tell if the other table did too but it looked like there were some dissenters who went for the beef instead. Thanks to Annie and Charlie for hosting our time together. We do have a good time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday, later than usual

It's time for my nightly ramblings. This has been a good day overall. My committee met twice and got several things done and ready for debate in the House of Bishops. I made a substantive change to a single paragraph in Rachel's Tears, Hannah's Hopes and feel quite good about that. This is the new liturgies and pastoral resources for issues around childbirth, including abortion, stillbirth, miscarriage and infertility - although less of the latter that the rest. In any case, we passed the document out of committee this evening.

You will likely read about the resolution I talked about yesterday in tomorrow's (this morning's?) newspapers. Please read the section I quoted yesterday as well as what the papers said. In essence, we didn't change the stand of the church all that much. What we did was revert to our canons which we "set aside" in 2006 to pass B033. The House of Bishops made a small change that I haven't read yet and passed D025 today. I'm sure this one will make all newspapers that are looking for sensational news. It is not really all that sensational.

We passed a new revision of Title IV of the Canons today. This is the canon that deals with discipline. I confess to not having read the entire document but I understand from summary versions and Peter Keese, who sat in all the sessions, that this is a very good revision. Still not perfect, but then most things don't really reach that exalted state.

The next four days are going to be packed and I am sure there are things I won't realize I need to tell you. The pace gets to the point where it is very difficult to do more than read a summary of what is being passed. Then you have to keep up with what the bishops have passed and/or concurred with. I promise you that by the time we have our post-Convention meetings, we will have a comprehensive understanding of all that happens here. Meanwhile, we are all still tracking particular areas and that's where each of concentrate our energies.

On that note, we have consented to the election of a new bishop for Ecuador Central. It is a long and painful story as to why this was such a controversial election. No one disputes the qualifications of the bishop-elect but many people in that Diocese question the process. There was not a clear vote - it was a tie - and the interim bishop cast the deciding ballot that threw the election into the House of Bishops, a very kosher decision. Well, emotion and pride of place complicate it greatly. Bishop Luis has his work cut out for him in the next few years.

And that's all I have to say about today. I had dinner with a few of my committee members. It was really great to have a chance to talk without large tables and rules between us. Above all else, this is a large part of what General Convention is about. Just as we greet old friends and welcome new ones at diocesan conventions GC is all of that on a grander scale. There are seminary friends to see, people I know from my other diocesan residencies and then new friends to meet and get to know beyond a handshake or nod of the head. Worship is a large part of our time together, too, and I need to say that our chaplain, The Rev. Frank Wade, is incredible. Frank's meditations and prayers are insightful, poetic and spot on every single time. I do hope these will be published somewhere and soon.

Until tomorrow, God bless you all.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday, the half way mark

We began our day together with Eucharist at 10:00. The Presiding Bishop celebrated and preached. The two previous presiding bishops concelebrated and it really was good to see all three of them at the altar together. They were applauded out at the end of the service. This was the UTO Ingathering service so all the UTO representatives from each diocese presented the offerings. The offering at the service - the only service with an offering collected - also goes to UTO. Given that there were probably five to eight thousand people there, it should be a substantial gift to fund work around the globe.

The afternoon session of the House of Deputies was taken up largely by a single resolution. D025 is titled "Commitment and Witness to the Anglican Communion." It begins by reaffirming our commitment to and participation in the Anglican Communion; encourages congregations, individuals and dioceses to participate in the many networks within the Communion and makes it clear that we are willing to commit ourselves financially to the Communion as well. I'm going to quote the text of the rest of the resolution rather than paraphrase it. I remind you that all of this resolution still has to be concurred by the House of Bishops or it dies.

"Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm the value of "listening to the experience of homosexual persons," as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God" (2000-D039); and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recognize that gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm that God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church, which call is tested through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge that members of The Episcopal Church, as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind , and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters."

We voted by orders (each diocese has one lay vote and one clerical vote based upon a canvass of the four deputies in each order) and the resolution passed overwhelmingly. Now it will go to the House of Bishops and we shall see what they think.

Much of our deputation had dinner together tonight at the Cheesecake Factory. Ann Markle and I decided that we had better walk back even if we did have salads (the menu listed some of them as lo-cal because they had less than 590 calories!) because we also had cheesecake. I mean, what's the point of going to a restaurant that features cheesecake if you aren't going to eat any?! I even walked up three flights of stairs once I got inside the hotel. Eight elevators aren't enough for all of the Episcopalians who seem to all want to go up or down at the same time.

