Update: Jim Naughton is liveblogging it here.
Daily Archives: July 10, 2009
The first thing to say is thank you. Thank you for the invitation to join you on this occasion and to share something of my mind with you; and so thank you too for your continuing willingness to engage with the wider life of our Communion. I do realise that this engagement has been and still is costly for different people in different ways: some feel impatient, some feel compromised, some feel harassed or undervalued, or that their good faith has been ungraciously received. I’m sorry; this has been hard and will not get much easier, I suspect. But it is something for which many of us genuinely are grateful to you and to God.
And it’s related to the second thing. Of course I am coming here with hopes and anxieties ”“ you know that and I shan’t deny it. Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart. But if people elsewhere in the Communion are concerned about this, it’s because of a profound sense of what the Episcopal Church has given and can give to our fellowship worldwide. If we – if I ”“ had felt that we could do perfectly well with out you, there wouldn’t be a problem. But the bonds of relationship are deep, for me personally as for many others. And I’m tempted to adapt what St Paul says to the Corinthians in the middle of a set of tensions no less bitter than what we have been living through and in the wake of challenges from St Paul a good deal more savage than even the sharpest words from Primates or Councils: ‘Why? Because we do not love you? God knows we do.’
Well: to business. Our readings put before us a vision of Christ’s Church that is both simple and alarming.
I attended, at Committee request, the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music public hearing from 2pm to 4pm. The hearing, held in a large hotel ball room, was on resolutions proposing same sex liturgies for holy matrimony, holy unions and blessings””eleven resolutions in all. I estimate attendance at somewhere between 150 and 200. Estimating numbers in crowds is not my strong suit so don’t bet any money on this. A total of thirty-six people testified in favor of the various resolutions ten testified against them. Testimony was straightforward and respectful. There was not the anger and acrimony on either side that was present in GC 2006.
The thrust of the proponents was that taking action will liberate the church to move on with mission, the Spirit is once again calling the Church through society as it did with the issues of women and Blacks to full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, the dreadful harm that has been inflicted through exclusion must stop and we need to move beyond the hypocrisy we have engaged in for such a long time.
The opponents had biblical objections, said the theological issues have not yet been worked through, said that same sex is not accepted by the majority in the greater Anglican Community nor with the majority in the U.S., and that we need to listen to the voices of the past and tradition.
IN PRACTICE, how important is it to study and think about the Bible? In the Church of England, the standing committee of the House of Bishops recently seemed to indicate that it gives scripture a lower priority than is to be expected from bishops.
Last year, I suggested that on four Sundays in a year, the congregations in a deanery should be urged to come together, whatever their church tradition (Comment, 28 NoÂvemÂber). They should share a euÂcharist, and listen to 20 minutes about the Bible, followed by an hour’s discussion of what it means now.
I argued that a brief homily during the parish communion is not enough. Nor is the extensive use of the scriptures offered in Common Worship to those uncommonly deÂvout. Nor is a more substantial sermon if it is accompanied by strong music, but not by a free disÂcussion. In adult education outside TV, it is now taken for granted that people must digest the material by asking questions and hearing other people’s reactions.
I’m writing this as the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church gets ready to begin. We meet this year in Anaheim, California (next door to Disneyland, in fact), from July 7 through 17. One wag has already designed a General Convention logo that shows the Episcopal shield capped with Mickey Mouse ears!
General Convention is (so conventional wisdom says) the third largest convention in the nation, surpassed only by the quadrennial gatherings of the national political parties. Certainly the size is daunting. Some 10,000 Episcopalians will converge on Anaheim over the next eleven days. They will include not only those officially involved in legislation (about 840 deputies and 150 bishops), but also media personnel, volunteers, exhibitors, lobbyists in their thousands, and countless visitors. Our former canon to the ordinary, David Seger, is fond of calling it the Greatest Show on Earth, and not inappropriately. It is certainly an enormous family gathering, and that for me is one of General Convention’s great gifts. Every three years, General Convention provides me the opportunity to connect with brothers and sisters from all around the church. At General Convention it is impossible to walk a straight line: wherever you go, friends call out your name and draw you into conversation. The modern word is “networking,” but the experience is considerably more profound. It’s a reminder that “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthains 12:13), an indissoluble bond.
