Saturday, July 14, 2012

It is over for another three years

Dear Ones, I do apologize for not blogging earlier about the last few days of General Convention.  The combination of no computer and a raging sinus infection had me heading for bed right after dinner both nights.

Wednesday was Budget Day.  We heard the presentation on Tuesday in a joint session of the two Houses.  The budget is structured to support the Five Marks of Mission (I'll get to those in a minute).  Dioceses are being asked to give 19% of each year's budget for the next three years.  That is what the current level is.  There was talk of reducing the asking to 15% but it was not possible this year.  New to the budget are block grants in each of the five mission areas and an increased rate of debt reduction - debt incurred by the renovation of the Church Center - and a development office.  All funding for Formation and Vocation were restored.

We spent some time talking about the budget within our deputation and then comments, amendments and points of inquiry began to fly.  The Program, Budget and Finance chair and her committee answered questions for at least 30 minutes.  All amendments were turned down and we passed the budget as presented.

Thursday was Crunch Day.  We spent the morning passing resolutions we wanted the House of Bishops to concur on and the afternoon doing our own concurring as well as passing resolutions the House of Bishops probably didn't get to before they recessed.  I would say that these resolutions fall primarily into two categories:  care for ourselves or statements on national/international issues.

Among the resolutions in the first category was a resolution allowing bishops to give permission to those congregations who wish to use the lectionary originally printed in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  We are all supposed to be using the Revised Common Lectionary as of 2010; however, there are many clergy and parishes who prefer the BCP lectionary - mostly conservative congregations but probably not all.  Allowing them to return to the BCP lectionary is a pastoral response.

Another was to make available liturgical materials that were prepared by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music for Care of Beloved Animals.  There are many who have asked that we, being a liturgical church, create prayers and rites for use with our pets.  The decision was to make them available but not to authorize them so they are not official liturgical resources.  We also agreed to make available the Daily Prayer for All Seasons.  This is a series of hours to be prayed individually and in groups during each season of the church year.  Again, these are not official.

Perhaps an odd resolution to find in the "care for ourselves" category is one to study the possibility of creating an Episcopal credit union.  I'll be interested to see what happens with this one.  We also created a task force for the study of marriage - there have been a few changes in our theology of marriage since Abraham's time - and passed several resolutions supporting indigenous ministries within The Episcopal Church.

Statements on national/international interests have been a bugaboo for me since my first General Convention in 1985 when anything like this had a resolve attached stating that we would send copies of the resolution to any and every leader of the countries involved.  I began to think of these as "motherhood and apple pie" resolutions, those that made the proposer and a few others feel good about raising their pet issue in the forum of General Convention.  But before I left almost two weeks ago, Jim Wilson sent me an email convincing me that General Convention is the right place to raise issues of moral conscience and that only General Convention can commend these issues to parishes and dioceses.  So, while I understood the folks who  stood to argue that we do not need to be telling Congress how to do their business, I now think we do need to give the Episcopal Public Policy Network, our lobbyists in Washington, direction and we do need to lend our voices to those who may well be voiceless.

Therefore, we join with others who also speak to these issues and for these peoples:
   - ending the embargo against Cuba,
   - advocating reform for credit reporting and mortgage lending practices,
   - supporting and celebrating the Sudanese communities in our Church,
   - encouraging every diocese to establish a camp for the children of those in prison,
   - seeking reform within the prison system, particularly those owned privately (East Tennessee resolution),
   - standing with indigenous peoples everywhere to protect their rights,
   - raising awareness of and working against human trafficking,
   - advocating for maternal and infant health,
   - establishing the Church as the moral voice of health care,
   - continuing to address Christian Anti-Judaism,
   - supporting the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza.

And now it is time to return to the real world of Kingsport and St. Christopher's.  Lest you think that all we did was attend meetings and vote on all manner of things, I assure you that East Tennessee had a lot of fun together at lunch and dinner most every day.  Most of us connected with old friends and made new ones.  We shopped in the exhibit hall and learned about new programs for our churches there.  We laughed a lot and shared some sadness, too.  We snacked between huge meals, tossed crayons at each other and made lists of silly things that were said - or that we thought we heard.  And we decided that the ratty coonskin hat that has been our "mascot" for the last hundred years needs to be retired for a more suitable East Tennessee representation.  Perhaps a nice black bear with a fish in his paw?

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