Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Over. Now the Work Begins

Well, we did it. Over 300 resolutions acted upon in 10 days.

First, the big one. Yes we pass C056 on same sex blessings by more than two thirds in the laity and clergy. Yes it allows for local options, but no it does not direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to prepare liturgies, only to gather theological and liturgical resources. In other words, we have space to work with this, but no official action on preparing an official liturgy. And no one is forced to perform a same sex marriage, just as no one is forced to perform a heterosexual marriage.

Pauli Murray and Manteo & Virgina Dare (the first persons baptized in North America) and Thurgood Marshall and the first women priests in the EC were all referred to the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) for preparation of feast day materials. They will look at them over during the next three years and make recommendations to the next GC. Sadly, the alternative baptismal covenant did not get through the bishops, although now it is out there and will likely gather some steam and acceptance over the triennial.

Holy Women, Holy Men (the new Lesser Feasts and Fasts) was given trial use for the 3 years coming, with the SCLM being charged to gather feedback for a more final version next time. The early buzz is that John Muir's name will be struck, but who knows?The reason: Muir was not particularly a Christian and quite critical of the church; the reaon he was included in the first place is that his work inspired so many Christians to take on the environment. To include him definitely requires a shift in thinking about who should be on the calendar; you be the judge. Literally. There will opportunity to have your say on him and over 100 other new people.

Biggest surprise is C023 which would have added sexual identity and expression to the list of reasons that people could not be automatically disqualified from the ordination process. We voted to add them; the bishops voted to delete the entire laundry list and just say all persons. We with signals from the trans community voted to not concur with them, which reverts the canon back to the old language. The biggest issue was that we thought we needed to reflect a reality that not everyone actually does have equal access and to mention by name those who do don't always. The fact that some people we wished to add to the list did not get through should not be used as reason to removed all the other groups who were already identified.

Right at the end, we got word that the bishops prayed for +Gene (Robinson) who is sick. No word on what this is yet.

As of this post, no more for awhile, though I may respond if you make a comment. I am not reporting what happens in Oakland for the weekend. And if you are clergy and in the diocese of NC come see your deputation in Burlington on Wednesday.

General Convention, mid last day report

Well, the deed is done. C056 has been voted on. The debate was interesting. No one even attempted an amendment. I think the opposition to it knew that would fail, so they decided instead to use as much microphone time as possible to state their concerns. Most of them were pretty calm about it. Thank you for that kind gift. It was noticed. We may not agree about this, but I will still pray for you and your ministries and call you brothers and sisters.

And even though we can pretty much guess the outcome, the vote is not in. We had a vote by orders, which means the lay deputies and the clergy deputies vote separately and must tally their diocesan groups. 3 or 4 votes means yes, 0 or 1 vote means no, and a 2-2 split means divided, which gets counted as a no. Since the earlier version was more definitive, this one may get more yes votes than it did.

The change is that instead of calling for the developing of liturgical forms, this one now talks of gathering liturgical resources. That means that when you read about us authorizing any texts, it will be inaccurate. And bishops are given authority to offer strong pastoral response, especially in those places where civil marriages or blessings are in place. Note that the pastoral response can just as easily be applied to those not in favor, as that term is not defined.

So watch integrity's site. They will be the first to have a report on the vote up.

More later...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

General Convention, day heaven-knows-what

Okay. I'm tired. What did we do today. Well, we passed the budget, a great exercise in frustration. An hour of people trying to make amendments only to be shot down because they never identified where the money would come from for their pet projects.

Oh wait. I forgot the L.A. night last night. What a wonderful example of what happens with too many cooks. We had folk musicians. We had rock musicians. We had drums. We had 3 screens of constant images. And people doing yoga. And a cross that changed color as it blocked our view of the stage. And glow sticks. And poetry. And Brian McLaren preaching using a Eucharistic image--but no Eucharist. That's like describing a banquet to a starving man and then not actually bringing him food. And a reaffirmation of baptism. And an artist working on a screen constantly changing his images.

This is what happens when you have too many cooks. In this case, it was two different emergent/emerging (somebody please make a decision on this one) pastors trying to merge two obviously very different ministries. Sensory overload. I appreciated the way it broke down out rational defenses to put us in the moment, but it was just too much--especially the moronic glowsticks. Guys, did you notice the lights were still on?

I don't think I will be able to talk about emergent for about six months now. Which is really sad because the image Brian used was actually really good. And the poetry was really good. And the band was solid. And the Bruce Cockburn song had me online getting a copy of it later. But c'mon.... Do some editing next time. We did not need every emergent idea for people who were mostly asking me "What is emergent?" all day.

