Anaheim 2009 Blog
This entry was originally posted July 24, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”
“A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.” -D. Elton Trueblood
The resolution was D066: Official Youth Presence Vote. It was submitted by Sam Gould of Massachusetts, but the resolution itself was written by the Official Youth Presence in attendance at this year’s General Convention. This resolution put me into a very sticky situation, and resulted in many conflicting conversations.
To start with I discussed the feasibility with Stephen Moore. The big canonical problem with giving a vote to the Official Youth Presence (OYP) is the Vote by Orders. Each dioceses gets two votes in a vote by orders, so where would they fit? The obvious solution, as rewritten into the substitute by the Structure Committee, is to qualify them all as lay deputies, giving one lay vote for the 18 of them in a Vote by Orders. This would require a canonical change and some creative wording.
Next I talked to the other young adult deputies about this resolution as part of a long and very insightful conversation about young people in the church we had during a young adult deputy gathering. One deputy was worried that giving the OYPs vote would encourage dioceses not to elect young people themselves, since there was “already a place for them,” turning the OYP into a sort of ghetto for the youth at General Convention.
Others were worried about elections vs. appointments. Right now the OYPs apply and are appointed, two youth from each province. But if they were to have vote they would have to be elected instead, as you can’t be appointing votes into a legislative body. One deputy brought up the diversity present in the current OYPs. They are indeed a unique bunch, representing different races, political backgrounds, etc. They are a better looking group than the rest of convention in fact, in terms of fairly representing a large range of people. We were all sitting in the bar in small conversation groups when a deputy said, “Look around us right now. Look at who the church will elect if left to their own devices.” It was a sobering sight as those of us in the discussion took a quick look around at the other young adult deputies. We really are all the same person. White, middle to upper class, college educated, and put together. Each with just enough personality showing through our business casual to make us appear unique when comparatively we are not. We are a lot of preacher’s kids, all cradle Episcopalians, who have been hard core involved in the church for sometime. The fact of the matter is, the only people we really represent is each other. And we’re already there.
It suddenly occurred to me that as noble a pursuit as OYP vote was in the fight to get young people more involved and represented, it was so obviously the completely wrong way to do it. Like giving the people of the Titanic a bigger bucket to bail with, it’s no use helping if you can’t acknowledge the larger problem.
That’s when I talked to my mother. Kathy Hamilton has worked for the Diocese of Olympia for more than a decade in Faith Formation (children, youth, young adults). Until recently, she was the one who appointed the OYP at our own diocesan conventions, a job that she was very good at considering she has worked with nearly everyone under 18 who is active in the church in Western Washington. She worked hard to ensure diversity in everything from gender to geographical location, and the OYPs were great. Olympia voted that OYP should have vote at our diocesan conventions and has since had to have their OYPs elected. While I do believe this was a good thing and the right thing to do, and the OYPs we elect are great, we do lose some of the diversity we used to have.
Considering this, I thought for sure that my mom would understand the argument about sacrificing vote to maintain the diversity that can only be achieved by appointments, and how this is perhaps the wrong way to go about this at all. While she does understand, she countered me with another good point: we have to do something, anything. We cannot wait for the perfect solution to come along because it never will, or if it does it will be too late. We must settle for the imperfect fixes, and try with each new attempt to seek better solutions.
It’s a hard pill to swallow. Do something you know is a bad idea? But maybe it’s not so bad an idea. If the status quo is not working, we have to change it. If we cannot change it for the better, we must at least change it for the different. We are told “seek and you shall find.” We cannot find that which we have resolved ourselves not to look for.
And so I was prepared to vote for D066 when it came to the floor, flaws and all. The debate was hard to listen to. As usual some good arguments were made and some bad ones. I think the best is that the OYP is essentially a minority group, and if we give vote to them shouldn’t we be doing it for others? Does the Episcopal Black Caucus get extra votes? Women? Gays? Our system is based on equality through geography, with each region getting the same number of votes. Because OYPs come from specific dioceses, giving them vote would be giving an extra vote to those dioceses.
(I would counter this by pointing out that it’s still not perfect. Large dioceses get the same number of votes as small ones, Americans vastly outnumber those from other countries, and if your diocese can afford to employ assisting bishops, bishop suffragans, etc. then you get an extra vote in the House of Bishops. Not to mention more for how many retired bishops you have surviving. We can’t make a perfect system, so can we really defend it as one?)
