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GC 79 – Post 4 – It’s almost a wrap

Today is the last legislative day, we begin on the floor at 8am. We have quite a few resolutions to slog through, including a slightly amended B012 (access to marriage liturgies – more on that below), but for the most part we have dealt with the most controversial resolutions already.

Yesterday I had a brief conversation with the Reverend Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies (PHOD) and a friend. Gay was one of the chaplains the Episcopal Church sent to the coast of Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina to work with the Episcopal clergy on the coast. She was wonderful in that role, and desperately needed, and I will always be grateful to her. That was in 2005. She was elected President in 2012, has presided over the HoD the last two conventions, and was reelected for her final 3 year term at this convention. One thing we passed at this convention was to actually PAY the PHOD, it is amazing to think how much time and work is required of this position, year round, yet until now it was a volunteer position! Gay does a tremendous job presiding over the House of Deputies both during convention and in between conventions.
Gay asked if I had had “fun” being on the Committee for Dispatch of Business. I told her “fun” was not the word I would use. It is important work of course, and I did enjoy being the liaison for Christian Formation and Discipleship. Teaching is something I really love to do, so connecting with people on that committee who develop materials for all ages, are dedicated to forming disciples of Jesus, and looking for creative ways of partnership across the church for Christian Formation was great. Their committee did good work and dealt with a lot of resolutions, most of whom we will deal with today on the floor.

It has truly been an honor to serve as Chair of our Deputation. The Deputation from Central Gulf Coast has done yeoman’s work at this GC. We also have enjoyed each other’s company and had great conversations around the work we are doing. We met together each day over lunch (where we usually only had a 30 minute window in between legislative sessions or committee meetings), which allowed each of us to update the others on work of the respective committees we either were part of or were following. It is so helpful to have testimony from members of our deputation regarding how resolutions are going to look before we get them on the floor, and this group of dedicated lay and clergy deputies and alternates were open and honest about how they felt about things. We did not, of course, always agree but the information was invaluable and it is always good to be able to share our thoughts with one another. And we like each other, which always helps.
I am grateful to the Rev. Peter Wong, who has submitted video interviews of each member of the deputation, along with other folks from Central Gulf Coast who are here for various purposes. I commend the videos to you, you can access them HERE. Peter – great job!

I must say a word about worship at GC this time. Worship has always been a highlight of GC for me. Certainly the opening Eucharist and the Texas Revival stand out, and the closing Eucharist last night was outstanding. But it’s been different this time and I can only believe it is because they moved worship to late in the day this GC. Usually at 5:15 right after a legislative session, or even later (7:30 last night). This was a mistake in my opinion. Typically we worship in the mornings, beginning our day with corporate prayer and Eucharist and outstanding preaching. The later times definitely impacted attendance – people were either worn out from the day or wanted to get to dinner before returning to committee hearings and meetings each night which usually began at 7:30. I would usually pass a LOT of people leaving for their respective hotels as I made my way to worship each evening. Hopefully they will hear this from a bunch of folks and will return to the schedule of old for the next GC.

Meanwhile you can click HERE for the GC Media Hub where you can  (by scrolling down) see videos of both of Presiding Bishop Curry’s  amazing sermons , as well as those of all our outstanding preachers during GC.

By now you may have heard about Prayer Book revision. Passed by the HoD, the House of Bishops (HoB) rewrote the resolution and produced something I could fully support (I voted against the original in the HoD version). You can read the resolution by clicking HERE. A068 calls for a task force to work on revision while “memorializing” (keeping official and allowing the use of in perpetuity) the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Instead of a 2 million dollar price tag to begin the complicated task of revision, the task force will cost far less and will be gathering information from dioceses across the church and focus on developing liturgies, while true to who we are and the things we hold dear, will offer the option of more expansive language for God and humanity. It is a great compromise and I am happy to discuss this more fully with any of you.

