Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back in the Hot Seat

After a week and a half of vacation, which was preceded by a week of General Convention, I'm finally back in the office today, sweating in triple-digit heat. Spent the day tying up loose ends, putting a computer network together, and attempting to generate as little heat as possible. I've nosed around the blogs with the continuing discussions of post-General Convention issues, but frankly am thinking more of the fact that I have a little more than a month before the program year (Sunday School, etc...) begins. Time to make some plans!

More later, perhaps when the temperature cools down a bit....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

D025 and Speaking the Truth in Love

Predictably, the Episcopal and Anglican world is abuzz over the passage of Resolution D025 at General Convention yesterday. While I could go on and on about it, I'll defer to Greg Jones at Anglican Centrist, with whom I very much agree, for an excellent article about it. The short, short version is that D025 states clearly the current state of much of The Episcopal Church regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gender (GLBT) ordination, the Anglican Communion, and the "listening process." It's actually a little more vague and nuanced than I'd prefer (just call a spade a spade, for God's sake!) but it is what it is.

My preference for clarity has less to do with putting out an "in your face" statement and more to do with the inevitable multiple interpretations of the resolution from conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum. Conservatives are already crying "they've chosen to walk apart" and liberals are already dancing in the streets over the "end of the moratorium" on consent to the election of GLBT bishops, or the "repeal of B033" (the resolution asking for restraint in such consents). It is neither. Predictably, it is a middle course which simultaneously asserts our desire to be a continuing member of the Anglican Communion while also asserting that we are not free to violate our own Constitution and Canons nor to simply ignore the ministry of GLBT persons in our midst. Some Standing Committees and Bishops will still withold consent from GLBT bishops-elect, some won't. Some dioceses will elect GLBT folks to the episcopate, others won't. Sounds suspiciously like what we have now, without the ecclesiastical slight of hand or smoke and mirrors of saying one thing and doing another.

In any case, other pieces of legislation are in the pipeline and the next few days will result in a flurry of resolutions being passed, so there will be much to comment upon. All those of us in pulpit and pew can do is pray for God's will to be done, Christ's peace in the midst of everything that is going on, and the Spirit's power to grow and sustain the church through trial and tribulation.

Monday, July 13, 2009

General Convention, Day Six and Reflections

As promised, reflections on Day Six (the morning of...) has waited until I returned home. This also happens to be the 100th posting on this blog, for what that is worth.

I managed to check out of my hotel and get myself to the convention center in time for the UTO Ingathering Eucharist. As with all of the Community Eucharists, it was an impressive combination of pageantry and song, as well as participation from thousands of members of the congregation. When one needs 144 Eucharistic Ministers, you know that you have a large congregation! It as also an opportunity for our Presiding Bishop to remind us what all of us, deputies, bishops, and visitors alike, have the opportunity to carry home with us. Having just packed up and checked out of my hotel, these words resonated with me: ""When you leave this place, how much more stuff will you have than when you arrived? You can ship the papers home, but are you open enough to receive what is offered here – from the housekeeper in your hotel room, the deputy across the aisle, an international or ecumenical visitor, or the person who beats you to the microphone?"

I was not there for the now infamous D025 debate, but what struck me most about the resolution itself was that it simply re-connects General Convention with the reality of individual, congregational, and diocesan life in most of the Episcopal Church. It says nothing other than that we commit to both continued membership and engagement with the rest of the Anglican Communion as well as honoring our own process and polity. Not as much as progressives would have liked, more than conservatives would have preferred: perhaps the via media at its best.

