Is there a future for the Book of Common Prayer?

by Derek Olsen

The pieces that George Clifford wrote a few weeks ago cover a lot of different territory around the future of the Episcopal Church, ultimately ending with some unusual possibilities for restructuring the Church. I won’t try and comment on all of what he has written, but I do want to focus some attention on and address one aspect of what he has said—the initial attention-grabbing statement that “[t]he 1979 Book of Common Prayer is the last printed version of the prayer book that The Episcopal Church (TEC) will ever publish.”

While this bold thesis statement turns out to be more a lead into how digital technologies can lead us to re-envision the art of doing and being church, it is worth attention in its own right.

What is the future of the Book of Common Prayer especially with regard to format and media? I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this question from three different angles.

First, I study liturgy—especially liturgy over time. Most of my work has been in the liturgy of the medieval West from about the 6th century to the 16th with most of my time spent in the smack-dab middle, England’s 10th century Benedictine Revival. Within the short space of time between when I started my PhD to when it was signed, sealed, and delivered—from 2001 to 2011—the study of liturgy was revolutionized by the Internet. At the beginning, I had to hit the library to look up most anything. By the middle, I could look up copies of old scholarly editions of liturgical manuscripts on Google Books. By the end, I could access a host of digital archives giving me access to high quality images of the manuscripts themselves. Today, ever increasing numbers pour online at some of my favorite libraries—and particularly interesting images are tweeted. Between the archivists at the British Library (@BLMedieval), Notre Dame (@d_gura) and my local treasure trove at Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum (@MedievalMss), the hits of manuscript illumination—many liturgical—flow through my Twitter feed every day.

When it comes to the Books of Common Prayer, a whole host are now available from every conceivable time and format in which they were printed, most in PDF for convenient download. Do you want an exact copy of the original manuscript of the English 1662 Book of Common Prayer? You can get that. Do you want to admire the layout and printing of Daniel Updike’s edition of the American 1892 Book of Common Prayer? You can do that. Under the conservation of Charles Wohlers and through the good graces of the Society of Archbishop Justus, the authoritative BCP site can lead you to all of these and more.

It isn’t just the future of the BCP that’s online; its past is there too, enabling anyone with the time, patience, and curiosity to gain first-hand knowledge of its changes through the years.

Second, I’m a database programmer. One of my hobby projects over the last few years is the St. Bede’s Breviary, an online site with a customizable Daily Office app. I put it up for my own use because I could never find an Office book with the perfect blend of options, and it gave me an outlet to hone my coding skills. I now get upwards of 1300 hits a week, and my code-base is behind Forward Movement’s digital initiative. The experience of coding this application has taught me a lot about the various possibilities and pitfalls of putting the BCP into an electronic format. I had to make a host of decisions—what programming languages to use, how to represent the various elements, how to get it to work properly. At various points I’ve even back-tracked and reworked entire sections once I figured out I’d made a wrong turn. Literally tens of thousands of lines of code, over a dozen database tables, and countless development hours go in to making something that manifests itself as nothing more than a basic web page. And that’s just the Daily Office!

Third, I’ve recently become the chair of the Electronic Publications subcommittee of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. In particular, we are dealing with a set of resolutions for General Convention that have been passed or have been referred to us for study that relate to electronic resources and official Episcopal liturgies: 2009-A102 which resolves that the completed portions of Enriching our Worship be made “freely available in electronic format on the internet,” 2012-D060 (PDF) on a format and platform-independent means of making our liturgical and musical materials available, and 2012-D079 (PDF) also calling for “electronically available and easily accessible” liturgical materials. Envisioning such a digital resource is easy; working through the issues and making it happen in a way that respects the complex interactions at work is a lot harder! What if there are copyrighted items from outside authors included in our materials? (The hymnal is full of this—check out the several pages of very small type from 931 to 936.) What exactly does the language of “freely available” mean—“easy to find” or “provided without cost”? What would this move do to Church Publishing and its parent, the Church Pension Group?

The very simple response to George’s provocative statement is pretty clear to me: The ’79 being the last printed (American) Book of Common Prayer? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Several factors play into this assertion. First, the Book of Common Prayer is an authoritative document. Whether people like it or not—I know some on both sides—the prayer book is legislated by both our constitution and canons. Digital materials are, by nature, ephemeral. While our culture has made many strides towards embracing digital media, as the travails of print newspapers clearly display, an authorized document is one that will and must have a particular physical embodiment. Even if an electronic version becomes more widely used, this will not relieve us from the need of having an authorized and authoritative physical document upon which the electronic version is based. If a document is authoritative, there must be a stable text and assurances that it cannot and will not change without agreement by General Convention. I can’t see there being enough trust across the church in an electronic text held by “the leadership” with no concomitant physical copy.

Second, I doubt that the use of books of common prayer in parishes will convert quickly or easily to digital devices. One of the things that has surprised me as the curator of a digital Office site is the number of requests I’ve received to make my contents of my breviary available in physical form. The first few times this happened I was very confused: don’t they understand that the whole point was making it digital? That a digital text gives greatly enhanced feature flow and accessibility? What I didn’t understand initially was the importance of the object itself. Many people prefer to have a physical object to pray with—a screen or a device just doesn’t cut it. They want a well-bound book in their hands. It’s a tactile thing. Now—is this purely a generational thing that will pass away as we “digital natives” become a larger percentage of the population? I don’t know.

Third, I think the perspective that George advocates suggests a wider interest in clerical experimentation and variation than I have seen on the ground. As a layman, I understand the prayer book operating as a contract. This is the book that the church has established itself upon, and I ought to be able to expect that when I go into a church with an Episcopal sign out front for the primary Sunday service it will be a service from the prayer book. I understand that clergy may like to tinker. You want to do a New Zealand prayer service with elements from the Quakers and the Eastern Orthodox? Fine, knock yourself out—in the middle of the week. As long as there is a coherent expectation of a stable Sunday morning service, though, there’s no need to suggest that a printed book is inadequate for handling the possibilities. Does that mean that there couldn’t be digitally available alternatives for non-primary services? Of course not—I wouldn’t say that at all; but to assume that nothing would be stable to the degree that a printed book could not serve would represent a theology and ecclesiology that I would no longer recognize as “Anglican.”

I don’t see the printed prayer book going away any time soon. That having been said, this can’t be where the conversation ends. Just because we will need a printed prayer book doesn’t mean that there aren’t all sorts of fabulous things that we could and should be doing in the digital space! Let me offer just a few rather random observations based on my multiple perspectives…

1. The Church needs to recognize the digital world as its own distinct sphere with its own missionary aims, activities, and strategies. My jaw about hit the floor when the Mission Enterprise Zone and New Church Start grants were announced in August as innovative initiatives that were tied to geographical areas. What—nothing about digital initiatives? Interaction with social media is one of the best ways going to spread ideas, feelings, and convictions. Isn’t that a big part of what we want to do? Isn’t there potential for digital initiatives that lead into connections with local embodied communities? Digital and geographical shouldn’t have to be binary options—it can (and should!) be a “both/and” rather than an “either/or.”

2. The digital realm is creating new opportunities for spiritual renewal. As the article posted on The Lead a bit ago indicated, new spiritual practices are growing out of faithful interactions with technology. On the other hand, some very old ways of doing things are also seeing a revival. Over the last several years, the Daily Office—Morning and Evening Prayer—have received greater visibility and use due to electronic means. Mission St Clare, Josh Thomas’ Daily Office site, and my own efforts have made praying the Office a lot easier—far less page-flipping required—and have also made it a more digitally visible act. Of course, if you’d rather pray with others, there’s the Office feed from @Virtual_Abbey on Twitter! We’re not done seeing things here. The interaction between spirituality, liturgy, and technology is still new and I expect we’ll see quite a lot of interesting things develop in the next decade.

Either the Church will get on the notion of a stable, correct, digital prayer book text—or someone else will! I have a group of dedicated volunteers who point out to me the typos in my breviary. Well, hey—you can’t expect to have 900+ collects in the cycle without a few missed keys somewhere along the line! Unless they were coming from a stable, corrected source… While there are arguments to be had and factors to be considered around putting all of the Episcopal Church’s liturgies online in a digital form without cost, there’s one text where this shouldn’t be an issue and that’s the prayer book itself. It is in the public domain. There could be a digital prayer book with an API (a kind of electronic interface) that allows apps or websites to tap into a single corrected source. Will the Episcopal Church create such a thing? I don’t know. On the other hand, most of the cool, innovative, useful resources out there on the web haven’t been started by church initiatives. It’s been by individuals with a vision and a passion. The Church may well choose not to do such a thing—but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be done.

The printed prayer book isn’t going away any time soon as far as I can tell, but that doesn’t mean that the digital space and electronic alternatives aren’t going to be major players in the future. On the contrary, I think they will. My crystal ball doesn’t work better than anyone else’s; I have no idea what we’re going to see in the coming decades. Mobile technologies are only taking off. App integration into personal products will only accelerate. What will this mean spiritually and liturgically? I have no idea—but I can’t wait to find out…

Dr. Derek Olsen is a layperson in the Diocese of Maryland where his wife is a priest and his daughters are an acolyte and boat-bearer respectively. He serves as Theologian-in-Residence at Church of the Advent, Baltimore, and as the Secretary of the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music. An IT specialist by day, Derek created and maintains the online Daily Office site The St. Bede's Breviary. His reflections on life, Anglo-Catholic identity, and liturgical spirituality appear at Haligweorc

A radical re-imaging The Episcopal Church

by George Clifford

Part 2 (Part 1)

Presume, even if just for a couple of moments, that the prophets of doom are correct in predicting that denominations – including The Episcopal Church (TEC) – are living dinosaurs, anachronisms from a bygone era that will soon die off completely. If accurate, those predictions invite, perhaps demand, a radical rather than incremental re-imagining of TEC because we have little to lose. Post-radical reimagining, the worst possible scenario is that we have inadvertently hastened TEC's demise as a denominational force. However, the best possible scenario is that radical reimagining reinvents and reinvigorates TEC as a twenty-first century missional force united by common prayer. Here are two proposals.

First, TEC might replace its formal, bicameral, hierarchical approach to governance with highly decentralized, ad hoc, multiple open channels that social media makes possible at little or no cost (imagine shattering rice bowls!). In this new inclusive approach, dynamic, self-organizing groups with open membership would convene around a task or shared interest. Groups would form, subdivide, multiply, and dissolve when and as members deemed appropriate, superseding the existing permanent agglomeration of TEC commissions, committees, and boards. Virtual meetings, online polling (direct democracy displacing representative democracy), and other electronic communication would advantageously eliminate most of the overhead costs associated with our current approach to governance.

For example, instead of only one group studying the theology of marriage, TEC could capture the energy the subject generates and allow any number of self-selected groups to grapple with the theology of marriage. The groups could all publish their reports; the initial reports might approach a consensus opinion (surely an indicator that the Spirit was at work!), a new group or groups might form to develop a comprehensive report, people might be comfortable with plural views, or a completely unexpected development might occur. An open-ended, decentralized process creates space and time for discerning the Spirit in ways that formal structures and tidy processes make difficult and improbable. Having only one group study a subject, report its findings, and then General Convention act decisively on that report perpetuates a chimera of common belief better suited to the Christendom of yore than the post-modern individualism of the twenty-first century.

TEC might discover that the majority of contemporary Episcopalians regard the elections, legislative processes, and budget debates in which we now invest considerable time and money as unimportant and irrelevant. (As an experiment, ask some Episcopalians what occurred in the last General Convention or Executive Council meeting, or to name three key TEC mission programs.)

Attempts to justify the importance of formal structures are both dated and circular. TEC requires minimal structure to comply with state and federal law. Nor do our Constitution and Canons interpose insurmountable obstacles. Eliminating most elected positions will minimize the need for elections; we can conduct any necessary elections electronically. Legislative processes are inherently exclusive, costly, and self-perpetuating; most TEC members are neither engaged nor invested in TEC's ministry or mission. Finally, the next proposal replaces centralized finance and budgeting and with an entrepreneurial approach designed to promote involvement and ownership. In sum, focusing our common life and endeavors around celebratory worship, building community, spiritual formation, and shared mission endeavors will achieve more for God than the status quo does.

An open structure maximizes breadth and expansiveness (no limit on participation), honors an incarnational view of life (the Spirit can move through all Episcopalians, not just elected representatives), and is continuous with the past (retaining democratic discernment of the God's leading) while changing with the times (a flat structure congruent with post-modernism). An open structure also coheres well with TEC's theology that in Baptism God calls all Christians to ministry; the other orders of ministry connote particular functions within the body that an open structure respects.

Second, TEC might replace its reliance on diocesan financial commitments with endowment income, crowdsourcing, and outsourcing. TEC's endowment is sufficient to fund the Presiding Bishop, Anglican and ecumenical relations, and a small program. Crowdsourcing might fund some of TEC's ministry and mission, i.e., direct giving from multiple dioceses, congregations, and individuals to particular ministries or missions of their choice. People and groups give enthusiastically of time, talent, and treasure when they believe in the program or cause to which they are donating.

TEC could also outsource some of its ministries and missions to dioceses, congregations, or groups willing to take responsibility for a particular ministry or mission. TEC did this, in effect, decades ago with theological education, outsourcing responsibility for funding and operating clergy education to seminaries that, in spite of their links to TEC, now are largely autonomous. (That model worked well, though the failure of seminaries to adapt to our post-modern, post-Christendom world suggests that significant changes are in their future.) A diocese with a large military population might fund and support the Office for Federal Ministries, paying the salary for the Bishop for Federal Ministries who would remain a Suffragan to the Presiding Bishop. Another diocese (or group of dioceses) might take responsibility for youth ministry, or new church starts, etc. Several dioceses are moving in this direction, establishing local programs for clergy education. Outsourcing would both cohere with TREC's key themes and encourage dioceses and congregations to expand their view of ministry and mission from the local to the national or international.

Ministries and missions not funded through endowment income, crowdsourcing, or outsourcing would end. Any expectation that the current flow of funds from congregations to TEC via dioceses gives the original donor a feeling of ownership or participation in the ministry or mission of TEC seems erroneous, perhaps naïve. The present approach of centralized decision making and assessments better suited a pre-Information Age Church that depended upon printing to disseminate information. In today's world, General Convention and Executive Council approving TEC budgets paternalistically presumes that those bodies can more faithfully discern God's leading than can the rest of the Church. Crowdsourcing and outsourcing eliminate that presumption, a presumption at odds with TREC's key themes of breadth/expansiveness, incarnational theology, and social engagement/prophetic dissent. Moreover, this approach would foster entrepreneurialism, encouraging new ministries and missions for which dioceses, congregations, or ad hoc groups hear a call and have a passion.

Some entities, like an army, require strong, hierarchical, organization and structure. But TEC is not an army. And although strong, clear structure and governance provide some benefits, they can actually impede rather than promote ministry and mission. Sometimes, a flat, loosely connected organization can best leverage people's gifts and passions, quickly adapt to new opportunities, and create community while preserving individuality.

Advantageously, radically reimagining TEC's structure and finances may create new centripetal forces to hold us together as a Church united in common prayer. Involving more people – lay and ordained – in the Church's larger mission may be the best option for helping a highly individualized, denominationally disengaged constituency to value our connectional polity. Engaging people in the Church's ministry and mission, creating linkages that transcend geography by finding common theological and liturgical ground, will both promote common prayer and common forms of prayer.

The two proposals outlined above, admittedly short on specifics, suggest one possible way to reimagine TEC. Surely other options for radically reimagining TEC exist. Reform is not the answer. TEC is dramatically out of step with social changes and appears headed toward oblivion unless it successfully reimagines itself. Fewer Episcopalians are giving their time to support TEC ministries and missions; dioceses are increasingly reluctant to fund TEC. Radical reimagining offers hope for preserving TEC's distinctive liturgical and theological identity as a church united in common prayer while adapting our structure, governance, and funding to the exigencies of twenty-first century life.

Part 1 is here.

George Clifford is an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years, has written Charting a Theological Confluence: Theology and Interfaith Relations and Forging Swords into Plows: A Twenty-First Century Christian Perspective on War, and blogs at Ethical Musings.

Sink, swim or walk on water: election of the next Presiding Bishop

by George Clifford

Debate has commenced in earnest about the election of The Episcopal Church's next Presiding Bishop (e.g., Next Presiding Bishop: caretaker or visionary?). I've even contributed to that conversation.

In one sense, the selection of the next Presiding Bishop is so unimportant that the Church could rely on a serendipitous selection. For example, the Nominating Committee might place the name of each eligible and willing bishop on a slip of paper and then draw nine of those names for its slate. The House of Bishops might draw one of those names and then elect that person the next PB with the House of Deputies voting by acclamation to affirm that choice. Although this approach may comply with the letter but not the spirit of the canons, it is certainly biblical (remember the selection in Acts 1:21-26 of Matthias to replace Judas?) and would save upwards of a quarter of million dollars.

Sometimes God does work through serendipitous events. Drawing names would eliminate all electioneering and God knows that the poor, the spiritually empty, and many, many others could benefit from increased funding of missions and alms.

I suspect that the most strident and vocal objections would come from individuals and groups heavily invested in preserving our existing institutions and forms. Having watched three general conventions and been part of several dioceses, a relative handful of insiders – both volunteer and paid – dominate the proceedings. Constituencies that include clergy, special interests, elected lay deputies/delegates, and staffs all have the most at stake in the selection of the next PB.

Quite frankly, their concerns (and I share more than a few of them!) should not determine who is chosen as the next PB. We are increasingly a remnant, burdened with an oversized and underutilized physical plant, and supported by a diminished endowment and giving. A gifted manager might slow – at least temporarily – the rate of decline. Someone who shares my values might promote causes and ministries important to me. But business as usual is not going to keep this Episcopal ark from sinking.

When I see the other mainline denominations suffering from problems similar to ours, I recognize that expecting a new PB, organizational restructuring, or other management changes to fix the leaks and other problems is delusional. Reviewing our previous repair efforts, and those of other mainline denominations, reminds me of the definition of stupid, i.e., repeating an action while continuing to expect a different result.

Is there hope for The Episcopal Church? I believe so. The signs of new life that I observe are not in national or diocesan structures but in local communities of Christ's people. A sea change is underway. The internet, social media, and increasing individualism are flattening hierarchy and making committees and legislative processes anachronisms. The hope – the only real hope – for The Episcopal Church comes from bottom-up rather than top-down change.

Let's recover our charisma. We institutionalize the Church's charisma – the good news of God's love revealed in Jesus expressed in our via media – to help us transmit that charisma from one generation to the next. Over time, we begin to confuse the institutional form with the charisma, inevitably stifling the charisma. In vibrant expressions of Christ's body, the charisma is visible in changed lives, healing people eager and excited to engage in mission.

Let's prioritize mission over ministry. The Episcopal Church does not exist for itself or its members. We exist to be Christ's body, Christ's physical presence in the world. Ministries that serve the Church and its members properly fill a secondary, supportive role for our mission of bringing God's love to the world. Yet, a quick analysis of volunteer and staff time, and of funds expended, reveals the support "tail" of ministry now dwarfs the "tooth" of missions. We care for one another and our legacies (buildings, societies, etc.) instead of boldly going into the world without purse, bag, or sandals.

Let's become nimble. Yearly diocesan and triennial national budget, decision-making, and program cycles are too slow, ponderous, and cumbersome in the information age. Rector search processes that require twelve, eighteen, or even more months do not increase the likelihood of congregational growth, revitalization, or even longer tenure.

Let's redeploy our resources. National and denominational offices once essential for sharing resources and best practices, fostering effective coalitions, and producing results are now mostly superfluous. Today, few people call headquarters for help. Instead, they – including Episcopalian laity and clergy – grab a smartphone to search for resources, best practices, contacts, and networking. Many congregations could similarly redeploy their assets to achieve greater results for God.

Jesus provides a role model for inspirational Christian leaders that we would do well to emulate:

He had clarity of vision and purpose. He came to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind. Through prayer and time alone, he maintained his focus and strength in the face of adversity.

He embodied courage. He unflinchingly faced an entrenched power convinced that it could coopt or destroy him.

He was a dynamic, effective communicator. Crowds of thousands of spiritual seekers flocked to hear his message of God's life-giving love.

He incarnated charisma. People – Jews and Gentiles, children and women and men, the religious and the secular – in their relationship with him, experienced God's transformative love.

Finally, he inspired others to join him. He saw people's gifts, recruited the willing, and shaped them with love. Then the gospels report that Jesus sent out the twelve and the seventy; Matthew ends his gospel with Jesus exhorting his followers to change the whole world. Jesus ministered to his followers that they, in turn, might embrace and join him in mission.

If our next PB is such a leader, a woman or man formed in Jesus' image with clarity of vision and purpose, who courageously communicates and incarnates Christ's charisma to a broken, secular world, then the choice of the next PB matters hugely. Such a leader may do little to resuscitate our leaking institutions. But with such a leader as our chief pastor, we will hear and answer God's call to be agents of resurrection, bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind.

George Clifford is an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years, has written Charting a Theological Confluence: Theology and Interfaith Relations and Forging Swords into Plows: A Twenty-First Century Christian Perspective on War, and blogs at Ethical Musings.

Transformation Through Twitter

by Maria L. Evans

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--Prayer for a church convention or meeting, Book of Common Prayer, page 818

Through the magic of Twitter, there's been something wonderful and new I've seen evolve this past General Convention, and as we head into Diocesan Convention season in many dioceses, it will be interesting if all the tweeting going on this summer at GC 2012 has changed the face of all church conventions forever. If it's been happening to me, it must be happening to others, too. In fact, I think it has been happening to others. I've heard this summer referred to as "the summer of Twitter," and "the summer of tweeting."

I did not get to attend GC 2012. (As I've jokingly said, "Well, ONE of us has to stay home and work, you know.") My participation in GC appeared doomed to be rather passive--watching live feeds on the GC Media Hub and following it on Twitter. However, our Diocesan Director of Communications had a use for that. She asked me to assist her in being part of a little team of news-gatherers via an internet pipeline she created, and I also kept watch on the Twitter feed, which was an easy enough task I could do while sitting at my desk between signing out my surgical pathology cases.

But what became interesting to me was it was clear that, at times, it was hard to tell who was actually AT General Convention and who was back home, like me. In fact, people who were physically present at GC 2012, whom I'd conversed with through social networking venues, would mistakenly think I was there, too! I'd get messages like "Sorry I missed you," and "Where are you? Let's get together at break."

In short, something that made this GC 2012 unique was this wonderful blurring of presence. The veil between being actually physically present and being present in a larger sense had a few holes punched in it. This might be the first time at a church convention where the deputies and the folks back home were this palpably close to each other in understanding the work of the church at GC 2012. In fact, one of our diocesan deputies remarked that those of us back home on the news-gathering team actually knew MORE about what was going on hour by hour at GC 2012, and that the ones physically present were actually more out of the loop in some things.

What I saw was this lovely communal relationship, where everyone was free to focus on their own tasks at hand, with a certain level of trust that the others had their backs.

I suspect this will carry forth into whatever it will evolve to be, at the various upcoming Diocesan conventions, but on a smaller scale. As a member of one of the more far-flung parishes in my own diocese, I think what it means for me is that I never again will have an excuse to be insular again in the work of the church. What will that mean for those of us in the more rural parts of the Episcopal Church? I don't know, but I look forward to seeing how social media has the potential for us to understand being "one holy catholic and apostolic church" in new ways.

How did this past summer change how you saw the larger church? As the various diocesan conventions start to take place, how do you think social networking will change them?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

Volunteering at General Convention as spiritual practice

by Catherine Ambos

Teachers have those LONG summers off, right? I do not do well with large, unstructured periods of time, so I usually volunteer in a friend’s research lab over the summer. This summer, however, I took time off from that "job" and traveled as "staff support" for the Diocese of New Jersey’s General Convention Deputation. My husband was a Deputy. He goes to my professional biology teachers' conference each year and provides invaluable support; I was returning the favor. After a few grocery runs (as well as visits to the Minute Clinic for minor emergencies) and making QR codes for several exhibitors, I was running out of things to do. Hmmm . . . a Volunteer booth at the far end of the Convention Center. Perhaps they could keep me out of trouble for the rest of the Convention?

At loose ends, I walked up to the booth on Saturday, July 7, and immediately became part of the family. I had a place, my contributions were appreciated, my mistakes forgiven. Each shift began with prayer (and ended with prayer, if we were all in one place). I felt centered in a way that I do not in my day-to-day life. Every contribution of time, no matter how small, was welcomed and made that volunteer part of the family. I joined a corps of blue-vested volunteers scurrying around, aiding the ebb and flow of business at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. In the heat of July, I felt the Spirit moving through Indianapolis.

I was especially struck by the Supervisors and Coordinators. Their unfailing cheerfulness and patience (especially at the Volunteer Center) impressed me as a model of the Christian community, welcoming anyone interested in joining. They carefully taught the rules and procedures, warning us that no two days ever ran the same and that, yes, at times we would be told to do something we had been told we should never do. "Here are the rules, use your head." Scripture informed by reason. Sounded familiar. This was one of the most humbling and uplifting experiences of my life.

I will return to my classroom in a month and a half, repeating to myself, "Breathe. Let the Holy Spirit flow in," and thinking about Kim, Chris, Keith, Katie, Dave, and all of the other Supervisors and Coordinators who were Christ to me that week. I will remember their gentleness under constant pressure. The 77th General Convention gave me the opportunity to share through service in a Christ-centered community. Thank you.

Doing things the hard way: reflection on General Convention

by Marshall Scott

We are odd creatures, we Episcopalians. We seem to like tension. That leads us to do things the hard way.

I don’t mean to say that we enjoy anxiety. I don’t think we take anxiety better, by and large, than any other group of people. Rather, we seem to like to hold things in tension, to commit to doing two things at once, and to accept willingly that we’ll experience some strain.

Let’s take some of the examples, perhaps less obvious examples, from this General Convention. We honored in a variety of ways our siblings from Native American and other indigenous cultures. We did this especially in worship; and we all know that worship is where Episcopalians show what we value. We incorporated several different Native American languages into our daily Convention Eucharists. We heard daily in the House of Deputies from chaplains from indigenous peoples both at home and abroad. This is well and good. We also noted that the only four counties in the United States in which the plurality of residents are Episcopalians are Native American communities in South Dakota and Alaska.

At the same time, we honored our youth. We welcomed and celebrated the presence of the Episcopal Youth Presence, both in the House of Deputies and in their presence in legislative committees to speak as witnesses and share their thoughts. A good number of dioceses, too, had young people from home who came to have some experience of General Convention. We looked to them as our future, and asked them how we might move into the new reality in which they will live: social media, networked communities, and web-based culture. We embraced change in a radical way in opening the way for the restructuring of our life together – and that without a single no vote in the House of Deputies.

I don’t know that everyone would see the tension there, but I do. You see, I think our commitment to the new is an expression of the larger, dominant Euro-centric culture. We wrestle, I think, with the culture of youth that can pull us, if we’re not careful, to an urge for change for change’s sake. It is a notable theme in the culture around us – the dominant culture around us – that we in the dominant culture can bring into the Church. On the other hand, the Native and Indigenous cultures we also embrace have much to recall to us about honoring the elders, about embracing wisdom based in experience, both of individuals and of a people. Native peoples are also committed to their young people, and do their best to ground them in their own cultures to better prepare them to interact in the dominant culture.

If that seems a bit obscure, let’s bring that to a more common arena. We continue to be a people of the Book of Common Prayer, even as we seek to append to it new tools for worship. Over the eight days of Convention our daily Eucharists incorporated both – both content from the Book of Common Prayer and new materials, some written specifically for the Convention. The Association of Episcopal Deacons prepared new intercessory prayers for every Eucharist. At the same time, one of our Eucharists was celebrated using Rite I. We felt the same tension for our life outside Convention as we offered new rights for provisional or occasional use. We got the most press for our new provisional rite for the blessing of same-sex couples, especially where civil marriage is equally available to them; but those weren’t the only additional rites we approved. We would always claim that we continue to be a people of the Book of Common Prayer, and that the Prayer Book is where we say most fully what we believe. At the same time, many of our congregations work from prepared worship books that incorporate language of Prayer Book and Hymnal, and also services for trial or provisional use and music from many sources.

It was particularly acute when we considered resolutions related to our efforts to restructure how we govern our life together. I can’t speak for the House of Bishops, but in the House of Deputies I felt a similar sort of tension between retaining and changing. We first passed the resolution that called for a task force to recommend the changes that we will consider three years from now. As has been noted, that resolution passed in Deputies without a single voice saying “no.” That in and of itself seemed remarkable, and a sign of a broad desire to change.

On the other hand, once we’d passed that resolution to commit to change, almost no other resolution of change passed. Notably, we considered changing the Canons now to eliminate almost all the Standing Commissions of General Convention. Liturgy and Music would be gone. Health would be gone. Ministry Development and Small Congregations would be gone. All that would remain would be Constitution and Canons, and Structure of the Church - only those directly related to recommending or implementing change. Those who suggested the change felt it would, as it were, clear the decks for the new Task Force. The House as a whole did not, and the resolution went down to defeat.