The original proposal from the Task Force on Marriage was to add the same sex versions of the marriage liturgies to the Book of Common Prayer. A compromise resolution, B012, was approved instead and establishes those liturgies as ongoing trial liturgies until a new prayer book is actually produced (which will be quite a ways down the road now). B012 also provides a way for a parish in a diocese to offer these liturgies even if their bishop is theologically opposed to them, including receiving help if necessary from a bishop of another diocese. The resolution puts the approval of these liturgies back under the authority of the Rector or Priest in Charge, which is where any approved liturgies of the church have almost always been allowed or disallowed (of course we cannot as Rectors allow any liturgies the BCP or General Convention have not approved without the Bishop’s permission).
Go HERE to read B012.

I am looking forward to returning home tomorrow. GC is truly exhausting, invigorating, challenging and delightful. I leave this one more excited about the Episcopal church than ever. Our Presiding Bishop sets such an amazing example for all of us striving to be the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement,  reminding me and all to keep the main thing, the main thing – Jesus! See my video with Peter Wong which will be posted with the others later today for more on that.

God bless and thanks for visiting my blog!

GC 79 – post 3 – Revival, BCP revision and marriage to the forefront

I hope you are following along with the live feeds and replays of worship services. The Diocese of Texas night on Saturday was billed as a Revival – and boy was it! The Presiding Bishop PREACHED, for almost 45 minutes, and it was amazing. Be sure to watch it and see if you, like me, are mesmerized by the work of the translator. She is a rock star! It was a great night with awesome music and a Texas food truck spread of wonderful food. I had a blast.

Sunday I joined 1000 other Episcopalians at a prayer service in Taylor, TX at the Hutto Detention Center, where a large number of women seeking asylum in the US are held. It was a time for prayer and a call to all our leaders to be our best selves. The issues are complicated, but I believe followers of Jesus would all agree we need to treat people with love and compassion and call upon our government leaders to address all the problems with our immigration systems.

By now you may have heard the House of Deputies passed a resolution approving revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Despite what you have heard, the Episcopal church is not redefining who God is! However I am sure the new prayer book, when it is completed around 2030, will include expansive language for both God and humanity. We already do this in authorized liturgies from Enriching our Worship – check them out sometime, some really wonderful prayers are in those resources.
Although I did not vote for the resolution, there are good reasons to take a long, hard look at our BCP. By the time a new book is complete and approved, the 1979 BCP will be 51 years old. The resolution commits us to our Anglican core and the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral, to be mindful of our ecumenical partners, to insure voices and experts from across our church, including those in Province IX (dioceses of our church outside of the USA), are included in the process. You can read the resolution by going to generalconvention.org, click the Virtual Binder link, click on Resolutions, and enter “A068” to search for it. And I commend this blog post (LINK) by Bishop Gunter of Fond de Lac who sums up much of how I think about it.
By the way the resolution now goes to the House of Bishops who may reject it or amend it, so this process is definitely not over.
For those who are in a bit of panic over this, these comments from The Rev. Don Compier, a seminary professor, may help:
“The house of bishops will now consider prayer book revision. It is important to remember that if they approve the house of deputies’ action, the process of investigation, study, and deliberation only begins in the next triennium. It will be important for us not to obsess about this, spreading rumors and fears, when what will be proposed is still a long way off. And all of us will have opportunities to actively participate as we give feedback, responding to surveys, eventual trial liturgies, etc.
We have a lot of other work requiring our focus: sharing the love of God and inviting persons into our community of faith, witnessing for justice, overcoming racism once and for all as we embrace all of God’s people, caring for creation. Let’s trust the Holy Spirit and keep our priorities straight.”

I also am a signatory to a Memorial (a unique way to communicate to General Convention) which describes how many of us believe regarding how we refer to Jesus. I am especially glad this Memorial includes signatures from quite a few millennial clergy and lay people, as well as older folks like me. I commend it to you. Link to Memorial…

The next big item on our agenda is B012, regarding the use of new marriage liturgies which were approved at GC 2015. This resolution is a compromise supported by the House of Bishops which does open the door for parishes to use the new same sex marriage versions of the marriage liturgy even if their bishop does not support their use. The final version of this resolution is still forming as we will debate several amendments this morning.