Anyway, after the budget this morning, Brian got the chance to redeem himself in our daily Eucharist, where he was the preacher (To be fair, the sermon was fine the night before, but it really was incomplete without actually having Eucharist. That was not his to control.). Really good sermon about evangelism and Episcopalians. I did not know that he actually was once an aspirant for ordination in the Episcopal Church but felt we did not make space even in the ordination process for folk like him. Trust me, Brian, if you come to North Carolina, Michael Curry would make space! Anyway, check out Brian's sermon on the Episcopal Church's web page General Convention media hub. And he kept it short too! Gonna be a lot of people stealing from that one for sermons on Sunday.

Now we are in the flurry of resolutions. We had two disappointments. The first was the deputies shooting down a resolution to give vote to the youth deputies; the worst part of this was one of two youth who are regular deputies getting up to speak against it. Obviously she has not been shut out of anything before; I wish I could meet her ten years from now.

The second was the bishops rejecting our call to change the baptismal covenant to a more active response. Right now, the priest describes the expectations and the candidate assents to them, rather than having the candidate declare what s/he will do in the active voice. They decided that this would amount to two covenants, and that could not be. So it is on to the next convention.

Tonight, we had a U2charist. A few of us went out to dinner first at an impossibly slow restaurant. We were an hour late and they were only up to the sermon. Listening to Mike Kinman try to pick our pockets in the sermon so turned me off that I left. The band was a pretty good U2 lookalike band, but even that seemed a little weird to me. I left. Now that i have done this a couple of times, I have decided it does not speak to me. I like their music--I am going to see them in Raleigh in October--but dragging out a Eucharist by looking for every place you can add a U2 song seems tedious, making both the Eucharist and the music less than they are separately.

So now I am in my room trying to pack to send my suitcase back to Greensboro via UPS in the morning. Tomorrow (today, actually) is the last day, so it will be crazy getting things done on the legislative floor. Tripp, I hope we can hook up and grab a brew. Otherwise it is another round of downtown Disney! Save me!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

General Convention, day 10

Okay, first there is a correction to be made. The full communion with the Moravians was on today's consent calender, not yesterdays. We get the calendar a day in advance so that we can read it over, and that is what I mixed up. So, we have now passed it; we are in full communion with the Moravians.

And that error pretty much sums up what is happening right now. When we started this, the house rules were that we would debate an issue for up to 30 minutes, and each speaker got three minutes to talk. That was taking forever. It went to 20 minutes per issue and only 2 minutes per speaker. Today it went to 1 minute per speaker, and then to 15 minutes per issue. What is happening is that we have many more resolutions than we have time. The consent calendar is also getting rather thick.

Our North Carolina resolutions on adding Pauli Murray (the first African American female priest) and Manteo and Virginia Dare (the first baptism in North America) to the calendar got reported out favorably; they go to the bishops first, so I do not know what happened with them. The plan is to refer them to the Standing Committee on Liturgy for study. The bishops on the Liturgy Committee did not like the resolution about an alternative baptismal covenant (see somewhere below), but hopefully they presented it to the rest of their colleagues today.

We will have a national health plan! And the laity will have pensions if they work over 20 hours per week. To be fair, most of them already do, but this will require it. We had the usual arguments about it hurting small congregations. Sorry folks; if we require pensions for the clergy who make more money, this is a simple matter of justice. Just my conscience along would force me to vote in favor.

This afternoon, we got the budget. It looks bad. Lots of cuts in National staff and program. But the MDGs got put back. And the youth staff position is in there--they tried to take it out because the position is not currently filled. But the youth presence mounted a good offense. Most of the money for starting new chaplaincies stayed in. Our young adult and college staff still have jobs, but their budgets shrunk.

And the budget will drop to 19% asking from dioceses by 2012 instead of the 21% it is now. It will be interesting to watch the debate tomorrow. In order to add something to the budget, you have to indicate where you will take money from. There ain't a lot of wiggle room, and you will piss someone off if you try to take their money.

The L.A. night was interesting. Only about 500 people showed up for Genesis, an emergent church experience. Brian McLaren spoke. As I learned later, this was put together byt wo different emergent congregations and leaders. Since no two emergent people do things the same, it seemed like a bit of a hodgepodge. A great piece of poetry in the middle, a wonderful confession of the business of life. And an artist was making images on a paint screen all through. And lots of video images. And music. And yoga. And drumming. And glow sticks. You get the picture. A bit too much. McLaren talked about how the broken body of Christ is made whole within us. But there was no Eucharist. Anyone who knows what CD of Bruce Cockburn has the song "Mystery" on it will be welcome to respond.