Then there were some very bad arguments, like the man who seemed to think that youth could only vote with youth issues in mind, as their only focus and motivation as though young people are not whole and complete individuals like the rest of the deputies, but lobbyists for their own age.
What made the debate especially hard to listen to was that underneath so much of it was the thin but consistent layer of prejudice. Behind every comment was a notion that young people were undeserving of the vote, not because it went against the legislative system, but because they didn’t know enough, they weren’t smart enough, they were too flaky, they didn’t take anything seriously, they didn’t understand. It is an assumption that the thoughts and opinions of the youth are worth less than those of the adults. That the holy spirit does not speak to them like it speaks to the grownups, or at least that they can’t hear it.
With anger behind my eyes I sat quietly, unable to speak in favor of that which I knew was flawed. I voted in favor of the resolution regardless, knowing it would fail. For now I think the problem will sit with me for the next three years as I try to resolve for myself what the possible solution could be, not for this specific resolution but to youth and the church as a whole. Growing up in the Episcopal Church has been such a positive influence on my raising. It showed me what is both good and bad about belief and helped me to find my own faith, that driving force that won’t allow me to sit down and quit, but forces optimism and compassion and love into me without my consent. If I can share this I must. There is something that the church is not providing its young people, either through content, acceptance, or invitation. And we cannot expect them to fix it for us.
I leave you with two thoughts that I might have shared in the debate had I decided to speak:
- If General Convention teaches us nothing else, it is that people have the ability to be ignorant, single-minded, immature, unaware, frivolous and stupid at any age. If we are afraid that the OYPs will bring these traits into the vote, it’s too late. The flood gates opened the moment we asked humans to try to discern the will of God.
- The OYPs who proposed this resolution are well aware of how long it takes to change canons. They know that even if it were passed this year, they would be too old to be Youth Presence when it finally took affect, and they did it anyway. They are thinking towards the future of the church and the betterment of those who come after, in hopes that youth will be influencing the church they will inhabit as adults. This is a level of forward thinking that should be envied.
This entry was originally posted July 18, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”
“You want an amendment against same sex marriage? Anyone who’s ever been married knows it’s always the same sex!”
“Man of the Year”
It was the last day, and every smile, word, and gesture said just that. We knew we were near the end. Most of the day was spent cleaning up unfinished business and concurring with things that had been passed in the House of Bishops (remember that all legislation must pass both houses in order to be fully adopted and acted on). However there were a few exciting moments.
I’m happy to report that C023: Same-Sex Unions: Defense of Marriage Statuses was referred by the HoB to a standing committee, a motion that was then overwhelmingly accepted in the HoD. I support the spirit of the resolution, and I’m happy that it may find new life with better language next time. Considering that there were two motions to reconsider in the HoD prior to finding out it coming back to us, I’d say I wasn’t the only one who was struggling with the severity of the language.
There was some upset over a change to the Feast Days which I still don’t totally understand. From what I can tell, people were angry that the words “blessed virgin” did not appear in the main body of the liturgical text, even though they appeared in the title and in other parts of the resolution. I thought I was following the argument when suddenly it became another conservatives vs. liberals mess. I’m not sure where it came from, and I’m still not sure what happened. In the end, we passed it without the proposed changes to add “blessed virgin” back in, and a deputy from Albany took off her sandals, loudly clapped the dust off of them, and walked off the convention floor. Even I didn’t get it at first, and I had to have Stephen explain it to me. It’s good sitting next to a priest. Matthew 10: 13-14:
However, the real belle of the ball today was the blessing of same-sex unions. Or rather, the plan to look up stuff about them for now but not do them for real and maybe make up temporary stuff if in we want in certain places. Technically, no, we did not officially approve of gay marriage today. The resolution is pretty watered down, and that is very intentional and a very good idea. It’s an olive branch both to the Anglican Communion and to the conservatives still in our own church. It says, “Look, we have to at least look into this. But don’t worry, even if we keep going it won’t be official for years. Either we’ll change our minds or you will, but there’s still time.”