Similar things happened to other efforts to initiate changes now. Structural changes had been proposed in the Executive Council’s proposed Budget were undone in the final budget. Interim bodies that were initially unfunded were funded in the Budget, and sometimes directed by other resolutions. We were clearly committed to change – but not without a good deal of reflection, consideration, and examination.

That really shouldn’t come as a surprise. We are a people who, like the White Queen, seem sometimes to believe “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” We believe in a God who is Three and also One; who is both transcendent and imminent; who is both fully human and fully divine. We believe that bread and wine become body and blood, even as we believe that we can’t say how – indeed, that the harder we try to say how the more trouble we get into. We believe that God has a plan and is in control; and that we are also not only enabled but expected to take part and take responsibility in shaping the world. We believe that in and through all our most human, apparently venial and political processes God in the Holy Spirit is still working to guide the Church and its individual members.

All of which suggests to me that our Episcopal life in General Convention actually reflects pretty well our Episcopal life for the two years and fifty weeks in between. We may not want anxiety more than anyone else, but we embrace paradox and creative tension like almost no one else. Some may see us as indecisive. I rather think we’re able to see the value of apparently different principles, and so to avoid discarding either. Where others see differences as grounds for conflict, we see them as complementary and/or supplementary – not as separate realities as much as perspectives that together better describe the whole.

And so, for all the expenses financial, emotional, and physical, General Convention has offered a remarkable reflection of the faith and life of the Episcopal Church. And I expect that, even if it is changed in our restructuring, it won’t go away; or that if we no longer have General Convention we’ll have – we’ll have to have – some comparable experience. It is both the Church at prayer and the Church in governance, and also the Church in microcosm. I don’t know yet where I’ll be in three years, or even where the Church will be. But, wherever I am, in three years the Episcopal Church will gather again in General Convention. It will be interesting. It will be exciting. It will be worth our time and effort; because it will once again gather us, not to take us out of our life, but once again to focus ourselves in our life together and before God.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a hospital chaplain in the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

Communion before baptism at General Convention

by James Papile

After a few days of perspective I have been collecting my reflections on the 77th General Convention. Without a doubt the most exciting and hopeful thing about convention was the presence of young people. Finally, after several conventions the assembly was able to hear the voices of young Episcopalians. Even with several positive actions, I left the event disheartened. This year one of the most controversial resolutions, beginning the process to change the canons to allow for the administration of communion to those not yet baptized was so altered in the House of Bishops as to be essentially changed. Although I voted for, and am a strong proponent of the canonical change, my discouragement comes from the fact that last minute changes to controversial issue come to the deputies with no time for conversation. When we think about changes to structure this issue needs to be addressed.

Providing communion before baptism, a new crisis in the church is our reworking of an ancient crisis experienced in the earliest days of the faith. For Paul and Peter the contention was over the necessity of a male convert to be circumcised. The Jerusalem contingent wanted all converts to be circumcised before they were to be allowed in the community.

Now there are the new traditionalists who want the “gentiles” to be baptized before they are allowed full inclusion in the Church (the right to receive communion). Although this modern day discussion isn't anywhere near as painful physically,it has the same, I believe, monumental implications for the future of the Church.

For those to whom Paul was evangelizing, non-Jews, Jewish ritual and Jewish law was meaningless. Never having been exposed to Torah-the way of Jewish life - going through the action of adult male circumcision would have been dangerous due to the possibility of infection, very painful, and without rationale. Paul argued, apparently convincingly, with Peter and others that requiring circumcision would have been a major impediment to those who might otherwise embrace the Jesus-following community.

I'm not suggesting that being baptized is anything like the trauma of adult circumcision, although I have baptized a few infants who couldn't have put up much more of a fight or seemingly been more traumatized! But what I am saying is that unchurched folks walking into a Jesus-following community of today will find the practice of baptizing equally lacking in meaning.

Inside the community, we grew up knowing the meaning and the importance of baptism. This amazingly transformative moment is difficult to describe to those who know nothing about the Church. For some newcomers, there will be an attraction to the life of the community which will give them time to absorb the meaning of this powerful sacrament. They will wait to receive after they are baptized. But what about those who need another way to feel included? Must we also ask those individuals to wait until they feel the power of the Holy Spirit and the welcoming of the community? How fair, or realistic is that? How effective can we expect this process to be in bringing folks from the contemporary culture to Christ?

A few weeks ago we read the story of Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, a story that has powerful implication on many levels for the Church today. By today's standards, Philip's action would have been questioned. Did he adequately inform the individual of the theological meaning of baptism; did he impress upon him the importance of a “home parish,” was he convinced of the eunuch's intention to remain a faithful church-going person? Early Church documents record a catechumenate period of up to two years. Today many parishes require an adult candidate for baptism to go through a series of classes, teachings about scripture, church history, and contemporary polity. By these standards Philip's baptismal preparation was deficient.

In these missionary times we have significant challenges, but also powerful opportunities. Some practices, some time-honored customs may need to be suspended, even altered. Did the community in Jerusalem keep circumcising? Probably, yet to what effect? Paul's way was different. Daring to break from tradition, his work spread the faith to the four corners of the known world. He will forever be the model for Christian evangelism. We should be as far seeing today, for a stronger, more vibrant Church.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body...” ~Ephesians 2:13ff

The Rev. James Papile is the Rector of St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Reston VA and often writes about baseball, the church and faith.

The mission of the church: speaking across generations

by Kathy Staudt

I am a baby boomer and the parent of milennials, but I find that when I am thinking about the life and mission of the Church I am often energized by looking at where we are now through the eyes of people in their 20s and 30s. Sure, that means putting up with some criticism of how my generation has managed things, but years of parenting has made me pretty inured to that. I”ve been interested in the coverage of General Convention offered by Steve Pankey, a former student (and the one who convinced me to start doing some blogging). In a recent post from early in the convention, (entitled “Our Fundamental Identity”) Steve remarks on what he sees as a “fundamental” generational difference. The boomer generation, in power now in the church, seems focused on issues of power inequalities, inclusion and social justice issues. This focus seems to leave out concerns about the mission and purpose of the church that occupy the generation now in their early 30s. I think there are some issues worth pondering here.

My generation came of age in the 60’s and 70’s when the church, especially the mainline churches, were not as open as they are now to people of all genders, races, sexual identities, social classes. And most of us would say there is still work to do in these areas. Theologically, as I was growing in the faith I found that these issues were framed as ways in which we as church were responding to God’s call to carry Christ’s ministry of reconciliation into the world. And so for me it feels like progress and cause for celebration when we see people of all backgrounds gathered around a common mission that transcends culture and identity. It may be a good thing that a next generation sees this as less of a big deal and more as the “new normal” and something to move past. But for boomers there will probably always be more inclusivity to pursue: The way to this is through our struggles to be a community in diversity. I also grew up assuming that the Church, as instsitution, would be a voice for change in the public square. This has been the heritage of mainline denominations at their best, often, in my experience, allied with a progressive political agenda that focuses on the needs of the poor and the marginalized. This is the positive ideal that I was rasied with, and reflects perhaps, assumptions that the boomer generation operates with that are not necessarily the assumptions of a younger generation.

It is interesting to me that Steve, speaking from a generation that came of age in the “bubble” economic years of the 80s and 90s, hears what I have thought of as language about the church’s mission as language that can become laden with “shame,” “guilt” and “partisanship” -- and I think it is true that we can get hung up on the work that remains to be done. In his post I hear a longing for the reclaiming of a sense of common mission centered in Christ. I’m not sure whether there is a “fundamental” generational divide here or just a difference of context that we need to process more thoughtfully. This of course would mean including multiple generations in our common conversation The more that that happens, I think, the more exciting the future of the Church will be.

But it does seem to me we easily lose track of a more fundamental question - and one that a new generation is calling us back to: this is the question of mission in a post-Christian world. What is it about the gospel that is transformative and a gift to the world? What is it about Christian faith that makes us want to embrace and proclaim and live it? What is the right blend of tradition and innovation that will help us to make manifest the good news of Christ. And what IS that good news: how do we proclaim it in a way that can be heard in our time? I was also fascinated to see, in that in a link to emergent theologican Tony Jones’s blog on our General Convention, several commenters asking Tony this very question: Tony, what is the mission of the church? We’d like you to articulate it). So we’re all getting this challenge and it should energize us. What is the mission of the Church? How do we answer that question for ourselves, as Christians, as Episcopalians?

Brian McLaren framed it this way in A Generous Orthodoxy: the mission of the Church is “to be and to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the sake of the world.” Drawing on Anglican missiologist Leslie Newbigin he connects that mission to God’s original call to Abraham to “be a blessing” to the world. To be bearers, transmitters, agents, of a loving God who desires to bring reconciliation and healing to a broken world. Other writers I like share this in different ways. Verna Dozier and Desmond Tutu, for example, write of the “dream” of God . Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing at another time when churches heard a call to be counter-cultural, wrote that the Church of Jesus Christ, “takes up space in the world” -- is a visible witness to a God at work among us.

My favorite modern Anglican Writer, Evelyn Underhill, draws on a long Christian tradition when she suggests this way to think about the Church’s mission: Every human being, she suggests, has the potential to become a channel of God’s love and mercy in the world: that’s what it means to be made in the Image of God; that’s what the Incarnation affirms. That is the call to Christian discipleship -- to become, each in our own way, and as a community of faith, channels of God’s mercy. How do we live this out, as a church? What does it look like in practice and institutionally?

My great hope is that we may give more thought and prayer to the things that make for this transformation, of ourselves as disciples of Jesus and of our congregations and instsitutions as places meant to shape our discipleship and bear witness to God’s presence and love in the world. From personal practice to conversations about budgets and institutions, there are opportunities everywhere for the Church to become the leavening, transforming agent for good that we are called and empowered to be, in this hurting and broken world. And by the Church, I also mean each and all of us, called to pursue in humility a path of faithful discipleship, in and for a hurting and broken world.

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps two blogs: poetproph and David Jones, artist and poet. She works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area and is the author of two books of poetry: "Annunciations, Poems out of Scripture" and "Waving Back:Poems of mothering life", as well as a scholarly study of the modern artist and poet David Jones.

TEDTEC: imagining what can be

by Mimi Grant

(note from editor: the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori referenced Grant's idea in her remarks to General Convention)

Building on a recent bishops and deputies listserve string on sharing "best practices," which included excellent imput from both Ernie Petry (from Ohio) and Ariel Miller (from Southern Ohio), a fellow Los Angeles Deputy, The Rev. Susan Russell, added: "Ages ago I floated an idea about taking the TED Conference model and creating a TEC version that would give us access to the inspiration and best-practices already in place around the church that we could learn from and adapt to our congregational and community contexts. Still thinking it's a concept that would be interesting to explore."

Being a huge fan of the TED Conferences (Technology, Entertainment, Design: where the world's leading thinkers and doers gather to share ideas worth spreading), and even more the posted videos of each 17 minute presentation, I jumped in to recommend that we create TEDTEC.

One of the advantages of being a first time Deputy is: I don't know what can't be done. So why not dream big! And, being active in the healthcare community, I've been greatly impressed with the "possibilities" TEDMED speakers have opened up to those who might otherwise find the challenges associated with creating an affordable, quality healthcare system far too overwhelming.

So, with credit to TEDMED, here's what I think IS possible if we hit "REFRESH" on our thinking about the purpose and possibilities of our tri-annual General Convention (and even in our Provincial meetings between Conventions)...

TEDTEC is a community of people who are passionate about imagining the future of The Episcopal Church.

Every three years, TEDTEC holds a "grand gathering" where leaders - bishops, clergy and laity - come together from across all the Provinces of The Episcopal Church for three and a half days to hear "What's Working" as they share and explore with each other the ministries, programs, and mechanisms they're using to achieve the Five Marks of Mission in their dioceses and communities. This unique event combines dazzling celebration, high-powered learning, and is live-streamed so that congregations from throughout The Episcopal Church can "participate remotely," and become inspired to create and expand their own ministries and missions.

Within each 17 minute TEDTEC presentation - which are also posted on YouTube™ for later viewing, a different example of The Church in Action is showcased, focusing on how they're achieving one (or more) of the Five Marks of Mission. Here are a few examples, from the Diocese of Los Angeles, I'd nominate to get us started (and I bet you could add hundreds more):

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
Much of this "proclaiming" can be by example, as St. Francis of Assisi said, "preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." The Church of the Messiah was founded in 1883 and occupies the oldest church structure in Orange County, it also now finds itself in the most densely populated zip code (and one of the poorest) in the country. Messiah teamed with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, to found "Hands Together: A Center for Children" which serves 200 infants to pre-schoolers of the working poor. They also have a Literacy Center to help kids become enthusiastic learners; and Morning Garden, which teaches basic life survival skills, such as financial literacy, to their immigrant familes.

To each, baptize and nurture new believers
In a very different community, about 45 miles up the coast, the Rev. Jimmy Bartz, is the rector of Thad's in Santa Monica, where he frequently invites seekers to literally experience "church" for the first time. In this excellent overview video - - Jimmy explains how they introduce the unchurched to a contemporary service that speaks to them. And, quoting from their website, "We're a movement of missionary people who’ve made a choice to leave the relative safety of the established church and take the love of Jesus “to the streets.” Among the "street people" who've found a home at Thad's is the actress Reese Witherspoon.

To respond to human need by loving service
Every week, five congregations meet at St. Paul's, in Tustin, to serve "Sunday Supper." The first Sunday, in May of 2011, no one showed up - even after leaving flyers at the Tustin library. Now, since word ultimately gets around in the homeless community, they routinely serve over 100. Each Sunday, a different congregation (St. Paul's and Trinity Episcopal, in Orange, along with Aldersgate United Methodist, Congregation B'nai Israel, and Serrano Hlls Church in Orange) serve food they prepare that is largely supplied by local food banks, supplemented with vegetables grown in St. Paul's garden.

To seek to transform unjust structures of society
The Kaleidoscope Institute was originally launched from the Diocesan Center in Los Angeles, but when budgets got tight, its founder and Executive Director, the Rev. Eric H.F. Law, made it into an independent, "sustainable missional ministry. Today, with his roots firmly planted in years of anti-racism training, Eric+ goes around the country sharing his knowledge and skills (using AV and electronic media) training others to enhance interpersonal communication and to build respectful, inclusive communities that transform unjust societal structures. During a recent L.A.Deanery IX event, Eric inspired us to think outside the pews as to how we can use "Holy Currencies" to create our own sustainable ministries to susport and extend the Kingdom of God.

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
At Trinity in Orange, our "Stewardship of All Creation" committee includes Lea, who became a founding committee member, at age nine. Lea and others have led Trinity to switch to ceramic mugs from styrofoam, to decorate with ribbons attached to long sticks instead of helium balloons, and encouraged several Scouts to transplant our garden areas with draught tolerant plants, instead of those requiring water. While we are well on our way to becoming a "green" church, another church in our Deanery is using the "currency" of their place for community benefit. St. Stephen's is blessed with a large parcel of land, which they've opened up to the community to plant herbs, vegetables, and even flowers.

TEDTEC - utilizing the power of inexpensive video cameras, editing software, streaming technology, and YouTube to store the videos online, can provide the entire Church with a rich resource of "demonstrations" as to how Episcopalians are getting out of their pews - leaving their churches in a good way. This resource can lead to religious vibrancy within all of our communities, as we proclaim - through our actions - the Good News, reach out to the unbelieving, lovingly serve those in need and those treated unjustly, and as we renew not just the life of the earth, but the life of our Church.

Together, we can weave a tapestry that combines the best thinking from every diocese and creates infinite new possibilities. In the future, inspired by these shared stories of successful ministries, the "business" of General Convention could follow TEDTEC, bringing together "mission-driven" people to talk, legislate, and "fine tune" the life of The Episcopal Church.

I know, this is the fantasy of someone who hasn't been through all the anguish of past Conventions, or even the past Budgeting cycle. But if we're looking to SUSTAIN The Episcopal Church, let alone GROW it, we're going to need to reach out beyond our current polity, and focus on how we can share what's working, how we can energize not just the People in the Pews (before we bury ALL of them), but the Clergy, and our Bishops, too.

With an optimistic - and prayerful - heart, Mimi

In Mimi Grant's "day job" she is the president of the Adaptive Business Leaders Organization, which is composed of over 160 CEOs of Healthcare & Technology companies who meet in nine monthly Round Tables, sharing best practices to help grow successful businesses - and lower the cost of quality care. A passionate convert, she's also very active in her church, her Deanery, and is now serving as a first time Lay Deputy from the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Structure and Budget: gaining perspective

by Br Richard Helmer


I came to General Convention ready to “blow things up and start over.” In a world of floundering and often inept institutions, re-starts seem to be the only way forward. So I was anxious to attend the church structure hearing on Thursday night, expecting a host of brilliant ideas and strategies to come from the grassroots of our Church; hoping to come away with a sense that we have the raw material to build a new, nimble institution from the rubble of a sclerotic corporate structure that is a throwback to the 1950’s.

After listening to an hour-and-a-half of impassioned testimony, however, I came away more puzzled than heartened. I heard a great deal of high philosophical talk and theologizing and spiritualizing assertion, but no memorable substance for the direction we ought to take in re-organizing our Church. The most helpful remark of the evening for me was a deputy pointing out that we are now in that no-man’s land between knowing we need to change but not knowing how we ought to change.

I find myself, surprisingly, turning back to the structures I thought we were here to blow up: the familiar grind of legislative process; the faithful, if often tedious work of committees pouring over proposals and debating the finer points of language for prayer, for funding, and for organizing ministry. Maybe, as the old saying goes, it is better to dance with the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

But then, my whole tone here reflects the tendency of our wider cultural tendency these days to be down on the hard, messy work of democratic process and to be down on our leaders granted the authority to faithfully shepherd it along. In the structure meeting the other night, one speaker said that it was time to “sacrifice the old.” That left me with two uncomfortable questions: Who or what are we sacrificing exactly, and on what altar? It is also our tendency these days to sacrifice the old on the altar of the new. It is our tendency to pull down and undermine leadership when it fails to meet our expectations of perfection. Maybe these tendencies are all one in the same, reflecting a perverse infidelity that has always haunted the Church: the assertion in deed, if not word, that Jesus’ sacrifice was not sufficient. We continue to search for a scapegoat for our collective woes. Yet the heart of our tradition holds that the cross was meant to bring that search to an end.

In contrast to this was the extraordinary conversation in the House of Deputies yesterday morning, where our eloquent Youth Presence made an impassioned plea to keep the Episcopal Youth Event part of our church-wide budget. In the same hour, as we reviewed legislation to formulate a whole new host of resources and programs for ministering to older people, our elders in the House pointedly reminded us not to patronize them. The piece of legislation to fund EYE passed. The other piece to “minister to” our older members in the church appropriately failed.

I was reminded of Jesus’ words: “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matthew 13:52)

Whatever restructuring we undertake as a church in the next several years, it will require living into this teaching, remembering that what is old can be just as valuable as what is new, and much wisdom resides in discerning what we need from both. Our greatest treasure as a Church right now perhaps resides in two of our constituencies most easily marginalized, used, and abused by the world: the passion of our young people and the experience of our elders. Bringing them together may be just what the Spirit is calling us to do, and if our structural reform accomplishes this alone, we will move far.

The Budget

There’s always rumbling of one sort or another at General Convention. This year, we’ve been infected somewhat by the Tea Party atmosphere of the wider culture. Some bishops are reportedly caucusing and employing parliamentary maneuvers to sink block after block of legislation with any revenue requests attached. Moreover, we have a number of wealthy dioceses paying far less than the “asking” – the diocesan financial commitment that funds the work and ministries of the Episcopal Church Center and our church-wide missional bodies. One of the more inflammatory mutterings is that the wealthy dioceses are using the struggling dioceses as a fig-leaf. To wit: If the struggling dioceses aren’t paying their fair share, why should we? It’s astonishingly familiar rhetoric.

For my own perspective, I decided to do the math. To get a thumbnail idea of just how much we each contribute to the church-wide budget, I turned to the most recent numbers I have available in the Blue Book (page 89). In 2010, operating revenues for The Episcopal Church as a whole, combining all of our congregations and institutions, totaled in round figures a breathtaking $1.6 billion.

The Presiding Bishop’s budget proposal, which has become something of a template for the budgetary work of General Convention this year, projects annual revenues raised from the diocesan commitments of $24.5 million (annualized from page 1 line 2). Sounds like a lot, but after accounting for all those zeros, it turns out that for every $100 the average member of our congregation gives, only $1.50 ends up in the church-wide budget. That means over 98% of our local revenue goes to local ministry in our congregations and dioceses, and our local partnerships with ministry elsewhere in the world.

It strikes me as a startlingly small piece of the ecclesiastical financial pie to be battling over, and it reminds me that, for all of the talk about the need to “flatten” the structures of The Episcopal Church, we’re pretty flat already, at least in dollar terms.

The real danger at this General Convention and in the wider church is not badly-behaved institutional structures, although they will never be perfect and are always in need of reform. The real danger is falling into the distortions of fear that always attend a time of change. Jesus admonished the Pharisees for straining gnats while swallowing camels. We should be just as mindful.

Doubtless, changes are coming and are already upon us. Now public is the push to sell the financial millstone of the Episcopal Church Center (“815”) building and to move the center while organizing and resourcing the related staff in less expensive ways. I would, however, remind readers of the Café that this possibility has been discussed for at least a generation, if not longer. Moreover, we are talking about significantly affecting the lives of not a bunch of “paper-pushing” bureaucrats, but a group of faithful people who, with pared-to-the-bone staff support and budgets, spend a huge amount of time on the road working to nurture our international and ecumenical relationships, and help our missions, dioceses, and congregations flourish. Is this a needful adaptive change? Quite probably. But should we sniff at the lives of our sisters and brothers in Christ most closely affected? Never.

In her sermon in Friday’s Eucharist, Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies – in the context of a liturgy that simultaneously reflected the witness of John Hus and the moving plight and faith of the Hmong people – reminded us all of the virtue of courage. She then demonstrated to us this virtue in a day for her marked with personal and parliamentary mishaps. Like all leaders, she is under enormous pressure these days. And courage is perhaps the greatest gift the Spirit can offer us in the face of challenging times and the challenging – and imperfect – choices before us.

Maybe courage is a place, caught as we are between conservative tea partying and liberal cynicism, to stand in faith.

The Rev. Br. Richard E. Helmer is rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, CA, and a novice in the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory. He is an alternate deputy to General Convention and secretary of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of California. His sermons and reflections have been published widely online, and he blogs occasionally at Caught by the Light.

Nero fiddled and Rome burned

by George Clifford

According to legend, Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned. That legend provides an apt (although, like any analogy, imperfect) metaphor for today’s Church. Nero connotes we who are Christian and our ecclesial structures; fiddling suggests a focus on something other our real mission; and Rome signifies the mission to which God has called us.

People have lamented the numerical decline of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in particular and Christianity in general for decades (cf. Is the Episcopal Church going the way of the Grange?). Yet the decline continues apace, unchecked. In the meantime, TEC quibbles about who may receive Holy Communion and whether to continue restricting ordination and certain church offices to confirmed members.

Few, if anyone, outside the Church really cares. The preponderance of persons interested in joining TEC recognize that TEC, like any organization, cannot exist as an organization without “borders,” i.e., without membership requirements. Lowering or removing TEC’s already minimal requirements for membership, if it achieves anything at all, may have the unintended consequence of communicating to prospects that TEC has little to offer because membership requires so little effort or commitment.

In the civilian parish that I most recently served, many adults had affiliated with the congregation without having been confirmed or received. Encouraging these adults to take more active leadership roles, a step that required the adults to attend confirmation classes and then attend a special confirmation service, required some time and effort. Nobody demurred. If anything, my sense was that these busy and talented individuals recognized that the parish, like any worthwhile organization, had reasonable and valid membership requirements. The classes afforded an opportunity to deepen relationships and to explore their spirituality and spiritual journeys together.

Likewise, a woman to whom I had served Holy Communion for over a year in a Navy Chapel was surprised to read in the bulletin one Sunday a note that Holy Baptism was a prerequisite for receiving Holy Communion. The note had been in the bulletin every Sunday for a year; it had simply taken the woman months to notice it. She then began to wonder whether she had been baptized, consulted her parents, and shamefacedly told me what had been happening. I explained that her actions posed no problem. Neither God nor the Church was offended. She wanted to receive the sacrament of baptism; the instruction classes provided a greatly appreciated opportunity for her husband and her to explore their beliefs and the Episcopal Church. She, her husband, and the congregation experienced her baptism as a moment of grace, something that theoretically happens at every baptism. Then she and her husband surprised me by inquiring about joining the Episcopal Church. I provided instruction and arranged for confirmation. When the man retired from the military, the couple enthusiastically joined an Episcopal congregation in their new community.

These anecdotes typify what I consistently have experienced and continue to experience in my ministry. Having reasonable rules and policies does not inhibit numerical or spiritual growth. The real barriers to entry in the Church include congregations and facilities that do not communicate a genuine warm welcome to all comers, clergy with poor interpersonal skills, and ministry/mission focused on anything except caring for the hungry, thirsty, hurting, alienated, and dying people all around us. I have no strong feelings about the particulars of amending the canons with respect to confirmation or the requirements for Holy Communion. I do feel strongly, notwithstanding any anecdotal evidence to contrary, that if we think any of these changes will reverse TEC’s numerical decline we are at best mistaken and at worse deluded.

Nero fiddled. Rome burned.

Late in the twentieth century, Episcopal concern over the numerical decline of TEC and Christianity coalesced in a designated decade of evangelism. That initiative fizzled badly. Concurrently and more recently, some Episcopalians (and others) have advocated the emergent church movement, Dina Butler Bass’ ideas about Christianity after religion, and other revitalization efforts as the answer. In my diocese, our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, recognizing the need and energized by those efforts, has focused on encouraging his clergy and congregations to carry the gospel to Galilee, i.e., to meet people in the world where the people are. The report of the Standing Commission on Ministry and Evangelism in the 2012 General Convention Blue Book is yet another effort to address numerical decline.

I commend all of these efforts. However, reversing the numerical decline is not one task among many. TEC’s numerical decline poses the only immediate existential threat to the denomination. Unless we reverse the decline within the next twenty years, the denomination will implode. Administrative requirements will immobilize any attempt at forward movement; administration costs will consume all available funds and rapidly deplete the endowment (cf. Part 1: The story the budget tells and Part 2: The story the budget tells).

The issue is not whether TEC should have a virtual governance process, a unicameral structure, or preserve the status quo. Unless we reverse the numerical decline, TEC’s governance structures and processes will become progressively more irrelevant and meaningless. Across TEC, only a relative handful of people are genuinely invested in denominational governance; the vast majority of those individuals serves as deputies, delegates, or fills other formal roles in diocesan, provincial, and national bodies. In other words, reforming the structures and processes entails people voluntarily surrendering roles they perceive as positions of power, but roles that perform tasks few others value.

What if General Convention (or a diocesan convention) devoted just sixty minutes to all of the canonically required business and spent the rest of its time addressing one question: what can we do to reverse the numerical decline of Christianity and TEC? Attendees would commit to produce a series of specific action steps, fully funded, with the individual or group responsible for taking the action identified, deadlines established, and accountability reports due at the next General Convention (or diocesan convention). The product would not be just another denominational program but a re-visioning and re-directing of the organization that promoted multiple responses (nobody has a definitive, single answer) by mobilizing the entire organization.

What’s the cost of doing this? We would cancel many good programs and many meetings that generate few tangible results. We would set aside many important items, e.g., whether to revise the hymnal, changes to the liturgical calendar, ecumenical conversations, and proposed canonical changes. Staff would find their jobs realigned.

What’s the potential benefit? TEC might move to the cutting edge of spiritual and religious life, reverse its numerical decline, and more fully incarnate the body of Christ. Repositioned and revitalized, TEC could once again become a positive force for change.

Reading the 2012 General Convention Blue Book does not make me optimistic about the probability of genuine renewal. Overcoming institutional inertia is incredibly difficult. Congregations more frequently die rather than reinvent themselves. In the next few decades, denominations, probably including TEC, will die, refusing to reinvent themselves.

Nero fiddled. Rome burned.

Christendom is no more. Yet the Church continues to act as if Christianity were the official religion in the United States. For example, clergy retain a vestigial role as state functionaries by officiating at weddings. I did not fully appreciate the irony of this in a nation that prides itself on not having an established religion until I, a U.S. naval officer and citizen, while serving on exchange with the Royal Navy in London officiated at the wedding of two British citizens on behalf of Her Majesty’s government. I could do this because the Archbishop of Canterbury had licensed me as a Church of England priest and authorized me to serve as a Royal Navy chaplain.

If the Church was fully secure in its identity as the Body of Christ and had the integrity and courage to recognize that Christendom was no more, then many of the complexities surrounding the blessing of same-sex relationships would disappear. The Church could bless all permanent, monogamous relationships using a single liturgy; the state, not the Church, would solemnize legal contracts pertaining to domestic relationships.