GC 79 post 2 The Way of Love

Although my committee had to meet during the opening worship (I know, but was only time slot), this place is buzzing from the Presiding Bishop’s sermon and materials handed out calling for a Way of Love. Please go to this link to watch the sermon and see what  this is all about. I am SO excited about how to join in this movement with my own parish! The Way of Love PB Curry introduced:

The seven practices provide a Rule of Life that all Episcopalians are encouraged to adopt:

  • Turn: pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus
  • Learn: reflect daily on scripture, especially the life and teachings of Jesus
  • Pray: spend time with God in prayer every day
  • Worship: gather in community for worship every week
  • Bless: share one’s faith and find ways to serve other people
  • Go: move beyond one’s comfort to witness to the love of God with words and actions
  • Rest: dedicate time for restoration and wholeness

Check it out!

This afternoon we will deal with the recommendation from the special committee on prayer book revision. Shockingly they are recommending we go forward and asking for 2 million dollars to fund it! Incidentally they held a hearing at 8 am on Wednesday, when a lot of folks were not even here yet, that was lightly attended with few folks testifying. A later hearing would have certainly brought many more people to speak and listen. This topic is too important and I anticipate a brutal floor debate today.

As the resolution currently stands I am leaning against supporting it.

More on this later, this morning we also are having a joint session on racial reconciliation which should be really interesting and helpful.

 

General Convention – Day one

Let the games begin! Arrived last night in Austin, it was only 102 degrees at 6pm! And it’s not a dry heat!
I have just a few minutes before my first committee meeting. I am assigned to Dispatch of Business and hopefully can tell you more about what that means after this meeting. Basically we manage the flow of resolutions to the House of Deputies and House of Bishops. We meet every morning at 7am and every day at the end of that day’s legislative session. We also attend all meetings of the committee to which we are assigned.

You can follow resolutions yourself. Go to this link, and click on the “Virtual Binder” on the right hand side. You can search for resolutions by number, committee it is assigned to, and proposer.

At GC we deal with legislation in the form of resolutions. They can come from interim bodies – which are commissions and task forces who produce reports for the Blue Book (also accessed from the link above) as well as resolutions for all of GC to act upon. All resolutions are assigned to legislative committees, where they can be edited, combined with others, etc. The committee sends the result of their deliberations to the floor of the respective houses with a recommendation to adopt or dismiss or refer. I am assigned to be the liaison to the Committee on Christian Education and Discipleship, and that committee has a lot of resolutions to deal with. We meet for the first time tonight.

The Reverend Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement (that’s the Forward Day by Day folks) has published on his blog comments on every pre-filed resolution from the Blue Book. Scott includes his own opinion on each resolution, but those are just his opinions. The bulk of the work he has done is to describe each resolution, some history on the topic, and any controversy that may be part of the debate. Go to this LINK to access all of Scott’s work, you can search by resolution and topic, etc.
As a member of Dispatch I am required to attend all the meetings and hearings of the committee I am assigned to, which means I won’t be able to blog about some of the real interesting/controversial resolutions unless my committee is not meeting at the same time. If you are a Twitter use, the hashtag #GC79 will be used by anyone that is tweeting about General Convention and may be a way to follow hearings you are interested in.

Hot button topics will include proposals for a new Book of Common Prayer, additional work on marriage liturgies to include gender-neutral language, Israel and Palestine, and a lot of resolutions coming from a special committee on the church and women which will address issues from the MeToo movement (sexual harassment in the church certainly does exist), as well as working toward equal opportunities for women in ministry, in bishop elections, and the like. When possible I will post my own thoughts on these resolutions once we see how they will come out of their respective legislative committees.

Meanwhile please post in the comment section any questions, concerns, or comments you would like to share. All comments must be approved by me before they show up on the blog so just know it may take some time to see your comment online.
Your prayers, most of all, are greatly appreciated.

A time to weep

When I was doing my field ed at a parish near my seminary, we were preparing for a funeral one day. I recall asking the two priests, “when do you get to grieve?” They both sort of chucked and said “we don’t”.

I found that to be a disappointing response. True, as the spiritual leaders, as the ones who need to help a family through the death of a loved one, make plans, officiate the service, all those things and more, we do need to be the rock that holds things together for them. But certainly we also can and should grieve the death of someone we too loved.

Today is one of those days. We’ve had too many of them this year at St. Simon’s.

So I snuck off for a bit to sit and pray and remember. And yes, to grieve. Knowing how much the one who has died loved our church and this holy space helped a lot.

May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.