Tomorrow begins with a committee meeting at 7:30 once again. We will try to hammer out a resolution on same-gender blessings. Having looked at this issue from two or three angles, we really cannot use the language of marriage even though several states have. It would require canonical change and also BCP change. I hope we will have this out by Tuesday but it may well be Wednesday.

Good night, all. Or good morning.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And now for something completely different!

It was my intention to trade seats back with Ann Markle this morning; however, when I got up, I realized neither of us had the necessary signed document from our chair. So I called poor Ann at 6:37 to tell her to go ahead and sit as a deputy. I planned to sit in the alternate section and was looking forward to hearing Ray Suarez from the Lehrer Report preach at 11:00. And then Cal Calhoun and I would switch places in the afternoon so he could have time off.

Well, as I entered the House of Deputies, Cal was coming out. He said, "I just heard about Katie," one of our lay deputies. I asked what he had heard about her and found out that she had fallen and cut her chin. So he and I went to First Aid to check on her. It turned out that she needed to go to an ER to have it checked and likely stitched. So Katie and I got a cab to Western Medical Center and spent five hours in the ER. She didn't have stitches. Katie said the doctor told her that with a cut that close to the face, they prefer to glue it shut! And Katie said she immediately realized she was, after all, in California and not Chattanooga. :-)

Charlie and Annie vonRosenberg had lunch ready for us when we got back shortly after 2:30. Then Katie and I both headed back to the floor of the House with me still sitting as an alternate since I had missed the time for credentialing.

This afternoon, East Tennessee's resolution on universal health care came out of committee for a vote with a few changes but nothing substantive. So sad that Bob Strimer was off today but his brother Peter said a few words in his stead. There was no real debate and now it goes on to the House of Bishops.

In my own committee this morning, we heard testimony on the resolutions on developing prayers/liturgies for the death or illness of companion animals. There were two wonderful dogs with us, Emily and Kona. As Emily's handler was signing up to speak, I simply sat down on the floor in front of Emily and got my face washed thoroughly. She is a great dog and much better behaved than either of mine!

Tonight was the Sewanee dinner. We heard all sorts of good things about what's happening on the mountain and said thank you to the retiring chancellor and vice chancellor. It was a good time and I had a chance to talk to a few old friends and professors and met a few new friends, too.

Tomorrow being Sunday, we will not meet in the morning. The UTO Ingathering and Festival Eucharist is at 10:00. THEN I will head for credentialing and change back to being a deputy for the rest of the Convention. It is so good to have alternates here to give us a break. I can't tell you what is so terribly exhausting about sitting and waiting but I am tireder tonight than any other.

Blessed Sunday to all of you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Almost a day off

This morning started early which is beginning to feel normal. It's not that much earlier than I start working at home but at home, I don't begin with meetings!

We began deliberating on and thinking about how to craft legislation on same sex blessings. The debate is complicated by state laws this time around. Several states have legalized same gender marriages and the church in those states needs a way to respond. Regardless of what the marriage statutes are from state to state, The Episcopal Church is incorporated in each state and so our canons cannot stray from state law - as I understand it. So how do we write a resolution that will conform in all states? I'm not sure we have figured that out yet. We shall see tomorrow.

This morning's legislative session was again a committee of the whole to allow people to speak about B033. For the most part, people spoke in favor of moving on rather than repealing it, something that hasn't been done very often in our history and isn't really helpful. The World Mission Committee will now take all the comments and begin to craft that resolution.
After lunch, I changed places with Ann Markle and became an alternate for the afternoon. So I had time for a nice lie down, finished a book and had my nails done. What a treat! And then it was back into a committee meeting but a brief one.

Ann, Kay Reynolds, Katie Piper and I had dinner together and then took a cab to a grocery store for breakfast bars, fruit (raisins for me, nectarines for others) and a few other things to make our days easier and our breakfasts and lunches less expensive. The cab was very late coming, arriving just as we were loading our stuff and ourselves into another one. He was a delightful cabbie, listens to classical music and can't imagine why people like to get drunk. Neither can we so it was a friendly ride back. We had been offered a ride by a retired bishop and his wife if we were still there when they came back out of the grocery store. Since they were driving a fairly small car and none of us are fairly small, it's a good thing we didn't have to take him up on it.

The good news tonight is that the House of Bishops passed our Bishop's resolution today without amending it. This is a resolution to cut in half the budgets for all interim bodies. I said more about it on the Diocesan blog site ( ought to get it in the House of Deputies in the next few days. Of course, we are already behind by at least a day in our own business. The most controversial thing to come before us this afternoon was the consent to the election of the new bishop for Ecuador Central. It is a long story, the short version of which is that the election was very close and the deputies here are contesting it. The Credentialing Committee, headed by Lynn Schmissrauter of our deputation, feels that the bishop-elect is well qualified and a fine man. I am told that the consent has been tabled to a time certain and that's a shame.