Well, that is it for today. I barely scratch the surface with all the issues we are handling, so if you want to know about a particular subject, write a note. Time for me to go to bed. Too bad those folks doing the U2charist on Thursday will be playing to an empty hall. I am certain the bishops and deputies will be having evening sessions tomorrow night.

General Convention, addendum

Okay. Here is what happened in the House of Bishops. The General Convention Daily had a headline yesterday that said some thing like "Church approves the ordination of gays." That is not what we did, but the headline went around the world before it could be corrected. The Presiding Bishop was pissed. The Archbishop of Canterbury was inflamed. And you can pretty much imagine how this played elsewhere.

Given that, the Bishops were apparently a bit reluctant to take up same sex unions in any form until some of this could be dealt with. And a committee has worked to create something that will do a more nuanced version of what the various positions in the American Church are.

That is why they delayed discussion. But this afternoon, they passed an amended resolution that essentially formalizes local option, calls for the gathering of theological and liturgical materials, but also calls for theological study throughout the church before the developing of rites. I predict it will pass the Deputies without amendment, but not for lack of trying.

And for the record, what we actually did was say in the ordination resolution is that we would abide by our canons which say no one is denied access to the process because of sexual orientation. It is, in my opinion, deliberately fuzzy around the edges of whether this repeals B033. It definitely is a statement of where we are now. And it includes statements about our intention to remain in dialogue with and support of (including monetarily) the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Later. Gotta go do emergent church with a couple of thousand Episcopalians. That should be interesting.

General Convention, day 9

Well, one victory has been accomplished. D025 came back from the Bishops with a change, so we had to look at it again and see if we would concur. And the usual speeches were made. And once again we got to vote by orders, which is apparently a way that some delegations use to show that they voted the right way when they go back home. And once again, we passed it.

Wait a minute. We passed it! D025 got through the process! Now, everyone has access to the ordination process, even to become bishops. Well, actually, that is not true. Now, everyone is allowed in the process regardless of sexual orientation. You can still be determined to be a total nut job. In that case, you only get to be a bishop in Florida or Fon du Lac.

We are now in full communion with the Moravians. Somehow, that slipped through on the consent calendar. The consent calendar is where less controversial resolutions go. Unless three deputations object, they get voted on without debate. And lately, we have been voting on those resolutions as a group. It gets a lot done quickly.

Something's up in the House of Bishops. They should have finished with D056 yesterday morning. That's the one which would authorize the development of blessings for same gender couples. Well, then it got put off until the afternoon. Then there was a lengthy closed door session. Now, it is put off until the afternoon session today. We think it is because the Archbishop of Canterbury is not pleased, and he may have called +Katherine.

Too bad. Let's not back down now people. We cannot make them angrier than they already are over D025. So let's carry through.

There are definitely some people who like to talk in the Deputies. And President Anderson does not seem to know how to shut them up. She needs to stop letting people speak on points of personal privilege. We will never get through the list of resolutions if we do not stop chattering about nothing and changing the rules.

We shut down the legislative session one hour early today so that the provinces could meet. For province four where I am, this was not a big deal since we had been together a month ago. But we had to choose our members of the presiding bishop nominating committee. (Don't worry folks. This is a pro forma issue for next convention. +Katherine is not going anywhere.). So we showed up and it was basically a walk through since we had already chosen our candidates. We filled out a ballot and left.

Then, it was off to dinner at a local Italian restaurant with the North Carolina crowd. Anyone from the diocese who was there was invited. We had about 25 folk, all treated by the bishop. Great dinner and conversation. The picture is of the spun sugar and hard caramel tower that was the centerpiece of dessert. Sadly, it was a cell phone picture. That's the bishop to the right in the rear. Thanks +Michael.

By the time we got back, it was after 10:00, so that's about it for the day. Tomorrow is a repeat, except the evening is L.A. night with a sensory emerging church event called Genesis. Brian McLaren is scheduled to appear. Should be wild to see Episcopalians trying to grasp emergent. Pray for me....

Monday, July 13, 2009

General Convention, day 8

Okay, it is beginning to catch up to me. I am staying in my room tonight, even ordered room service. There are no great events to get to, and I am just tired of being social.