Contemporary debates about marriage and same-sex relationships generally conflate into the legal contract (this is what the state cares about), the sacramental relationship (this is the Church’s proper concern), and an interpersonal relationship (out of which emerges the legal and sacramental) between two people into a single issue. Ending the pretense that the U.S. remains part of Christendom would free the Church to focus on its mission of becoming God's people.

With the de facto as well as de jure end of Christendom, other past practices are unsustainable in a secular democracy, perhaps even counterproductive for Christians to try to sustain. Among these ill-advised cultural legacies are bookending public events with an invocation and benediction, displaying Christian imagery on public property, and the legislated observance of Christian holy days. In this same vein, formal denominational efforts to influence national and international policies and legislation have achieved proportionately few results for the resources invested. Single-issue ecumenical organizations, such as Interfaith Power and Light, have enlisted greater support, received larger resources, and produced greater results.

Successfully re-visioning and re-creating TEC will produce an organization focused on its strength (building local communities of God's people who join in worship, caring for one another, and offer hospitality to strangers) that networks with other Christian organizations to achieve other aspects of the gospel mandate. The end of Christendom suggests that a strategy loosely linked multiple organizations may be more effective than the monolithic church of the past. The Church’s unity will be seen in relationships rather than structures.

Similarly, efforts to impose a greater degree of structural unity and conformity on the provinces of the Anglican Communion will fail. Globalization and the internet promote diversity and autonomy rather than conformity. Debating the proposed Anglican covenant wastes time and resources. Building bridges to other parts of the Anglican Communion through visits, conversations, and joint mission/ministry will produce the only form of unity sustainable in the post-Christendom twenty-first century.

Nero fiddled. Rome burned.

What will we do?

George Clifford is a writer, ethicist, and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years and now blogs at Ethical Musings .

Ready, set, ...

by Marshall Scott

Well, it's almost here. In a few days, we'll be getting started. Let's get started.

Of course, I'm referring to General Convention. Much has been written about the debates and decisions of Convention, and those are important. Still, there are other aspects of Convention that I'm more conscious of. I don't know that they're more important, but they're more immediately real, if you will.

The first is simply that the days are long. Legislative committees start their work at 7:00 a.m. Evening events run until 9:00 p.m. or later. In between, there will be the Eucharist, legislative sessions, and other meetings. If you're organized, there will be lunch and/or dinner over which business will be done. There might be time spent at the Registration and Certification booth. There will also be a lot of walking; but more about that in a minute. The point is the days are long and full, running to sixteen hours or so.

And there will be lots of walking. Convention centers are the only places large enough to hold our regular gathering. (Over the years there has been discussion about college campuses; but if you think about it you’ll see that it wouldn’t change the distances we need to walk.) So, even when hotels are close – indeed, even when they’re attached – there will be lots of walking. For almost two weeks, thousands of Episcopalians will be power-walking, as it were, because most of us will be carrying some additional weight – cases with laptops, armloads of paper, bags of stuff from the Exhibit Hall. This year it will be somewhat less, because the Blue Book is available electronic, and many of us will have downloaded it to the device we plan to use. That’s a good seven or eight pounds saved there. On the other hand, there will still be the printed forms of resolutions as they come from legislative committees, and as they get reviewed and revised in debate, and as they show up on the agenda. Too, we will be walking fast. With all those activities and all that distance, getting where one needs to be won’t allow for much leisurely strolling. So, yes, we’ll be power-walking.

There will be new ideas and new information. I have long said that any Episcopalian who can should try to spend at least a day or two at a General Convention. More especially, as much as I value the discussions in the two Houses, I think every Episcopalian should see the Exhibit Hall. In the Exhibit Hall an Episcopalian will see a breadth and diversity in the ministries of the Church that few would ever imagine. Where else would most Episcopalians get a chance to meet Episcopal religious, whether at the booth of the Conference on Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas (CAROA), or with the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities (NAECC)? Where would folks learn about the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (K.E.E.P.); or about the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations, or the Bishop of the Armed Services and Federal Ministries, or so many other ministries that are part of the life of our Church?

I continue to see the Spirit working in the Exhibit Hall, too, in that organizations on opposite sides of a given issue will often find themselves on opposite sides of the same land on the Exhibit Hall floor – or at least within line of sight and earshot of each other. In years past that would have been Associated Parishes and the Evangelical and Catholic Mission; or Associated Parishes and the American Anglican Council (yeah, I realize how that dates me). It will be interesting to see how that works out this year.

There will certainly be worship. The daily Eucharist is an interesting experience, introducing participants to new texts and new hymns. Yes, I’ve struggled sometimes with worshipping in another language. That seems only fair, and at least a small taste of how my siblings from other cultures can experience worshipping with me. More to the point, once again we see a breadth that most of us do not regularly experience. We hear - more, we have the opportunity to participate in – worship in Spanish and French and Creole and Lokata and Mandarin. I don’t think we touch on all the languages in which Episcopalians worship, nor that we even try to do that perfectly. However, it becomes another living experience of just how broad is our life together in the Episcopal Church.

There will be opportunities to participate that many folks don’t know about. When legislative committees meet to discuss resolutions, meetings include time set aside to hear people testify about the topics. And while we talk about the participation of Bishops and Deputies serving on those committees, anyone registered with the Convention can testify. That includes Bishops and Deputies, certainly; but it also includes Exhibitors, Volunteers, and Visitors. Indeed, to be a Visitor is a registered option, with access to all the activities of Convention, from early Committee meetings to daily Eucharist to the galleries of both the Houses of Deputies and Bishops to the Open Hearings about particularly important issues. And anyone can volunteer. Indeed, the Convention runs on Volunteers. They will handle registration and assist with exhibits and serve in the Houses. Episcopalians have opportunities to participate in the structures of our Church governance of which few are aware.

And most importantly, there will be people. There will be friends new and old and unexpected. Some time ago, when asked what brought Anglicans together, Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “We meet!” The value of General Convention is perhaps most powerfully in the many connections that get made and sustained. Some of those connections are expressed in the legislative work, certainly. More, though, are expressed in the new thoughts and insights we gain as we walk and talk and eat and worship with folks we haven’t met before, or haven’t seen in years. We are a Church for which the Incarnation is a central theme; and there is no experience like discovering the Episcopal Church incarnated in all those many and varied and different and interesting people.

These are the facts, the experiences of General Convention that have meant the most to me. Yes, expressing the mind and the will of the Episcopal Church through the legislative process is important. I wouldn’t have run to be a Deputy if I thought it wasn’t. But it’s all these other experiences that make General Convention rich and moving for me. It’s these experiences that I would encourage every Episcopalian to pursue, whenever the General Convention seems at all within reach. These are the things that have drawn me again and again throughout my years in the Church.

And now it’s almost time! So, let’s get started.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a hospital chaplain in the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an Associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

Q and A with Bonnie Anderson

Episcopal Café interviewed Dr. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies about her life and work as President. She is not seeking re-election at General Convention 2012:

Café: What was your biggest surprise?

Anderson: It never occurred to me that the existence of the House of Deputies as we know it would be in jeapordy. The liturgical life is of primary importance to me, but after that, one of the reasons I am an Episcopalian is because I believe what it says in the BCP about the ministry of the laity (page 855 of the Book of Common Prayer). The Episcopal Church since 1785 has valued the voices of all the baptized in the way we make decisions. We make decisions together, clergy, laity, bishops all. This democratic decision making occurs in every venue of our life as Episcopalians; on vestries, at diocesan conventions and General Convention. I have been surprised at, what I perceive to be, an increase in the autonomy of some bishops and the willingness of the laity to disenfranchise themselves. Clergy are in a difficult position on this one, caught between bishops and laity. Verna Dozier called the laity “the sleeping giant”. It’s time for us, the lay people, to wake up, now.

Café: What do you wish you had known before you began this ministry?

Anderson: I wish I had known that there would be no Vice President of the House of Deputies during my second term of office. With no procedure in the canons for filling the vacancy, my great plans for dividing up the ministry between the PHOD and VPHOD during the 2010-2012 triennium did not happen. There were some super volunteers who “stepped up” to help, and if not for them and my assistant, I would have been completely under water.

Café: What is the funniest thing you experienced?

Anderson: There are many really funny things that happened. Our church has a good sense of humor, most of the time. Laughing at ourselves is one of our many strengths, I think.

I was in Memphis for a meeting and I was checking into a local hotel. The lobby was crowded and there was a line at the hotel registration desk. When it was my turn at the registration desk the woman next to me was in a “conversation” with the hotel clerk. It appeared that her reservation had been misplaced and the clerk was explaining to her there was no room for her at the hotel. She was understandably becoming frustrated and finally said, “Sir, I am with a group. We are the Daughters of the King.” He responded by saying, “Ma’am, I don’t care what Elvis group you are a part of, there is no room”.

I told this story at a meeting of the Daughter’s of the King at Kanuga, where I had stopped by to greet them. They laughed until they were crying!

Café: What is the personal attribute that you have that you feel was the most helpful throughout your time as President?

I believe in building strong relationships and I like people. Although my “Myers-Briggs” says I am an introvert, I like to be with people, cultivate new friendships and maintain long-time friendships. The other side of that same coin is that I need “renewal time” just to be alone. I love to read. Finding a balance as PHOD while maintaining family, friendships outside church, digging in the garden and doing other activities I enjoy, has been a challenge.

Cafe: What are some things the church needs to thrive?

As Episcopalians, we are spiritual AND religious. I think that when people say they are spiritual BUT NOT religious it likely means they don’t want to do the hard work of being in community. We are part of a religious community, the Episcopal Church, and our more intimate community is our worshipping community. I believe that God wants us to become the whole persons we were created to be. The best way I know how to move closer to wholeness is via the Christian life lived in community. In order to be truly authentic, we need to have a common language for telling the truth to each other. I don’t think we have that.

Café: Did you have any specifics that you hoped to accomplish during your tenure as PHOD? If so, what were they and have you accomplished them?

Yes. I had three primary goals.

I wanted to assist deputies in understanding their role. I wanted to be sure they know that there are always deputies in place. Deputies hold their office until they are not re-elected or choose not to stand for election. In that case, other people are elected to take their place. There are always deputies and we are leaders in our dioceses with opportunities for leadership in mission and ministry.

It has also been a goal of mine to increase the numbers of the people of color in leadership positions in the House of Deputies legislative committees and the committees, commissions, agencies and boards. I have been invited to many diocesan events across the Episcopal Church. The generosity of the dioceses, laity, clergy and bishops has enabled me to meet Episcopalians and to always keep my “antennae” up for people with particular gifts and skills that could enhance the ministries of governance, which, in turn, enable God’s mission. I have been successful in bringing the numbers of appointed leaders closer to the realities of church demographics.

I hoped to awaken our hearts to the call to ministry of all the baptized. From that understanding, there would be fertile ground for a new vision of a circular model of leadership and ministry for our whole Church. Some small steps have been taken, but we have a ways to go as a Church.

Read more about the life and work of the President and the House of Deputies here.

What's missing in the budget?

by LeeAnne Watkins

I’ve been following the train wreck called the budget process. There’s lots to be said, and many are saying it.

But there is something almost comically absent in this latest round of blogospheric commentary.

40% of our dioceses do not pay their full apportionment*. We all know it.

Try this. Print a map and then color in the dioceses who don’t pay. It’s a striking image for a visual learner like me.

Go ahead, get out your crayons, make a pretty picture. Have it sitting in front of you as you sit on the floor during convention. And when someone goes to the microphone you can look on your map and determine for yourself how much weight or credibility you can give the speaker when it comes to budget issues.


There’s even more we can do, though.

What if there was a resolution that said that deputies and bishops from dioceses that do not pay their full share do not get to vote on how our money is spent? That seems more than fair.

And yes, I can guess your next question: what about dioceses that don’t pay out of hardship? Sure, there are a few dioceses in that position. We can create a panel, perhaps a sub-set of PB&F, who could hear their case and make exceptions. That’s how we’ve done it here in Minnesota, and it works well.

Here’s another thought. What if the House of Deputies refuses to consent to the election of bishops in dioceses who do not pay their fair share? That could change the conversation pretty quickly, yes?

So we have a choice. We can spend our breath complaining about the process that produced this budget. We can lament the dire nature of the expense side, competing and bickering for the tiny bits of dollars we can spend for mission. So far this hasn’t, shall we say, brought out our best selves (how’s that for an understatement?).

Or we can start having the conversation we’re avoiding – holding each other accountable for the income side of the balance sheet.

We are parts of a body in need of each other. We are all in mission together. So let’s hold our brothers and sisters accountable for their fair share of money.

*numbers are rounded off and any math errors are accidental not intentional.

The Rev. LeeAnne Watkins is the rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN. She is a Clergy Deputy from the Diocese of Minnesota 19%.

Is it Communion Without or Communion Before Baptism?

by Jeffrey L. Shy

In a recent thread in The Lead section of The Episcopal Café, another extended discussion in the comments began and continued to over 80 posts on the subject of "open" communion, known by some under the acronym of CWOB or "Communion WithOut Baptism." This will be one of many issues to be considered at the upcoming General Convention this summer, and if the exchanges on The Café are any predictor of what is likely to ensue there, the debate may be long and probably contentious. Although I had previously read former discussions and initially even this recent post with somewhat of a "ho hum" attitude, it was for the first time in the comments thread that I had somewhat of a "lightbulb" moment and began to consider the question both seriously and from what was, for me, a new perspective, and I was asked afterwards to consider contributing a brief essay on the issue to The Daily Episcopalian.

Just as in the preface to my briefer comment on that thread, I should probably and immediately be open and be honest about just who and what I am – a theologically and socially very liberal but liturgically pretty conservative (or probably better, very "high church") Episcopalian. As one of many "refugees" to come to The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the last 20-30 years, I was drawn (long before reasons related to sexuality) to TEC by its liturgical traditions, musical heritage and practice and its prayerbook, and this, of necessity, included developing a certain point of view and understanding with regard to the sacraments of the church. Having never witnessed a single adult baptism in church as a youth and growing up in a tradition where one simply did not "take communion" until after (the Presbyterian equivalent of) confirmation, I never previously gave much thought to the issue of the propriety of CWOB. My first experience in TEC of child communions struck me first as a bit "odd" but, on reflection, I had to conclude that there seemed to be no convincing reason that we should exclude our baptized children from this central act of Christian worship and community. In more recent years, when the question of CWOB began to percolate, it seemed at first to me that the argument about "welcome" as a reason for CWOB was a little bit of a stretch. Of course "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!" We put it on signs outside of all of our churches, don't we? We just went to the mat on the issue of LGBT inclusion, didn't we? The church where I currently assist as interim organist has on its website that it "welcomes everyone," particularly those who may have "felt unwelcome in other churches." I myself, as an early-middle-aged, 24-years-same-sex-partnered, non-theist, former-Presbyterian, former-Lutheran, organist, neurologist, am a veritable poster child for the kind of "odd ball" who gets routinely "welcomed" in TEC today.

Imagine my surprise, however, when it occurred to me that maybe I needed to rethink this issue of CWOB with some level of care. In medicine, particularly specialty medicine such as neurology in which I practice, it is often necessary to discard previous diagnoses or assumptions by and about persons who come for consultation and treatment in order to make any progress. At first, radical changes may be greeted with great skepticism or even anger, but with time, as the fruits of the "change" begin to be felt, resistance fades and falls away, hopefully to beneficial effect. This cannot happen, however, without approaching the case with an initial broad open-mindedness. My "lightbulb" moment in the midst of our recent CWOB discussion recently came when I began to think that, perhaps, we might be framing the question in a slightly off-kilter manner. We should perhaps not be talking about communion "without" baptism, but communion "before" baptism. This may not be about marginalizing the sacrament of baptism or conversely devaluing the sacrament the Lord's supper, but simply changing the order in which persons first experience these sacraments to meet better the spiritual and religious needs of a changing world. Placed in this new light, a host of thoughts began to percolate as to why do we think that it is necessary that baptism must or should precede communion rather than follow it other than the arguments that, in the end, might boil down to evolved customs and post-hoc theological rationalizations that provide "explanations" for what we are already doing in the first place? What, after all, is so critical about the order in which sacraments are received?

Once I had experienced this breakthrough "Aha!" moment, I began to envision all sorts of cases in which the sacraments might come "out of order" particularly in a world where "straight arrow" cradle Episcopalians or even cradle Christians are a rapidly fading memory. How about someone whose first sacramental experience is of the visitation and anointing of the sick? Could not the rite of healing be the first sacrament that we receive as "the outward and visible sign" of the "inward and spiritual grace" and our gateway into a religious life? Lots of precedent for that – Jesus himself was a first "big offender" there. There's lots of indiscriminate healing going on in the Gospels. What about the sacrament of penance? Could not someone come first to the church plagued by guilt and in need of counseling and forgiveness first experience that "inward and spiritual grace" through the rite of confession and reconciliation of a penitent? Uh oh, Jesus again a big offender. Is it easier to say "your sins are forgiven" than "get up and walk?" – out of order again. Ok, I know, some will point out that these are the "lesser" sacraments, not the "big two" of baptism and communion. But, how about those big two? We believe that Jesus received the baptism of John. We have no written record of the later baptism of any of his first disciples, although some were perhaps former Johanine disciples. Jesus never is recorded as baptizing anyone, but he certainly "gave communion" to a group of somewhat unruly, rebellious, fickle, oafish and very-possibly unbaptized disciples. Even the "great commission" conclusions to our Gospels charging us to "baptize" and "make disciples" may now be seen to be likely "post hoc" anachronisms grafted onto the original events, and in some cases like our earliest Gospel of Mark, literally pasted into the original text.

At this point, it is probably best that I leave most of the new-testamentizing, early-churchizing, sacramental-theologizing to those who are experts those fields, something that I most unequivocally am not. But think, just for a moment, about someone coming really fresh into an Episcopal church on a typical Sunday morning. I am never before baptized, never before saw a Eucharistic liturgy, heck, never even darkened the door of a church before, but somehow, some way, I was curious enough to waste a perfectly good weekend morning by "going to church." From the first, I hear strange stuff, not about "God-Blessed-America" but about this other country, "God's Kingdom." The next thing you know I am singing "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth." Just when I thought I was in safe territory sitting and listening to bible readings (Isn't that the main thing Christians do, read the Bible and then argue about it?), suddenly everyone is standing up and singing "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia…" as a big gold-covered book gets carried down from the altar surrounded by candles, smoked with puffs of incense and is suddenly not read or debated but sung to me! "Come unto me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…." Before you know it, we are on our feet yet again and claiming to sing along with "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven," "Holy, holy, holy… heaven and earth are full of your glory." Then more curious still, most are on their knees on these little fold down things in the benches and there are more words: "In your infinite love you made us for yourself…you sent Jesus…to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us… He stretched out his arms upon the cross and offered himself… took bread…gave it to his disciples…'This is my body'… took the cup of wine… 'This is my blood'… the holy food of new and unending life… the joy of your eternal kingdom…the gifts of God for the people of God, take them…" Then everyone is going up to the railing around the altar and standing or kneeling. They get a little cracker, a sip of wine out of the same cup. Uh oh, a nice usher is smiling at me and gesturing for me to get up too. Best not to look out of place, so I shuffle up and stand (that seems OK) and get the little cracker and take a sip of the sweet port (relieved to see that they are wiping off the edge after each one drinks) and sidle back to my more safe personal space in the seat and have a look around at everyone else. There is something just a bit different about their facial expressions, the way afterwards that they stand, move and walk. They just look different. Do I look different? Do I feel different? I'm not sure if what it is, but there seems to be something… But it's all over quickly after that, and several nice people welcome me, ask polite questions about me, invite me to the parish hall for a coffee or a sherry and a bit of food. They say they were glad that I came. They hope to see me again. Maybe I'll come back and see if that something is there again, or perhaps I just imagined it…? And there you have it. Before you know it, someone comes in totally unprepared, gets caught up in what we sometimes zombie-like do every Sunday, takes the words seriously and literally and breaks all the unpublished rules. The Gentile is suddenly "in the Spirit" and we have to "deal with it." Uh oh, quick, get the font warmed up… Aren't we supposed to get baptized first? Isn't that how the "economy of salvation" works? Hmm…do I really believe that it must be so?

And yes, I know, we could have "noticed" the stranger and "headed him off at the pass." There could have been an explanation in the bulletin or some sort of announcement. The priest could catch on after a few more visits and curbside her to explain how it's "supposed" to be done. He might then get diverted off to "Episcopal 101" and learn the "right way," and until he is baptized go up with "arms crossed for a blessing." But would that be a good thing? Why not this order first? Did her receiving communion before baptism demean this first virginal experience? Would he later regret that he had not "saved himself" for after baptism? Was there ominous thunder? Did she come down with a mysterious illness and die? Doesn't God love and welcome everyone, baptized or not? Whose meal is this, anyways? Jesus didn't say "All you who have been baptized and had the classes and understand exactly what this special meal is about (the disciples most certainly did not at first)" come and eat and drink," or did a page drop out of my copy of the NT? For those of us who still are convinced that he was not "properly prepared," are we really most concerned for him or perhaps it is more true that we are (unconsciously) resentful of the degradation of our own "insider" privileges? Am I the guy who went to work early in the vineyard and who ends up resentful that the one who showed up at the last minute got the same wages that I did but without all the work?

Obviously, there remain lots of questions and lots of assumptions that need to be considered, reviewed and reaccepted or rejected, and after all this initial review, I am still not sure what we should "officially" do. I have often felt that the Anglican tradition, at its best, sometimes understands that it might be better not to ask too many questions with definite yes/no answers or to make too many rules, at least at first. Maybe sometimes it is OK initially to just leave things a bit "unclear" and "poorly defined." Maybe it is best not to pretend that we already have all this already worked out and let a diversity of practice continue for now. Maybe we need to "listen to the Spirit" and "look for the fruits" of those wild seeds of consecrated wafers scattered around indiscriminately. Maybe we need to let experience change and guide explanation rather than the other way around. Maybe we should ask those who have experienced communion before baptism, "How was it for you?" Maybe the old diagnosis and treatment plan is wrong and needs to be reviewed and revised and reconsidered, perhaps radically. Maybe, just maybe….

Jeffrey Shy is a neurologist in clinical practice in the east valley of the Phoenix metro area where he lives with his life partner, Philip, and an undisclosed number of feline companions.

Part 2: The story the budget tells

by George Clifford

The first part of this post analyzed TEC’s financial plight arguing that the proposed 2012-2015 budget shows that TEC:

1. Highly values ecclesial governance and structure
2. Faces significant organizational problems
3. Intends to continue business as usual
4. Lacks a clear vision of, and focus on, TEC’s mission.

This post recommends a four-part strategy for charting and fixing TEC finances.

First, the story that TEC’s budget tells should be one of mission rather than Canonical, Corporate, and Program. The latter reflect nineteenth century concerns; today, those few Christians still committed to a denomination want to participate in mission. General Convention 2009 Resolution D027 actually called for moving in this direction, adopting the five Anglican Marks of Mission as TEC’s mission, and requiring budget priorities to reflect that mission.

The five Anglican Marks of Mission are:

1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
3. To respond to human need by loving service
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

With computerized accounting systems, reformatting the budget to tell the story of TEC engaged in mission is a relatively simple task (people familiar with accounting might describe this change as moving form an organizational to a product/service budget). For example, the percent of her time that the Presiding Bishop (PB) spends proclaiming the Good News is the percent of costs associated with her office attributable to the first mark. This form of cost accounting can quickly identify any activity unrelated to the five Marks of Mission. Expenses not directly attributable to one or more of the five Marks of Mission may be reasonable overhead (e.g., accounting, human resources management, or information systems); otherwise, TEC should probably eliminate the expense from the budget. If the five Marks of Mission are an incomplete or incorrect statement of TEC’s mission, then General Convention 2012 should revise the Mission Statement accordingly.

A TEC budget focused on mission provides leaders and opinion makers the material with which to excite the passions and stimulate the commitment of Episcopalians. Discussing funding for General Convention (GC) evokes yawns or worse; funding the five Marks of Mission can give people a reason to feel good about being part of the Episcopal Church and is a story that TEC should tell frequently, loudly, and proudly.

Second, TEC should aggressively minimize governance and other overhead costs. Few people put their money in the offering plate wanting to fund costly TEC governance or overhead. Since two consecutive GCs must approve canonical changes, TEC needs to move quickly and aggressively to reduce governance and overhead costs; each triennium budget appears certain to force progressively more painful program cuts.

Sadly, the current budget dramatically understates the true cost of governance. For example, the proposed GC budget shows a net cost of $10.5 million. That sum does not include the PB’s time and travel, time and travel of other TEC staffers, the time and travel of all other attendees, and costs associated with all of the preliminary meetings related to GC. The true cost of GC is probably closer to $20 if not $50 million. Other national governance costs include audits, legal advice and representation, Executive Council costs, etc. Framed differently, I suspect that national governance costs each of the 2 million Episcopalians $25 per year from diocesan and national funds. Given the choice, I wonder how many Episcopalians would spend their $25 on governance or one of the five Marks of Mission.

TEC benefits from democratic governance but current structures and procedures are not the only or perhaps even the preferred democratic option. For example, technology can help to reduce governance costs. I’ve previously suggested conducting GC and other meetings using a virtual format (Rethinking Episcopal Church structure - part 1 and Rethinking Episcopal Church structure - part 2).

Selling TEC’s New York headquarters might cut operating costs, reduce staffing costs, and result in a net gain for the endowment after purchase of a new headquarters. With the internet and other forms of electronic communication, relocation need not disrupt ecumenical/interfaith relations, diminish TEC’s public profile, or make travel more difficult (indeed, TEC might find relocating cuts travel costs). TEC moving some of its offices out of New York is a first step in this direction.

Virtual meetings and relocating TEC offices may not be the best tactics for reducing governance and overhead costs. However, TEC failing to adopt a strategy that substantially cuts governance and overhead costs will be one bell chiming TEC’s death knell. If not virtual meetings and relocation, what tactics will TEC choose?

Third, the subsidiarity principle provides TEC a heuristic for evaluating all TEC activities and programs. Which programs/activities could congregations, dioceses, or provinces operate more effectively and perhaps less expensively than TEC does? Reformatting TEC’s budget to include overhead in program line items is an essential preliminary step for answering that question. By excluding overhead, the current budget understates TEC program. Furthermore, shifting programming to provinces, dioceses, and congregations will generally broaden opportunity for involvement and can increase the sense of ownership that Episcopalians feel toward various programs and activities. Congregational development, for example, seems basic to the work of dioceses rather than to TEC.

Fourth, TEC should assess the effectiveness of its activities and programs, terminating those endeavors deemed unlikely to produce results proportionate to costs. For example, although I have strong personal sympathies with the work of the Office of Government Relations (OGR), in an era of billion dollar presidential campaigns, funding this office with a paltry $2.6 million may not produce significant results. Focusing the OGR on anti-poverty instead of its current shotgun approach (i.e., shoot at every legitimate target) may produce greater results. TEC could apply any savings to reducing fiscal shortfalls, asking for a smaller percentage of diocesan budgets, or expanding efforts that are more effective.

The $0.5 million included in the proposed budget for funding a Churchwide Consultation is a step (probably too small) in the right direction. However, that step fails to express the urgency with which TEC must act and the magnitude of the problems. Speed can kill. However, speed can also liberate, allowing TEC to discard outmoded processes, refocus on mission, and generate fresh enthusiasm. For such a time as this, God will bring us together in Indianapolis.

George Clifford is an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years and now blogs at Ethical Musings.

Part 1: The story the budget tells

by George Clifford

Budgets – plans to obtain and to spend money – express values and tell stories. Good budgets tell good stories. Unfortunately, The Episcopal Church (TEC) proposed 2013-2015 budget suggests that TEC:

1. Highly values ecclesial governance and structure
2. Faces significant organizational problems
3.Intends to continue business as usual
4. Lacks a clear vision of, and focus on, TEC’s mission.

First, the budget’s three major expense categories are Canonical, Corporate, and Program. Compliance with the Canons – which is commendable – is not the Church’s mission. The Canons exist to support the Church in its mission by establishing internal order, i.e., the Canons are a means to an end. Similarly, the Church’s corporate structure is important to the extent that it facilitates the Church living into its mission. Otherwise, preserving the structure becomes an end in itself, a form of idolatry. Approximately half of TEC’s proposed budget supports those two categories, leaving only half for Program.

Second, projected revenues are down about 5% from the previous triennium. Diocesan commitments reflect a 9% decrease and investment income an 8% decrease. Withdrawing $3.8 million from the endowment funds a Development Office. Leasing three and a half floors of TEC’s New York headquarters to other organizations substantially increases rental income ($1.2 million). Together, these moves balance the budget. Any inflation during the triennium will further erode the budget’s actual purchasing power.