Our diocese is represented by eight deputies, four clergy (Ben Jones, Richard Lightsey, Dan Martins, and Henry Randolph) and four lay (Pam Harris, Charlotte Strowhorn, Christopher Wells, and Scott Wright), in addition to the bishop. De Bada from Grace Church, Fort Wayne, is our delegate to the triennial meeting of the Episcopal Church Women. Please keep all of us in your prayers, not least for strength and endurance. Days begin each morning at 7:30 am with legislative committee meetings, and last until 10:00 or 10:30 pm every night.
While General Convention is a gargantuan gathering of the Episcopal clan, it is also (and primarily) a legislative body. Hundreds of resolutions have been submitted in advance, ranging from liturgical enhancements (the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is proposing a major infusion of new commemorations to the church’s calendar of saints) to a sweeping revision of the canons that deal with clergy discipline to a proposal (submitted by the Church Pension Group, after a three-year study) for a denomination-wide health insurance plan for clergy and full-time lay employees. Dozens of pre-filed resolutions address pressing social issues. We will struggle, not surprisingly, with financial matters, as the national structure of the Episcopal Church deals with a shortfall in its receipts. You can read all of the pre-filed resolutions at http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/ .
Also not surprisingly, it’s likely that human sexuality will dominate General Convention and be something of a subtext for all of its deliberations. Many dioceses have submitted resolutions asking Convention to authorize liturgies for the blessing of same-sex unions. (These resolutions themselves offer a wide range of ways to accomplish this.) Others are seeking an overturn of Resolution B-033 from 2006, which called for restraint in the nomination, election, and consent of persons to the episcopate whose manner of life would challenge the unity of the Anglican Communion. (The implication of B-033 is that the Episcopal Church pledges, for the sake of Anglican unity, not again to ordain bishops living in a same-sex partnership.) As of this writing – I’ve been in Anaheim for less than a day – I’m hearing a good deal of “buzz” around these resolutions, and a certain sadness that once again a single issue will make it more difficult to focus on other serious matters. Not least among these is the need to re-energize the church for the work of evangelism in the face a church-wide decline in average Sunday attendance. That, I believe, is where we should be investing our time: in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and the Great Commandment (John 13:34). Regarding human sexuality, my hope is that we do absolutely nothing – pass no legislation, make no pronouncements, take no hasty action. This is a time, I believe, when we should invest ourselves in prayer, in pastoral care, and in theological reflection, rather than in passing resolutions (in either direction) which would further fragment the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The spiritual discipline of silence seems particularly appropriate; we should avoid the temptation to rush into a solution that would inevitably create winners, losers, and division.
Please pray not only for the deputies and me, but above all for General Convention itself, that we will together seek the heart of Jesus and submit ourselves to him. May this 76th General Convention redound to the glory of God and the building up of his Kingdom!
Yours in Christ,
–(The Rt. Rev.) Edward Little is Bishop of Northern Indiana
[KIM] LAWTON: For decades, mainline denominations have been wrestling over issues surrounding homosexuality: whether to ordain gay clergy and whether to recognize”“and bless same-sex unions. Now that six states have legalized gay marriage, those battles are taking on a new urgency. Some church members are pushing the denominations to re-assess their policies, while others are fighting to hold the line.
Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, an advocacy group that supports conservative positions within mainline denominations.
MARK TOOLEY: The church shouldn’t just go along with what the wider society demands of it. But the church is ideally supposed to be faithful to timeless teachings that have been presented to the church through its Scripture and through its traditions.
There was much anticipation Thursday morning as the time approached for the daily Eucharist; the Archbishop was scheduled to preach. Would there be any new word about how he felt and what he thought, personally, about the Episcopal Church and the actions we have taken in past Conventions? He was much more personal, expressing gratitude for the role the American Church has taken, even apologizing for actions taken by Churches outside the United States. His sentiments were heartfelt and, at least by me, welcome. Then, as has happened so often in the past, the Archbishop said, “I hope you take no actions that will push us further apart.”