Today was a good day overall. In the morning, I listened to the draft of the resolution on same sex blessings that is going to the bishops for consideration. The Liturgy Committee has crafted a carefully worded resolution to suggest that we are not of one mind doing this but that we needed to go ahead and gather resources including liturgies and to present something for next GC to consider. It also gives broad pastoral powers to bishops, especially those in states where there are civil marriage, unions or domestic partnership laws. To be clear, the call for a report to go to next GC was always in the cards because no new liturgy gets authorized outside of that venue. So anyone who thought it was coming from this Convention was mistaken.

The best part of this was that the two committees voted and the bishops were 6-0 in favor and the deputies were 24-1 (I think. I know the 1 is correct). That type of support from the bishops was critical. There is some disputed language in one resolve that will have a minority report from Bp. Parsley of Alabama, but even he is overall in favor of what the committee crafted.

In the morning legislative session, we again took up the cause of Bishop Elect Ruiz of Central Ecuador. Believe it or not, this may actually have been more controversial. I made a refere3nce to it in an earlier post. Complicating things here is that the bishop elect is from Columbia, which is supporting his episcopacy heavily; the Ecuador deputation however is 3-1 against his becoming bishop. Even that is a smokescreen however. The people of the two nations are the same people; it was the Spanish who divided them into two nations, pretty much arbitrarily.

What happened in the diocese is this. The former bishop was totally corrupt, taking the money and running some illegal activities out of the diocese. The Standing Committee had not met in years. When this was discovered, he was deposed and a provisional bishop was sent in 3 years ago to help them put things together. When it came time to try to have an election, a search committee was formed, several candidates were considered, and in the end, none of the final slate were from Ecuador, although there was a process to nominate candidates beyond those of the search committee; no one did.

Then, several candidates dropped out after seeing the mess they would have to work with. It was down to ne, although a second was persuaded to put his name back in. Then, an attempt was made in the search committee to reconsider the election; it failed, but three members (out of 6) dropped off the committee. Provisional Bishop Ramos=-Orench called for the election to be postponed. The convention voted to send it to the House of Bishops to choose someone--any diocese can do that.

The Bishops interviewed the candidates and chose Fr. Ruiz. However, it happened in March, which meant it had to be ratified by General Convention, as any election close to GC does. This is how the Gene Robinson election came to GC 6 years ago. Anyway, there was a lot of emotion, accusations, and mis-information. The deputies were also caught with feeling a bit like colonialism was alive and well in our choosing the bishop of a Latin American diocese; that is not what was happening, of course, but it felt like it.

So we had a voice vote that sounded too close to call. And then the stupid voting machines decided to fail, so we could not vote electronically. So we had to wait until the afternoon.

Then it was off to worship. This is what makes the Anglican Communion great: The preacher was a lay woman, Courtney Cowart, the director of disaster response in the diocese of Louisiana. The celebrant was Prince Singh, the bishop of Rochester (who apparently had a lot to do with the House of Bishops afternoon voting--see below). Singh is from India; he was the first celebrant we have had who sung the Sursum Corda, and he used on in Wonder, Love and Praise that is written out of melodies from Appalachia (the Sanctus is #850 for anyone with WLP handy). And the gospel has been read in a different language of TEC every day. This time it was Chinese (The diocese of Taiwan is part of our province). And we had a children's gospel choir, just to make things interesting.

Lunch with the deputation and then we were back in legislative session for four hours. The machines were working, and we voted bishop elect Ruiz in and gave him a standing ovation when he was brought in. Did I mention I met him Saturday night and had about half and hour with him? He is one of the kindest pastoral souls you will ever meet. I'd take him for a bishop any day.

The afternoon session seemed to get a lot more done than some other sessions. The big item was the Title IV Canon Revision. Title Iv is the disciplinary canon; the last revision was based on the military code of justice! We decided that maybe the church had a different way of doing things, so the new code is fashioned on a model of repentance and reconciliation while still recognizing the need to care for victims.

Someone needs to tell the Canons Committee to get off their high horses. Three or four of them got up and told us not to make changes because they had already perfected it. Um, note to committee, our job is to scrutinize the legislation and decide what we will do with it, including changing things. And, in fact, we found several errors in their words on the various canonical changes that needed to be made to get it write.

We got bogged down right at the end of the afternoon on a different canon change to include gender identity or expression in the list of reasons people cannot automatically be excluded from the ordination (along with race, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.) It took to the end of the day, and someone called for a vote by orders. I have no doubt it will pass, but we have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

We left and I went over to the young adult closing celebration in the Marriott. As it turned out, word had just come down that the bishops had passed D025, the B033 response. They made a fairly minor change in it, but that means we will get it back again. But it is gonna be passed. So we are saying that we do not exclude any of the baptized from any of the sacraments, but that we also are active in our relationship with the Anglican Communion. I know Integrity already has the new resolve on their website. Their reporter is a member of my congregation going off to seminary in the fall, and he is way on top of things. Good job James.