After factoring out the $3.8 million draw on the endowment, the proposed budget shows a projected decline of 7.7% in revenue compared to the previous budget. This presumes that future efficiencies will partially offset future income decreases, as occurred with the 2012-2015 rental income increase, and avoids positing a worst-case scenario.

Presuming a constant and continuing 7.7% rate of decline, revenue projections for the next four budget cycles are $93, 85.6, 78.7, and 72.4 million. In other words, by 2025, TEC’s projected revenue is two-thirds of its 2010-2012 revenue. Even with imposing the most stringent cost controls, TEC appears likely to have few funds in 2025 available for programs after paying Canonical and Corporate expenses, most of which are not discretionary items. Any inflation, which these calculations ignore, will worsen the financial difficulties; any exceptional investment returns will improve the outlook. Realistically, TEC faces significant challenges to sustain its current organization and level of programming.

Third, the proposed budget largely represents continuing business as usual. Adjustments to the Canonical and Corporate portions of the budget ($1.5 million of $53.6 million) total just a 3.6% decrease. The changes in the Program half of the budget are more substantial. Critically, these changes are largely irrelevant except as a warning of what lies ahead. No amount of realigning program elements will substantially increase income. TEC has two primary revenue sources: endowment income and diocesan commitments. The revenue shortfalls appear likely to be so substantial that TEC must reverse the declines, find new sources of revenue (seems improbable), or radically reinvent itself.

Pressure to reduce the 19% commitment currently requested from dioceses is growing. Dioceses are experiencing their own financial struggles. A diminishing minority of Episcopalians feels a close connection with the national church; the growing majority perceives little value or benefit from monies that flow from congregations to dioceses and TEC. Any reduction in requested diocesan commitments will only exacerbate TEC financial woes. Conversely, proposing to increase the 19% is a non-starter. In part, dioceses and congregations, like TEC, struggle financially because of a continuing numerical decline in attendance and membership (cf. my earlier post, Is the Episcopal Church going the way of the Grange?).

Reversing the decline in endowment income appears unlikely to offer a quick fix. Forecasts for investment returns over the next decade are mediocre rather than stellar. Establishing a Development Office to increase the size of the endowment feels like a last chance, desperate Hail Mary pass. Perhaps some wealthy Episcopalians are ready, if and when asked, to give TEC substantial sum (tens or hundreds of millions of dollars). Lesser amounts will not solve the problem (endowment income is only 5% of the gift, e.g., a $100,000 gift yields only $5,000 per year, less than 0.1% of the revenue decrease).

National trends of growing disaffection with organized religion suggest that few, if any, such individuals are in our pews or on our membership rosters. Indeed, unless the persons responsible for preparing the budget have reasonable expectations of substantial gifts from particular donors, funding the Development Office with monies drawn from the endowment seems more likely to worsen rather than to ease future financial shortfalls. If budget drafters have reasonable expectations of substantial gifts from particular donors, why does TEC need an expanded Development Office? Why not solicit the gifts today?

Fourth, the budget proposal lacks a clear vision of, and focus on, mission. Given TEC’s numerical and financial declines, this lack of clarity and focus is an existential issue that threatens TEC’s future. Although each issue considered at General Convention (GC) is somebody’s passion and each TEC program office linked to one more interest groups in the Church, the larger reality is that the majority of Episcopalians cares little about these matters. The diocese evokes somewhat more interest and slightly stronger feelings. However, most Episcopalians care only about what happens (or does not happen) in their local congregation.

A minority of us (including me) greatly appreciates the importance of being a connectional church. A larger number pay lip service to the importance of being a connectional church, actually recognize a few of its benefits, and support the status quo primarily out of inertia. An even larger number of us (probably a majority) tolerate our connectional system but increasingly voice doubts about its utility and the value of giving the diocese/national church such a large percent of local income. In short, Episcopalians have lost confidence in TEC, its structures, and programming. If this were not true, then Episcopalians would enthusiastically fund dioceses and TEC. Episcopalians – like most Christians – give willingly and generously when passionately committed to a cause.

What can TEC do? The second part of this post answers that question.

George Clifford is an ethicist and Priest Associate at the Church of the Nativity, Raleigh, NC. He retired from the Navy after serving as a chaplain for twenty-four years and now blogs at Ethical Musings.

Are we sure the budget won't focus our mission?

by Benedict Varnum

In all the responses to the budget debate before Holy Week, I was surprised that I didn’t hear anyone wondering if the budget could be the right move.

It seems to me that many Episcopalians have been viewing the proposed budget in TEC as analogous to the Anglican Covenant: that there is an inappropriate effort to centralize authority where it has no place being centralized. In the Anglican Covenant debate, I know that I and others have a decent amount of frustration with the notion that we ought to centralize international Anglican authority in order for that central authority to place “clarity” into the diversity of our theological sensibilities. But I don’t think the analogy holds.

Episcopalians, who are not only tuned in to this problematic push for Anglican centralization, but also live in an America that is increasingly suspicious of ANY organized group (the Congress, either major political party, the Supreme Court, organized religion, organized media, Occupy protestors, Tea-Partyers, big business, super-PACS) may well have a good deal of extra energy for slamming a foot down on the brakes of anything that looks like a move towards greater organized, institutional authority. We’re struggling with our institutions. We’re not sure they can provide for us. We’re not sure they can hand us a good-enough reason to participate in them. We’re not sure we can trust their leadership. For some of us, it’ll be hard to untangle which parts of this are “America” tensions, which are “Anglican Covenant” tensions, and which are “TEC” tensions.

The problem I see is that in response to the proposed budget, and perhaps out of this emotional soupiness, a lot of anti-institutional anger has landed on “815 Second Avenue” (which doesn’t propose the budget) and the Executive Council, especially the Executive Committee (which does, and includes a few 815 folks). Some of this is, no doubt, appropriate and productive.

But how much isn’t? And, to the point, does it help us focus, or distract us from focusing, on the question of how we discern together as a national church whether streamlining our budget in this way will help us proclaim and live out the gospel of Jesus Christ? Many voices have been raised at the proposed budget, saying it could never could help us do so, but very few voices have offered an idea of what might. And I can think of at least a few reasons why the budget might have that in it after all.

Here we are, as a national church, at a budgeting moment, in a tough time for budgets. The national church has had a fierce conversation going for several years about how to become a more missional church. They have ideas; surely they want to try them. I have no doubt that the staffers feel the tension between opportunity and accountability even more acutely as our belts get tightened. We are a church that cheered on our presiding bishop when she explained that neither she nor our House of Bishops alone could immediately declare the position of the Episcopal Church to the international Anglican Communion after Gene Robinson’s confirmation in 2006 (because only General Convention speaks for the Episcopal Church), yet we also expect her to be the representative of our branch of Anglicanism to member churches in the Anglican Communion, and tend to be appalled when she’s not accepted abroad because of her gender or their disapproval of the theological positions that we arrive at (undertaking considerable wrestling and difficult discernment to get there).

Which is to say, even the top of our “org chart” (which is less of a “top” than her parallels in other Anglican Communion provinces are) is caught in tension between having a great deal of opportunity and responsibility on the one hand, and very little organizational authority on the other hand. My sense of the principle of “subsidiarity” is sympathetic to this: if we want clearer vision from the top, we have to staff it. We have to pay enough staffers that they have time to return phone calls and focus on things . . . and I’ll take a prophetic stance far enough to say we should pay enough staff that they can work 40-48 hour weeks, and not 60-80 hour weeks. Meanwhile, subsidiarity suggests (as this budget says) that other things need to be handled more locally.

I have no doubt that the budget was developed with input from some people who would love to streamline some processes so that they can pursue opportunities as they arrive, and that this budgeting was largely done in good faith, and not for mere power-gathering or political gain. We as a church get to have the conversation of whether we want to grant them that agility, or insist on our current model.

So far much of that conversation has been a fairly reactive discourse around what’s being cut. I have extensive thoughts as to what’s being cut to accomplish that streamlining, but they boil down to 1) some things must be cut to meet giving realities and 2) my background in formation as a youth, college student, parish seminarian working with youth, campus ministry intern, diocesan consultant for youth ministries, consultant for summer camp, and participant in national youth event planning through an Episcopal Relief and Development program show me very little that would be lost by acknowledging that the national office does very little youth or young adult ministry.

(The programs that likely will be lost with a much smaller national-level youth budget – Gather, EYE, annual conferences for campus ministers – are good programs; this falls under “1” above, though we might well have a conversation on what the network of diocesan youth coordinators who volunteer their time to these events would need to keep the programs running)

Add to that 3) the incredibly successful Young Adult Service Corps is (appropriately) being given additional funds to continue developing its work, and the budget reads to me the way it was presented in its brief explanatory document: an acknowledgment that different ministries are done more effectively on different levels, that the Episcopal Church does not – despite stereotypes – have all the money in the world, and that our funding is therefore being shifted to be used effectively. These statements can stir up our anxieties; it’s up to us to have a serious conversation about whether that anxiety is covering grief that we can’t do everything we used to be able to, fear that we won’t be able to do enough, confusion about how to do the work of the present moment and the road ahead, or a mistrust of anything centralized and institutional, now that the internet is letting us see a bit more of how the sausage is made.

But one thing I’ll say to that anxiety: my parish’s youth ministry will not vanish without a national church office. Neither will the youth ministry in either diocese I’ve been part of in the last ten years, nor at my sponsoring parish, or the parish I interned with during my postulancy. And beyond that, parents and families will continue to be among the primary spiritual and formative influences on their children, as they have been for generations.

Finally, I feel the most significant complaint that has been raised about the budget is that it is presented as a fait accompli – a budget we must pass . . . because the General Convention doesn’t present enough time to do anything else. This methodological critique may well point us not only to the greatest challenges, but also the new opportunities that the budget anxiety has made visible in the life of our church.

Because maybe that same interconnectedness and social technologies that let us cycle up our anxieties can offer us something else to do with that energy.

In considering how the church can do things differently, one of my go-to sources is the work of Clay Shirkey, who’s written several books (Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus) about how the internet has changed the ways people can organize themselves. Shirkey links the internet to the police forensic model: “means + motive + opportunity = outcome,” noting that the internet (like the printing press before it) has changed the “means” available to us. In the church, we have the motive and the opportunity; can we use these means to create new outcomes?

The internet and e-mail are allowing us to see more of the budget earlier, and more of the budget process . . . and it’s also revealing how little we DO see and how much more we might be able to. This strikes me not as any subterfuge on the part of the budget-drafters, but rather the fact of a pre-internet budget methodology without a seriously defined alternative – we haven’t figured out how to make use of technology to have the broader, more transparent conversation we feel might be possible now – but that’s not the budget-drafters “fault.” It’s our common growing-pain as a church, and our common responsibility to address.

In practice, I believe this looks like an effort by people with concerns to use their voices on the internet to identify each other, connect, and refine and then offer back a response to the budget (some of this is happening in comment threads here and here). There are websites out there for the price of a google search that will set up a conference call for free. In three hours, a dedicated person could set up a Wordpress or Blogspot page as a central hub to link to all the blogs out there, and for an hour a week, 6 people could offer 6 summations of what’s going on. Facebook and our blogs could be used to channel the conversation to that central site. The comment board at Program, Budget and Finance could be used to offer reflections (a later post notes that they’re reading it, although they haven’t engaged commenters directly – a position I can see some logic to without too much trouble).

As a parish assistant rector, I’m hardly the closest member of the church to the structure of these issues. But I’ve seen the reactions. And I believe that the people reacting care about the church. But if that care can be organized into a voice in the conversation, it might be able to offer that more-challenging gift: construction, rather than mere critique. What if we took our internet forums and made them the place where our voices meet? What if those who worked on the budget so far and those who might want to work on it before General Convention made the effort to trust that we all care about the gospel and the Church? I believe that the energy and passion is there. Much of it has been spent in critique; the question I’ll have in mind as I watch the next few months is, can we find it in ourselves to construct instead?

The Rev. Benedict Varnum has an M.Div from the University of Chicago's Divinity School. He is currently ordained as a transitional deacon, and anticipates ordination to the priesthood in early May. Benedict serves as Assistant Rector at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Overland Park, KS. Benedict has directed some continuing education focus towards an interest in Systems Theory and its applications in the life of the church on various levels.

The Right Question

by Richard Helmer

Do you want to be made well? ~ John 5:6

When I first arrived at my present parish, one lay leader told me that many in the congregation felt “decapitated.” It was as violent an image as one could imagine after several turbulent interim years, and I was sorely tempted to try to find the rolling heads and reattach them – to “fix” the ailing parties all. It was equally tempting to spend hours and hours telling the good folk of a parish teetering on the edge of decline and running in the red how badly they’d been treated – and then bask in the imagined recognition of how much better I would be perceived than my predecessors.

Instead, thanks to a bit of grace, I started to hear her words as opportunity:

What if behind the sorrowful metaphor was a yearning to be unleashed for ministry? Rather than my trying to fix things, coddle, and hold hands, I started to ask questions of our members in as many ways as I could:

What do you think God wants to see happen here? Where do feel called by passion and prayer? How can I help support your living into that call?

Six years later, the place is thriving. Sure, we have the benefit of young demographics in an affluent community. Sure, we get a steady stream of Episcopalians moving in from other places. But we also live in one of the most militantly secular, skeptical, “spiritual but not religious” locales in the country, where the catch phrase spoken and unspoken is “You’re not the boss of me.” We further engage in ministry in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, where financial resources of even the most affluent are stretched quite thin. I could bang my head against that wall 24/7, but I intentionally decided a few years back not to.

We do indeed challenge the surrounding culture, but not with insults, put-downs, or hand-wringing. Instead, we offer a passionate alternative of an engaging life of faith in Jesus Christ in community. A few years ago, word started to spread in the surrounding neighborhoods. It’s amazing these days to watch people come in the door for the first time and the expressions of wonder on their faces when they discover Church can be traditional yet engaging, familiar yet transformative, rooted yet relevant. Even more amazing is watching them then offer their hearts in prayer, their gifts in thanksgiving, and their hands in service.

There’s no magic to this, and we still have our challenges. I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that pretending I don’t have authority is just as bad as abusing it or taking it for granted. We don’t offer the most innovative or beautiful worship in our Diocese, but what we do, we do with authenticity and prayerful commitment. We struggle like everyone else does with volunteers stretched thin, facilities in need of constant attention, and tight budgets. Our key is that we have enough leadership committed to prayerful, healthy community: Christian community that identifies and serves the needs of its members and the needs of the wider world. We stubbornly refuse to succumb to the binary thinking that the two are mutually exclusive.

Fundamentally, we’re thriving because the people of God are engaged, empowered, and accountable. My job is to do everything I can to get the institution behind them in where the Spirit is calling them. I’m also fond of saying that my job is to stay both prayerfully engaged and, when necessary, to get the hell out of the way.

When I meet with our staff and lay leaders, we work to ask questions that empower and seek opportunity. Funny how that approach works. Even the most skeptical and cynical among us find something of value going on, and they step up. When problems arise, we endeavor to address them quickly. If the problems are intransigent, we work around them and watch for a solution to emerge (often we ultimately stumble across more than one), permitting God’s grace to resolve things in God’s time.

A growing, diverse, vibrant community, I’ve learned, adopts a “can do” attitude, and gloominess about decline is instinctively quarantined long before it can spread like the pathology that it is. When the occasional saboteurs attempt to rise, the community isolates the shenanigans early and loves the perpetrators back to health often.

It’s all because of this experience that I see the present narrow focus on institutional Church structures and resources as sometimes disheartening, and at times narrowly wrongheaded. With it, we who are about the business of Church governance are at great risk of looking irrelevant to the faithful who make up a huge portion of our Body, and potentially neglecting a vast share of our ministry.

Of course, it is in our genetic predisposition as a Church to debate polity, to question authority, to be suspicious of ideas from the top. These form a significant, perhaps indispensable part of the machinery of the legislative process, of our Episcopal way of grinding to a decision. Anyone who’s an effective leader these days understands all this and deals with it in good faith, and more than a bit of good humor.

As somewhat of an aside, I have a thought about the oft-articulated fears regarding the power of our bishops. My advice is this: Look to the Roman Catholic Church – and I mean the people, not the hierarchy. If we must assume the worst intentions of our leaders in the episcopate (I do not, but some do) we must never forget the power of the laity to discern a vibrant, free faith despite every destructive power grab and form of dissembling denial in the book. Yes, God is that powerful, despite the best and worst efforts of institutions and their leaders to undermine grace. Our bishops cannot completely ruin the Church, even if they try. And most of them, praise God, have much more built-in accountability in this Church to reckon with than do their Roman brethren.

What I really see at risk right now – as we institutionally wrestle with shrinking financial resources and as we no longer can lean, thank God, on our historical position as a denomination of elites – is our unintentionally disenfranchising ourselves from our most precious resource: the People of God... the People of God who listen for the needs of those around them and offer their gifts of all kinds in prayer, sacrament, and service... the People of God who answer Jesus’ constant question about wanting to be healed with an emphatic “Yes!” and then get to it with what they’ve received. Most of them are not all that concerned about what happens at General Convention this summer, especially when it comes to structural decisions. My main reason for going as an alternate deputy is to work so that they don’t have to be.

Do we truly want to be made well?

It is incredibly easy to stay stuck in the pathological patterns of destructive suspicion, blame, and condescension that we pick up from the wider American – if not globally Western – political discourse these days. It is also incredibly easy to see our institution – as fragile, compromised, declining, and inept as it might be right now – as a problem to be fixed rather than a resource to be pressed into service for the sake of Jesus’ vision amongst the people: the Kingdom, the Reign of God.

What is wrong with The Episcopal Church? Lots. But the question itself I find wrongheaded. “Fixing” a temporal institution for today will inevitably sow the seeds of different institutional problems needing to be fixed tomorrow. If we haven’t learned this yet from the great secular financial crisis, we need to take a closer look. While we rush perpetually around to fix and adjust, the world’s real needs for healing might escape our distracted notice.

Maybe we need to start asking the right questions, and those for me begin with what’s working. Asking those questions puts us in the right frame of mind to channel institutional resources, focus, and leadership towards our strengths. Asking those questions empowers us to see problems and obstacles as opportunities. Maybe it’s time to admit that our weaknesses, our ailments hold more keys to our future in the transformative hands of our God than we give them credit for. I don’t throw around accusations of heresy lightly, but when we behave as though we have problems we must resolve before we can be healed, we Episcopalians fall into a form of Pelagianism that is as familiar to us as it is dangerous. It is there that our vision can narrow rapidly into insularity and irrelevance.

So my thinking these days around General Conventions, special conventions, pending legislation, and political quarrels perceived and real, is less about which is the right answer to our woes.

Rather, I am pondering this more:

Which is the right question?

The Rev. Br. Richard E. Helmer is rector of Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, CA, and a novice in the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory. He is an alternate deputy to General Convention and secretary of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of California. His sermons and reflections have been published widely online, and he blogs occasionally at Caught by the Light.

Reflections on Renewal - restructuring the church

by Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

What follows is a short section from my State of the Religious Life, itself a collection of articles and reflections published in various places in the late 1980s, eventually woven into a monograph published in 1991, and recently made available in a 20th anniversary edition online. It seems to me that many of the issues that face us in restructuring, and much of the talk in the restructuring conversations, reflect this phase in the life cycle of a community — or a church. This section is based in part on the work of Lawrence Cada, et al, in Shaping the Coming Age of Religious Life. (NY: Crossroad, 1979).

The four phases of doubt

There are four stages to the breakdown of a community, each characterized by a form of doubt: Mechanical, Conceptual, Moral, and Total.

Mechanical doubt: Are we doing things the right way?

Mechanical doubt is often the first response to problems in an organization, which has come to be seen not as a spirit-filled (or vision-inspired) community of people, but as a mechanism that needs adjustment. Changes at this point are usually superficial: changing the habit, trying out new liturgies. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either of these things, if they grow out of a living spirit — and if they are responses to the real problems. But if they are last minute efforts to pump life into a comatose body, it is too late for such medications to be effective. In an organization which does not constantly seek renewal, these superficial changes are usually too late to do any good.

Conceptual doubt: Are we doing the right things?

At this stage it isn’t the manner of working that comes under doubt, but the work itself. Should we stop teaching, close down the school? These questions are more fundamental than the mechanical concerns described in the previous stage. If approached with a lack of insight, actions at this stage can lead to disaster. A rebound effect can occur at this point, and a siege mentality develop on the part of some of the members, or the community as a whole. Any change becomes a fundamental threat not just to the ethos of the community, but to some even larger principle: the Faith, the Nation, the Cause. Such polarization can render productive renewal nearly impossible.

Moral doubt: Am I doing the right thing?

At this level of doubt the misgivings and apprehensions that have troubled the organization begin to be internalized by the individual members. Accommodations begin to be made by individuals who no longer accept the driving myth of the organization, or who have reached a point of cynicism. They begin to wonder whether they need to observe the rule with quite the rigor that it is suggested they should; in celibate communities this is a stage at which sexual immaturities can emerge. In the minds of more conservative members, change and renewal can come to be seen as personal threats to their well-being and identity, with a concomitant decline in self-worth.

Total doubt: Why am I / are we doing this at all?

At this stage personal and communal despondency and despair emerge full force, and the doubt shifts almost to an existential level. Organizations which have descended this far into doubt are unlikely to survive; though even here it is possible to rediscover the core ideal which drove the community.

The Rev. Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG blogs at In a Godward directions and Reasonable and Holy. He is the Rector at St James Fordham, a member of the Brotherhood of St Gregory and Clergy Deputy to General Convention 2012 from the Diocese of New York, Chair of the House of Deputies Study Committee on Church Governance and Polity.

Doing the theology: Yes, we have

By Michael Russell

Bishop Pierre Whalon has recently suggested that one of the ongoing issues in the current troubles is that TEC put the cart in from of the mule by acting with respect to the confirmation and consecration of +Gene Robinson before we had fully formed or voted for a theological rational for such actions. Sadly we cannot change the past, but we might at this time affirm that in the deliberations of GC and the church over the past thirty years we have done that work and then ratified on the floors of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.

Since we cannot undo the past I have to wonder about the utility of generating such an “official” theological position now. If we were to spend time doing some "careful" theological study and then adopt it, for whom are we doing it? Not for ourselves because we've already committed to a path. Not for those who are clearly and I think permanently opposed to full inclusion, they will never be convinced. Perhaps it would be useful for people who can be swayed one way or the other, and for that reason it may be worth doing.

With the cat well out of the bag, however, I suggest we just distill all that has brought us to this moment into a series of affirmations or principles and enter any future conversations from there. Those might include:

1) Scripture has no definitive teaching on homosexuality as it is practiced by couples in the Christian family. Even Peter found parts of Paul's letters hard to understand! The use of scripture to stir up hysteria, to create scapegoats or to justify violence against any group of people is anathema.

2) While there are commands in parts of scripture, the overall purpose of scripture is not to be a legal code or a guide to all things simply. Those who seek to make a new law from the Gospel have failed to understand it at all.

3) The traditional understanding of marriage was as a political, economic, or procreative union, sometimes unions, rarely consensually or freely entered into by women and often not by men either.

4) All people are children of God regardless of their genetic construction and the Church is free to place in leadership anyone who loves Jesus and has gifts for ministry.

5) Reason and Nature are sources of divine revelation (do read Hooker to understand this one) because God made it all and it all teaches us about God. While sin hampers, it does not destroy human capacity to learn new things that our ancestors could not have known. These things are as much a reflection of God's will in the universe today as such things were for our ancestors.

6) Only one commandment survives with any authority, "Love one another as I have loved you." The rest is hash.

There may be others we might say, or some group might want to flesh them out. But frankly I think GC has struggled hard over the decades to parse all this out. It has listened to all including strongly dissenting voices and then made decisions based on its considered judgment. That is doing theology too.

The Rev. Michael Russell is rector of All Souls', Point Loma, in the Diocese of San Diego. He is the author of Hooker's Blueprint: An Essence Outline of the Laws of
Ecclesiastical Polity, and blogs at Anglican Minimalist.

Strategic planning: it isn't sexy, but it is essential

By Marshall Scott

I’ve been told that I have an odd outlook on the world. Mostly, I attribute it to my astigmatism. However, I have to admit to taking some pleasure in some experiences that others don’t – like, crisis calls in the middle of the night. (Well, it’s part of the job; although as I age the weakening flesh is challenging the willing spirit.)

As an example, I find myself thinking about some obscure, less attended things that will in time turn out to be quite important. Maybe it comes from working in an environment where tiny things like viruses and bacteria make a big difference. Maybe it comes from the promise that faith in quantity like a mustard seed can yield blessings all out of proportion. Whatever it is, I have this conviction that little things that go unnoticed can make a big difference.

I’ve been continuing to think about General Convention. Like many a powerful and moving experience, it’s taking some time to process it all, and to appreciate the many things that happened there. I’ve written about coming away with a sense of hope, and that hope remains; but with a little time passed I’m beginning to appreciate some more subtle things that we did.

With everyone else, I’ve read and thought about and commented on what happened with the hot button issues. However, there was another resolution that has stayed with me. That resolution was A061, and these were the most significant points:

“Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention direct the Executive Council to create a Committee of Strategic Planning to guide the Executive Council and the Church Center in their capacities as leaders of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the Committee on Strategic Planning be charged with using the best appropriate planning methods available to develop a ten-year plan, updated annually, that identifies and tracks the missional, financial, societal, cultural and other challenges and opportunities facing The Episcopal Church; considers alternative paths of action; recommends a path; defines measurable indicators of success of the selected direction and a specific timeline; details resources needed and proposes how those resources will be gathered;”

I’ll admit that this caught my attention in no small part because strategic planning is an important part of the world I work in. It’s getting to be that time again when we update our strategic planning goals as a preliminary step to preparing our budget (and yes, even the chaplain participates in strategic planning). However, as we get away from the excitement and begin to wonder what this will mean over time, I think this is may turn out to be one of the most important actions from this General Convention for the future of the Church.

While the rest of the world wondered how we would manage to care both for our GLBT siblings and our international Anglican siblings, at General Convention we spoke about mission. The Presiding Bishop reminded us that “Mission is our life” as a Church in a sermon that focused on the sending out of the disciples. In her sermon, she focused on traveling light; and at first blush a process of strategic planning might seem its antithesis. However, while the disciples were instructed to travel light, they were clear as to where to go and to what to do when they got there. Their goals were clear, and attainable. They weren’t asked to walk to Rome or even to Damascus, but only to the towns in their neighborhood. Their instructions were clear, but were also flexible. They had options for when they were welcomed and when they weren’t, and for being good guests regardless of the resources of their hosts.

As we seek to live out our mission, it would be great if our directions were so simple. However, our circumstances are different enough to really complicate matters. There are so many more of us. Our reach, our neighborhood, is so much wider. Our rate of travel is now measured in seconds, if you think of how fast a message can move.

At the same time, we find ourselves pressed to rethink how we’ve done things in the past and how we want to do things in the future. In Anaheim we spent almost as much time on the budget as we did on D025, and more than we did on C063. For that matter, we shed almost as many tears. Once the Triennial Budget had been introduced, we prayed at almost every legislative session for the staff of the Episcopal Church Center who would lose their jobs. We spent much less time discussing explicitly the Report of the Commission on the State of the Church, but it was mentioned often enough that we could not ignore how our numbers have faded. At the same time, we were also agreed that our relations with our Anglican siblings were in flux, even if we differed on how to respond.

With all these things in mind, I think some strategic planning is certainly called for. We are called to “mission;” but what is our mission? That is, how do we get specific about how we will live out the Gospel? More particularly, how do we get specific about how we will live out the Gospel as a Church? Among all the organs in the body of Christ, what is our particular part in God’s mission, and what special charism has God given us as a body for that purpose? How, then, can our servant leaders in Executive Council and the Episcopal Church Center exercise that charism for our particular mission? Each of us tends to consider our own vocational focus and project it on the General Convention and Executive Council as if the Episcopal Church as a body were simply one member or one group of members writ large. I don’t think that’s an adequate way to find our vocation as a whole Church.

We would normally speak of this as discernment, and not as strategic planning. That, however, is to miss seeing strategic planning for what it is: it is a tool. In fact it can be quite a good tool, and one that, if it’s modeled well by the Executive Council and Church Center staff, and done well at other levels, can help us not only discern but move forward.

And I think this resolution calls for the right characteristics in our strategic planning. To begin with, the first and primary focus called for is on “missional challenges and opportunities.” While it also calls for examining “financial, societal, cultural and other challenges and opportunities,” I think we can hold these as supplementing and informing our understanding of challenges and opportunities for mission. Second, it calls for an ongoing, long-term process. We have a tendency to move from General Convention to General Convention, and arrive at each new triennium with little memory of what we have done before. I’ve been to eight General Conventions on one capacity or another, and I’m as troubled as anyone else by our institutional forgetfulness that has us trying to reinvent the wheel. Finally, the process called for is reflective and open to modification. It needs to be flexible and adaptable. In our world where things seem to change so rapidly, many institutions have found that flexibility allows for sustained mission, while inflexibility is death. Certainly, we don’t want to be “blown about by every wind,” whether theological or cultural. At the same time, if our discernment, our strategic planning is focused first on missional concerns we should be able to make good choices about when to stand and when to move.