Tomorrow is another day and who knows what joys await us. It really is exciting to be here and an honor to serve East Tennessee as a deputy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Thursday that felt like Wednesday

I suppose it is because we began meetings on Tuesday but my internal clock is telling me it is a day earlier than it really is. Another component may well be that I am wondering how we can possibly do what still has to be done in the time left. This is not a rationale for a longer Convention!

I began the morning at 7:00 with a two hour Prayer Book meeting. We spent the entire time reviewing, editing, amending - pick the word you like best - six sets of commons and proper prefaces. Think of these as generic "feast day" collects. I think we managed to do good work despite our size - about 35 people - and our varied liturgical backgrounds. A key question was, "do all collects need to end with a trinitarian doxology?" Kind of makes you wonder how I managed to stay away, doesn't it? :-) Oddly, I rather thrive on this sort of thing.

This afternoon, we had a hearing for people wishing to speak to the resolutions that have been proposed on same sex blessings. I would guess there were more than 500 people in the room. Thankfully, not all of them wanted to speak! We will begin discussing the next step tomorrow morning at 7:30. Subcommittees will need to be formed so that we can get through all the legislation assigned to us in a timely manner - in other words, before we all fly home. At this point, I have no idea what will come out of the committee on same sex blessings but I can assure you it will have been prayed about, deliberated on at length and given very serious consideration before it leaves our hands.

This afternoon, the House of Deputies met as a Committee of the Whole to begin talking about how/if this Convention will return to B033, our agreement not to consent to the election of a bishop whose lifestyle is offensive to the Communion. We heard the history and a summary of the ways we can reasonably move and then we had one on one conversations with someone we did not know about our own experience of B033, the church's experience and what God is calling us to do now. It was a useful conversation and time well spent. We will continue that conversation tomorrow morning and the World Mission Committee is still in a hearing on the subject as I type (my own Committee's evening hearing wore me out or I'd be there).

So, dear readers, I am going to brush my teeth and go to bed. Tomorrow begins early and will be a busy legislative day since resolutions are beginning to come out of committees. It won't be the rush it always is at the end of our time together but it is enough to keep us from getting bored.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Officially Open

This is what the House of Deputies looks like from our table. There is another deputation behind us but, otherwise, we are at the very back of the hall! If it weren't for those big screens, we would need binoculars!

Another busy day and yet I am not nearly as tired as yesterday. We had our first day of legislative sessions. After spending much of the morning hour's session doing organization stuff, we actually got down to legislation this afternoon. As you can imagine, the only kind of resolutions to clear committees so quickly are not the least controversial. All resolutions must clear both houses to be official.

We had the opening Eucharist today. It was wonderful! We have a pick-up choir so I got to sing and that always makes me feel good. Some of the music was from the African tradition and ably led by a canon of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Along with those of us who run in at the last minute and sing - very bad choir form but that's all the time we have - there are some fine singers here from LA as well. Bishop Katharine preached.

My own committee met twice today. We have moved some legislation forward, rewritten the several funding requests into one bill - I moved to delete most of the funding requests and was soundly voted down - and sent another piece of liturgical change into subcommittee for substantial reworking.

This evening Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke to us on the global economic crisis. He believes that more than an economic crisis we have a crisis of truthfulness. We have been lying to ourselves and we have learned to tolerate high levels of evasion. We have lied consistently about our own place in the world and the unlimited nature of goods and resources.

I have more notes on his speech but I am hoping it will be published in one of the daily publications so I'll wait to say more.

Three of us snuck out after Bishop Rowan's speech because, quite simply, we were hungry! We had a good dinner not too far away and now I am planning to watch the last hour of So You Think You Can Dance and go to bed. Tomorrow's first meeting starts at 7:00.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Still Pre-Convention!

For the day before Convention, I must say my day has been every bit as busy as a Convention day. I started with a Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music committee meeting at 8:00. We spent four hours deciding how we are going to proceed with hearings and meetings on the 65 resolutions that have been assigned to our committee, knowing that there will likely be a few more added once the deadline for submitting resolutions passes. It was a good morning although I suppose people who are not detail oriented might have felt like they had fallen down the rabbit hole.

After lunch, we met at 2:00 for presentations from the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. In introducing the theme of this Convention - Ubuntu - Bishop Katherine spoke of the Great Western Heresy, which is believing that we can be saved as individuals, putting ourselves at the center of life rather than putting God there. Ubuntu says that I can only become a person in relation to other people, that community and relationship are central to who I am and who you are, that my salvation depends on yours.