So now I am in my room. The Black Deputies are meeting about something in a few minutes, but I may not go. Oh look, it is actually after the time they are meeting. Oh well.

General Convention, day 7

It was Sunday, so we had a relatively light day in terms of activity. The United Thank Offering ingathering was in the morning. Always nice to see 150 bishop vested out. In the afternoon, three hours of legislative time. That's it.

But there was one little resolution taken care of, D025. You have probably heard of it already. It is the response to B033 that the World Mission Committee put forth out of the many resolutions it received on the subject. If you look at it--you can find it in several places, including the Episcopal Church's General Convention pages and Integrity's pages--you will see that it has a lot of language specifically designed to say where we are with respect to the Anglican Communion.

We passed a special order to limit debate, so we had 30 minutes to comment upon it, followed by 10 minutes for amendments and ten minutes for substitutions. And then we voted. There were two attempts to divide the motion, which to say some wanted to separate out parts of the motion they did not like and voted separately on them. Both failed.

There were also two attempts to remove language from the resolution, but they also failed. Then time was up. However, someone called for a vote by orders. When this device is used, the deputations are split into clergy and laity. A yes vote means more than 50% of your deputation voted in favor, usually 3 or 4 members (Some deputations have fewer than four members in each order). A no vote means 1 or none of your members voted. A divided vote means just that, a 2-2 split. To pass the resolution, you must have a majority in each order.

The process also requires written forms filled out ans signed by each member of the deputation. So it takes time. We also dragged it out by having to vote by orders on one of the motions to divide. Fortunately, Joe Ferrrill, member of the North Carolina delegation, offered a motion to suspend the rules and allow a voice vote. It passed overwhelmingly, so we did not have to vote by orders on the second division.

Anyway, the results were overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution (77-31 in the lay order, 74-35 in the clergy. I did not write down the divided numbers.

Now, it is on to the bishops, who are likely to be a closer vote. Film at 11....

The Liturgy committee is planning to draft their final version of the same sex litrugies resolution today, in which case it is likely to show up tomorrow in the bishops. This will be the tougher sell, though the committee member bishop think they are getting a version that will work. I am off to watch them now. See ya.

Short Note

Okay, a blog is coming about D025, the "statement of where we are now" resolution about the ordination process. Not tonight, though. I am tired.

Well, just one: Yeaaa! If you have not found it, go to Integrity's web page.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

General Convention, day 6 addendum

Okay, so the protesters have gotten a little more specific in their signs. But you should also know that Integrity pulled out the rainbow flags and flew them in front of them. Don't get into verbal exchanges with folks like this. That is what they want. Provide an alternative response like the flags.

This was removed from the last report because apparently it was too large.

One last thing. We had visits in the House of Deputies from official representatives of The Anglican Churches in South Africa, Brazil, Kenya, New Zealand and Canada. They urged us to do what we need to do and know that we are still welcome. (The New Zealand one also gave us a great caution about appropriating the word Ubunto too easily without necessarily knowing what it means!) Hopefully, this made the official web posts. I know that Barbara Harris' Integrity Eucharist did.

General Convention, day 6, edited

Today I played hookey from the public narrative discussions. So did most of our deputation. Before that,though, we heard some inklings about what will come out of the sexuality reports. I listened in on the ones on same sex unions at the morning meeting of the Liturgy Committee. They are looking at allowing diocese to prepare right along with significant conversation with other parts of the Anglican Communions. Note that the word conversation is not the same as consultation, which, in some places, implies agreement.

At this point, it appears that the resolution about B033 are going to center on the reality that we are not of one mind. It is not clear to what extent they free us from the shackles. And, of course, the two houses can make all sorts of changes to the resolution when it reaches the floor. Keep watch on Monday and Tuesday.

By the way, I testified for the resolution out of our diocese about making the baptismal covenant moreof an active statement. Instead of the priest asking quesion about how we will live it out as the person assenting, the candidate (and the congregation) would actually say what they will do. And there is a additinal response about our stewardship of creation.

You may hear some rumblings about the choice of bishop for Central Ecuador. Be aware that the process followed was absolutely canonical and proper. The folks who do not like it represent one of the candidates who lost.

Ray Suarez (a deacon and yes, the name is familiar because he is on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS) preached a great sermon; go to the official web site for the footage. The gist was that we have something to offer to people who cannot find a home in other places in the church, and we have an obligation to carry that to those people.