My friend and colleague George Clifford has recently written here about how the structures of the Church might change to better support mission. We might make such choices of course, but they would be an enterprise of years, if not decades. In the meantime good discernment, using the tool of ongoing strategic planning, can help us find our vocation as a whole Church and pursue them as well as we can within the structures that we have. Indeed, a good process of strategic planning for the work of the Executive Council and the Episcopal Church Center could recommend structural changes, or demonstrate that changes were unnecessary.

In a world where shouting has come to replace discussion (and apparently both news and entertainment), we will still rumble around hot button issues. However, I think we will find our future shaped more by lower key but systemic changes taking place in the background. A good process for strategic planning for the Executive Council and the Episcopal Church Center isn’t sexy. It isn’t going to attract, much less hold, attention in our noisy, flashy world. However, I think it will be critical for the future of the Episcopal Church. We are called to the ministry of Christ, both as individuals and as a body. For that purpose, we need a structured and flexible process for discerning our vocation and the challenges and opportunities we face in living it out. The attention will continue to come to specific issues, specific aspects of that vocation; but good strategic planning will better prepare us and our servant leaders to address all the aspects of the vocation to which God calls us.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

Rethinking General Convention III

By George Clifford

Restructuring the Episcopal Church’s governing process should prompt the Church to rethink the role of bishops and the HOB. Twelve years ago, then Presiding Bishop Ed Browning established an HOB Theology Committee. That committee originally studied an issue only when requested by the HOB to do so and operated with a limited budget and had only a few consultants, no staff. Each triennium, various bodies attempt to thrust an increasing number of issues onto the Theology Committee’s agenda; the Committee understandably and successfully parries some of those thrusts, blunts others, and accepts one or two. Among recent issues thrust in the Theology Committee’s direction are updating Just War Theory, rethinking evangelism in light of religious pluralism, and advising whether the non-baptized should receive Holy Communion.

Concurrently, I hear laments from Episcopalians concerned that their Church sometimes sounds more like a secular debating society or a civic organization fighting for justice and civil rights than the incarnate body of Christ. Bishops should reclaim their historic and biblical teaching function, a role identified in the Book of Common Prayer’s liturgy for consecrating a new bishop. This role, rightly conceived, is neither the Roman Catholic Church’s authoritative teaching magisterium nor the dictatorial powers held by bishops in some of the other provinces of the Anglican Communion. Instead, our bishops should grapple with substantive theological and ethical issues, outlining extant streams of Christian thought, and, if appropriate, suggesting the direction(s) in which the Church might move. Episcopal teaching would thus become a resource to inform and to shape our Anglican Christian thinking and formation without in any way dictating to an individual person, Diocese, or the Episcopal Church.

Emphasizing the episcopate’s teaching function might require the HOB to meet an additional week or two per year. The change would certainly require elevating the importance of the HOB Theology Committee by providing sufficient funding and priority for its work. The Committee’s work should prayerfully build upon the best Christian scholarship rather than popular opinion or prevalent thinking among Episcopalians, Anglicans, Christians, or the wider society. Funding should permit the Committee to work with consultants (biblical scholars, church historians, theologians, and ethicists) who are experts in the subject under consideration. Any Committee staff should perform only administrative or editorial duties, not substantive tasks. The entire process should be transparent, yet not influenced by survey data, petition, etc. Completed Theology Committee Reports should go to the HOB for debate and, if approved, to the Church and its Dioceses for use in Christian formation and decision-making.

Expanding the role of the HOB Theology Committee, all of whose members have and should continue to have, other ecclesiastical duties, will dramatically slow the process by which the Church takes theological and ethical positions. This will also severely limit the number of issues on the Church’s agenda at any one time. Doing so will have multiple advantages. First, this may actually enhance the Church’s influence. The Episcopal Church represents less than one percent of the population. Speaking on too many varied issues in this era of narrow specialization erodes the Church’s credibility. Second, the Church’s gift is its spiritual perspective. Yet recently, the Church has too often spoken in secular language rather than the theological and biblical language true to its identity. This process will reverse that tendency. Third, the change emphasizes that the Episcopal Church values both the moving of the Spirit (e.g., in the selection, gifting, and prayers of bishops) and the best of Christian scholarship. This process rejects rigid authoritarianism, congregationalism, or majority votes among all communicants to determine God's mind in favor of a via media consonant with our Anglican heritage that attempts to balance reason, tradition, and Scripture in light of the Spirit’s witness.

Marion Hatchett has characterized the Episcopal Church as the “flagship” Anglican Communion’s province. He, in a speech at GTS posted on the Episcopal Café and elsewhere, identified points at which the Episcopal Church has provided important leadership: giving voice to clergy and laity in governing the Church, incorporating hymnody in worship, drawing on insights from critical biblical studies, and ordaining women. Now we rightly lead the Communion in offering God's blessing on those entering into committed, same-sex marriages and unions as well as drawing upon the God-given gifts of GLBT persons for ministry. I suspect that our progress toward those goals might have alienated fewer people, cost less in time and energy, avoided some ongoing legal battles, and born better witness to the rest of the Anglican Communion and Christianity if we had a governance process better suited to our identity and more explicitly rooted in theology.

Changing the governance process and re-emphasizing the teaching role of our bishops are tasks not easily accomplished. Nor are those steps a panacea. Yet perhaps the time has come for the Episcopal Church to align its structure more fully with function so that God will account us good stewards of the resources and mysteries entrusted to us. However, the proposals for restructuring the Episcopal Church’s governance and emphasizing the House of Bishop’s teaching ministry offer a starting point for addressing the inherent dysfunctionality of General Convention’s current structure and the need for the Episcopal Church boldly to assert its identity as God's gathered in Christ's name to love God and our neighbor.

The Rev. Dr. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years He taught philosophy at the U. S. Naval Academy and ethics at the Postgraduate School. He blogs at Ethical Musings.

Rethinking General Convention II

This is the second of three parts.

By George Clifford

One thousand people (perhaps as many as fifteen hundred) spending ten very long days at General Convention represents a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money. If the Church devoted those resources to mission, amazing things would result. My point is not that the Church should eliminate its General Convention. Living together requires investing in our common life. My point is that good stewardship demands that the investment should be as effective and efficient as possible.

The proposals presented below are catalysts intended to begin a conversation about ways to improve our governance and to be better stewards of the resources God's people have entrusted to the Episcopal Church rather than as definitive ukases:

(1) General Convention should focus exclusively on establishing the Episcopal Church’s broad priorities for ministry and mission. In several days of prayer, study, debate, and conversation the HOD and HOB could profitably outline the priority or priorities for the next triennium, leaving the implementation of those goals to Executive Council, the Provinces, the Dioceses, and parishes. Clear priorities and intentional focus on their implementation is integral to faithful living and good stewardship. This limited purpose should enable more diverse lay participation in a briefer General Convention, reduce the importance of people serving multiple terms as deputies, and free more resources for ministry and mission. The Episcopal Church lacks the membership, financial resources, and theological rationale for an agenda that unilaterally undertaking the totality of God's work.

(2) Executive Council, in cooperation with dioceses and provinces, should assume the remainder of General Convention’s functions. Executive Council should handle all routine (e.g., election of Church Pension Fund trustees), minor issues (e.g., interfaith relations, adding or deleting an observance from Lesser Feasts and Fasts), and implementation of ministry and mission priorities (e.g., approving budgets and staffing plans for the national Church).

(3) Provinces should elect all Executive Council members.

(4) Upon petition by a majority of provinces or dioceses, Executive Council would have to submit an issue to the Dioceses for consent; non-routine matters (such as changes to the Prayer Book, Canons, or Constitution) would automatically require consent from a majority of Dioceses. In all cases, Dioceses would have the option to approve or to disapprove, but not to amend. Allowing Dioceses to amend wordings could potentially create a never-ending cycle of changes, as each change would restart the consent process. Dioceses could each establish their own consent process (e.g., which issues go to Diocesan Council, to the Bishop and Standing Committee, or to Diocesan Convention). Issues requiring the time consuming consent process will inherently lack urgency – the Church, after all, has functioned without the proposed change or initiative for decades if not centuries. Any issue for which Dioceses or Provinces unsuccessfully petition for referral to the consent process obviously lacks wide support across the Church and probably does not reflect the Church’s thinking.

(5) A significant number of resolutions at each General Convention request that the Episcopal Church take an official stand on an issue, empowering the Church’s Washington Office to act on the Church’s behalf. Executive Council should deal with all such resolutions, permitting fuller, more substantive discussion.

These proposals arguably broaden involvement in the Church’s decision-making process, ensure timelier, fuller consideration of important matters by an appropriately sized deliberative body, and provide a check on Executive Council to prevent it overreaching its appropriate authority. This plan also preserves authority within the Episcopal Church as a unique blend of lay, clergy, and bishop mutual decision-making while balancing the efficiency of central authority with distributed responsibility and decision-making.

Doing more with less is a popular management mantra. That mantra has limited applicability to the Church. The Church should strive to make the best possible use of its resources, efficiently avoiding waste and striving to achieve its mission as effectively as possible. Concomitantly, the Church must first and last always be the Church, true to its identity, cognizant of its limitations, and focused on incarnating God's love. An agenda appropriate for an established Church will rightly look very different that the agenda of a relatively small Church in a secular democracy. These proposals recognize that the Church often requires many years to discern the mind of Christ accurately, incorporating essential elements of the Anglican genius, living with ambiguity and avoiding premature votes.

The Presiding Bishop has called the Episcopal Church to have a heart for mission. The Episcopal Church’s current governance structure emphasizes business as usual rather than mission. A Church with over two million people in five thousand plus parishes located in seventeen nations on three continents constitutes a large institution that requires a global outlook while sustaining a pastoral vision locally. Little that the Episcopal Church does nationally or internationally requires immediate action. The most notable exception to that generalization is disaster relief, for which Episcopal Relief and Development has responsibility. Thus, the Episcopal Church can adopt a structure well suited to its needs, a structure that emphasizes carefully articulating a global outlook that identifies ministry and mission priorities grounded in solid theological study.

The Rev. Dr. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years He taught philosophy at the U. S. Naval Academy and ethics at the Postgraduate School. He blogs at Ethical Musings.

Rethinking General Convention I

This is the first of three parts.

By George Clifford

Shortly after I returned home from General Convention last month, a nearby parish invited me to speak at a mid-week gathering on what had happened at the Convention. These theologically conservative people were the remnant faithful to the Episcopal Church after their previous priest and many of the laity departed for another denomination, convinced that the Episcopal Church had abandoned Christ to follow the idol of popular opinion. The remnant wondered: Is there a place for us in the Episcopal Church? Are the bishops or someone else masterminding the plan to lead us away from the Bible? Is the Presiding Bishop telling us to stop being Christian? Emails from people who had left the parish for another group fanned their fears, inciting concern with misinformation.

The group’s only agenda item that surprised me was the inference that a conspiracy of bishops guides what is happening in the Episcopal Church. Anyone familiar with the Episcopal Church’s governance knows no human conspiracy could secretly manipulate such a convoluted system. Answering their questions and providing accurate information was generally easy. What was more difficult, and I do not know if I was successful, was moving them in the directions taken by the Episcopal Church to truly welcome all people. Most of parishes probably have at least a few people who share some of those concerns.

Although I suspect little energy exists for changing how the Episcopal Church governs itself, I wonder how many of our internal struggles the last few decades have resulted from our structure. Times of relative tranquility, towards which the Church seems headed, not times of great turmoil, best lend themselves to rethinking structure and governance. Emotion clouds the judgment less and fewer people will promote particular changes in order to achieve ulterior aims.

I attended both the 2006 and 2009 General Conventions as a consultant and observer. This perspective differs from the perspective of a deputy or bishop. As an Episcopal priest, I admittedly have an interest in the outcome of some of the proceedings. Given those disclaimers, I offer the following observations (readers familiar with General Convention should skip to the second observation):
(1) General Convention’s purpose is legislative, i.e., General Convention is the Episcopal Church’s governing body. But many other things happen at General Convention: exhibitors hawk their wares and beliefs; people made and friendships; attendees worship and celebrate the Church’s life and work. Governance, however, is General Convention’s central purpose.
a. General Convention, the world’s second largest bi-cameral legislature (the Indian parliament is the largest, or so a deputy informed me) consists of the House of Bishops (HOB) and House of Deputies (HOD) and meets for ten days once every three years.
b. In 2009, General Convention considered a staggering number of resolutions (over 440). Passage requires both houses to approve the resolution, with the exact same wording. Thus, a resolution amended by one house, already approved by the other, returns to the first house for reconsideration.
c. Eighteen committees, comprised jointly of deputies and bishops, work concurrently with General Convention. The committees consolidate some resolutions and recommend action on the resolutions the committee sends to the HOB or HOD for consideration.
d. The Episcopal Church now has dioceses in 17 countries, demanding an international outlook and impetus to the legislative process.
(2) The HOB appears to function collegially and smoothly in spite of manifold, often significant theological differences. The smaller size (about 150 bishops present), more frequent meetings (about three per year), and regular small group Bible study enable the bishops to know each other, appreciate one another’s spirituality, and generally understand their house’s parliamentary procedures.
(3) In sharp contrast, the HOD, with over eight hundred and forty members, meets once every three years for ten days. Half of each diocese’s HOD deputation is lay; priests or deacons comprise the other half. The HOD has a more fluid membership than does the HOB, as dioceses elect deputies for a single three-year term, although many deputies do serve multiple terms. Alternates may also substitute for a deputy during part or all of a Convention. Deputies have no staff to prepare briefings on the vast array of subject matter and a sizable number, based on my observations, seem largely ignorant of HOD parliamentary procedures. These problems were glaringly apparent when eight hundred plus deputies allotted themselves only ten minutes to consider most resolutions, then spent much of that time on parliamentary questions. To their great credit, most Deputies work long hours, strive to do their best for Christ's Church, and seek to understand an incredibly broad gamut of issues that encompass liturgical, pastoral, theological, and ethical subjects far beyond the competence of any one person. The problem is not with the Deputies as individuals but with the Church’s structure, which imposes this impossible task on these good people. It is no wonder that well before Convention’s end most deputies (and many bishops!) look overwhelmed and fatigued.
(4) General Convention’s structure inherently entails some self-selection on the part of lay deputies. Ten days of sessions with travel can easily mean twelve days away from home. Even with their Diocese paying expenses, few working poor or lower middle class people, who generally receive little if any vacation time, can attend. Single parents may have difficulty arranging twenty-four hour childcare during their absence. I suspect that few high-powered professionals, corporate executives, or small business owners attend, reluctant to be away from their work that long. In other words, those present must have sufficiently flexible schedules to give the Church an uninterrupted block of ten or twelve days, valuing the Church above their other commitments. Anecdotally, rather than based on formal research, lay deputies appear to be mostly upper middle-class and closer in age to retirement than to high school. The deputies were laudably diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Except for their degree of commitment to the Church, I wonder how well the socio-economic status of HOD lay deputies mirrors that of the Episcopal Church.

In sum, General Convention structure is dysfunctional. In particular, the HOD because of its size, lack of resources, and infrequent meetings cannot give the majority of legislation adequate time or informed consideration. Arguably, the Episcopal Church should revise its governance process.

The Rev. Dr. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years He taught philosophy at the U. S. Naval Academy and ethics at the Postgraduate School. He blogs at Ethical Musings.

How generous is "pastoral generosity"?

By R. William Carroll

The phrase occurs in the fourth resolve of C056, adopted by the 2009 General Convention:

Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church;

Surely, I am not the only one who is tempted to see unhelpful condescension in this language. In this piece, I’d like to suggest a more charitable reading, which I hope might provide some guidance for how to apply C056 during the next triennium and beyond.

The language is intended to draw a distinction between public liturgies for blessing same sex unions (which have not yet been authorized by the Episcopal Church) and appropriate pastoral care, perhaps taking the form of a locally approved rite, while such liturgies are being developed. Indeed, the first three resolves outline a process that may (almost certainly will, perhaps by 2012) lead to public liturgies approved for use by General Convention.

It is indeed highly insulting if we read the language about generosity as if the diocesan bishop were being generous to provide pastoral care. This is in fact his or her duty, and the General Convention has already committed the Episcopal Church to the following (over 30 years ago, in 1976):

Resolved, that it is the sense of this General Convention that homosexual persons are children of God and have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.

One cannot be generous in discharging a duty. One is either being faithful and upholding one’s vows, or one is not. One can perform a duty with a generous or grudging spirit perhaps, but in the end a servant does only what is required by his or her Lord. There is a fundamental distinction between gratuitous liberality and what is owed. Among other things, a bishop promises to “encourage and support all baptized people in their gifts and ministries” and to “nourish them from the riches of God’s grace.” (BCP, p. 518)

At the same time, however, all of us (not just bishops) need to acknowledge that we have, as individuals and as a Church, fallen short of the mark and that we have waffled about whether we really mean it when we speak of a “full and equal claim.” If anyone has been generous these thirty years and more, it has been the LGBT faithful, who have endured from the Church they love a spectrum of pastoral care ranging from spiritual violence and rejection, on the one hand, to ambivalent and fickle tolerance, on the other, with an occasional outbreak of Kingdom hope here and there to sustain them on their wilderness journey.

I believe that when it speaks of a “generous pastoral response,” resolution C056 should be understood to be reminding us of the high standard to which we are held as Christians. It is calling the bishops, in particular, to the task of shepherds and apostles. In every ministry and apostolate, however, the standard is not our generosity but God’s. It is the generous love that overflowed to make the world. It is the love that sent the Son into the world, to live, suffer, and die for us, and to rise victorious over every power that corrupts and destroys the creatures of God. Seen in this light, the phrase “generous pastoral response” implies that we should go to great lengths so as not to further scandalize the LGBT faithful. The Church is called to nourish God’s people from the riches of God’s grace. None of the Church’s treasures belong to us. God is the source of every blessing and every good gift. They not ours to control, only to administer.

Does this mean that every bishop will rush to authorize blessings? Probably not, though I think it is chicanery of the highest order and an evasion of the apostolic ministry to read the “particularly” clause, as if a generous response is only called for in places where same sex marriage or civil unions are already accorded legal status. What the fourth resolve calls us to is to fulfill the vows we have already made to God, with the generous love of Jesus as the measure for our faithfulness. My hope is that the Holy Spirit will use this resolve to break down remaining barriers to baptismal equality. May God move our bishops and all the faithful to a new level of public honesty about the gifts and ministries of LGBT faithful in every diocese of this Church, to genuine listening where it has not occurred, to repentance wherever necessary. And may God lead us to witness, bless, and celebrate faithful love wherever it is found.

The Rev. Dr. R. William Carroll is rector of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens, Ohio. He received his Ph.D. in Christian theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. His sermons appear on his parish blog. He also blogs at Living the Gospel. He is a member of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis.

U2, the Millennium Development Goals and the Church

By Greg Garrett

Thursday, July 16th, toward the end of the Episcopal General Convention in Anaheim, people gathered to experience a U2charist, a communion service held to the music of the Irish rock band U2. At first, the idea of a secular rock band providing the soundtrack for an Episcopal service might seem sacrilegious-or just silly-since, after all, rock 'n' roll has been "the devil's music" for the past fifty years. But where U2 is concerned, the rock preconceptions about
rebellion, anarchy, and ego gratification go out the window. Here is a band in which three of four members are professing Christians, one (lead singer Bono) has been deputized by the band to become the world's leading advocate for the poor and vulnerable, and their faith has shaped
their music and lives in powerful and obvious ways.

U2charists have been put on around the world and have become hugely popular, attracting many people from outside the Church. But just as importantly, they focus the Church on what we are called to be doing, putting attention on the poor through music, preaching, and the
offering, which always goes to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a United Nations initiative to end world hunger, combat HIV/AIDS, and achieve other vital goals. Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation is the clearing house for information on U2charists in the Episcopal Church. It's a natural fit, since the EGR is also our clearing house for information on the MDGs.

But it's also a natural fit because Bono himself has been a huge advocate for the MDGs. In an interview with the Financial Times last fall, he explained that the MDGs came about back in 2000 because people of compassion made a "commitment to eight goals that would change the
planet and demonstrate to the developing world how we might, through a combination of know-how and resources, partner with them in efforts to help millions out of desperate poverty. We gave ourselves 15 years, [and] we're halfway there." Since 2000, as Bono has noted, nations have contributed or pledged hundreds of millions in debt relief , aid, and trade, but of course much still remains to be done.

Unlike stereotypical rock stars, who are supposed to devote their free time to substance abuse and conspicuous consumption, Bono and U2 have made the MDGs a top priority. After years of advocacy for trade, debt relief, and AIDS drugs for Africa, Bono himself co-founded the ONE
movement, a coalition that describes itself as "a grassroots campaign and advocacy organization backed by more than 2 million people who are committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa." The band also speaks out on behalf of the ONE movement, dedicating their classic song "One" (with its repeated refrain "we get to carry each other") to enlisting new members of the coalition. On their last tour, before they played "One" Bono would deliver a fiery and heartfelt speech about how this generation's moon launch could and should be putting an end to world hunger.

Likewise, on U2's 2009 tour, now in Europe before coming to the States this fall, Archbishop Desmond Tutu delivers a taped message at the beginning of the concert to each arena full of people, inviting their participation in the ONE movement. After invoking a litany of victories in the struggle for peace, justice, and economic equity in the past decades-the end of apartheid, peace in Ireland, crackdowns on human trafficking and slavery-Tutu explains what is at stake. Because of the work and the voices of people of compassion, he says, "millions more of our brothers and sisters are alive." And still, again, much more remains to be done.

At General Convention this year-a convention dedicated to exploring the South African concept of "ubuntu," the idea that we are made to be in relationship with each other-the Episcopal Church rededicated itself to the Millennium Development Goals, which were declared a top missions priority at the 2006 General Convention. Even though delegates were forced to cut the Church's overall budget, the convention retained a line item for the MDGs, pledging to keep it a major focus.

Bono would be pleased. In "One," he sings

Love is the temple Love the higher law

and he has long said that if faith is not committed to helping the poor and vulnerable, then it is a fraud. To see our Church re-committing itself in the middle of hard economic times to those who are much worse off is both an inspiration and a reminder that we get to carry each other.

Not have to; get to. We are made for each other, and when we forget that, we forget one of the truths about who we are-and whose we are.

Greg Garrett is the author of the new We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 and many other books. He is Professor of English at Baylor University, Writer in Residence at the Seminary of the Southwest, and a licensed lay preacher based at St. David's, Austin.
He blogs at This article will appear in the September issue of Texas Episcopalian.

We pray together. And that's enough

By W. Nicholas Knisely

A few months ago one of the staff here at the Cathedral forwarded an email to me with a request that I answer the question it posed as he had no idea what he should say. The email was very simple. It was from a person in the community who was looking for a new church home. But, before he would consider a congregation, it was very important for him to know where we stood on the question of blessing same-sex couples.

There wasn’t any hint in the email about whether or not the sender wanted us to say we were for blessing same-sex couples or opposed. Just that it was critically important to him that we give the right answer so that he wouldn’t waste his time unnecessarily.

I get letters or questions like this quite commonly. I think most Episcopal clergy do these days. It’s the BIG question that seems to be used as a way to sort through congregations and dioceses so that we can determine which ones are right-thinking and therefore worthy of support and which ones are wrong and worthy of nothing. What was different about this letter though was that I simply couldn’t figure out what the person wanted me to say.

So rather than trying to be pastoral and sensitive in trying to respond to the question behind the question (as is my wont), I decided to be bluntly honest.

“There are people in this congregation who are fully supportive of the Church’s blessing of same-gender unions. There are people in this congregation who are opposed to the Church’s blessing of same-gender unions. While the Episcopal Church as a denomination is on record as calling for equal protection under the law for all citizens, if you’re looking for a congregation that is of one mind on this issue, you’re going to be disappointed with this one. We don’t have agreement internally on this particular - or many - issues. Instead, we just agree to pray and worship together”

We don’t agree with each other. We pray together.

Friends of mine who are involved in the church growth movement offer me their sympathy every three years or so following our denomination’s General Convention. “It must be really hard to grow a church that spends so much time fighting” they say. In the past I’ve agreed with them. But I think I’ve decided that it’s time we as Episcopalians tell the truth about who we are though in a way that tries to explain to others why our struggles are not a “bug” - they’re a “feature”!

The Elizabethan Settlement, which for me is modeled at every Eucharist when I present the host to a communicant with the paradoxical words (to a person of Tudor England) “the body of Christ, the bread of Heaven”, is fundamental to our identity as Anglicans. We are willing to be in relationship with people who will gather with us around Jesus; whether they by free or slave, man or women, Jew or Greek. We are the anti-puritans caring less about clarity of theological categories than we do about loving relationship. “If you will pray to Jesus with me, I will pray to Jesus with you.”

At least we try to when we’re at our best. Which isn’t always that often admittedly.

In my mind, as an Episcopalian of catholic leanings and ecumenical enthusiasm, if there’s one thing that argues for the continued existence of an Anglican witness in the Universal Church - it’s our charism of holding firm to praying with those with whom we disagree no matter how hard that is to do.

Eusebius writes that in the latter days of his life, St. John the Evangelist would respond to repeated requests of visitors to “tell of us of Jesus” by only repeating again and again “Little children, love one another.” When asked by those caring for him why he would only say that he is supposed to have responded “Because if they do only that, it is enough.”

Episcopalians don’t agree to agree. We pray with each other. Because if we can manage to just do that, it seems to me, that we will have done enough.

What happened when I responded to my inquirer wanting to know where the Cathedral I serve stood on the question of same-gender blessings? I sent my short note off fully expecting to never hear from him again.

I got a note back a day later; “That’s so awesome. I’ll be there this Sunday.”

The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely is Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix Ariz. He served as Chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication, is active in ecumenical works and was originally trained as an astronomer before he was ordained. His blog is Entangled States.

Picked and chosen

By Lauren R. Stanley

A little while ago, I went into my family’s backyard here in Southern California, where the sun is shining bright and there’s a delightful sea breeze to keep me cool, and began picking tomatoes from the garden.

I’m cooking tonight. With my family on a low-carb diet, I had to wrack my brains to come up with a Sudanese dish that met their requirements and tasted good as well. Finally, I remembered a delightful dish we called salata, which is not salad per se but is chopped up tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions in a peanut-butter paste. I loved eating that in Sudan, and thought my family would enjoy it here as well.

So to the garden I went, on this calm, quiet day, to get tomatoes.

My sister-in-law has two kinds growing: grape and Better Boys. I thought that perhaps I’d get a few tomatoes, maybe a dozen of the former and one of the latter, and that I could buy whatever else I needed at the local grocery store.

But to my delight, the plants were full to bursting with tomatoes, so much so that I could literally pick and choose, reaching in, trying to find the ripest, the reddest, the most succulent-looking. For 20 minutes, I stood out there, delicately reaching for only those ready to be consumed, holding them up, admiring, judging, telling the ones I thought were ready, “You are so beautiful. I’ll pick you.” And the ones that were not quite ripe, not quite as red as their neighbors? Those I left behind, giving them small caresses and asking them to ripen some more. “I’ll come back for you another day,” I whispered to them. (And yes, lest you think you’ve misread, I actually do talk to the plants; my mother’s husband taught me that, and it always worked for him …)

As I searched, I was surprised to find brilliant red ones buried deep in the middle of the cages; how, I wondered, could they have ripened so beautifully, with so many leaves and other tomatoes blocking out the sun?

As I picked these deeply buried tomatoes, I realized that they blossomed, they ripened, because that’s what they are supposed to do. Defying horticultural logic, they took what little light they received, and turned it into something beautiful, a fulfillment of God’s design and wishes for them in creation. It didn’t matter whether anyone found them or not, ate them or not, admired them or not; their reason for being was simply to blossom, to ripen, to the best of their abilities, according to their genetic makeup.

And then it hit me: What happened with these tomatoes in my family’s backyard is the same thing that is happening in the Episcopal Church right now. Those who have been buried deep, lacking sunshine and warmth and all the blessings of the Church community have, despite all those handicaps, flourished. For the first time, the Church has reached down deep and unearthed those people and welcomed them and celebrated them and said to them, “You are so beautiful.”

Ecclesiastes tell us that for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

The Church, it seems, has finally listened. With the passage of two resolutions at The General Convention – one making clear that the process toward ordination is open to all, the other authorizing the collection and development of theological and liturgical resources for same-gender blessings – the Church at last has reached deep down to those places where gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transgendered peoples have had to exist for so long, seen that these people have blossomed and ripened despite being buried so deep – because that’s God’s will for them -- and proclaimed: We’ll pick you.

Just as I gently ran my hands through each plant, over each tomato, the Church at General Convention did the same. There was so little acrimony, so much graciousness and holiness, so much listening, so few accusations during those 10 days in Anaheim … it was as though the deputies and bishops were out in the garden, seeking the best and finding that sometimes, the best was right in front of them, just buried deep.

