How to Argue Without Really Trying

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This entry was originally posted July 8, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“John Wayne is to Ubuntu as Darth Vadar is to the 23rd Psalm.” -Rev. Frank Wade
(Current winner for most esoteric General Convention joke)

Where to begin?

I started my morning off early by attending a meeting of LGBT-minded folks. It was a game plan session, and I think an extremely helpful one. Not only for issues around homosexuality, but understanding advocacy in general. They got together a room full of people who shared a common belief and wanted to help, and then gave us the tools to effect change. What will come of these efforts no one knows, but I do applaud them for the way in which they went about it. I won’t go into details, but here are a few things the addressed:

  1. Which related Public Hearings would be held where and when
  2. What is most needed, i.e. voices from unexpected geographical locations, youth voices, parents, etc.
  3. Who we are really talking to (“The Moveable Middle”)
  4. Talking points and arguements they have found successful in the past
  5. An outline of how to use your two minutes (remember to start with your name, state whether you’re for or against, etc)

It was all very clear, very well prepared. It’s good to see people using human resources effectively.

Next I went to the opening Legislative Session, which was all housekeeping. Resolutions to adopt that we have a quorum, agree to not take to required 800 person roll call, tell the House of Bishops we say hi, etc. By the way, none of those examples were jokes.

We moved on to the Opening Eucharist, the most notable part being that a guy at my table thought I must be a member of the clergy because of how confidently I sang and how well I seemed to know the liturgy. When I said no, his response was, “Well you should be.”

I sat in on the Education Committee hearing for the camping ministries resolution (the closet thing to youth and young adult legislation being proposed this year), followed by an overpriced hotel lunch. Yes it took them 15 minutes to find me a packet of mayonnaise but dammit, if I pay seven bucks for a sandwich I expect condiments.

At 2:00PM I observed the Social and Urban Affairs Committee’s public hearing on Resolution B012: “Pastoral Generosity in Addressing Civil Marriage,” which grants bishops and clergy living in US states that have approved same-sex marriage discretion to adapt the regular marriage rites in order to perform blessings over such marriages. It also calls for accountability by requiring bishops to report back on how they have been adapting the liturgy, in order to give the Church a body of experience should we choose to create such blessings in the prayer book in the future. We heard some 30 people speak, all in favor of the issue. At the end a member of the committee stood up to point out a few arguments that would be coming from the other side, while stating that he himself was still undecided.

This is where I think the system really needs work, and where the meeting that morning could have used one more suggestion. I heard a lot of wonderful and passionate speakers with beautiful stories and sound reasoning. But what I heard very little of is Resolution B012. The actual resolution isn’t really about gay marriage, but about pastoral care. This resolution is being proposed by the bishops who it is currently affecting. This is not a request for the approval of homosexuals, but a call for help from our own clergy and bishops. They have been put in a bizarre and unexpected position. They are being asked by their own parishioners to perform services that don’t exist, yet are not explicitly prohibited by the church. I wish more people had spoken about what this resolution is actually addressing: a temporary solution for a problem that will continue to be discussed in the church, probably for the next three, six, or nine years. Yes, of course, this would feel like a win for the LGBT community, but the fact is that these clergy are stuck in a nebulous middle ground and they are asking for our help. We should give it to him.

Before moving on I feel that I should point out that B012 in no way requires clergy to perform these unions, it simply gives them permission to create an adaptation of the marriage service for a trial basis.

The second Legislative Session passed quickly without much debate or serious issues. We are all still warming up.

The day ended with an address by Rowen Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, as this entry is long enough already, I will split it up into a second entry focused specifically on his speech.


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