So now on to the evening. I skipped the seminary dinner at $50 and went instead to the Latino/a party. Good food, but even better conversation with the current and future bishops of Central Ecuador. Both are wonderful folk and need our support. The previous bishop apparently ran the diocese without benefit of a standing committee and used the money for his own lifestyle. We are getting it back together, but it will take time. Pray for Bishop elect Ruis.

While I am at it, pray for Matt & Rebbecca Hanson, married yesterday. Matt is my assistant; they were married yesterday. To make matters worse, Matt had teaching job offer on Friday!

Now keep reading; this is a great story. I decided to go to the House of Blues in Downtown Disney, an area that is technically not in the park (you do not have to pay to get into it). Keep reading if you want a good story. My friend Dan Brown (no, not that guy. Dan is chaplain at U. of Georgia in Athens. We brought along Juan Diego, one of the young adults Dan knows from working with Vocare. We get there about 10:30pm.

The first thing that happens is we are given a wristband (right hand please!). Next we were asked if we were guests. Of course, we are not, but we are allowed to move to the head of the line. They sell us entry tickets for $20. Then we were practically stripped searched by their security. So we climb a dozen stairs and have our passports scrutinized--no, actually they just take the tickets from us that they just sold us at the bottom of the stairs.

If you read all this, you may have noticed some strange words at the bottom. I have no idea where they came from except it was 3:00am and I babbled on paper. Here is the rest of the story.

When we walk into the House of Blues, we hear techno pop. But what we see is nothing but Asian kids; they could not have been older than 23. And, of course it is obvious that they are there for each other and know this is the place to be. So all you non-Asian people with fantasies should just know that you would have been out of luck. And, as was pointed out to me by one person I told this story (believe, we have told this story!), not a whole luck of luck would have been had for gay folk either.

Except, to be honest, no one in the place is making a move. It's like 8th grade in here. The boys are in their clumps and so are the girls. No one is dancing in thei increasingly crowded place. The video monitors around the place are showing images of the empty dance floor. I tried a couple of times to take a picture with my cell phone, but of course the light is too low.

Not that there weren't pictures being taken. And a lot of giggling. At one point, I turn to Dan (who is White and looks like a good old boy from Georgia) "This may be one of those rare times where you and I are equally uncomfortable." Nothing like feeling like the dirty old man standing in the corner. Except Diego is 23 and he feels the same way. He went off to talk to the bartender (the staff by the way is all White and Latino/a), who suggests he come back on Sunday for the Gospel brunch. He politely declines. But when he comes back, he asks if we have read the wristband. Printed on it are the words "Unity in Diversity." We decide to not be the diversity any more and leave, looking out over another 50 kids ready to get in.

Today is Sunday, and I am finishing this blog. It is a short day. We have the United Thank Offering ingathering service at 10:00 and a 3:00pm legislative session. A lost of people, bishops especially have been booked to be in congregations, and besides it is both Sunday and we have been at it for a week. almost. I am missing the Episcopal Women's Caucus $35 breakfast with Barbara Harris, but hey, I just heard her preach at the Integrity Eucharist and anyway, I am eating breakfast in my room.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

General Convention, day 5

No picture today. The protestors have not returned.

Well, I missed day 4 on line. My parishioner Greg who is in seminary at CDSP came into town and I had a 'meeting' (read drinks) with some younger Black clergy about our frustrations with the identity politics being played out by our elders. (Yes, at 52 I can still talk about my elders in the situation. Sad, isn't it? Run to your next diocesan convention and run for GC deputy younger people! Your chances of getting elected are better than you think.)

In the morning, ++Rowan preached at the Eucharist and made a snide comment about things being okay unless we take some action that further strains the bonds of affection. Check out the video on the Episcopal Church General Convention web site at . It was hard not to hear his words as a subtle warning not to kill B033. At this point, though, I think he's gonna have to deal with the fact that we complied with the Windsor report 3 years ago and still had to deal with other dioceses intruding in our province.

Oh, and be sure to check out the Episcopal Church web page for reports about GC. I read all about the Young Adult Festival on line; I sure did not see them present at the actual event! Plus there are video links of the sermons and other things. Go to and click on the media links at the bottom of the page.

Anyway, the afternoon session in the Liturgy Committee on same sex unions went well, with the vast majority speaking in favor of creating some rite. And the evening session in the World Missions committee on B033 was similar. In the House legislative committee, we got to talk to our neighbor about how B033 affected our ministry. I talked with a woman from a small town in Oklahoma whose priest did nothing to prepare the congregation about sexuality. And, of course, Gene Robinson's consecration split the small congregation apart. Avoidance is not ministry people!