In Conventions past, it seemed we in the Church were more focused on the time to kill, instead of on the time to heal. Some were determined to make these past six years in particular a time to break down, and not a time to build up. We spent more time weeping, and less time laughing, more time mourning and less time dancing. We threw stones constantly, instead of gathering them up.

As for those buried deep, they had to spend far too much time keeping silence, and were not given enough time to speak.

But now? Now? Well, now it seems is the time to pluck up what has been planted, to celebrate that which is flourishing, to end our wars with each other and to focus on peace.

For far too long, we have taken that which God has planted – very good men and women – and condemned them to darkness, ordered them to flourish as best they could without light, without love, without even much hope. Some hoped – some even prayed vociferously – that these people, our brothers and sisters in Christ, would fail to flourish, would die on the vine, would simply go away.

But like those tomatoes in my family’s garden, they have steadfastly refused to fail. They have flourished even in the darkest places, and only now are we finding them, only now are we saying to them, and to the world: “You are so beautiful. We’ll pick you.”

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church. For four years, she served in the Diocese of Renk in Sudan. In late August, she begins her new assignment in Haiti. She has covered four General Conventions for Center Aisle, the daily newspaper produced by the Diocese of Virginia for General Convention.

Moving beyond Us v. Them

By Marshall Scott

I've been home for about a week now, and I've been trying to think how I might express to folks, and especially here at the Café, my feelings about the General Convention just past. It was a long, complex event; and it will certainly take a while to process.

This was my first Convention as a Deputy, but hardly my first Convention. I've been an Alternate twice, and either a Visitor or an Exhibitor more than once. However, I felt a different sense of participation and of responsibility as a Deputy. I can't say how often someone made a reference to "what we do here" – that corporate "we" that is invoked to unite our attention and our efforts – and each time it certainly did catch my attention and my efforts. If participation in the Church provides a general sense of participation in "something bigger," serving as a Deputy in General Convention provides a very specific sense of that participation.

This was enhanced, I think, by a comment I heard again and again: "The atmosphere is so different than in 2006: so much less tension, so much less confrontation." Everyone knew that it was in no small part because of those who weren't there. Still, everyone was quietly grateful.

At the same time, serving as a Deputy I sensed several different polarities, several different categories of "us and them." Some of these were predictable. In an odd but meaningful way, those who had departed were still having an effect. While there was only one explosive outburst on the floor of the House of Deputies about those who had departed the Episcopal Church, there were enough small side comments, enough small inferences to create that sense of "us and them."

There was also a certain sense of "us and them" about those in the Anglican Communion who have sought to isolate the Episcopal Church. This was expressed in a certain ambivalence to the presence of Archbishop Williams. There was a great sense of appreciation that he had come, that he seemed willing to listen. At the same time, there was some anxiety, some anticipation that he would not hear, would not budge from his conviction that a Communion unified and centralized was worth the loss of a few Episcopalians.

Finally, there was a certain internal polarity of "us and them." That was between the Senior House and the Junior House – the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, respectively. I heard about a certain amount of tension even before business got up and running. However, it came up early and often. Would the bishops insist that "Right Reverend Father knows best?" Or, would they recognize the Spirit moving in the work of the assembled lay and clergy Deputies?

I would expect that different participants, both bishops and deputies, would prioritize these differences differently. There were certainly those from the rebuilding dioceses for whom the first polarity was painfully current. Those who argued for a more traditionalist stance to sustain relations in the Anglican Communion were acutely aware of the second.

My own thought is to worry most about the third, tensions between deputies and bishops. We have defended our unique and uniquely American polity for its incorporation of all orders of ministry. Ours is not the only church in the Anglican Communion that includes bishops, other clergy, and laity, nor the only one whose decisions require consensus of all three. However, our bicameral structure also provides a distinctive opportunity to divide. Our Church cannot make decisions if we become separated.

There have been those both around us and among us who have wanted to divide us, to isolate us from one another. Whether intended or not, those bishops from other parts of the world who did not understand our polity, who asked our bishops, "But, if you were really being a bishop, how would you act?" – those bishops were suggesting that division. And let's face it: they struck a chord with a few of our own bishops. There were indeed a few who seemed at least intrigued by a "Right Reverend Father knows best" sensibility.

There were certainly also those in among the deputies who were preparing for such a tension. There was clear resistance to the idea that resolutions that started in Deputies somehow needed tweaking, sometimes by as little as a word. Each change, no matter how small, was time lost, time that might not be recoverable. And as Convention went on, each small change raised the question of, "Are they trying to kill this, to stall until it is lost for lack of time?"

This tension between orders of ministry is hardly new. I haven't worked in a diocese yet whose living memory didn't include a time when trust was low between bishop and clergy, between clergy and laity, or among all three. We can perceive differences in vocation as differences in power. Sometimes those perceptions are all too accurate. When we aren't conscientious about working together, about transcending especially differences in power, we risk falling into divisions that undermine our relationships and, very quickly, our mission.

And yet it was on this very point that I brought home from this convention a sense of hope. In fact we got a lot of work done in both Houses. Indeed, for the first time in anyone's memory both Houses completed their work before the scheduled time. We could not have done so much if we weren't largely in harmony.

This was even more clear when I looked at the results in the hot-button resolutions of D025 and C056. In both cases the percentages by which these resolutions passed in both Houses were remarkably consistent. The percentages were roughly 67%/33% for each resolution in each House. In one sense that might be predicted, assuming that in each diocese the deputies and the bishop or bishops were in concert. However, I don't think we can assume that. I think instead that this speaks of broad similarity between the two Houses. If that is supported broadly by agreement in each diocese, all the better. Disagreement in General Convention is important but relatively infrequent. Disagreement in the life of a diocese is, as has been noted, an more immediate and arguably more inhibiting problem.

And so, as I process my own experience of another General Convention, I am hopeful for this Episcopal Church. We certainly have differences within the Church. They are, though, the kind of differences of opinion and interpretation of the faith that we say repeatedly we want to include and even embrace. The metaphor of an airplane came up again and again in our debates, to illustrate the fact in the Church, and the need in the Church, of both our "left" and "right wings;" but those differences were bearable, because each "wing" expressed its own determination to stay the course and its desire to stay with the other.

On the other hand, the differences that would truly debilitate us, differences of distrust and struggle for power, did not turn out as great or as immediate as they might have seemed in the moment. For all the anxiety, the differences that would reflect distrust, that would destroy relationships, were overcome. We did not all agree, and yet between and among the Houses of Bishops and Deputies there was demonstrable consistency and coherence. For me, this is a relief, and even a promise. For if, after all our difficulties over the last nine years, we are so consistent across both Houses – and for that matter across all Orders – we have what we need to come together again. We make our decisions in two Houses; but after this Convention I think we have some real hope that we can be once again one Church.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.


By Ann Fontaine

General Convention 2009 adjourned – what are my highlights and lowlights of this scene? General Convention 2009 was my ninth convention as a Deputy, four as a Lay Deputy and five as a Clergy Deputy. When I began I was one of the youngest at age 40 though that would be considered middle aged now with deputies as young as 17.

Best finds:
Oatmeal at Starbucks – a container of hot oatmeal for $3 with packets of mixed raisins and craisins, nuts, and brown sugar – add a large (is that grande or mucho grande in barista speak?) cup of Sumatra coffee and one is set until lunch. They also had great turkey sandwiches I often bought at the same time to keep me until dinner.

Best free swag:

Flash drives from Church Pension Group complete with carabineer for one’s keys or to clip on the belt for the nerd look or for emergency mountain climbing. Another group gave out flash drives too – I predict it will be the most popular item in 2012.

Plastic cups from the Vergers Guild. Fun for kids of all ages – they turn purple with iced drinks – endless fascination. A version of the beer bottles with mountains that turn blue when chilled just right.

Best comment on the important work of General Convention:

Our 18 year old Wyoming Deputy when asked what she thought would be the most important resolution of General Convention, replied: ““I think from day three it is impossible to say what the most important thing that we will accomplish will be because by the time next Friday, or even in the next three years ensuing, and looking back on this Convention, the most important thing, from where I stand at the moment, may appear to be something relatively minor.”

Best learning moment:

Younger deputies teaching me new tech tricks – like T9 Word for the cell phone – text messages made simple.

This is my last visit to General Convention as a Deputy. It is time for others to continue the work. I was encouraged by the new young deputies who are so in love with and committed to the church and so hopeful about its future. The church is in good hands. This is the first time that I feel my voice will be heard even though I am not in attendance.

The resolutions on sexuality are a leap of faith or maybe a step off the cliff. I believe we reached the point of no return in the direction that I favor of full inclusion of our gay, lesbian and transgender members. Access to the ordination process and rites for marriage equality and blessings are not complete but fully launched. As I said in my sermon yesterday – we pray the angels will bear us up as a church, but if not – we believe in resurrection. The future will prove whether we were right or wrong about our discernment of God’s call to our church.

The resolutions to cut the budget are painful, especially for those who will lose their jobs – mostly those who can least withstand that loss. Support personnel with minimum wage jobs, often women and minorities, are taking the biggest hit. A few program staff members will be leaving – mostly those who have been recent hires and only just relocated their families. Two programs that need funding were cut: Evangelism and Hispanic ministry. The two areas where the potential for sharing the Good News is most urgent will have to depend on volunteers. Women’s Ministry and many of the ethnic desks were also cut.

The good news of the budget is restoration of the line item for the Millennium Development Goals. We did not balance the budget on the poorest of the world. With an actual line item, Episcopal Relief and Development will be able to leverage that money like the loaves and fishes and reach beyond the 2.5 million lives already touched. If all the dioceses send in the funds asked of them we would not have to make any cuts. Our investment income is down due to the economy but the commitments by dioceses to the ministries of the Episcopal Church are the heart of the matter. As it was we cut back on the amount asked to help those dioceses hurt by the economy.

The Denominational Health Plan should help lower health insurance costs, increase portability and make it available to more employees. The Lay Pension plan will make the church’s great pension plan for clergy available for lay employees. Justice and fairness for all who work for the church is the rationale for these moves. Title IV revisions of the disciplinary canons will hopefully provide a more reconciling process while providing justice for those abused by clergy.

This was the best convention in my time of service. What made it the best?

Worship was a mix of new and old. Although held in what became known as the world’s largest bat cave – black curtains decked the background – the projected reredos were lovely and the music was inspiring. The high point of services for me was Bishop Prince Singh, Rochester, chanting the Sursum Corda in a lovely melody unlike any I have heard. Not a part of the worship but of our daily sessions, the three--part blessing by men representing Muslim, Jewish and Christian traditions, singing individually and then intertwining words and voices of our Abrahamic faiths.

Legislative sessions led by President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson. Her non-anxious presence and calm demeanor, openness to challenge without defensiveness, mix of humor and firmness –offered a space for passion to be heard and decisions to be made. The Deputies changed their rules to allow for 5 minutes of debate before amendments and procedural motions which increased the sense of allowing voices to be heard and not cut off. All had been heard in legislative committees so 5 minutes was often enough to summarize the arguments in 1 minute speeches. For items of more passion – we set special rules for longer times of debate. Best of all was the Rev. Winnie Varghese, the voting secretary, who led those of us who are technically challenged through the varieties of using the voting machines (hand held voting thingies). Her clear and concise directions combined with wry humor: “deputies report being unable to hear me when they are talking to other deputies,” or “those who have not turned on their voting machine report being unable to vote,” made Deputies learn quickly while laughing. The Rev. Gregory Straub, Secretary of the House of Deputies, was a fount of knowledge and voted the nattiest dresser of the convention. We even had a Gregory Straub look alike day. Wyoming gave him our cowboy boots to add to his sartorial splendor.

Meeting friends, old and new is always one of the best things about our triennial meet up. I hope the ECW does not move its convention to another time, as it would end the balance they add to our time together. Many of new friends came as “virtual friends” on Facebook or through blogs – seeing them in “real” added another dimension to our friendships. Some are people I met in my first time as a Deputy and who continue to be leaders in the church. A funny thing I discovered is that many whom I have known and thought much older than I – are actually younger in years although not in experience and wisdom. Although there is the desire to see distant friends, this time I spend more time with our own Deputation – we had a Diocesan suite for meetings at the end of the day and it had a view of the Disneyland fireworks each night. We also ate meals together on occasion.

My husband and I are moving from our Diocese so each moment was bittersweet as I remembered the future loss while enjoying the present moment. Most of the resolutions I have been working for the past 9 conventions passed so I am content. I know others are now suffering as we did for many years, as their concerns were not passed. For that I am sad and hopeful that they will remain within the Episcopal Church as we have many concerns in common that we can do together better than apart.

I hope everyone in the church attends General Convention at some time. Even one day will amaze you. The diversity of the exhibit hall with its display of ministries and merchants, the worship in English, Spanish, and some of the other languages of our church, the challenge of sermons and statements all add to the mix and show forth a vital church. In the words of the old country music song:

Life is a dance
With steps you don’t know
Join the dance
Learn as you go.

The polity of the Episcopal Church is more a dance than anything else – hopefully we dance with the Spirit. Some of us love the dance of General Convention - others not so much. It takes all of us – those at home supporting us with prayer and funds, those who make it all happen from behind the scenes, those who report it like Episcopal Café and the myriads of bloggers and tweeters. Now it is over for another 3 years and over as a Deputy for me. Blessings and prayers for all of us now and always.

This is where the author's ID line goes, but, hell, you all know who Ann Fontaine is.

Artificial devices

By Sam Candler

A few days ago, I was leaving Anaheim, California. The work of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church was good and important, but I was ready to depart that region. The setting –a convention center in Anaheim—seemed artificial and unseasoned, without a history or developed character. In fact, the character of the place was Disneyland; how much wisdom or character can one hope to imbibe from an amusement park?

Nevertheless, that setting was my home for two weeks. My routine was the same. Rise early, prepare for committee meetings, encounter ideas and faith and people and agendas, walk from one air-conditioned room to another, ride on escalators and elevators, eat processed food quickly and absently, sit on the legislative floor and pay attention, do all this some more, and then try to be asleep by 11:00 so I could rise again at 5:00 am.

I must admit that, for all its sterility, the Anaheim Convention Center, with two central hotels, was a comfortable place to gather and do business. Yes, it was artificial; yes, it was also mechanically efficient for us.

Then, one day after I left Anaheim, I was sitting on a dock in Canada with my father, just after sunset. Since my childhood, I have traveled annually to that lake, with its rustic cabins and primitive challenges. The deep green hemlocks and pines, the rich white birch trees, the cold black water, the open sky, all overwhelm any human activity; artificial devices are weak and meager here. It is easy to be mesmerized by the sky.

With a few others, my father and I peered eagerly into the northwest horizon, waiting and watching. A slight cold front was breaking up the overcast day. The air was chilly, but the sky had cleared above some post sunset clouds.

Then, suddenly, we saw it. The International Space Station was soaring over the north. The orange white glow was speeding at 17,000 miles per hour, 405 miles away from us. In the twilight, only Vega and a couple of other stars were beginning to appear. But, as we focused on this man-made intrusion into space, we also made out distant objects way beyond humanity’s foray into the heavens.

I have watched that northern horizon many a night here in Ontario. I have seen amazing light shows from the Aurora Borealis. It is always beautiful. If “artificial” means man-made, or simulated, or forced, or contrived, then this part of God’s creation is the very antithesis of “artificial.”

But for humanity, “artificial” is all we have. All we can muster, by definition, are man-made attempts and offerings. In fact, the International Space Station, a true modern marvel, is the very height of “artificial.” It is a man-made contrivance, inserted into the far reaches of God’s creation. Though it is the result of creative science, it is also a piece of art, like a paint stroke across the sky’s canvas.

Yes, the International Space Station is a work of art. It reminds me of a deeper meaning to the word “artificial.” Etymologically, “artificial” can mean “belonging to art,’ or “made by art.” At our best, we human beings create from artistic desire. We plan, and build, and explore, with artistic visions.

One of the many marvels about the space station is that it is also a work of art by committee. It has been added to, and revised, and corrected more times than…well, more times than an urban office building, or an old house, or… a piece of government legislation.

The old adage is that one will never eat sausage again after one has seen the inside of a sausage factory and how the stuff is actually made. One will never want to enter politics after witnessing the journey of a single piece of legislation. One will never want to go to church again after serving on a vestry or board of elders.

But those factories and legislatures and vestries are all we have. All we have are artificial attempts, human-made pieces of art, often assembled by committee, to witness to truth and grace in the world. That’s what the General Convention of the Episcopal Church was. Yes, it was set in an artificial place (a place designed to work!), it was committee after committee, it was the work of humanity. I hope and pray, nonetheless, that it has served us well.

Artificial devices are all we have on this earth, and all we have above the earth. At their best, they are truly works of art, inspired by glorious visions. For all our foibles, the Episcopal Church has a glorious vision; we want to be orthodox and generous, faithful and honest. We want to be true to God and to God’s creation. We are human beings, but we are on the dock straining to see grace over the horizon. We are human beings, but we have glimpsed divine grace in the twilight.

The Very Rev. Sam Candler is dean of St. Philip's Cathedral in Atlanta. He chaired the House of Deputies' Committee on Prayerbook, Liturgy and Church Music at the General Convention. His sermons and reflections on “Good Faith and Common Good” can be found on the Cathedral web site.

General Convention: Embracing the status quo ante

By Greg Jones

With the passage of D025 and C056, many are wondering: What does it all mean?

In a nutshell, it seems to me that what D025 and C056 mean is that The Episcopal Church has told the truth about who and where it is on the controversial issue of fully including gay Christians living in nuptial unions into all orders within the priesthood of all believers. It also tells the truth about where the Episcopal Church is as regards our desire to remain in full communion with the other churches of the Anglican Communion.

The truth on both questions is this: we are not exactly sure yet.

We are not exactly sure what the future will bring for us on both things. We recognize that within our own body is a degree of opinion that varies from staunch support/opposition to staunch ambivalence. As such, D025 essentially upholds a degree of local option on the question of ordaining Christians in same-sex marriage-like unions. It does not in any way guarantee that all or any dioceses will be open to calling and ordaining such persons. (Yes, God calls through the Church.) It does say, however, that the discernment for such is entirely entrusted to dioceses provided they conform with those national canons which are pertinent. In other words, the resolution affirms the status quo ante (before 2006) of how discernment for clerical orders is done.

Does D025 have the effect of 'over-turning' B033? Hard to say in actual fact. B033 was not a 'rule' or a canon, it was a form of urging. Likewise, D025 is not a law either -- it simply reaffirms the sufficiency of the canons vis a vis discernment processes. When it comes right down to it, if a priest were elected to the episcopate whose 'manner of life' was likely to cause difficulty globally, D025 would not have any necessary effect on whether or not said person was consented to by the Standing Committees/House of Bishops and/or General Convention.

Does D025 have the effect of 'looking like' a repudiation of the so-called 'moratorium' sought by Windsor? Of course it does. And likely, in a way, so does C056, which has to do with marriage equality -- which similarly brings us back to a kind of status quo ante 2006. Again, it is a resolution which suggests that we support local pastoral options, and are continuing to examine what if any liturgical/canonical revisions would be made at the General Convention level down the road a stretch.

Both of these resolutions, however, will be perceived globally as some kind of repudiation of the Windor moratoria. The real question though is, "Does this matter?"

If D025 and C056 represent an effort for the Episcopal Church to tell the truth about where we are (as messy as that is) then truth-telling is called for as to the state of the Anglican Communion.

The fact is that those who most demanded the Windsor moratoria did not accept that we had abided by them -- and they have never made any sincere attempt even to look like they were abiding by the moratorium that applied to them. Indeed, when it comes to facts on the ground, the movement that has never done a single thing to abide by Windsor, has many more of them. If The Episcopal Church has one openly partnered gay bishop, and an ongoing practice of local option regarding blessing same-gender couples' unions, the GAFCON movement has created dozens of separatist/schismatic bishops, and have created a continent-sized new province which is actively soliciting recognition by the Church of England synod to be fully recognized as a province in full communion with the See of Canterbury.

Moreover, if we are telling the truth, whereas The Episcopal Church has essentially gone not forward but "back to where we once were" -- with D025/C056 largely looking like a return to the kinds of resolutions which passed in 1991-2000 General Conventions -- the GAFCON movement has gone way off into an anachronistic future whereby the faith is expressed according to the epistemological, theological, cosmological mindset of late 17th century Britain. Notably, we have seen the full-fledged launch of what will likely be an alternative Anglican communion devoid of those developments in Anglicanism which have arisen since the Oxford Movement.

To be sure, The Episcopal Church is not an exemplary model of the Gospel and the catholic church either. I still hold that we are now, perhaps more than ever, a church convinced of the priority of our autonomy - and I find that troubling at times.

Then again, on the other hand, I also recognize that while neither salvation nor discernment of God's will are individualistic endeavors -- there is a part of the process which requires the individual (person or church) to perceive God's vocation even against the opposition of other perso's who likewise are seeking to be faithful.

I do believe that the witness to Christ given by many gay Christians (in various orders of ministry) is a fact in our midst. Their witness to so many of us in the Episcopal Church is also available to many around the Anglican Communion -- and I do believe that people will increasingly come to see that they are proclaiming Christ -- born, crucified, risen and ascended. By being a place where such witness is fostered, the Episcopal Church is, I believe, doing the hard thing (in fact) by standing for a discernment of God's will which does not yet meet easy and widespread approval.

In this, of course, it will remain to be seen whether we are doing something prophetic, or not. If we have decided to stake our selves, our souls, and our bodies on this sense that God is indeed calling for a new thing, (thereby we are perceiving ourselves to have a prophetic vocation), then of course we must do what we believe God is calling us to do. We may of course know that it won't be well or widely received by all. We must of course know that there will come pain and reaction. We must know that -- unlike the people whom Jonah spoke to -- the whole place will not immediate change their ways. We must be willing to receive the reaction against what we perceive to be true -- and to do so graciously and humbly.

Indeed, if we are acting in any way prophetically by passing D025 and C056, we must be prepared to turn the other cheek when the slaps come, and continue to maintain the posture of faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, who was born, died, rose, ascended and will come again as part of the fulfillment of God's plan before the worlds began, to make all things well.

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones ('Greg') is rector of St. Michael's in Raleigh, N.C., a trustee of General Seminary and the bass player in indie-rock band The Balsa Gliders — whose fourth studio release is available on iTunes. He blogs at Anglican Centrist.

Resolution C056: it's our job now

By Rebecca Wilson

Yesterday morning, on the last day of convention, the House of Deputies passed Resolution C056 on Liturgies for Blessings. The House of Bishops passed this resolution overwhelmingly on Wednesday afternoon.

The final resolution was a substitute for the original C056 and was crafted by a small group of bishops informed by a larger Indaba-style conversation that took place on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

C056 begins the process for the Episcopal Church’s response to various kinds of same-gender unions: committed relationships, domestic partnerships, civil unions and marriages. It also contains a provision for pastoral generosity in states with legal status for same-gender couples.

The ultimate power of this resolution will be determined by the strength of the process it sets in motion. That process—to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same-gender relationships—will be developed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops.

According to the resolution, the Standing Commission will “devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion.” The resources developed by the process will be reported to the 77th General Convention in 2012.

In speaking to the resolution this morning, Deputy Ruth Meyers, secretary of the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee, emphasized that the process would be “open and transparent” and that it would “expand the circle over the next triennium.” Supporters of C056 are particularly enthusiastic that the process encourages participation from people at all levels of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion: individuals, congregations, dioceses, and provinces.

By casting such a wide net, the Commission can include the work of other churches in the Anglican Communion, including New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, that are considering theology of and liturgical rites for same-gender relationships. Through those conversations, the Episcopal Church can continue to demonstrate that moving forward on inclusion actually strengthens some of our relationships in the Anglican Communion.

Thanks to the work of those who crafted C056, the Episcopal Church now has the chance to make progress toward full inclusion in the best possible way. Whether or not we take best advantage of the opportunity now before us is up to the Standing Commission, of course, but it is also up to people all across the church who care about both inclusion and communion.

We need to spend the next three years contributing to the process, fostering conversation, encouraging reflection and paying attention to the work of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. Throughout this Convention we’ve seen the Holy Spirit working through prayerful conversation, public narrative and Indaba-style groups. If we carry that spirit home and into the work of the next three years, we can both realize the promise of what has been accomplished in Anaheim and strengthen our relationships with one another and our sisters and brothers across the Anglican Communion.

Rebecca Wilson is the director of communications for the Chicago Consultation.

the story of me, the story of us, the story of now

By Ann Fontaine

As a child I loved comic books. Our grandmother gave us money every week to use however we wanted. We would usually buy comic books. My favorites were Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Classic Comics. I spent hours saying SHAZAM – hoping to be transformed into a super hero and my brother and I would jump off the garage roof with capes tied around our necks trying to learn to fly. It is wonder I survived childhood.

It was Classic Comics that fired my imagination about what a “real” person could do to make the world a better place. One comic was about Jane Addams, founder of Hull House. The story as I recall told o her compassion for immigrants in Chicago. How she and Ellen Gates Starr founded a settlement house to respond to the needs of migrants and immigrants who came seeking a better life in the city. According to the Jane Addams-Hull House web site:

“Social settlements began in the 1880s in London in response to problems created by urbanization, industrialization, and immigration. The idea spread to other industrialized countries. Settlement houses typically attracted educated, native born, middle-class and upper-middle class women and men, known as “residents,” to live (settle) in poor urban neighborhoods. Some social settlements were linked to religious institutions. Others, like Hull-House, were secular. By 1900, the U.S. had over 100 settlement houses. By 1911, Chicago had 35.In the 1890s, Hull-House was located in the midst of a densely populated urban neighborhood peopled by Italian, Irish, German, Greek, Bohemian, and Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants. During the 1920s, African Americans and Mexicans began to put down roots in the neighborhood and joined the clubs and activities at Hull-House. Jane Addams and the Hull-House residents provided kindergarten and day care facilities for the children of working mothers; an employment bureau; an art gallery; libraries; English and citizenship classes; and theater, music and art classes. As the complex expanded to include thirteen buildings, Hull-House supported more clubs and activities such as a Labor Museum, the Jane Club for single working girls, meeting places for trade union groups, and a wide array of cultural events.”
The story of this work was inspiring to me.

In the meantime, as a teen, my “clergyman” asked me if I wanted to go to church camp. I had loved attending Camp Fire Camp as a child so I thought it would be fun and the church paid my way. I discovered there that the church was more than half an hour of Sunday School followed by a long service from the BCP. But after high school, like many I drifted away. I was not really anti-church – I just did not see any point to it. I thought it was fine if you liked it but for me it held no attraction.

One day – I read that the Episcopal Church had done the most amazing thing. In 1969, Presiding Bishop John Hines challenged the church. According to the Archives of the Episcopal Church:

Following an eye-opening tour of Harlem with African American activists, Presiding Bishop John Hines pushed through the regularly convened General Convention of 1967 a “Special Program” (GCSP). The program was intended to respond to the poverty and injustice of the American ghetto. Executive Council re-directed the Church’s funds to community organizations and grassroots efforts aimed at the urban underclass throughout the United States.

I was stunned – the church of my birth and the dreams of my childhood of what to do with my life were merging. I returned to church and became active in all areas of church life. I had found a community of support to go out into the world. We founded the Food Bank in Lander in the midst of an economic downturn caused by US Steel suddenly ending 600 jobs that employed people in our town of 9,500. The widening circles of unemployment spread as those jobs disappeared and took the average of 5 jobs for every mineworker job, eventually taking the population down to 6000.

Recently, I was asked by The Living Church to review The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori’s new book Gospel in the Global Village: Seeking God's Dream of Shalom. It is a book of some of her sermons and talks since she has been Presiding Bishop. As I read the book I was reminded of the connection between my dream of making a difference in the world and my faith.

As I write this I am attending General Convention for the 8th and last time as a Deputy. My heart leaps up with yes to the Convention’s response to the challenges and cries of our world. Though our income projections may be down – we do not need to live into those projections. I pray that the church will also respond with the abundance that is within our power to show forth.

GC and B033: a preview and an analysis

By Jim Naughton

The 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church is likely to pick up where the 75th General Convention left off, with attention focused squarely on one particular piece of legislation—Resolution B033. That bill, pushed through on the final day of the 2006 convention under unusual parliamentary circumstances, was meant to ensure the Episcopal Church retained its place within the Anglican Communion, and has been widely interpreted as a de facto moratorium on the consecration of bishops in same sex relationships.

When the legislative committees of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops convene in Anaheim on July 7, they also will consider numerous resolutions on the blessing of same sex relationships and the development of rites for same sex marriage.

Together, these issues are likely to be the most closely watched – and most passionately argued – of the convention, though they constitute a small part of a legislative agenda that includes the church’s 2010-2012 budget, a new initiative on domestic poverty, a possible revision of the church’s disciplinary canons, steps toward full communion with the Moravian Church and conversation about the proposed Anglican Covenant, which has yet to be released in its final form.