One might think that this would upset the gays and lesbians in the church who have been working so hard for this cause, but I doubt it will. The resolution allows for “generous pastoral response” in states where gay marriage is already legal, providing that the clergy wants to perform the ceremony (as always, the Episcopal Church has no intention of forcing any clergy to preside over any marriage they do not personally support). So, if you are a gay Episcopalian couple living in a state that allows for you to be married you’re all set. The marriage rites may still be a little experimental, but they are valid. If your state doesn’t allow same-sex marriage yet, you can either wait (as many have chosen to do), or you can seek out any number of Episcopal clergy who would be willing to do it without the state and under the radar (as has been going on for some time as a sort of liturgical “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.)
The fact is that between D025 and this new pursuit of same-sex marriage rites, the Episcopal Church has made a pretty strong stand, even if it is with purposely ambiguous language. Some will think it is a stand against Anglicans and conservatives, but most deputies and bishops will tell you that these resolutions merely say out loud that which has been going on for some time.
Some people seem to mistakenly believe that our relationship with the Anglican Communion is that of a parent and a child. I don’t think this is true, I think it is supposed to be one of brothers and sisters. But were one to take the parent-child analogy, then I believe that this General Convention was our own coming out to our Anglican parents. This was us saying, “We’re not going to pretend anymore. We’re not going to stay quiet anymore. We love you, but you have to know that this is who we are.” Some parents take this kind of news better than others. We’ll see what the Anglicans do.
Though General Convention 2009 may be over, I am not finished. I will continue updating this blog for at least another week or two, posting pictures and videos and writing about some of the stories and issues that I didn’t have time to get to in the last two weeks. Today you’ll notice some new pictures up, with more to follow. After that I think I’ll keep updating sporadically for as long as UW keeps hosting the site for free. A deputy stays a deputy until their diocese holds another election, so I keep this position until November 2010, when I plan to run again.
Wish me luck!
This entry was originally posted July 17, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”
“You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”
-President Andrew Shepherd
“The American President”
I’ve gotten to the point in the convention where people switch from saying, “I heard you speak yesterday” to “You look tired.” Yes, we are almost at the end and just in time. General Convention is starting to wear me down and out. There’s an emotional toll to being here that I think goes unsaid and sometimes unnoticed. When sitting on the floor you find yourself getting very invested in things. You’re happy when something you liked is passed, disheartened when people speak ill of something that you find important, and angry every time someone tries to call for an amendment out of order. I am starting to understand why the people who have been doing this for years have developed an ability to immediately let go of something once we’ve adopted or rejected it, as though they never even cared. It’s a defense mechanism. I’m still not convinced it’s for the best, but it does seem to work.
For me personally, today was probably the least cut-and-dry day we’ve had, and therefore required an emotional overload. It’s easy when we’re talking about the Anglican Communion and gay marriage. But this stuff was hard.
We started with our discussion of the budget. Amendments were proposed for about an hour, though nothing was ever passed. Many spoke to the idea that we should simply adopt the budget as is, knowing how much work Program, Budget, and Finance put into it and how hard it would be to tinker around with it now.
One of the most difficult moments was when one of the committee chairs had to speak about the changes made to Women’s Ministry, which has been cut entirely. While the logic was sound, by the end she was clearly holding back tears and only barely got through to the end of her speech. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be a woman on that committee, having to knowingly do away with an entire department that took women so long to get in the first place. In the end the budget was passed, unchanged. We found out later that when the House of Bishops looked at the budget they took all of three minutes and passed it without debate.
Later on I found myself in a very difficult position with C023: Same-Sex Unions: Defense of Marriage Statuses. The resolution called on congress to repeal the “Defense of Marriage” statute passed in 1996, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. I find “Defense of Marriage” to be a pretty disgusting document, but unfortunately there was more to it than that.
First, there’s the idea of whether or not the church should involve itself in public policy at all, at least in this way. There are plenty of people on the floor of the house who feel these kinds of actions serve no purpose other than to divide us on political issues which we don’t need to agree on in order to continue our work. While I haven’t made up my mind yet, I see their point and am inclined to agree.