Oh, the electronic voting machines failed, so we had to put off the pension Fund Board vote. The next day, when we voted again, we had to spend 45 minutes voting, rather than giving ballots to some tellers to count. And there is no paper record of our individual votes! But I am ahead of myself.

Today we had out first really marathon session for four hours with one break. Whew!The highlight of it was our affirmation of the need to continue the antiracism work of the church. According to James, my parishioner who is working with the Integrity team, the House of Bishops kept going into executive session. They are taking up same sex blessings before we are, so that is probably the subject they wrestled with. If so, we will probably see it tomorrow.

Oh, and there was some asshole from Texas who kept trying to bully his way through Bonnie Anderson. As far as I can tell, someone needs to tell him to stop trying to control this strong and capable woman and start acknowledging her as president of the House of Deputies.

The highlight of the two days was the Integrity Eucharist. Creative, good music, Barbara Harris preaching and Gene Robinson celebrating. Well done folks. Even the biggest homophobe would have to admit they got this liturgy right. The whole thing was taped, so I assume there will be video on the site if not the GC media site. Look for it. Still trying to get my alternative coalition going. We met tonight and are still considering what we are talking about. I think we are in the same struggle as people trying to define emergent. Something has to change but we are not quite sure what it is just yet.

More coming soon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

General Convention, day 3

This picture says we are actually threatening to somebody. I don't think it is Fred Phelps' wackos from Kansas, but I did not ask. They saw me taking a picture of them and one guy said something about how someone was supporting them. I just said, "Dream on, buddy. You really are delusional," and then I walked away. Thought you'd love to see it.

Well, let's see. The PB told us we were in crisis again, this time in the opening Eucharist. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for twenty minutes, followed by some video that malfunctioned and then the three young people that the video was about answered two questions that the president of the House of Deputies posed to them rather than asking the Archbishop anything. What a wasted opportunity. He gave us some wonderful things to think about in relation to lies and truths in the global economic crisis, and we just threw his aside to toot our own horn.

To be fair the third of the younger speakers was an African doctor working with Malaria. Unfortunately, it came across as part program plug, part pat ourselves on the back for the ERD (Episcopal Relief and Development) Nets for Life program. People started walked out steadily when they saw that the program had stepped away from Rowan Williams.

Okay, let's back up. Today I spent time in the Social Concerns Committee. In the morning, I spoke to the Economic Justice resolution which was asking for $100,000 in the budget over the next three years for program and administration. Boy, the sponsors did not have their act together. It took half an hour for them to explain where the money would be used. Choose your speakers better, folks. You had a sympathetic audience, and I would not be surprised if you don't get the money.

New Deputies luncheon on the budget: A waste. I already knew everything they had to say, and I could have answered the questions that other new deputies were asking. Didn't any of these folks do some homework before showing up?

Highlight of the day: The afternoon hearing, again in Social Concerns, that focused on marriage rites in the states that have authorized civil marriage. Those bishops are putting forth a resolution asking for a pastoral allowance to, in effect, allow their clergy to act. There were no speakers against the resolution! It still has to go through both houses, but that was a strong start.

Tomorrow is one of the big days. Same sex marriage goes before the Liturgy committee in the afternoon, and B033 (see my earlier columns if the numbers make no sense) comes before World Missions in the evening.

And we had our first two legislative sessions as a full house. The first was basically organizing (Don't click your notebook after the house has come to order people. And don't clap unless allowed to by the chair). The second mostly cleared away some non-controversial resolutions.

There is a mysterious group of 8 who are meeting with the Archbishop to talk about the American Church in relation to homosexuality, supposedly to represent all sides. No one knows who they are. I bet James Joiner knows. I will ask him. Maybe I'll even be able to tell you!

After all that, the Archbishop's talk came. Oh, and I may be fomenting a coup among Black (and other) clergy who don't buy into the identity politics of our elders. We'll see. Probably should not be printing that just yet, but nobody reads this anyway.

It is 9:30 now. How do I know? Because the nightly fireworks display from Disney has started; I can hear it from the window in my hotel room. Still have a deputies of color meeting at 10:00. That will end the day. Bourbon helps.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Anaheim, Day 2

Got here yesterday at 9:30 in the morning, in time to beat the rush of folks flying in to go to the Michael Jackson memorial. Actually, most of them flew into LAX. We are in Anaheim, using the John Wayne International Airport, but if you think television has been inundated with MJ stuff where you are, I promise you that no one is turning on tvs in their room here; just passing them in the lobbies is more than enough.

