This day began with a Prayer Book etc. meeting at 7:30. The topics for discussion were the prayers for companion animals and the Daily Offices for All Seasons. Subcommittees had taken these two sets of prayers and reworked them, considerably in one case and some in the other. Both reports were welcomed by the Committee and will be voted on soon by the House of Bishops.
I went to my Dispatch meeting at 9:15 with the news that the Deputies on the Prayer Book committee were in favor of concurring with the House of Bishops on same sex blessings and we scheduled a special order of business for this afternoon. Then I confess I went to breakfast rather than church - Father Cutie was preaching (google him for the headlines he created three years ago) for a reason I cannot fathom.
The morning session began with routine business (minutes, certification of deputies, messages from the House of Bishops). We adopted some changes in our Rules of Order and changed the Canons to reflect the change we made in the Constitution yesterday. That change is that bishop elections will no longer be consented to by General Conventions. Each election will go through the same process of gathering consents from sitting bishops and Standing Committees - my, isn't that a funny image!
We passed a resolution affirming our desire to remain in the Anglican Communion and another that said we are not yet ready to sign onto the Covenant but will continue to study it. This is, in part, a response to liberal Anglican bishops in Africa who are signing on and our need to support them - and they us!
My favorite resolution - Engage in Conflict Resolution on the Korean Peninsula - was on the consent calendar this afternoon as were many other resolutions that don't need debate/discussion. The amended resolution turned out pretty well, commending the Anglican Church of Korea for its leadership toward the goal of Korean reconciliation and ultimate reunification, urging all governments with troops in the area to minimize exercises that escalate tensions and to uphold human rights. That is good work by the National and International Affairs Committee. Likewise, the resolution to end the embargo against Cuba turned into a resolution commending the work of our Presiding Bishop and the U.S. government in easing tensions between the two countries. Churches and individuals are encouraged to engage in mission work with the Episcopal Church of Cuba.
A resolution that I don't think I had seen before calls on Executive Council to study the possibility of establishing an Episcopal Credit Union.
And then came this afternoon. We heard the substitute resolution from the Structure Committee about how we are going to go about restructuring The Episcopal Church. The crux of the resolution is that we establish a task force with 24 members appointed jointly by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. This group is to reflect the diversity of TEC and will be completely autonomous - not under any other committee, commission or Council's thumb. They will report from time to time to the entire church and come back in three years with their report.
There was debate, there were amendments, there were points of order and points of information. We had to interrupt the proceedings to vote for Executive Council members (set for a particular time). When we came back to the resolution, we ended debate, approved no amendments and then voted on the resolution. This is the fifth General Convention I have been a part of and I have never seen this happen before. When Bonnie Anderson, President, called for the vote, she said "all those in favor, say aye." And everyone, I mean every single deputy on the flor votes yes!! There wasn't a single nay vote and the House erupted into applause. Bonnie jumped out of her chair and we all followed suit. Then we sang a wonderful hymn - new words but old tune (Come thou fount) and cheered some more.
After a 15 minutes recess, we came back for the next special order of business. We took up A049, Same Gender Blessings. Side Bar: here's something I learned at this Convention. Sex means what we are born as - check M or F in the box on the form. Gender means how we identify ourselves. So you can actually have same-gender couples of opposite sexes. As much as possible, the Prayer Book committee changed same-gender language to same-sex. There were very specific rules for 30 minutes of debate, amendments were made and defeated and we finally voted by orders about 75 minutes into the discussion. Sharon Lewis from the Diocese of SW Florida asked that we not react on the floor out of respect for those who would not wish a celebration. I am glad she said that. While most of us would be sensitive to the feelings of others, there are 40% of the deputies who have never experienced a vote like this at Convention and might not think about that. 78% of lay deputies and 76% of clergy voted in favor of the resolution. I understand that we will have a statement from Bishop Young before Sunday morning for church.
I have told my congregation before that this is a difficult pastoral moment for liberal clergy in parishes that are not very liberal. I hope that we can engage in discussion and study - there are some fine materials available in the Blue Book, for instance - this fall. The goal is not to change anyone's mind but to listen to other points of view and begin working on how we are going to live together regardless of how we feel about blessing couples of the same sex. It will be a challenge and I hope we will not shy away from it.
All right, good people. I am going to go to bed after making a phone call. Tomorrow is the last day I have a meeting at 7:30!
Peace and blessings upon all of you!