Second, the resolution calls on “all Episcopalians to work against the passage of so-called “Defense of Marriage” statues and state constitutional amendments.” I take serious issue with this, as it asks everyone to lobby for this cause, regardless of their own personal beliefs and convictions. I said yesterday how much I think this church needs to hold on to their conservative brothers and sisters, and this is not only a slap in the face to them, but it goes against the historic and wonderful Episcopalian attitude of “agree to disagree.”
It was an exceptionally hard decision for me, but in the end I had to vote no on the resolution. I personally would advocate against this statute and any others like it. If I were in congress I would tell them to throw it out, and I would certainly vote for repeal. But I will not vote for something that forces others to work for a cause they whole-heartedly believe is wrong.
We are asked as deputies to ‘vote your conscience.” The problem with the conscience is that it usually tells us things we do not want to hear, and mine was telling me that this resolution would hurt conservative Episcopalians more than it would help LGBT ones. It felt a bit like betrayal, but in the end I voted no on C023. It passed in the House of Deputies with a simple but clear majority in a Vote by Orders.
The next big thing to play with my emotions was D066: Official Youth Presence Vote, which I’m afraid I will have to come back to at a later date. It’s a subject that deserves a blog entry all it’s own, and as it is already getting late I feel that I should close for the day. Know that the resolution asking for a constitutional change that would give vote to the Official Youth Presence (who currently have only seat and voice) was referred to the Standing Committee on Constitution and Canons.
Also coming soon should be video and pictures from the U2charist that I attended tonight. Like in previous U2charists, the service was amazing and the sermon inspiring, even if two and a half hours is a bit long.
This entry was originally posted July 15, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on it. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” -Matthew 6:25
There’s nothing like a massive worldwide financial crisis to make you reevaluate the way you organize things.
Today from 2:00 to 3:30 we had a joint session with the House of Bishops (they come and join us in the HoD room) for the presentation of the Triennium Budget as prepared by the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee. We greeted the Bishops with applause as they took their seats next to their respective dioceses, and the Presiding Bishop took point on leading the proceedings. She started with a prayer, and then gave a short speech to the House. She asked us to be prepared to help and console those who will suffer from the budget changes. She encouraged us to “think creatively,” and noted that even hardship can bring great things. “There will be resurrection because of this budget” she said.
Every emotion in the room was palpable. The fear, the sadness, the resignation into despair. The Presiding Bishop asked the chairs of the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee to come to the podium and as they silently walked forward I leaned over to Rev. Steven Moore, saying, “I don’t think there’s a worse job to have right now.” He agreed.
The committee chairs began by going over a few very important ways in which the budget had changed: things that had been added and things taken away. They announced that they had managed to include the 0.7% promise we had made to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals (see Vocabulary page), and that we had allocated 0.7% to ending domestic poverty. They said that the Standing Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards would only be funded for two meetings a year for the first two years, and that they were to do the rest of their work electronically and through phone conferences. General Convention would also get an electronic upgrade, going as paperless as possible when we meet again in Indianapolis in 2012 (consider the savings when you decide not to mail the 800 page bluebook to some 1200 people and tell them to download it instead). General Convention 2012 will also be two days shorter, going from ten to eight days, which will hopefully take some of the financial burden off of the Dioceses who must fund the bishop and deputies’ trips every three years. In addition, they also intend to reduce the Diocesan Asking (the amount each diocese gives to the greater church) over the next three years.
Then came the hard part: The budget was passed out. Nearly everything took a cut, some more than others and some line items being done away with completely. It is a harsh thing to look at, and too complicated for me to explain (or really even understand), but we all knew it had to happen. The hope is that the cuts have been made in such a way as to get rid of the structure while maintaining the work of the church. It is so easy, over time, to build up the design. We create a task force and then a Standing Commission. We vote in legislation that then needs education and implementation. In the end, one has to wonder if the only good we have done is create jobs. Creating jobs is a wonderful thing and we are brokenhearted that these cuts will dictate the firing of many people, but if it has to happen this is probably the best way. We must chip away at the system and hope the mission can survive on its own.
When we had finished with the presentation and asked all of our questions of the committee, the chairs walked back to their seats. Without prompting the entire room – bishops, deputies, visitors, everyone – rose to a standing ovation. The work of the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee is difficult if not impossible. They have had to make decisions the rest of us are not brave enough for, and then they have to stand in front of everyone and announce them. I commend them for their work.