For some reason, the Hilton did not want me to have a refrigerator. Mind you, I ordered it a few weeks ago and have to pay $30 for the privilege. At least the wifi is down to $5 a day; originally it as $12, but I figure they got an offer they couldn't refuse and suddenly we have a 'promotional price.' Anyway, I reminded the Hilton about the refrigerator when I checked in. No go. I came down to the desk again at 4:00; at that point they tried to say they might be out of them but would check on it.

At 7:00, a member of our deputation arrived and got a refrigerator in her room right away, while I was still waiting. We go to dinner, and then I come back and ask about it one more time. This time, the woman calls housekeeping and they send one up in ten minutes. So what was so hard people? For what we are paying, service should be a little better. And for the record, I was not threatening, loud, or rude.

Dinner at Morton's steakhouse. Overpriced, but very tasty. A $45 small steak should not come a la carte people.

This morning, several hundred new deputies woke up to go to an 8:00 meeting only to learn it was canceled. Later today we were told it was a mistake on the schedule. How did you miss this one?!!! Mind you, most of us from the east coast had no problem getting up for the event, but I certainly hope this is not the standard for scheduling. In the meantime, we had not bothered to look at what committee hearings we might want to go to during that time because we all know we were busy.

Started taking shots with my cell phone camera, but will carry my real one with me tomorrow. I love the gluten free communion station. Is this separate but equal? Is it really so hard to keep a few gluten free wafers at each station?

So nothing shocking or amazing yet, although the Presiding Bishop made it sound like we were all in crisis, and the President of the House of Deputies was almost as grim. Sorry folks, not all of us live in crisis world.

Pray especially for us Thursday. Two open hearings that afternoon and evening. The first is on same sex marriage and the second is on moving past B033 (look it up in the2006 General Convention archives.). Hopefully, that means the votes will come up by this weekend and we can get some other work done too.

Public narrative (sigh!). The next gimmick. Pick one part your story (personal experience), two parts our story (isn't that also called the Gospel?), add a dash of current situation demanding attention and there you have it. We called that a sermon in seminary, so I guess this is homiletics for the rest of the church. And I still don't know why we are doing it except the last GC said we need to do something. I'm not impressed.

Now off to the Black Deputies meeting at 10:00pm. Then we get to go back to it tomorrow at 7:00. And guess what. General Convention doesn't officially start until the Opening Eucharist tomorrow! You can anticipate some more pictures and probably some serious posts soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Seniority and the Church

As I prepare to leave for General Convention, I read some posts from a few younger members of the church. That means under 40, in case the word younger implies children to you. These are the thoughts that came from this reading:

40% of the deputies to GC this year are new. We were explicitly told we were not being assigned to legislative committees if we are new unless we had some 'specialized knowledge', whatever that is. So, basically, if you are under 25 (and there are several, including at least two high school students) you are locked out of the power structure before you even begin. The reasoning given for this decision is that GC is so overwhelming that they are trying to make it easier on us newbies so that we won't find it so difficult to maneuver. The goal is for more of us to run again. You see, something like 2/3 of us newbies won't if past history has anything to do with it.

Sorry. I just don't buy it. The reason people don't run is precisely the fact that their input as new deputies is not valued. Now we have institutionalized it in a new way. We've basically been told to let the old folks decide for us.

The reality is that this system perpetuates itself mercilessly. Returning deputies basically are those who were patient enough to ride out their powerless conventions and return after the people ahead of them died off (metaphorically and actually). You can't blame them really. If you don't have the ability to get the authority until you wait a few rounds, why would you give up your seat before you reach your goal? We tend to look at the more seasoned deputies as hanging on when, in many cases, they have only just arrived at the goal of the seats of power.

But they have also been trained and brought up by a system that perpetuates itself. Change comes from new elements (people?) being introduced into the system. In other words, the seniority system has to be scrapped. Yes, of course we need the expertise of people who have been around for awhile. But there are plenty of them around. It is not enough to open the door to letting younger people run; they had that privilege all along. Once they get there, you have to give them an equal seat and a microphone that works.

And, by the way, that goes twice for deputies of color, who think I am new in the system even though I have been ordained 25 years and have attended four other GCs. Just cause I am a new deputy does not mean I haven't been around! And I no longer quality as young; I'm 52, for heaven's sake. However, I work with young people all the time, so I know I do not think like them. But I sure want to hear what they have to say, and I am not afraid to give them power in the decisions that affect them--and us.