I suppose that the big question I have coming out of General Convention (while knowing that it is still going on. As I write this, both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops are scheduled to be in session) is this: How do we bridge the chasm between what goes on at General Convention and the realities of individual, congregational, and diocesan life? At General Convention I saw a worldwide church, proud to be who it is, and moving forward in mission and ministry, even amongst challenge and conflict. At an individual, congregatioanl and diocesan level, I see little of that international focus, little mission focus, and more than a little anxiety about what tomorrow will bring. It will be my task, and that of others who attended General Convention this year, to bridge that gap--to bring the optomism of General Convention to the person-in-the-pew and to bring his or her concerns to the next General Conveniton in 2012.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

General Convention, Day Five

While this is not technically my last day of General Convention, it is the last day I'll be blogging about for a bit, primarily because tomorrow will be largely a travel day for me. I will attend the UTO Ingathering and Eucharist tomorrow morning, then head back to my hotel for my airport shuttle and then home. I had a certain sense of sadness as I left the convention center this afternoon--knowing that I would not be attending any more legislative sessions which, though occasionally tedious, have some really bringht spots as well.

This morning at the Community Eucharist, Ray Suarez preached an outstanding sermon saying, in effect, that we need not apologize for who we are and that we as a church have weathered a long series of conflicts over the years and will weather the one about sexuality, too. It frankly made me change my mind about some of the things I've said in previous blog entries regarding the Episcopal Church. Rather than scaling back, I think we need to ask for a committment from each and every perosn in the pews to help us to fully live into the structures and programs that do so much for so many. While there is certainly room and need to focus, it seems like it makes more sense to do a little judicious pruning rather than wholesale limb removal, to use a gardening analogy.

That was the first shoe to drop for me. The second was a long speach by Jenny Te Paa, one of several international guests of House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson. She said, in part, "

"I am a little surprised and saddened that too many Episcopalians are being affected by their sense of loss of face or vulnerability in belonging to the Anglican Communion," she said. "I am dismayed at the extent to which that seems to be prevalent. I don't believe that that is so … it is not how I perceive the rest of the communion regarding the Episcopal Church to be honest." Citing her own province's experience of being the only province to be censured by the Anglican Consultative Council for its constitutional changes empowering indigineous people, she went on toe encourage the Episocpal Church to make the decision it feels in needs to make in terms of its own sense of justice. I was, frankly, stunned. From reports, it would seem that the Episcopal Church is viewed by the rest of the Anglican Communion as stubbornly going our own way in spite of pleas to hold back. From what I head from Te Paa, that is hardly the case with any number of provinces.

I then travelled to the Disney California Hotel for a wonderful Virginia Theological Seminary dinner where I was reminded of how great a seminary it is and how much it also is tied in to the Anglican Communion. I return home acutely conscious not only of the breadth of the Episcopal Church, but the worldwide communion of which it is a part.

General Convention, Day Four

Got up a litle earlier this morning and was present when the House of Deputies went into session at 9:30 a.m. I continue to have the rather cynical sounding question reverberating in my mind: Why so huge and cumbersome a legislative process for a church of slightly over two million members? There is a plea from the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee for both creative and realistic ways of plugging what is likely to be a $15 million income shortfall. I have a solution: Cut the budget, do fewer things, and focus on what we can and are called to uniquely do. I'm also struck by how glacially slow it seems things get done. Presumably the pace will accellerate as legislative committees complete their work and the end of Convention nears, but I frankly almost feel sorry for the Deputies, at least, spending hour after hour plodding through resolution after resolution, any one of which might well be spoken to by at least one person for several minutes. With hundreds of resolutions, it will be a very long remainder of Convention!

After ducking out of the House of Deputies meeting I headed for the daily Community Eucharist where I was asked to be one of the distributors of bread. Though clad in a t-shirt and slacks rather than a nicer outfit, I agreed. After all, how often does one get to distribute bread at a General Convention Eucharist? It was very fun, not least because my friend Maureen was the Deacon in charge of that communion station and the altar guild person there was someone I knew from long ago in the Diocese of California. I really liked the variety of people that came to me for bread--bishops, visitors, young, old, the whole diversity of the Episcopal Church, in fact! Perhaps the most fun, however, was giving communion to the children in the children's choir after they sang. WOW! It was like feeding pigeons--they all wanted a piece of bread, and all at once. It was actually pretty darn exciting. I don't think I've given that many children communion at one service in the entirety of my ordained ministry. Very cool.

