This entry was originally posted July 6, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”
“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
I have officially arrived at the Anaheim Hilton! I’m not used to having a hotel room all to myself for so long, so just unpacking was pretty exciting. Still a little unnerved that when I call the front desk from my room they answer with, “Hello Miss Hamilton,” but I think it’s just something I’ll have to get used to.
We had our first meeting as a deputation in the group suite. Not much to report except that we’ll be meeting there everyday 20 minutes after we get out of legislative session, and that more people like root beer than you might think.
I’ve been doing more reading over the last few days, studying up on Inter-religious Relations, going over the budget, reviewing some GC history. You can be assured that if anything starts making waves, you’ll hear about it here.
One subject has come up several times in the last couple weeks that I thought deserved attention. The clergy and lay people elected to General Convention are not delegates or representatives, they are deputies. This is a very important distinction, as deputies vote by conscience, not based on the views of those they are acting on behalf of. This is a rich and important part of convention history, but more realistically, it is the only ethical and practical way to hold this kind of event.
First of all, consider the feasibility of knowing how an entire diocese feels on the issues. There are around 32,000 people in my own diocese. There were 188 “A” Resolutions to consider in the Blue Book, and today I received 11 “B” Resolutions, 77 “C” Resolutions, and 25 “D” Resolutions, as well as a few changes to the original “A” Resolutions. The fact is that a majority of Episcopalians are not informed enough about the myriad of issues to have opinions on it all. Even if they did, how would they communicate those feelings to the members of the deputation?
Second, attempting to represent a group of people locks you into a way of thinking and a way of voting. Resolutions, ideas, and issues do not leave convention the same way they arrive. Stories are heard, opinions voiced, and amendments made. Something that your diocese would have supported before may change so much on the convention floor that the original message has vanished.
While General Convention is a legislative body, we are still people of God, and we must be able to vote from the heart and conscience, or we are blocking out the holy spirit. Debate is healthy. Changing one’s mind is healthy. Attempting to speak for the thousands of people who elected the hundreds of people who elected me is not an effective way to approach General Convention.
It is hard for some people to hear, because in a way I have no accountability with my own diocese. I make my own decisions here, regardless of the feelings and beliefs held by those who put me here. But it is the most effective, efficient, and ethical way to have eleven hundred people make decisions for two million, and I am very happy to have the freedom to change my mind.