President Bonnie Anderson introduced Public Narrative, a way to tell our stories in relationship to mission, a process we were introduced to at our Provincial Synods. Mission, she said, is the reason the church exists.

Marshall Ganz, the man who developed Public Narrative, spoke next, relating how he came up with the process and pointing out that it is an ancient practice by citing Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush.

The last meeting of the afternoon was an orientation session for the House of Deputies. Voting procedures were reviewed and an amusing "play" about how resolutions are introduced on the floor of the House and then debated and voted on kept us all laughing.

After a short gathering in the Bishop's quarters, several of us headed out to committee hearings. For me, that meant hearings on the Blue Book resolutions regarding acceptance of Holy Women, Holy Men - the proposed revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. We heard testimony from several people about changes they would like to see made. After the hearing and an hour of committee deliberation, several of us met in subcommittee to redraft the resolution to put this revision into trial use. It became clear that we either ask the churches to use the whole revision for three years or spend all of General Convention picking and choosing who should and shouldn't be included. As many of you know, I have serious questions about many of those recommended for commemoration; however, if we will take seriously the fact that this is for trial use and that we are encouraged to make our feelings about that use known to the committee, I believe we will end up with a good list of commemorations to add to our Calendar.

Now, it remains to be seen if this passes the House of Bishops and is concurred by the House of Deputies! I'll let you know the continuing saga.

A media heads up. We have scheduled hearings on same sex blessings for Thursday afternoon. That same day, there will be hearings on Resolution B033 which passed the last Convention. This resolution says we will not consent to the consecration of anyone whose life style will cause further conflict within the Anglican Communion (my words, not the exact wording of the Resolution). There will also be two sessions on Thursday and Friday to deliberate on B033 as a Committee of the Whole. So Friday's news outlets may well pick up on that. Do please remember that it is likely not to be as sensational as they make it out to be. Also remember to check official Episcopal sites for more reasonable coverage.

And now it is almost 10:00 out here in California. The fireworks at Disney are over for another day - I can hear them even if I can't see them - and it is time for all good deputies to go to bed. We begin our legislative day at 8:00 tomorrow and end the day with a speech on global economics from Archbishop Rowan.

Good night all!

Monday, July 6, 2009


The Magic Kingdom is somewhere nearby but, thankfully, I can't see it. I did hear a lady in the elevator say she could see the nightly fireworks from her room which is at the other end of my floor. I'm happy to be at this end.
We are beginning to gather. Some people, mostly committee chairs, came out to Anaheim yesterday but the bulk of deputies and bishops will arrive today. My first committee meeting is at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow as are many others.
My flights were good and smooth enough that I slept through both of them. Herb Berl and I had the same fliight from Houston so we met and had a nice lunch - shrimp po boys! - before getting on the plane. The Hilton Anaheim, where our deputation is staying, is truly right next door to the Convention Center. It is such a short walk that I may have to sign up for the health club (a mere $35 for our ten day stay) to get much exercise at all.
Even in the short hour we have been here, I have seen friends from Mississippi and New Hampshire and had a good conversation with a deputy from Arkansas. I know there will be times in the next ten days when I won't want to sit through one more meeting but I am excited to be here. If my past experiences hold true, I'll still be excited when it is all over and done for another three years.
Stay well and stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hardness of heart?

One of the web sites I use in my sermon prep is RevGalBlogPals. This morning, I read a post that talked about the people of Nazareth alreadyhaving their mind made up about Jesus. They were closed off to hearing anything new because of that. This person went on to say that she plans to talk about how we make up our minds and then don't change them, especially when we are going to meetings.

I don't know if this person is a General Convention deputy but I got her point. Have we all already made up our minds before we arrive in Anaheim?Is there any room for the Holy Spirit to move? I don't think it matters what "side" we are on, we need to leave the HS some breathing room. If our agenda is fixed, there is no place for God.

It is hard to sit in meetings for most of ten days and not have moments of heart hardness. We get weary of listening to the same points being made over and over by people who feel they simply have to speak even if someone else has already made their point. Sometimes we get so caught up in being a legislative body that we forget we are *supposed* to be listening for God in all those speakers, that amongst all the resolutions that have been proposed, there just might be a path opening up before us. I hope we have enough sense not to make our minds up about that path before we have listened and read and prayed. And having said that, I know from experience that it is so easy to "go negative" and stop listening and reading and praying for anything except a break.

So when you pray for General Convention, I would ask that your prayer include something about opening our hearts and minds, about not prejudging each other or allowing our own agendas to get in the way of God's agenda. Pray that we might be brave enough to do God's will.

Thank you.