Tomorrow we will debate the proposed budget and entertain amendments from the floor. Pete Strimer will attempt to put some life back in to the publication Episcopal Life, and we will see what comes of it. I honestly hope that the debate is short and the decision to adopt made quickly. The fact is that there is nothing we will be able to do to “fix” the current budget. It will be a sad mess no matter how much you move the numbers around.
It was hard to look at. It was hard to listen to. It was hard to see the faces fall when they finally found the line item they care most about. But this is where we are. I had the pleasure a few months ago of listening to the current Artistic Director of On the Boards (a Seattle theater space for the performing arts) speak. He said he looked at the situation in a very selfish way, assuming that it is all designed to teach him the lessons he needs to learn. “Well, I haven’t experienced a recession yet, so of course we have to have one.”
The one thing I can tell you is that from 2:00 to 3:30 today, there were 1200 people in Conference Room D at the Anaheim Convention Center, and not a single one of them was thinking about sexuality. We talk about moving past, about moving on. It would seem now that we have no choice but to do just that.
This entry was originally posted July 15, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” -Winston Churchill
The House of Deputies has been running pretty slow lately. I hate to say it because I think President Bonnie Anderson is a wonderful person, but I think she needs to learn how to tell people to sit down and shut up.
And there are a few people in the House of Deputies who need to be told as much.
President of the House of Deputies is an unspeakably difficult job, and I’m not sure why anyone would want it. But I’m happy for Bonnie and I think she’s done a number of wonderful things. Plus this is her first General Convention as President, so I feel like she should be forgiven a few mistakes now and again.
But unfortunately the HoD has started to rebel against her and it’s hurting everyone. All told we’ve wasted hours through parliamentary procedure because people feel the need to take a “point of personal privilege” whenever they want to whine about something, or worse, when they have a question that any Senior Deputy could have answered (Senior Deputy status is given to those who have served at seven or more General Conventions. They are clearly indicated with yellow ribbons on their name tags as well as big yellow bows on the posts that indicate deputations with senior deputies in them. It is very easy to find them).
We’ve had to enact all sorts of special rules just to try to get things done in time. We cut down the amount of time any one person can talk from three to two minutes, we limited total debate time to twenty minutes, and we ruled that amendments can only be made after the first five minutes of debate. And of course passing these takes up time because not everyone agrees that they are good ideas. We just started on the agenda for day five this afternoon. It’s day seven.
I like to think that we’ll all learn from this, and that three years from now when we meet again, both Bonnie and the deputies will have taken some time to study their Rules of Order a bit more. There’s always too much to do at General Convention and we’ll never be completely on time, but it’d be nice to get down to being only one day behind.
I want to make it clear that this is not Bonnie’s fault. I’m also not against debating. But things would be going a lot smoother if people reconsidered how often they need to be in front of the microphone.
For example, today D025 came back to us, as amended by the House of Bishops. We all knew it was coming, we all knew the amendments meant nothing. And we still had people lined up at the microphones, pouring out the same old garbage that we’d already spent hours (and really, years) debating. The resolution was truly the same as it had been two days earlier when we had passed it with a strong majority, in a Vote by Orders none the less (see “Vocabulary”). Yet there we were again. Debating again. Voting by orders again. It was ridiculous. I spent most of the time with my head in my hands, hoping that each new person to approach the microphone was there to call the question and end debate. No luck.
Of course the resolution passed again, as we all knew it would. Still, it was time wasted. It’s time to move past our own internal debates and move the focus back to mission.
Speaking of not quite getting the point, D025 certainly put us in the news. A quick internet search gave me plenty of results, everything from The New York Times to The UK Guardian to the LA Times to my personal favorite, the Yakima Herald. If you’d like to read a few for yourself, I recommend a google news search, sorted by date, for the words “episcopal anglican gay.” There’s nothing like a keyword search to get you straight to the point.
I made the mistake of starting to read the comments section of the New York Times article. There was nothing all that surprising. Commenters tended to fall into one of three categories: 1) Supporting the inclusion, saying it’s about time and good for the Episcopalians, 2) Reminding us that homosexuality is a sin and that there’s a special circle in hell waiting for us, and 3) Generally saying that both the decision and the religion are outdated and obsolete.