Resolution B033 urges diocesan bishops and standing committees not to consent to the election of a bishop “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” The phrase “manner of life” was widely interpreted to include gay and lesbian clergy who lived with a partner of the same sex.

The legislation was written on the night before the convention was to close, amidst rumors of trans-Atlantic arm-twisting by the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Williams was considering whether to invite the bishops of the Episcopal Church to the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Previous attempts to pass similar legislation had failed, but on the final day of the convention, the newly-elected Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, took the unusual step of addressing the House of Deputies. Her popularity, coupled with fears that Williams would recognize parishes and dioceses threatening to break away from the Episcopal Church as the authorized Anglican presence in the United States, led the Deputies to pass legislation that had seemed all but dead the day before.

The bishops of the Episcopal Church, with the notable exception of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church’s first openly gay bishop, were invited to the Lambeth Conference. Williams has not recognized the new church founded last month in Texas by members of the parishes and dioceses that broke away from the Episcopal Church and allied themselves with more theologically conservative Anglican churches in Africa and South America. Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Ian T. Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., serve on the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, perhaps the most influential body in the Communion. And the church has deepened its relationships with many dioceses in provinces not sympathetic to its acceptance of gay and lesbian clergy and couples.

At the same time, however, the passage of B033 has been interpreted by Williams and other leaders in the Communion as an “agreed upon” moratorium—a phrase used in the report of the Windsor Continuation Group, which was endorsed at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in May. Williams has argued that B033 should remain in place until the Communion reaches a “new consensus” on same sex relationships, a consensus few see on the horizon. In the meantime, the number of gay candidates being considered for episcopal elections has dwindled. The Diocese of Western New York recently cited B033 in instructing the committee screening candidates to become its next bishop not to interview partnered gay or lesbian candidates.

Three years after its passage, B033 is unpopular, yet many believe it remains necessary. No fewer than a dozen resolutions to repeal, clarify or supersede the legislation have been submitted to the House of Deputies’ and House of Bishops’ Committee on World Mission. The two houses’ cognate (i.e. similarly named) committees typically meet as one at General Convention, but are not bound to do so. The deputies, many of whom are still smarting from the unusual procedures employed to pass B033, have expressed far more interest in revisiting the legislation than the bishops, who know that Williams does not want the legislation repealed. (The archbishop will be able to reinforce that message in person. He will be attending the General Convention July 8-9 to speak at a forum on the global recession and to give a Bible study.)

Legislation from the World Mission Committee is sent first to the House of Deputies. How the bishops will respond to attempts to repeal or soften B033 may depend on how narrowly the legislation is written. Jefferts Schori has said she does not want to repeal B033, preferring to make a statement about where the church stands now.

One approach that has won pre-Convention support is embodied in legislation from the Diocese of Rochester that “affirms that standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction are not bound by any extra-canonical restraints – including but not limited to the restraints set forth in Resolution B033 passed by the 75th General Convention – when considering consents to the ordination of any candidate to the episcopate.”

If such legislation passes, the questions of whether an openly gay bishop-elect would be approved by a majority of diocesan bishops and standing committees, and whether any diocese would be willing to put its future on hold long enough to find out, will remain open.

The convention also will consider a variety of proposals to move the church toward authorizing either the blessing of same sex relationships or the authorization of a rite for same sex marriage. At its 2003 General Convention, the church passed a resolution recognizing “that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same sex unions.”

The language of the legislation, while not precise, was interpreted in most quarters as granting diocesan bishops the right to exercise a “local option” on blessing same sex relationships. However, Williams, the majority of the primates in the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Consultative Council have endorsed a moratorium on “public rites” for the blessing of same sex relationships. This language, even less precise, has been interpreted variously as calling for an outright ban on same sex blessings, an acknowledgment that pastoral necessity might permit low profile private blessings, and as permitting same sex blessings as long as a ritual authorized by a church or a bishop is not used.

Williams has not definitively dispelled this controversy, however, at a press conference at the end of the Lambeth Conference, he said that “ as soon as there is a liturgical form it gives the impression that this has the church’s stamp on it,” and that he was “not very happy” about American attempts to develop rites.

In May, the Anglican Consultative Council affirmed the report of the Windsor Continuation Group, a panel appointed by Williams whose five members were previously on record opposing the blessing of gay relationships. The report calls for as yet unspecified consequences against bishops, dioceses and churches that authorize rite for same sex blessings.

Resolutions on same sex relationships include: an affirmation that there are no restrictions on a diocesan bishop's authorization of same sex blessings, a request that rites for both same sex blessings and same sex marriage be presented to the next convention in 2012, the authorization of a church-wide study of marriage rites, and a proposal to allow bishops in the six states that permit same sex marriage to adopt the church’s existing rite of marriage for use with gay and lesbian couples.

These resolutions will be considered by the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music, whose legislation is considered first by the House of Bishops.

The church has repeatedly sought to play for time in managing the conflict between its desire to bless same sex relationships and its desire to remain within the Anglican Communion. Legislation that would immediately change existing policy, therefore, may not fare as well as a resolution requiring final action at a future convention – even if that resolution is more ambitious in its ultimate effect.

(For coverage of the B033 saga as it unfolded, see these 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 items from Daily Episcopalian, and this wrap-up on pages 1 and 4 of the July/August 2006 Washington Window. In reading these dispatches, it helps to be aware that a special commission appointed before the General Convention had proposed a resolution advising the Church to exercise "very considerable caution" before consecrating another gay bishop. This language is weaker than the language of B033, which appeals for a denial of consent.)

Jim Naughton is editor in chief of Episcopal Cafe This article appears in the July-August issue of Washington Window, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

"Wait" has almost always meant "Never."

On April 16, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote letter from a Birmingham jail cell to a number of clergy men, including the Episcopal Bishop of Alabama, who though that he and his supporters were asking for too much, too soon. As the Episcopal Church looks forward to its General Convention next month, it seems an appropriate time to contemplate the ways in which King's famous letter may be applicable to us and to our Church.

An excerpt from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. 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. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

General Convention is coming; start praying now

By Marshall Scott

Since I don't have a Sunday service in my hospital, I do a lot of supply work. Indeed, I can go for several months and not be in the same church two Sundays in a row. For one thing, it gives me an opportunity to say thanks. I'm an Episcopal chaplain in an Episcopal hospital, so at each supply service I thank the congregation both for the opportunity to worship with them, and then for the opportunity I have to be a chaplain. I speak of my work as an extension of their ministry, and thank them for their support.

It also gives me the opportunity for my "Second Sermon." That’s how it gets announced during the Announcements: "And now it's time for my Second Sermon.”" Folks laugh; but those who’ve seen me before know I'm serious.

My first "Second Sermon" in any particular congregation (and one that gets repeated if enough time passes between supply visits) is about Advance Directives. After all, there is a rubric in the Prayer Book calling on clergy to remind worshippers that they're going to die (unless the Kingdom comes first; in which case other things will admittedly be more important); and to me it is a small step to suggest that before we die we might be ill enough that others will have to make decisions for us. (I could say more, but I haven't yet done a Second Sermon here at Episcopal Café.)

But I say other things in "Second Sermons," often local and topical. In one local congregation I was both the first supply priest after the departure of one rector, and the last supply priest before the inauguration of the next. So, as they began their discernment process I encouraged them not to look for another person just like the person who'd left ("God only made one of that person. That person is gone, and isn't coming back. Now it’s time to look for the next person;") and when their discernment was done and the call was made, I encouraged them to support and care for their new priest. In both cases I also said, "Your Senior Warden will also say this to you, but you may not listen to him/her; so hear it, too, from the supply priest that you don't have to live with.”

For the next few weeks the "Second Sermon" will have a new topic: "The General Convention meets this summer. Start praying now.”"

Now, my 'Start praying now' comment isn't some ecclesiastical paraphrase of Gideon Tucker's, "No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." The fact is that, for all the apparent politics, I am convicted that the Holy Spirit can and does work through General Convention, even if it's not always clear in any specific instance. No, I say that because I'm a Deputy and I want for myself, and for all of us involved in Convention, all the help and all the prayer we can get.

More important, I think Episcopalians don't know enough about General Convention. That's largely because between Convention years, it hardly ever comes up in the local congregation. It doesn't help that in Convention years General Convention largely comes up in responses to whatever is notorious enough to raise the interest of the commercial media. I realize that here at the Café I’m largely preaching to the choir; but beyond the Episcopal and Christian blogosphere (and perhaps to some extent within it), the General Convention is, I fear, imagined like the Czar in "Fiddler on the Roof," inspiring prayers not unlike, "May God bless and keep the Czar – far away from us."

In fact in General Convention our deputies make decisions and pass policies that speak to common concerns right down to the life of the person in the pew. This General Convention is no exception. There will certainly be a lot of attention to the flashier issues – how shall we incorporate all the baptized fully into the life of the Church, and how shall we relate to our Anglican siblings around the world, some of whom disagree with us loudly – along with Anglican siblings and others in our own territories. However, there will be many issues raised that will or should affect the life and worship of every Episcopalian.

- There is the effort under the Church Medical Trust (a subsidiary of the Episcopal Church Pension Group) to develop a single health insurance program for the Episcopal Church that all dioceses, congregations, and other Episcopal institutions must participate in, and that must be available not only to all clergy but also to lay employees working half time or more. If the plan is approved, within three years (and for many within the next year) this will affect the budget of every congregation. Over time it holds great promise to slow the increase in our health insurance costs. At the same time, Church Medical Trust programs have never before been mandatory for all dioceses and congregations.

- There is an extensive revision – really a replacement - of "Lesser Feasts and Fasts," the Church’s publication of information about, and proper lessons and prayers for the feasts and fasts of the Church Year. "Holy Women Holy Men" proposes adding many more observances to the Calendar. For congregations that have daily services this would add many options – indeed, so many as to require some difficult decisions about what to observe and not to observe. There might be disagreement about some of the observances added, and some about the principles used in choosing who to include and who to exclude in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church; but either passage or failure of this revision would affect how we worship.

- There have been a number of resolutions regarding issues of our health, including substance abuse, persons with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and health care at the end of life. Health issues affect all of us, whether directly or indirectly. There are also resolutions on the environment and the economy. There’s even a resolution encouraging dioceses to require candidates for ordination to become conversant in a language other than English.

So, while the hot-button issues will get the most attention from the news media, and will get the most questions from individuals in the pews, there will be many issues addressed that will strike much closer to home. Those of us involved in making the decisions want both to express the best of the Episcopal Church as we know it now, and also the direction the Spirit seems to be leading. We want to succeed in that expression whether we’re considering the ordination of bishops or the health needs of our neighbor in the pew.

So, as I preach this "Second Sermon" from now until the second week of July, I will continue to bring this issue to the congregations, and to make this request. “The General Convention meets this summer. It's important for you and for me and for our lives together as Episcopalians. Start praying now.”

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

What will be lost

By Marshall Scott

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

It's a common enough question in our experience, isn't it? It comes up in a lot of situations. In a movie, it usually comes up in the last half hour or so, setting up the improbably difficult and brave resolution. In real life, I suppose it comes up as frequently as not around weddings. Sooner or later someone will ask bride and/or groom, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

And of course we don't, or at least not entirely. I say that as one who has married, divorced, and married again. I grant you that I was less confused when I married again – now almost twenty one years ago, thank you! – but I can't say that even then I knew what I was doing. I simply knew better how to choose, and how to live well the promises that I made.

“Are you sure you know what you're doing?”

I have that question these days about the changes in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Now, anyone who's read my work here and elsewhere will know I support the direction the Episcopal Church has chosen. That doesn't mean I have no qualms.

And my greatest qualm is that we have already lost forever the Anglican Communion that I knew, and that the Episcopal Church will soon follow. I don’t mean that the Church has departed from the Christian faith or the Anglican tradition. I don’t believe either of those assertions. It is, rather, that the shape and manner of the Communion has changed, and of the Episcopal Church will change.

For most of my career in the Episcopal Church we have been conscious of – even proud of - our vagueness. That’s not to say that it hasn't driven every one of us crazy at some point; but we cherished it nonetheless. It allowed us to always pray together, usually worship together, and sometimes work together despite our strongly-held differences. The old epigram associated "Broad-" churchmanship and "haziness;" but the truth was that we all took part in some haziness as a central strategy of living together in the Episcopal Church.

We’ve even managed to justify it as good theology. We would note that the problem with transubstantiation was not that God couldn’t do it that way, but that the Church couldn’t say that it was the only way God could have changed bread and wine into body and blood. Instead, we clung to the very lack of definition that is consubstantiation: "in, with, and under," but only God knew how.

With a nod to our Orthodox Christian siblings, we spoke of appreciating mystery, of believing in what God was doing without wanting to constrain our understanding of how God might do it – whatever it might be. As a result, we preferred not to define anything too specifically. In many ways, that worked for us marvelously well. How else could we have held Hooker and Laud, Jewell and Wesley, Cranmer and Keble and Maurice all somehow within the Anglican tradition?

Sadly, now we are being driven to specificity. We are being driven to it by those who don't want to associate with us, and who are at great pains to explain just why they don't want to associate. We are being driven, too, by those who want to associate, but want to be crystal clear about the terms of association. Look where we are now.

* We have seen the third draft of an Anglican Covenant. Members of the Drafting Committee have spoken of an intent to be inclusive, and the mechanisms of exclusion so prominent in earlier drafts have been muted. What hasn't changed, however, is the idea that there must be some clear and delimited description of common content to hold us together.

* Having largely despaired of an Anglican Covenant that would exclude what they see as the excesses of the Episcopal Church, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has essentially written their own; for what is the Jerusalem Declaration if not a confession in the ecclesiological sense, a core around which they might covenant?

* We wait on the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, to see how that gathering will react to the Covenant draft and the Windsor Continuation report, as well as to dissension within and without.

* The General Convention of the Episcopal Church will meet this summer, and it remains to be seen what we will say there, and how our statements will be received among Anglicans outside the Episcopal Church. There are many Deputies (I cannot say whether it is “most”) who are ready for the Episcopal Church to state clearly what it will do regarding the hot-button issues, and no longer wait to see who else in the Communion is prepared to listen and to talk.

And all of these raise in me a certain sense of - well, not dread so much as sorrow. Some have found us in the Episcopal Church (some both within and without) not sufficiently clear, and they have made themselves clear. In reaction we will make ourselves clear – it is human nature and, for many, virtual institutional necessity – but, as is always the case, in specifying some things in we will be specifying some things out. If we don't do it in the explication itself, it will come over the ensuing years of interpretation. It will change the manner, and perhaps the nature, of the Episcopal Church.

That’s not to say that we're doing the wrong thing, or that the Holy Spirit isn't in it. That may well be one of those strange ways in which God works. We have our New Testament in reaction to Marcion’s rejection of the Old Testament in service to a Gnostic dualism in Christian vestments. Our own Anglican tradition is grounded in important efforts to explain who we are not and why: Hooker’s discourse on why we’re not Puritans, and Jewel’s on why we’re not Roman. The Council of Trent happened in reaction to all that Reformation fervor; and if we're not convinced just how much the Holy Spirit was in that Council, our Roman siblings certainly are.

Nor is it wrong to do something when you can't know exactly what you’re doing. I entered marriage – both times – in good faith, with determination to do what I could to make it work. The fact that in my first marriage things didn’t work as I had hoped isn't to say there is something wrong with marriage itself, or that God couldn't have been working in it. I continue to be convinced that God was then, even as I am convinced that God is working in my marriage now.

As we understand things, only God knows the future. We are always stepping forward in faith. Tomorrow may bring the proverbial bus, or the apocalyptic meteor, or the Kingdom of God. All I can do today is my best to follow where God calls me.

But until the Kingdom comes, those results will always be mixed, with losses as well as gains. In our times now we in the Episcopal Church are indeed seeking to follow where God calls us. Unfortunately, in our times now voices around us and within us push us out of our hazy breadth toward specificity; and coming from hazy breadth to specificity will change us. However righteous most of us may find the result, there will be those who embrace it and those who want no part of it; those who claim victory and those who feel lost.

That’s why I feel that, in a way, we might lose ourselves, even as we win the battle. In resisting becoming the Church that some want us to be, we will not simply stay the Church we are. We may well become more the Church that we want, but we will not stay the Church we are. We will have more clarity on a host of details, from how we understand how property is held in trust for the whole Church to what we mean by the phrase "abandonment of communion;" but we will discover ourselves a different church in the process.

And that's not wrong, either; for it has to as true for the Church as it is for her members that salvation comes in losing our lives for the sake of the Gospel. That doesn’t mean we won’t have some sorrow at that loss. I expect that soon we will determine that we can no longer, as the Episcopal Church, remain “broad and hazy.” It may well be a step toward the Kingdom. It will come, I pray, in our response to the leading of the Spirit. Still, to tell you the truth, I will miss it.

The Rev. Marshall Scott is a chaplain in the Saint Luke’s Health System, a ministry of the Diocese of West Missouri. A past president of the Assembly of Episcopal Healthcare Chaplains, and an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross, he keeps the blog Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside.

A good gripping story

By Heidi Shott

Already I’m worried about General Convention in 2015 because a pattern seems to be developing between every third major Anglican/Episcopal event and a loved one dying of cancer.

Two years on the job as a diocesan communicator, my plan in early 2000 was to go to General Convention in Denver to learn, to report and to hang out with my communicator buddies. But then my father’s lung cancer returned with a vengeance in the spring and it became obvious I wasn’t going anywhere. I reported on the events in Denver from afar, and he died on July 23, a week or so after convention packed up.

While I’ve written a lot about those summer weeks over the past eight years (links below), it’s been hard – as both as a communicator whose salary is paid by people putting money in the plate week after week and as a person of faith – to put into words the conflicted-ness I feel about the “big” doings of the Church like General Convention and Lambeth and the “big” doings of sitting at the bedside of a dying loved one.

Which is bigger? Which is more important? Which is of greater consequence? Which is the greater story to tell?

As the Lambeth Conference was about to commence and I was giving Flip Video lessons to our bishop and bishop coadjutor – who are, by the way, doing a dazzling job at - I was also worrying about my next-door neighbor and good friend, Martha.

Two years ago, Martha was standing at the local Memorial Day parade next to her husband of 53 years and a friend who happened to be a nurse. It started with the nurse saying, “You look yellow.” A month later it continued with an extraordinarily complicated surgery for pancreatic cancer called the Anglican-sounding Whipple procedure. Though she was in the hospital for most of the summer it was, ultimately, a success. Then a good year. An excellent, normal year. But last fall during a routine check-up, the bad news arrived that the cancer had returned. Months of chemo ensued. Besides this nasty form of cancer, Martha was the healthiest, busiest, most vital 79 year-old we know, so to see her slow down was hard.

Though we live in a rural little village surrounding a millpond and a fresh water lake at the head of a tidal river, our house, a big 220 year old mishmash, and their house, a winterized, expanded cottage, are no more than 30 feet apart. The daughter of a former owner of our house built the cottage for her young family in the 1950s. It resembles a family compound and in the ten years we’ve lived here, that’s increasingly how we’ve crafted our lives in relation to Martha and Roger. Martha shares our twin sons’ New Year Eve birthday. With no children of their own and no close family nearby, they keep close track of our lives and we keep close track of theirs.

Her illness is awful. It’s wrong and painful and it’s coming to its conclusion.

Late in June, we were about to go camping and hiking in Acadia National Park. Before we left, I stopped by to check on Martha who had called off the chemo and was feeling poorly. “Go to the hospital,” I said. “I’m worried about you.”

“I’m worried about me too,” she said from the sofa where she cradled her painful belly.

When we returned four days later, Roger called to say she had been admitted.

“She doesn’t want phone calls or visitors,” he told me. After a few days of that nonsense, I stopped in early one morning and sat with him while he ate his Raisin Bran before going to the hospital.

“Roger, don’t leave until I give you a note for her,” I said, whipping out their back door. “I’ll be right back.” If there’s just one thing I can do, it’s write a damn good note.

At noontime, my husband Scott came home for lunch and picked up the ringing phone. He called out the window to me on the deck where I was reading. “Roger says Martha wants you to visit. Afternoons are good.”

When I got there I saw that the week had taken its toll. She was on a morphine pump and had lost weight. Over the next few hours and on several visits since – first at the hospital and now in a skilled nursing unit – I’ve pushed her morphine button, put the straw to her mouth, applied blistex to her chapped lips, held her hand, stroked her shoulder, kissed her and chatted with Roger about everything imaginable.

Unlike my father, the cancer has not reached her brain, so when she’s awake she’s fully herself.

“I wish something miraculous would happen,” she told me the other day when Roger left the room to get some tea, “but I know it’s just a matter of time.”

“We’ll be right next door.” I said. “I don’t want you to worry about anything. We’ll spoil him.”

She looked at me, so clear-eyed, so present, so close to something that’s hard to understand. I looked back and we smiled at each other with love.

And I thought, this is the most important thing happening in the world.

This morning – or last night, who knows when people are blogging from England – Jim Naughton, editor-in-chief of Episcopal Café, wrote

“My concern for the Lambeth Conference is that a critical mass of reporters—or perhaps just a handful of influential ones—will deem the conference a failure if it does not produce the sort of stories that they want to write, that they will say so repeatedly in the pages of their papers or on their blogs, and that this perception will become reality.

The only inoculation against this outcome that I can perceive—outside of an unexpected outbreak of forbearance from the British press—are vivid daily media briefings that feature bishops with good gripping stories to tell about how the conference’s theme of the day figures in their lives and ministries, and the lives and ministries of their people.”

As an Episcopal communicator, and as often as I could in the years I worked as a mainstream reporter, I’ve worked to tell “good gripping stories” because they are what people really want to hear. I believe well-told stories move people and engage people and change people. Why do you think Jesus spoke in parables? Why do our little children lie in bed at night and ask to hear tales of their parents’ and grandparents’ childhoods over and over again?

The story of our family’s love for Roger and Martha and our sadness in Martha’s illness is a real story. It’s one we’re living tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

The Lambeth Conference will be important to the Church and the world only to the extent our bishops sit with one another and listen closely, lovingly and compassionately to the stories each has to tell. Then they need to return to their homes to share the news with their people. It won’t be the same as hearing for ourselves, but it’s a start.

It occurs to me that after my father died in 2000, just after General Convention, I thought and wrote something similar to this. I really hope I get it right this time.

My own private Denver -

Holding hands at the comma

They’re onto our game

Forty percent in the loop

Next month, Heidi Shott will begin work as canon for communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Maine . Her essays about trying to live a life of faith may be found at Heidoville.

I object!

By Nicholas Knisely

I’ve been a parish priest long enough that I’ve been through five General Conventions. I learned pretty early on to dread them. Not so much because I had anything to do with them, or frankly in the beginning even paid attention to them. I feared them because of what my parishioners reactions were going to be to actions that General Convention had taken, and with which they disagreed.

When I first started out in the priesthood the concerns were often about nuclear disarmament. General Convention would pass a resolution expressing the concerns of the Episcopal Church, and I would have a parishioner come into my office generally arguing that the Church was incompetent to be making such statements. Then it because gun control. Then it became the Episcopal Church’s stance on the government of Nicaragua. Lately it’s been the issue of the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians. What I noticed over the years, that no matter what the issue, the person’s concern almost always ended at “The Church has taken a position that I disagree with and think is dead wrong. What do I do now? Do I find another denomination?”

My standard response was to remind my congregant that this church had a different understanding of dissent than other churches might have if you dissented from their version of Convention. When Convention takes a stance on a controversial secular or political issue, though that stance would be used to inform the workings of church structures, there was no expectation that individual Episcopalians would have to agree or even that they should agree with said positions. My standard quip to the parishioner was now that they were upset over something that Convention had done, they should rejoice that they had thus gained their full member in the Episcopal Church. (And then I would share my own lists of things I disagreed with. Like the move to the Revised Common Lectionary and ...)

But none of that meant that we stopped being fully a part of the Church. The Episcopal Church really only expects that people will agree (ultimately) on the words used in our authorized liturgies, based as they are on Holy Scripture, the Traditions of the Church and our best use of human reason. We understand that people may need to dissent from even these on occasions, but the expectation is that the community as a whole holds to these as core vehicles that carry us to a full and healthy faith in Jesus and as such members of the community should be diligent in working out their doubts and concerns with them. (Yet another reason we call it the Book of Common Prayer.)

I was reminded of this common experience the other day when I read an increasingly common meme on some of the Anglican blogs that the Episcopal Church is no longer recognizably Christian. The argument most typically states that since the Presiding Bishop has made a statement that the hearer disagrees with or that doesn’t demonstrate a suitable doctrinal basis of the Christian faith, the Presiding Bishop is accused and summarily judged to be a “heretic” or more commonly a person who has repudiated Jesus and thus an apostate. I’m not willing to agree to any of the characterizations by the way, but I skip over their refutation because it’s the next step in the argument that I find most troubling. That step is to claim that since the Presiding Bishop has made a statement that the writer objects to, the millions of people who belong to the Episcopal Church are also therefore heretics and/or apostates who have materially repudiated Jesus.

It’s the argument that “as goes the Presiding Bishop, so goes the Episcopal Church” with which I find fault. The Presiding Bishop is not a form of a Pope who is recognized to speak authoritatively or infallibly for the Episcopal Church. She or he is simply the bishop who is elected by the other bishops to chair the meetings of the House of Bishops, and in recent times to oversee the administrative functioning of the Episcopal Church. So an argument that claims that any views of the Presiding Bishop are necessarily normative for the other bishops much less the whole of the Episcopal Church is just wrong. It’s the equivalent to saying that because the President of the United States makes a claim, all Americans now believe what he has said.

The real office of Primate in the Episcopal Church while titularly belonging to the Presiding Bishop, is actually carefully apportioned to the whole Church in the General Convention. But, now speaking as a parish priest, we’ve long recognized that General Convention often does not take its responsibility in the primatial role seriously. There have been many resolutions and canons passed by General Convention that simply represent the scoring of a political victory by one group or another within the denomination. Some of them are obviously political and some are more obscurely so. However, General Convention most clearly does express its primatial office when it authorizes liturgies for regular use and/or issues a new Book of Common Prayer.

Now, should the primatial authority of the Episcopal Church authorize a new Prayer Book that clearly and intentionally repudiates the sovereignty of Jesus, or denies the Doctrine of the Trinity or rejects the Creeds and other historic formulations of the universal Church, then I would agree that the Episcopal Church is no longer a church and that it has come time to leave for a place that is authentically Christian. But I do not see that such a thing has happened. At most you can argue that Episcopal Church has been overly tolerant of local option and/or questionable teaching by its members, but it has never authoritatively denied Christ.

I have had the real honor of working in ecumenical circles and in formal discussions with other denominations. When talking to denominations outside the Anglican Communion we assume that what they teach and believe is what is found in their authoritative documents and normative practices. Perhaps its time to ask that the Churches within the Anglican Communion with whom we are in Communion and the bishops of the Episcopal Church who are now claiming the Episcopal Church is non-Christian, should show the same courtesy to us?

The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely is Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix Ariz. He serves as Chair of the Standing Commission on Episcopal Church Communication, is active in ecumenical works and was originally trained as an astronomer before he was ordained. His blog is Entangled States.

Saturday cartoons

I am resisting the temptation to to atttempt instant commentary on the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech yesterday to the General Synod. Instead, I offer these cartoons for your consideration. They were drawn by the Rev. Canon Andrew Doyle, a deputy from the Diocese of Texas, and called to my attention by my colleague Carol Barnwell. I especially like the one of the free range bishops and the one about the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

To no one's surprise...

...or at least not to mine, Kim Lawton, Gail Fendley and the crew from PBS's Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly did an excellent job covering our General Convention. Find it here.

Send Skidmore flowers

...or perhaps he would prefer White Sox tickets.

David Skidmore, the communications director for the Diocese of Chicago has compiled an invaluable resource for General Convention buffs, a legislative summary of General Convention. Thanks, David.

Democracy is good for the Church

As there has been a certain amount of handwringing about the messiness of governing a Church democratically, I thought that those of you who have risked your lives for democracy, or had kith and kin do so, might appreciate this piece from the Guardian.

By the way, there is a rumor a foot that Rowan Williams may make some kind of statement today. We will try to keep on top of it.

Sifting through the Sunday morning offerings

I have nothing in particular to add to the online conversation this morning, but others do. So here they are:

Stephen Bates, religion reporter for The Guardian has an interview with Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Asked what she will say when she meets Peter Akinola and others who oppose blessing same-sex relationships she says:

" 'I will ask him what encourages him to see some of God's children as less than human and less worthy of the dignity that our liturgy believes is the right of all human beings.'