After that, I headed for the NNECA (National Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations) lunch, which I thought I'd registered and paid for, but they didn't have my name on the list. So, I sat in back and participated as much as seemed needed. I did split a wrap (sandwich) with one of my seminary classmates (she could only eat half anyway, she said), so I got some food. The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, Bishop of Maryland, was the keynote speaker. He talked about a time when Peter Drucker (of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People fame) filled a bucket with large rocks. He asked the audience if the bucket was full. They said "yes." He then proceeded to pour some gravel in the bucket, filling it with gravel. He asked again if the bucket was full. His audience again replied "yes," but with much less force. He then poured a load of sand in the bucket, again filling it. Once again he asked if the bucket was full. By then there was a definite questioning "yes?" He poured a pitcher of water in, and the bucket was full.

The moral of the story, far from what I thought it might be ("nothing is what it seems" or "there's always room for more," or something equally obvious) was instead "you have to get the rocks in first, otherwise you'll never get them in." He said his rocks were Prayer, Holiness, Purpose, Discipline, and Honor. If you don't get those in your life, he said, everything else fills it up and you can't get that in. He used the example of prayer, which was a great one for me as that sometimes really does slip out of my day without my really knowing or intending it. All in all, an excellent experience.

Following that, both Houses began a marathon 2:30 to 6 p.m. legislative session. I poked into the House of Deputies, heard a few presentations regarding the debate on resolution 2006-B033, but decided to duck out after a half-dozen. It will be interesting to see what General Convention does with the various resolutions having to do with sexuality. Some are direct repeals of B033, others seek to clarify our canons with regard to qualifications for ordination (heterosexuality specifically isn't one), and still others are either canonical changes or changes of policy that would permit some form of same-sex blessings (which B033 doesn't address). It will be interesting to see how all of those resolutions make it through the various legislative committees and which ones make it through which House(s).

I spent from 3 to 4 p.m. saying afternoon prayers (at 3 p.m.) and watching the booth in the exhibition hall which functions as the Convention Chapel. Why the General Convention doesn't have an actual Convention Chapel is beyond me, but they don't. Anglimergent, a group of emergent Anglican folks, solicited donations and put this together. We had four of us for afternoon prayers. Many people walked by and said something like "it's great that this is here" or "what a good idea" but none stopped to actually make use of the space. The cynical part of me thought that was just like some church folks--they want to know that a program is there, even if they don't intend to use it!

Did a little looking around the exhibit hall, walked the 20 minute walk back to my hotel, remembered I was due to go to a CREDO reception, and walked nearly all the way back to the convention center. After the reception I walked back to my hotel and grabbed the shuttle for Downtown Disney. It was fun to wander, but apart from grabbing a late dinner and a hat with Mickey ears, I didn't really buy anything. Now I sit in my room as it approaches 1 a.m. and wonder what I'll do tomorrow. I might possibly try to get to the morning legislative session again (at 9:30 a.m.) or, if I'm feeling particularly lazy, I'll aim for the 11:30 a.m. Eucharist. Since it is my last full day at General Convention (I leave Sunday afternoon), it will likely be the former, or at least arriving early enough to do some shopping before the Eucharist. Until later today...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

General Convention, Day Three

If I had subtitled this entry it would be: Relationships and Resolutions. Today I sat in on the debate on the sole resolution regarding the Anglican Covenant being dealt with at this convention, a resolutions that resolves that we "provisionally accept" and agree to live by the first three paragraphs on the Ridley-Cambridge draft of the Covenant. There was a great deal of discussion of relationships, communion, etc... and whether our church should "lead" by provisionally accepting the Covenant or, on the other side, whether we needed a covenant at all to accomplish the mission and ministry of the church and sustain and strengthen the ties that we already have with other churches of the Anglican Communion. There was even some question about whether the Church of England would ultimately be able to sign the Covenant since it would appear to hand control of the established Church of England to a higher (foreign) authority. Since the Church of England is an established church and thus beholden to Parlament, that could be problematic.