Reading a few of the Category Two comments got me thinking about the conservative members of the Episcopal Church, and what we can do to ensure that we haven’t simply switched which group we are alienating. I think it is vitally important that conservatives stay in the Church. If we become, as some have cautioned, a “liberal fundamentalist” church, then we run the risk of following each other rather than Christ.
We need argument. We need dissension. I am proud to say that on several occasions this week I have allowed myself to be swayed by a good and reasoned argument. I think this is a sign of my own mental health. I have long believed that the Episcopal Church’s ability to include so many members with such radically different ideas is its greatest strength. I stay in the Episcopal Church because I know it’s okay if no one agrees with me. I love that.
If we allow our conservative brothers and sisters to leave without so much as a fight, then we are only hurting ourselves. They keep us thinking. They keep us honest.
I would like to close by highlighting the importance of assessing people as individuals, rather than by the groups they belong to. The following are two quotes from The New York Times comments section. While both hold the same belief that homosexuality is a sin, they are clearly very different people. I think the first has already left us, and I deeply hope that the second sticks around.I suddenly realize that even now I am writing as though everyone who reads this is a liberal, which I know is part of the problem. If there are any conservatives out there reading this, I beg you to stay with the Episcopal Church. I would personally love to talk to you. The fact that you have stayed with us this long shows an incredible amount of patience and understanding, and a commitment to the faith that we could all learn from.
William Gill, Esq.
“The Episcopal Church USA lesbian leader claims that “individual salvation is a Western heresy.” That statement, along with this latest development of formally approving “gays” into Christian ministry confirms the final death knell to the Episcopal Church USA. That denomination is completely fallen away.”
“Homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible. Man having fallen from God’s grace is a sinful being. There are plenty of sins other than homosexuality. Bishops are human just like the rest of us. They are sinful beings and it matters not that they are gay or straight, both are sinful. What is important is whether they are truly repentant of their sins and seek the forgiveness of God and try to amend their sinful ways.”
What seems to be the problem for most members of the church is that living an open homosexual lifestyle is to be openly unrepentant and not acknowledge that sin. Some will deny that homosexuality is a sin at all. That is why there is such upheaval in the church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
As an Episcopalian, I and others want to be forgiving and accepting of all who seek forgiveness and repentance. Gay priests/ministers/bishops fly in the face of that. I also know in my heart that there are plenty of straight priests/ministers/bishops who sin in other ways that are less openly defiant, and they are not repentant and continue in their sinful ways. Should the latter be treated any differently than the former?
The Episcopal Church continues to pray for guidance in addressing this issue. The true sin would be to adopt a course of action that would destroy the Church.”
(In light of what was said in the first comment, I feel I should point out that we are not the “Episcopal Church USA,” we are in fact an international denomination, and that as far as I’ve heard the Presiding Bishop is not gay.)
This entry was originally posted July 14, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”
“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.” -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The big news of the day: The House of Bishops passed D025! There is a small amendment but it should pass through the House of Deputies again without incident. But more on that latter, first let’s go through the day…
I started off with a committee meeting marathon. I went first to Ministry to discuss D065, the resolution asking congregations to set aside a seat on their vestry or Bishop’s Committee for a young person, age 16-18. I had spoken to the proposer about some things I thought would have to be amended in order to get it passed, and she suggested that I present them at the Public Hearing. The committee seemed really responsive to my suggestions, and I found out later that the Official Youth Presence (OYP) representatives that were there and had originally suggested the resolution were pleased as well.
The committee on Structure was right next door, so once the Ministry hearing was over I went there. I caught the end of their discussion on the amended text for the resolution giving the OYP’s vote (right now they only have seat and voice). I then watched the hearing for D094, which asks the President of the House of Deputies to make every effort to assign people under 30 to legislative committees, regardless of experience. This resolution comes in response to Bonnie Anderson’s new policy to put almost no new deputies onto legislative committees. Apparently in conventions past, young adults have reported feeling “overwhelmed” by the amount of work and catching up that must be done in order to work on a committee in addition to a deputy’s regular duties, and Bonnie was attempting to allow them more room to learn and get accustomed to the process before the demand of committee work. This resolution is essentially a request straight from the young adults to Bonnie Anderson asking that she rethink her policy. We’d rather be overwhelmed than helpless.