Push us further apart? It is not universally accepted that anything the Episcopal Church did is what broke us apart. Some of us chose to move away from the rest of us. This is a very old and tired argument. It’s time for us, while we have the opportunity at this Convention, to move forward, beyond the arguments and justifications. It is the time for bold and powerful leadership; may God send it now.
Our meditation was by The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop began with a preamble. He first said “thank you” for our invitation to him and for our willingness to engage in conversation within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. It is hard conversation, and many feel impatient, compromised, harassed, etc. It won’t get easier. Secondly, he wanted to be open and self-defining about his own hopes and anxieties. He said that he hoped the Convention would not make decisions which would push the communion further apart. He said that the Communion is deeply concerned because the Anglican Communion values what the Episcopal Church can give to the rest of the Church and he hopes the bonds of relationship will be deepened. Quoting St. Paul to the Corinthians, “God knows we love you.”
Today has been a mixture of highs and lows for me at General Convention. An upside was our Public Narrative for Mission session. Those of you who know me well, know that I do not enjoy the ‘sharing our story’ exercises that we often use in the Church for ‘getting to know’ one another. That being said, I was highly suspicious of the Public Narrative format. And yet I was surprised how well it worked.
We met in our own deputations and each of us simply related a story – story of self -that helped define our understanding of leadership in the Church. Most of the stories had common themes, especially the importance of mentors who noticed a particular talent or gift and encouraged the development of that talent or gift.
We are still learning the Leadership Art of Public Narrative and I can see its potential value for leadership development in a Church or secular setting. Look for more as a we learn more during General Convention.
While our time together in Public Narrative was encouraging, my time in the legislative hearing on canonical changes and resolutions supporting the development of rites for the blessing of same sex unions (BOSSU) and marriages was less than encouraging. Several members of our deputation joined me in offering testimony against those canonical changes and resolutions before the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music legislative committee.
In past years, those hearings on ‘hot topics’ usually featured a relatively equal number of pros and cons. This General Convention, however, is very different because the pros at this hearing – and others on ‘hot topics’ – vastly outnumbered the cons. In many cases, it is five to one in favor of the several canonical changes and resolutions.
One reason for these disproportionate numbers is that many of our ‘conservative’ colleagues are no longer in TEC and we have lost their voices and votes. In addition, the ‘conservative’ colleagues here were spread out at other committee hearings on other resolutions of interest.
Keep in mind that testimony does not equal a recommended resolution. I believe the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music legislative committee will take the nearly dozen related resolutions on BOSSU and create one or perhaps two resolutions for the General Convention on BOSSU to consider. It will probably be several days before the legislative committee refines those one or two resolutions. Stay tuned for further developments on these and other stories.
The political deadlock in New York’s legislature has been resolved. For the last month, the state Senate in Albany has been unable to pass bills or even meet. Republicans and Democrats were bickering over who was in charge. On Thursday, a renegade Democrat rejoined his party and returned control of the Senate to Democrats.
I caught this this morning on the way to an appointment. The summary of what has occurred is mind boggling. Locked doors. Sneaking keys. Bringing more than one gavel. Screaming matches. My goodness
What is a mancession, you ask? It’s not this. It’s a recession that hurts men much more than women, and we are allegedly in the worst mancession in recent history. Eighty percent of job losses in the last two years were among men, said AEI scholar Christina Hoff Summers, and it could get worse.
Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith, the vice chair of PBF, predicted the constrained budget and asked witnesses to tell the members why their program should be included in the church-wide budget rather than being funded at another level of the church and how it fits into the proposed ministry priorities for the 2010-2012 period.
Those priorities are: networking the members of the body of Christ; alleviating poverty and injustice; claiming our identity; growing congregations and the next generations of faith; and strengthening governance and foundations for ministry. The House of Deputies has approved the list and the bishops are considering the resolution.
The committee, along with close to 275 observers, joined in listening to nearly 50 people spend two minutes each trying to answer the committee’s questions and convince them of the importance of their programs. The first two witnesses, David Early and Steve Holst, used sign language to ask the committee to continue the church’s support of the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf. Other Spanish-speaking witnesses addressed the committee through interpreters.