Month: June 2012
I thought it best to give a brief overview of what are expected to be the hot button issues this year:
Denominational Health Plan
In 2009 the General Convention passed A177, which called for a Denominational Health Plan to be implemented for all clergy and lay employees working 1500 hours annually (three-quarters time). The implementation was set to be no later than the end of 2012, but many are asking for a postponement, if not an out right rejection, of A177. The basic argument: it’s too expensive, it hasn’t been thought out, it won’t work for everyone, we need more time, etc. The argument against: providing health care for all church employees is a justice issue, time won’t solve these problems, etc.
In 2009 the General Convention passed C056, which instructed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to develop liturgies for same-gender blessings. The results of their work (both the blessing services themselves as well as educational and theological resources) are being presented to this year’s GC, and the SCLM is putting them forward with two related resolutions. The first is a resolutions that would allow the blessings to be used over the next three years at the discretion of the bishops of each diocese. The second calls for the creation of a task force to “explore biblical, theological, historical, liturgical, and canonical dimensions of marriage.” Just tell me where to sign up, because I have never wanted to be on a committee more.
Very rarely does any governing body of any kind pass a budget without a lot of arguing first, and we intend to uphold that noble tradition. The draft budget that was released in January showed serious cuts, most notably in faith formation (youth, young adult, new comers, continuing education, etc.). While explanations have since come out that some of those cuts were clerical errors (proven by the fact that the budget doesn’t balance even though it is required to do so), the 90% cut originally proposed, mistaken or not, has gotten a lot of people worried.
Restructuring (aka Sauls’ Proposal)
Stemming from some of the same issues that have been causing budget troubles, there are several resolutions heading for General Convention calling for restructuring of the church. One of the loudest voice’s is that of Bishop Stacy Sauls, which is why the resolution he is putting forth tends to bear his name, despite his objections. However it’s not the only resolution asking for restructuring, and one of them is almost sure to find its way out of committee and onto convention floor.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what’s to come, nor is it anywhere near a full explanation on any one issue, but it is a start. More than likely each of these will have a post of their own as I encounter them in Indiana.
For now, I just need to make a packing list.
Let’s get one things straight from the start: the book isn’t blue.
In fact, this year it isn’t even a book, it’s a whopping 753 page PDF available to all on the General Convention website.
The Blue Book is a the official report of the Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs) of General Convention to the General Convention. It has a nice “of the people, by the people” ring to it.
Remember that the General Convention is not only a massive legislative body, it’s also an infrequent one. With hundreds of people meeting only every three years, there’s a lot of work to be done that simply can’t be handled in committee or on the floor during the two weeks we’re together. So we have these smaller bodies that continue to meet and do focused work during the triennium. The people who serve are either elected or appointed depending on the committee. To give you an idea of the range of the CCABs, here’s a few chosen at random:
Joint Standing Committee on Nominations
Executive Council Committee on Anti-Racism
Ad-Hoc Committee on the Study of the United Thank Offering
Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility
Disciplinary Board for Bishops
These CCABs report back on what they have been discussing and working on prior to each meeting of General Convention. Many include with their report resolutions that they have developed (known as A Resolutions). For example, at the last General Convention in 2009, a resolution was passed instructing the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to develop same-sex blessing rites. In this year’s Blue Book, the SCLM gives a report of the work they did, provides the blessing rites that have been created, and suggests some resolutions, such as A049, which would authorize the trial use of such blessings.
Oh, and this year the color of the Blue Book is salmon. ApparentlySecretary Straub likes it.So what good is the Blue Book? It lets you see what’s happened and it shows you what’s coming. Whether we take the recommendations of the CCABs or not, it’s important to see the work that’s been done, and the proposed resolutions give an idea of the next steps to be taken.