Finally, after grabbing a muffin and juice for breakfast, I sat in on the end of the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music Committee’s discussion on their newly amended same-sex marriage rites resolution. The committee seemed to be in almost unanimous support, and wether or not it passes, what they have written is quality legislation.
The six hours of Legislative Session yielded little progress, though we were able to finally consent to the consecration of Bishop Luis Fernando Ruiz Restrepo. There had been severe controversy over his election as bishop in the Diocese of Ecuador Central, which erupted on the floor as a “he said, she said” between the Ecuadorians, the Columbians, the Consecration of Bishops Committee, and both informed and confused members of the House of Deputies. The claims were that the election was not legitimate, and that the election of a foreign member of the clergy was not supported (Restrepo is from Columbia, not Ecuador).
It became quickly clear that Ecuador Central is still trying to grow and stabilize. The entire diocese only has 18 clergy in it, and the total number of Episcopalians in Ecuador Central is smaller than the House of Deputies itself. The election process was full of tied votes and upset, disappointed people.
For me, I agreed with Bishop Restrepo’s election. Yes it was tricky, but in the end the evidence indicated that the election was canonically sound. My intelligence from the House of Bishops says he is a great man and will make a great bishop. And though it is unfortunate to send a man into a diocese that is so divided, I don’t believe holding another vote in Ecuador will result in a more certain and agreeable election. I think it is best to move forward from here with a bishop that is nearly unanimously supported by the House of Bishops and willing to take on the challenge.
I have to say, I think making decisions about the leadership of a Diocese so removed from our own made many members of the house very uncomfortable. To make matters worse, problems with the voting machines delayed the vote four times. We talk about letting the Holy Spirit guide our decisions here, and it certainly felt like that when we were all given so many opportunities to vote again, to change our minds. In the end I believe we made the right decision.
Prayers go out to the people of Ecuador Central in this time of unrest.
More specific prayers go out to the deputies from the Virgin Islands, whose table is situated in between Columbia and Ecuador. Good Luck Virgin Islands.
Finally, upon arriving at our nightly deputation meeting I heard the good (and very unexpected) news: They had passed D025. Bishop Greg said it was clear from the feeling in the room within the first ten minutes that it would pass. Most of the time was spent talking about possible amendments that could tweak it to improve it slightly. The revised resolution will be coming back to the House of Deputies to approve the amendment, and I hope we don’t waste time talking about it anymore. I’ve read the amendments and they change almost nothing, just improve a bit of language and make it more about theology and less about politics.
To read the whole resolution, go to http://www.gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=986&type=Current
I think the best thing I heard out of the decision was from Nedi (one of my bishops). She said that when she was sitting in the House of Bishops considering this resolution, all she could think about was Dr. Martin Luther King and his letter from Birmingham jail, and that it wasn’t written to the government or the people, but to the church. Dr. King wrote to his fellow clergymen because he knew that the movement had to start with the church. And Nedi said something to me that I wish had been said in this debate already: “The Anglican Communion will never move on unless we do it first.” And it’s true. If this is going to happen it has to start with us. It won’t come out of Africa or England, it must be The Episcopal Church. And I am so proud that it finally is.
St. Francis of Assisi tells us to preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words. For years The Episcopal Church has been living the gospel in it’s acceptance of gays and lesbians. And now, because we had to, we finally used words.
This entry was originally posted July 13, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie
Considering it’s the Sabbath, today was jam-packed.
At 10AM we had the United Thank Offering (UTO) Ingathering and Eucharist. It had everything you could want from a service short of incense: dancers, costumes, a gospel choir plus the regular choir, international representatives, drums, gongs, wine, funny hats, a few of my favorite songs, and the longest line of bishops you’ll ever care to see. There was also an adorable set of children behind me, but that was just luck.
The Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave a sermon on the concept of traveling light, based on the gospel in which Jesus sends 70 disciples out before him, telling them take take no purse and no sandals (the list goes on) and seek out the homes of strangers, giving peace. Jesus told them that they would be given peace in return. Katharine said that this had to do with going away from home with trust, anticipating hospitality. She said, “Traveling light has everything to do with expecting the presence of God.” It reminded me of one of my favorite sections of the Bible: The Lilies of the Field. (Matthew 6: 25-34).