Right after I left the hearing, I ran into my old field education supervisor who is now working in the American Anglican Council. While he and I would likely disagree on most things, I was able to greet him warmly, show him pictures of my children, and thank him for the pastoral care he game my family and me during my field education time. It struck me that what we are really being asked to do with all of the resolutions regarding the Anglican Covenant and repeal of resolution 2006-B033 is to chose our relationships. Are we as a church going to push ahead with celebrating the committed relationships of GLBT people, perhaps at the cost of both relationships with other churches in the Anglican Communion (but perhaps not between the people of our two churches) as well as relationships with people alongside whom we have served? I don't know, and the choice of honoring one set of relationships at the possible expense of others is one that I'm personally happy that I won't have to vote on. I will, however, have to live with any consequences of that vote or votes, so I am definately praying for the bishops and deputies. It will be an interesting next few days.

Then this evening we had a GTNG dinner gathering at 6:30 p.m. and a GTNG "post-dinner" gathering at 8 p.m. I was glad to have time to sit and chat with folks I haven't met before, have met only online, or haven't seen for a while. Sometimes, I think, the church mechanisms get in the way of such informal but life-giving relationships. Until tomorrow....

General Convention, Day Two

Actually, this is the morning of Day Three for me, but that's just because I'm running a little behind in blogging! Day Two was the first full legislative day of General Convention and I made sure to be up in time to hike the 20 minutes to the Convention Center and arrived in plenty of time to pick up my badge that marks me as a registered visitor and admits me to the exposition hall (marketplace), committee hearings, and the visitors gallery in the House of Deputies. Not sure whether the House of Bishops meetings are similarly open, but I might see later today.

My first impressions of General Convention are many--chiefly that it is a huge event! Part of me wonders how a denomination with under two million members ends up with a legislative structure this complex, but I'm here for the experience, not to single-handedly reform the structure of the church. I've also compared it to a face-to-face Facebook experience--I've seen dozens of people I haven't seen in many years. Folks from seminary but also people I've known in my ordained ministry and, of course, the Deputation from Oregon. I even saw my former boss here! In any case, it has been great to see people and connect. It seems almost a shame that there is work to do and most follks have to rush off to a committee hearing or other official business.

Business-wise, I sat in on the Joint Commmittee on Constitution and Canons, which reminded me why I'm not a canon lawyer. I also sat in on the second (late afternoon) session of the House of Deputies. I have two impressions. First, it is very formal, much more formal than even the school board meetings I'm familiar with. Second, some people will vote "no" on anything, even seemingly non-controversial resolutions. Wierd. After the House of Deputies meeting, I attended the Global Economic Forum with a panel discussion that included the Archbishop of Canterbury. Frank Logue, who sat next to me, blogged about the experience better than I could. After that, it was a late dinner with my friend and colleague Nathan (picture two relatively young guys in clergy attire sitting in a burger joint in LA and I'll let you imagination go from there) and the day was over.

So, this morning is the beginning of Day Three. They are doing "Mission Conversations" this morning, which I don't think lend themselves to exciting spectator sport, so I slept in and am slowly getting out of here. I'm going to try to make the mid-day Community Eucharist at 11:30 a.m. Since I have two hours, that should work. Tonight is the GTNG Gathering, so it should be fun to hang out with friends old and new!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

General Convention, Day One

Well, I'm here. Here being Anaheim, California for the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. It is a little odd, since I'm not here with any sort of official delegation or deputation and so haven't "connected" with anyone I know as yet. However, I'll be up bright and early tomorrow morning, hoping to reach the Anaheim Convention Center in time to register and get to the Opening Eucharist, if not the first legislative session, by 9:15 a.m. Being an INFP on the Meyers-Brings Type Indicator (MBTI), I'm generally OK with not having a specific plan, but it is a little unnerving to be "flying solo" for the time being. I'm sure that will change tomorrow. Already I have about a half-dozen luncheons, breakfasts, or gatherings to attend, so I doubt seriously that I'll lack for things to do.

Well, a little relaxing and then to bed. Tomorrow is a big day!