Straight out of the service I went to the TENS (Training + Encouraging + Nurturing + Supporting) Luncheon. Our own St. Augustine’s in the Woods in Freeland, Washington was receiving a Best Practices Honor for it’s recent stewardship campaign. A table had been purchased for our dioceses and I was lucky enough to snag one of the (free) seats. The food was great, and the speakers highly entertaining. Stewardship Award winner Rev. Canon J. Hughs Magers said that when he was asked if he believed in the Biblical doctrine of prosperity he said, “I do not believe in the Biblical doctrine of prosperity…but it has been my experience.”
The afternoon brought a three hour Legislative Session where we spent almost the entire time on one resolution…with good reason. The Resolution was D025, and it’s what the Committee on World Mission was able to produce after much debate and discussion on the subject of B033 (see blog entries on June 18 and July 10). The resolution itself is too long to type out in full right here (there are 48 lines total, in seven “resolves”), but here are the key points of the resolves:
- Give thanks to the 2008 Lambeth Conference and reaffirm commitment to seeking fellowship with the Anglican Communion.
- Encourage all Episcopalians to Participate in the Communion
- Reaffirm financial commitment to the Communion
- Reaffirm the value called for by the ’78, ’88, and ’98 Lambeth Conferences of “listening to the experience of homosexual persons”; recognize that the Episcopal Church membership includes “same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God”
- People in such relationships have responded to a call to various ministries
- We cannot discriminate anyone called to any ordained ministry, because it is so dictated by our canons
- We acknowledge that others “based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition” may disagree with some of the approve
To sum up, it says that we want to be a part of the Anglican Communion, but we cannot ignore gay and lesbian people in our own church, nor can we discriminate against them, and that we accept and acknowledge that not everyone in the communion or even in our own church agrees with this. It’s a powerful statement for the church to make, and would supersede B033.
We had to make a special order for it, special rules for the discussion, and I had a special request from the president of the Chicago Consultation to speak on the issue.
I don’t like to speak first, both because I like to have the discussion warmed up a bit first and because I think I make better arguments when I have specifics from opposing arguments to go off of. So I tried to stall my walk up to the mic just long enough to ensure that I would get a chance to speak but not near the beginning. Well, as it happens just the right people ended up leaving or switching lines and suddenly Madam President is calling on microphone seven and I have to check my number again to make sure it’s me. I guess I’m going first then.
My speech was, for the most part, a version of what I said at the public hearing (see Words of Witness). However, since at least half of the HoD would have had their own committee meetings to be at at the time, my speech was new for most of the audience. Walking back to my seat I received many smiles, and my own Diocese of Olympia was quite proud. They said I seemed very put together and confident, and that my argument was solid. Once again, everyone was impressed with my word usage. In everyday life, it’s just so hard to work oligarchy in a sentence.
A vote by orders was requested. Each Dioceses is represented by two equal parts: a lay order and a clergy order. In a vote by orders, each diocese gets two votes total: one for the lay and one for the clergy. If it is three or for in favor, the vote is “yes.” If it is two or more opposed it counts as a no. Then there is a minimum number of each order needed to pass. For or example you might have plenty of lay people voting yes, but if you only have half of the clergy it won’t be enough. It is because of these reasons that passing a resolution with a vote by orders is much more difficult than a simple majority or even a two-thirds majority vote.
When the numbers were read I was amazed. The resolution needed 50 Lay and 49 Clergy votes to pass. It was 77 and 74 in favor. It was overwhelming. I honestly believe that this shows a clear desire in the House of Deputies to move forward, accept all of our brothers and sisters into the full life of the church, and most importantly say to the Anglican Communion that we love them, but we will not be less than we are simply to please them. We govern ourselves.
Unfortunately, it’s not time to get out the rainbow banners just yet. General Convention is bicameral, which means D025 has to pass in the House of Bishops as well. Few believe it can or will. On that we will just have to wait and see.
Regardless, I am very proud of my church today. Even if D025 is defeated in the HoB and we have to wait another three years, I will go home proud to say that we are getting close. We are almost there.