"And if the Episcopal church gets thrown out of the Anglican communion - or, more likely, if its bishops get disinvited by Archbishop Williams from the next Lambeth conference of the world's bishops in two years' time? 'It will be unfortunate if we don't have partners, but the reality is lived at the level of local relationships, at local levels: folks from Nevada going out and helping in Kenya.' "

Steve Bates also has an analysis of our convention at The Tablet. He points out that:

"... the laborious process was scarcely helped by the intervention of certain English bishops, which went down extremely badly with the Americans. Bishop Tom Wright of Durham told the Episcopalians in a statement that they just had to fall into line. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester proceeded to trump that, by turning up in Columbus to inform the Americans, via the Daily Telegraph, that they were setting up a new religion – something that may have surprised the Episcopalians at their Sunday Eucharist service. Neither approach had apparently been cleared with Archbishop Williams in advance.

"In the circumstances it was unsurprising that, while Bishop Robinson was attracting a congregation of more than 1,000 for a sermon, Bishop Nazir-Ali in direct competition a short distance away could manage only 80."

Elsewhere, Bishop Gene Robinson has penned an exhortation to gay and lesbian Christians for The Witness. He says:

"Keeping us in conversation with the Anglican Communion was the goal -- for which the price was declaring gay and lesbian people unfit material for the episcopate. Only time will tell whether or not even that was accomplished. Within minutes -- yes, MINUTES -- the conservatives both within our Church and in Africa declared our sacrificial action woefully inadequate. It felt like a kick in the teeth to the ones who had gotten down on their knees to submit to the will of the whole, even though the price of doing so was excruciating. Such a quick, obviously premeditated and patently cruel reaction from the Right can be seen only as the violent and unchristian act it was."

Father Jake has two informative posts (and you've got to visit just to see the t-shirt.)

I especially recommend Bishop Peter Lee's letter to the Diocese of Virginia. He writes:

"The far right of the church already is filling blogs with statements of disassociation and repudiation. The fact is the General Convention has responded substantially and seriously to the Windsor Report. But some did not get their way: gay and lesbian people and their supporters who feel we have stepped back, and the extreme right, who find it so difficult to work with those with whom they disagree.

"The vital center of the church is intact. Much of what Convention accomplished is in the budget and in unheralded resolutions that strengthened the mission of the church."

I think these words really mean something coming from Bishop Lee. I sat in on several sessions of the special committee that dealt with Windsor-related resolutions. The bishop was a member, and he worked hard to push those resolutions to the right.I opposed every amendment I heard him offer. Yet, I have absolutely no trouble saying that I belong to the same Church as Peter Lee. In fact, I am humbled to be able to do so.

And that brings me to Nick Knisely, who wonders whether all this "two churches under one roof business" is actually true.

"[It]seems to be more of a talking point than it is a valid point.

"Why two churches? Why not three? (Left/Middle/Right) Why not four or five? Where exactly are the boundaries of these two churches? Where are the moderates (which Bishop Duncan claims in his press release to have collapsed, but which are the cause of so much pain at the moment to the people on the "left") supposed to fit into this bicameral model of our denomination?

"Or is this just rhetoric?"

Post-Convention round-up

The post-convention spinning is underway. Regular readers know that I don’t use the word “spin” in a derogatory way. If you’ve ever thrown a baseball, you know that any ball that leaves your hand spins. If you are playing catch, the ball that lands in your glove was spinning and the ball that leaves your hand is spinning. The lone exception is a perfectly thrown knuckleball. And if you’ve ever watched a major league catcher struggle to handle a knuckleball, you realize that it lacks the, um, clarity, of pitches that spin.

So then…Bishop Duncan and his folks have said what they have to say here.

I will be interested to know what their next move is going to be. It wouldn’t seem that the ball is in their court at the moment. All they, like we, can do is wait to see how the rest of the Communion responds to what we have done. If they don't like the response, I am not sure what recourse they have other than lawsuits that seem likely, in most instances, to fail. They are solid strategists, however, and, as I've pointed out in the Following the Money series, they haven't, thus far, lacked for resources. So perhaps something else is afoot.

One interesting response has already come from the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. It’s here.

I may regret saying this, but I do believe these gentlemen are speaking in a more charitable tone of voice. Note they express sadness, not outrage, that they express gratitude for our express gratitude for our statements of affection for the Communion and say they are “moved by your generosity as you have rededicated yourselves to meet the needs of the poor throughout the world, especially through your commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.”

It isn’t as though they are agreeing with us. It isn’t as though they have promised to stop crossing our borders, and it isn’t as though the September gathering of Primates from the “Global South” might not come out with something harsher. Still, the letter is signed by Archbishop Peter Akinola, and I think that counts for something.

The key paragraph, I think, is this one:

We have observed the commitment shown by your church to the full participation of people in same gender sexual relationships in civic life, church life and leadership. We have noted the many affirmations of this throughout the Convention. As you know, our Churches cannot reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy Scriptures and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion. All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion advised you against taking and continuing these commitments and actions prior to your General Convention in 2003.

This seems more along the lines of a statement of fact than a rattling of swords to me, and I welcome that. (I am also happy to note the absence of Episcopal Church bashing in the communiqué from the CAPA Primates meeting.) I would point out a misstatement, though in the response to our Church. No instrument of Anglican unity that I am aware of us has opposed gay civil rights, as the statement implies.

That is why so many of us are concerned about Akinola’s support for a regressive Nigerian law that does, in fact, support the active repression of gays and lesbians’ role in civil life. For an excellent summary of this law and the political and ecclesial maneuverings it has engendered, see Matt Thompson’s work on Political Spaghetti.

I can’t close without mentioning the consider controversy manqué that some on the Anglican right attempted to gin up just after Convention. In her sermon at the closing Convention Eucharist, our Presiding Bishop-Elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori said that our “Mother Jesus” had given birth to a new creation.

I can understand why people found this statement challenging. The bishop was using a sophisticated rhetorical device that we professional writers recognize immediately as… a metaphor. You know you are in the presence of a metaphor when a speaker likens Thing One, to Thing Two. The speaker isn’t saying Thing One is Thing Two. She is saying Thing One is like Thing Two. (Only she doesn’t use the word “like” because that would be a simile, and, oh, never mind.)

We learn about these things in grade school, but then, apparently, we forget.

Neglected Convention news: The Young Adult Festival

Dustin Cole of Saint John's Church, Georgetown was nice enough to provide us with this report on his experience at the Young Adult Festival, which was going on in Columbus at the same time as General Convention. Here's Dustin:

I believe that the Episcopal Church's slogan of "Come and Grow" has understated the impact that general convention has had on my spiritual growth. During the convention, I participated in the Young Adult's Festival (YAF) with people from all over the country (and the world). Our involvement ranged from forums, panel discussions, committee hearings, to Holy Eucharist, young adult led Compline services, and an earth-shaking Integrity service. The experiences have left me with not only a deeper knowledge and faith in the Episcopal Church's community, but shared a spiritual growth that continues to radiate from me after I left the boundaries of Columbus, Ohio.

This being my first convention, I had no expectations on what should or might happen. When I first arrived, I was welcomed warmly with open arms and everyone was so excited to be a part of our community. Participants in the YAF were eager to learn about each other's experiences with the church, our ideas for being a current leader (not a future leader, mind you), and how our differences in ideas made us stronger. After seven days of listening, sharing and partying with one another, I believe we all left with expectations on how to grow our lives outside of convention.

The past week has given me a stronger sense of how to find the sacramental in my daily living. Although there is such an awesome presence of Christ in sharing Holy Communion, we tend to overlook God's presence in our daily tasks and relaxations. It became more apparent to me that Christ can be present in our work, our art, or even dancing late at night. Dozens of us young adults learned how to knit and how we can use that as channel of prayer. We also discovered how the movement of our bodies through meditation, walking and simply standing can help to center our thoughts.

After watching and reading about the remainder of convention I continued to see our church's arms wide open, continuing our call to "welcome everyone." Of course we must make sacrifices for one another, but I believe that we did our best to reject statements and boundaries that aimed to create restrictions on proclaiming God's love for all people. We allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through us during our times of conflict and process of reconciliation. We all left the convention knowing that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." I am so thankful for God continuing to speak to us in ways that we can understand and our ability to listen to God's word made flesh.

Heading home

Striking the set and heading home this morning. Had a quick look at the morning papers. I think the press did a good job explaining that the resolution the Convention passed yesterday urges but does not compel the rejectioin of gay candidates to the episcopacy. I've got two nephews and a niece coming to town this weekend to spend a week at the baseball camp where my older son is a junior counselor, so the blogging may be light for awhile. But feel free to talk amongst yourselves. Thanks for all the supportive comments. I really appreciate them.

Father Nick Knisely of the Diocese of Bethlehem has a moving post up on his blog Entangled States.

Conflicted people in a conflicted Church

A very emotional day today, which has left me wrung out. I have a news story up over on our main site,, but it is written for a general audience, and may not tell you blog visitors much that you don’t already know. We’ve also posted a copy of the letter assented to by about 20 liberal bishops. I say assented to rather than “signed” because the bishops demonstrated their assent by standing after it was read in a closed session of the House of Bishops this afternoon. So I have few names to offer.

Working with the drafting group on that letter (Bishops of Chicago, Newark, Northern Michigan, Rochester, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming) kept me busy for most of the afternoon, and has also delayed my process my thoughts and feelings about what took place today.

I am not feeling the outrage over Resolution B033 that I’ve heard from some of my friends here, and read online. This may be because I lack the energy for it. Or it may be that I don’t think this resolution, much as I dislike it, does much more than articulate an emerging understanding in our Church—that we are unlikely to muster the political will to consecrate another openly gay bishop any time soon.

It is important to remember that the resolution doesn’t bind bishops or Standing Commissions, and thankfully, it doesn’t even mention nominating committees and electing conventions which, of course, it couldn’t bind either. That said, it sure does make it extremely unlikely that could muster sufficient consents if a gay candidate were indeed elected.

The resolution—which, in case you are just joining us—calls upon “Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." It would not have passed without the support of our PB-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori. She spoke in favor of the resolution in the House of Bishops and then, in an unusual move, was allowed to speak in favor of the resolution the bishops passed when it came to the House of Deputies.

I have to admire her willingness to take a stand that has probably cost her some support among the folks who were cheering the hardest for her on Sunday. That takes moral courage. (You can argue, I think, that the Convention did not do a morally courageous thing by passing the resolution because it doesn’t cost the straight majority anything to attempt to appease the Communion by voting to set back the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Church. But I don’t think you can argue that she didn’t do a morally courageous things by supporting the resolution because she has put herself at risk, and will, I think, pay a political price for it.)

Even as I admire her resolve, however, I wonder at the wisdom of this decision. We’ve already seen that it hasn’t appeased the bishops of Network dioceses who continue their troublesome practice of insisting that they are somehow responsible for all those who are in theological agreement with them, even when those folks who live in other bishops’ dioceses. And I don’t foresee Peter Akinola coming over to give us a great big hug any time soon. But this resolution just may be enough to keep us in conversation with a sufficiently large segment of the Anglican Communion to make membership in the Communion seem worthwhile.

The House of Deputies, I think, felt stricken by this resolution, especially those deputies who voted to support it—and most especially those gay and lesbian deputies who voted to support it. (It was affirmed by 70+ percent of the deputations in both the clerical and lay orders.) In the House of Bishops, on the other hand, a healthy minority of members felt that Presiding Bishop Griswold had run a bit roughshod in what he admitted was an attempt to secure legislation that would at least keep open the possibility that our bishops will be invited to the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

I am grateful that nothing the Convention has done compromises our ability as a Church to minister to gay and lesbian lay people, but sorry that we did not signal more vigorously our desire to include them fully in the Body of Christ – right now. We spoke a lot this week about the message we were sending to the Communion. I hope I don’t seem to be discounting the importance of that communication when I say that it isn’t the Communion that sits in our pews on Sunday mornings, or comes to our committee meetings and potluck suppers on Wednesday nights. What we did today probably turned off some people our Church had previously turned on. I hope when they get a chance to know Bishop Jefferts Schori, and watch us struggle to be true to our consciences in our treatment of gay and lesbian Christians, we can win them over once again.

Bishop Jefferts Schori's sermon

Sometimes at Eucharist, no matter how many people are in the church, you get the feeling that the preacher is speaking directly to you. I had that feeling this morning. Bishop Jefferts Schroi spoke of believing something is so essential that it “takes the place of God.”

That thing, she said, can be a bank account, or a theological framework. For me, and perhaps for other participants in the Episcopal/Anglican debate, that thing is winning the argument, getting the best quote out there, having the last word.

The sin in this, she said is a failure to understand one’s self as “beloved of God.” It is only when we know ourselves as beloved of God, that we can “respond in less fearful ways” to others. Among those others she listed “a rhetorical opponent.”

“We children of Jesus can continue to squabble over our inheritance,” she said, or we can claim it, and live in a way that reflects our claim.

On one level, it is in the nature of my job to have rhetorical opponents. But there is a danger that I am particularly aware of this morning in living primarily—during General Convention, one might say exclusively—on that level. Developing and articulating strategy and executing tactics become the things that “take the place of God.” Trying to shape the future of the Church gets in the way of actually being a Christian.

Yesterday in the House of Bishops, Bishop Gene Robinson, reflecting on the dilemma our Church finds itself in—alienate others in the Communion or cause pain to our gay and lesbians brothers and sister—said “I don’t know what humility looks like in this context.”

I am not sure what it looks like either, but I think I have a better idea, after these 10 days, of what it sounds like. And I am in hopes of reproducing that sound in what I write and what I say as this struggle continues.

Wednesday morning: What we can do; what we can't do; what we won't

(edited later Wednesday morning for brevity and charity)

Regular readers may find this repetitious, and, as it will be 2:15 a. m. or so by the time I post this, all readers may find it ungrammatical and innocent of proper spelling. But just to make sure that we all know where we are tomorrow morning, whatever the press may say:

Know that the Episcopal Church could not have effected a moratorium on the consecration of bishops in same-sex relationships, nor could it have authorized a moratorium on same-sex unions. Eeither of those moratorium would have required a change in our canons, and such changes require the assent of two consecutive conventions. We are not dodging the Windsor Report to say that we could not do in one convention what it takes us two conventions to do. Nor was it encumbent upon those of us who don’t want to embrace the discrimination that the Report commends to point out to those who advocate that discrimination, that their efforts to achieve such discrimination could not pass canonical muster at this convention.

Tomorrow, after our PB-elect preaches at the Eucharist, we will take our best shot at giving the Archbishop of Canterbury a sense of how far OUR CONSCIENCES, and those of the people who sent deputies here will allow us to bend toward the sin the urges upon us. As I am a calculating son of a gun, I don’t mind a little sin among Communion-mates, for the time being, assuming that the time being is short, and there isn’t a need for us to organize a Communion-wide revolt. This, no doubt, owes to my corrupted moral calculus.

Assuming the times comes for revolt, and the un-corruption on my moral calculus, I’m in.

Last ditch joint session

The Houses of Bishops and Deputies will meet tomorrow morning after the Eucharist (at which Bishop Jefferts Schori is preaching!) to make a last stab at working out some fuller legislative response to the Windsor Report.

The Special Committee co-chaired by the Rev. Frank Wade, retired rector of St. Alban's is being called back into existence to put some sort of resolution before the Convention. They may not be able to begin meeting until after 9 tonight, because the bishops just adjourned and none of them have eaten dinner yet. Meanwhile, the deputies, who are slogging through a legislative backlog have just reconvened for a night session that will last at least until 9.

Those are the time constraints on the front end. On the back end, most bishops and deputies have flights home tomorrow afternoon (I am here until Thursday and assumed I would be spending most of Wednesday reflecting in tranquility on convention developments for an article for the July issue of our diocesan newspaper. Hah!)

As perhaps you've guessed, I think that their only opportunity to get something passed is to adopt the language of "considerable caution."

One thing about covering fast-breaking news events is that you get sucked into believing that what you are writing about is important. (Why would a person of your obvious significance waste time and energy on these events if they weren't?) What I wonder tonight is whether the difference between "obliged to refriain" from and "exercise considerable caution" make any difference outside the little bubble we've all been living in for the last ten days here.

And the answer is, I have no idea. One thing I can say, though, after the experience this Convention has put itself through, is that if the Archbishop of Canterbury should issue an immediate response saying the compromise that our Church has worked so hard to achieve isn't good enough for him, it would greatly increase the number of Episcopalians who thought it was no longer worth trying to please him.

Dinner anyone?

The outmaneuvered middle

The House of Deputies has been frustrating to watch this afternoon. There seems to be a clear majority interested in embracing the langue of "considerable caution," but it can't get the resolution on the floor. Hence, it is possible that we won't make as strong a response as we might like to the Windsor Report.

Here's what's been happening: the substitue resolution under consideration this morning was ruled out of order on the constitutional grounds I outlined two posts down. Then the original motion, including the "urge to refrain" language was defeated, getting only about one-third of the votes in a vote by orders.

Later, supporters of the "caution language" put forth a motion to reconsider with the intention of amending the "refrain" lingo to the caution lingo. This needed a two-thirds majority, and it only got 59 percent.

What's happening is that the left, which doesn't want to restrict us on the gay bishops issue, and the right, which wants us to fail to respond to Windsor in any meaningful way so that this failure can be used against us in the Communion, are outmaneuvering the middle.

It is still possible that the House of Bishops could tack the "considerable caution" lingo on to one of the more inocuous Windsor resolutions already before it, or that the deputies will use the one Windsor resolution that has come back from the bishops with a small amendment as an opportunity to tack on the "caution."

But there is still an awful lot of business to get done, so whether people will have the patience for this isn't at all clear.

Unfortunately, the defeat of A161 is already being interpretted by the media as our final word on Windsor, which, of course, it may not be. But the vote did come down close to early deadlines in the US and late deadlies in the UK. So keep you eyes open for Episcopal Church thumbs nose at Communion stories tomorrow.

I don't think we are thumbing our noses because that would require enough coordination to get our hands to our faces.

I have just received a phone call

Apparently I have a wife and children.

On the clock

The Deputies didn't accomplish much this morning. The Rev. Christopher Cantrell of the Diocese of Fort Worth, managed to get a substitution resolution on the floor that has no chance of passing. It would call for a moratorium on the consecration of a bishop living in a same sex relationship, and a moratorium on the authorization of blessings for same sex unions. If this resolution gets voted down, conservatives will be able to argue that the Convention had a chance to affirm the requests of the Windsor Report, but refused to do it.

As we adjourned for lunch, however, two challenges arose questioning whether the resolution was in order. Those making the challenge contend that a moratorium on consecrations would violate our existing canons. The canons can be changed, but that process requires two conventions. They also argue that the Convention cannot restrict a bishop's power to authorize new rites. That power, they say, is conferred in the Book of Common Prayer, which has canonical status.

Comment on the challenge is beyond my expertise, and, in this instance, I am going to let that stop me.

My hunch is that A161 is dead, unless some currently non-existant coalition comes together to substitute the phrase "exercise considerable caution" for "refrain from" in the resolve regarding gay bishops. I think on a straight up or down vote, that language, which was put forward by the special commission on Windsor, but then altered by the special committee here in Columbus would have a decent chance of passing.

But I doubt we will ever find out.

As we watch the clock wind toward adjournment tomorrow, it is worth mentioning that the Convention still has to pass a budget, and deal with a passel of resolutions required to keep the Church running for the next three years.

The Deputies have already agreed to a night session beginning at 7:30. More later.

Turmoil mongering


I have yet to read a story in the mainstream media that captures even a hint of the excitement that Bishop Jefferts Schori's election has engendered here in Columbus. People still can't believe that the bishops were brave enough to do it, and we are delighted with her initial encounters with the media. Amidst the forecasts of doom and gloom, I just want to offer a reminder that women with young children make most of the decisions in this country about who is going to go to church where. I think these women are going to respond very positively to what we've done, especially when they have a chance to see and hear Bishop Jefferts Schori. She is a powerful messenger. Looking at it from my own rather narrow viewpoint--My primary professional concern is making the Church look good so that we can grow--I think we chose the person most likely to help us do that.

As an example of the general lunkheadedness of the coverage so far, have a look at this piece in the Detroit Free Press.

The lead: COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The global Anglican Communion was in an uproar Monday over Sunday's decision by its U.S. branch, Episcopal Church USA, to name a woman as its next presiding bishop.

Only problem is, not one Anglican leaders worldwide is quoted in the story. Possibly because only Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement and it courteous, if rather over modulated. The story fails to support its primary assertion.

The first prize for hyperventilation, however, goes to the Times of London. Here is the lead it took two writers to devise:

"The Anglican Church descended into “ecclesiastical anarchy” last night as American traditionalists refused to accept the authority of a woman and asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead them instead."

For those of you not following the convention closely, what actually happened, was that one diocese, Fort Worth, which has already petitioned the Communion's panel of reference for alternative oversight, has renewed its request, this time with an appeal to Dr. Williams.

It is a curious requests because in the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop does not exercise authority over dioceses. So Fort Worth is asking to get out form under that which is not on top of it. I am filing a request this morning to be free of the tyranny of the British king! It is as sensible a maneuver as what Forth Worth pulled yesterday, but I don't think it will make the papers.

Be not afraid folks. No matter how hard they try to scare you.

Tomorrow and tomorrow

The takeaway—as magazine editors of a certain sort like to say—from today’s developments at our General Convention is that tomorrow is going to be exceedingly intense. The House of Deputies had supposedly blocked out more than two and a half hours, beginning at 3:45 to handle three controversial Windsor resolutions with the understanding that they’d stay in session late in order to pass the full package and present them to the House of Bishops tomorrow.

Instead, the House didn’t take up the first, and least controversial, of these resolutions until 5 p.m., passing it in an amended version (about which, more in a second) before suspending debate in the midst of the second and most controversial piece in the three-resolution package.

This means that tomorrow will being with the resumption of debate—and, no doubt, a flurry of amendments—on the lengthy resolution that includes this:

“we are obliged to urge nominating committees, election conventions, standing committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to refrain from the nomination, election, consent to and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the winder church and will lead to further strains on the communion.”

And this:

“this General Convention not proceed to develop or authorize Rites for the blessing of same-sex unions..”

And this:

“this General Convention apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions.”

Meanwhile, the bishops, busy themselves with other less pressing matters. They might easily take what the Deputies send them tomorrow, and amend it, meaning that it would then have to return to the Deputies. All this, and the convention wraps up on Wednesday afternoon.

There was one modestly encouraging development for liberal tea leaf readers in this afternoon’s session. The Rev. Gay Jennings of the Diocese of Ohio proposed an amendment to what we’ve been referring to as the “regret” resolution.

It originally read: "Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of ‘the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ’ (The Windsor Report paragraph 134), express its regret for breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences that followed; offer its sincerest apology to those within the Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another."

Jennings’ amendment, which replaced the words “breaching the proper constraints of” with “straining” passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. I like the amended version better than the original, but I don’t know that either was especially significant in and of itself. More significant, I think, is that an amendment proposed by one of the leading liberals in the House was passed despite the committee’s hope that the resolution would not be amended.

This may indicate that the quasi-moratorium on non-celibate gay bishops is in trouble.

People made some particularly eloquent remarks on both sides of the issues today, but, to tell you the truth, I don’t have the energy to transcribe them right now. Maybe after dinner and the deputation meeting.

Morning news

I just heard a rumor that the Diocese of Forth Worth, which doesn't ordain women, has appealed to the Arcbishop of Canterbury for pastoral oversight. As this diocese has already appealed to the archbishop's council of reference, I am not sure of the significance of this event, but I imagine it will make headlines nonetheless.

Here are a few of the stories that appeared in today's papers. I am leading of with this one from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution because it features a quote from our very own Karla Woggon, moderator of our Diocesan Council and rector of St. Andrew's Church in College Park.

The Chicago Sun Times.

Here's AP.

The press, alas, continues to treat anyone who flew here from London as though they speak the mind of the entire Anglican Communion.

The story they missed


I got to see Bishop Jane Dixon just after the election was announced, she was still drying her tears. I caught up with Bishop Barbara Harris tonight. She told me that she said to Bishop Dixon when the election was announced on the fifth ballot, “Jane, thank God we lived to see this day.” And Bishop Dixon said, “Thank God we didn’t have to hear the news in heaven.”

As I may have said before, it is hard to underestimate that boost this has given the convention. No one thought the bishops would have the courage to make this choice, and, frankly, it is making us feel a little better about the whole notion of having bishops.

Earlier in the week it seemed that bishops existed primarily to be pressured by British bishops. It is apparently bad form to exert colonial-type pressure on African bishops, but perfectly okay to send bully boys like Bishop Nazir-Ali over here to try to push us around. I suppose it could be that those wily conservative Brits are so subtle that they actually want us to push us toward the radical left. Hard to understand the pachyderm-footed interventions of the Bishop of Durham (down blog) and the Bishop of Rochester (the above-mentioned Nazir-Ali) in any other light.

Although I will say one thing for these Episcopal Church-haters like Nazir Ali and Akinola: They come an awful long way at great expense to talk to a really, really small groups of people. (See Akinola’s nearly invisible Convocation of Anglican Churches in America.) While the runner-up for Archbishop of Canterbury, and then for Archbishop of York—that’s Nazir-Ali—was preaching to 80 people at a Eucharist sponsored by the American Anglican Council, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson was speaking to a turn-away crowd of more than 1,000 at the Integrity Eucharist.

Scanning the wires tonight, I have become weary of the privileged place that the Anglican right is receiving in news stories about the election. What about these brave campaigners who are still less than 1/10th of the house of bishops (12 of the 180+ voting today) who have endured years of condescension from their brother bishops who don’t know enough to recognize their own sexism? Where were they in today’s stories? Katharine Jefferts Schori wouldn’t even be a priest without the likes of Barbra Harris. So why is it that she isn’t in today’s stories and the usual American Anglican Council-types are? (Not that I mind people quoting the Rev. David Anderson speaking against he Episcopal Church. As the Larry King show demonstrated the other night, there are few things more beneficial for our Church than to have David Anderson speak against it.)

The press loves conflict and the quick interview, no matter how small the group causing the conflict might be. It is worth repeating here that when the clergy and lay deputations of each diocese were asked to confirm Jefferts Schori’s election, she received what amounts to 90 percent of the vote. In politics this is a landslide. In the Episcopal Church, somehow, it shows we are rent asunder.

Help me out here, brothers and sisters in the media. What is the fascination with a group of people that despite investing millions of dollars in upsetting the Church, have achieved so little influence on their native soil? I agree that from a media relations point of view they are valuable…

(It was Bishops Duncan and Stanton who bolted out the doors of Trinity Cathedral today to contact their allies by cell phone as soon as Bishop Jefferts Schori was elected—thus violating the confidentiality that the other bishops, who had given up their cell phones when they entered the Cathedral, thought was in effect. And it was the fact that several people from our diocese overheard these conversations that allowed us to tip you to the fact that a surprise might be in the offing. Conservative bishops are special, special people and they deserve special, special rules. Especially when they are betraying the trust of their brother and sister bishops for whom they show no regard.) …

…but having said that, at some point, don’t you expect them to produce something along the lines of results? I mean, is this the great schism? That the eight or ten diocese (out of more than 100) that got themselves together to oppose Bishop Jefferts Schori are going to walk? I would hate to see it happen, but schism has been your guiding narrative for three years, and what if that is all you ever have to show for it? Meanwhile, you fail to notice that we’ve know got an Episcopal Church united behind a female Primate who speaks Spanish and was elected with the support of her Latin American brethren, leaving us better positioned than we have ever been to evangelize not only the United States, Central and northern South America and beyond.

If you were financial reporters and people kept predicting a recession that never came, you’d eventually stop paying attention to them, no? Or, if you were Charlie Brown and you’d been out with Linus on Halloween waiting for the Great Pumpkin, eventually you’d start wondering whether the Great Pumpkin was ever going to come.

You go ahead and wonder. I am pretty sure we will still be here when you are done.

Jubilation and whatnot

My more formally journalistic coverage of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's election as our next presiding bishop is online at, along with a couple of pictures. I will have more to say later, but let me just quickly mention that people are really excited about what the bishops have done and hardly believe they had the courage to do it. There has been a tide of anxiety building all week as we approached some final decision on the Windsor-related resolutions, and now it has been at least partially dispelled.

Let me say four quick things before I get something to eat:

1. The conservative press came at her pretty pointedly with questions about how she will be received by the rest of the Anglican primates. I don't know how she will be received, but I can tell you that the press didn't lay a glove on her. She responded in utter charity, with total equanimity, and still got the best of the exchanges. If she were my client I'd say, "You don't need my help. Keep doing what you are doing."

2. The mood among women at this convention, especially female priests, is ecstatic. "Tears of joy," as one deputy put it. Lots of moms talking about what this will mean to their daughters. Lots of oldtimers reminiscing about all the fights they fought and slights they endured. We dive back in to all of the Windsor stuff tomorrow, but this is a triumphant moment tonight. And as someone who left the Roman Catholic Church primarily over the ordination of women, who was received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Jane Dixon, and who gets a chance to work with Bishop Barbara Harris, all I can say is YAHOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

3. I don't know how the politics of this is going to shake out in the Anglican Communion yet. On the one hand, this is another "first" from the Episcopal Church, and maybe that won't be well received. On the other hand, the hand I favor, it now becomes clear that attacking the Church that deals fairly with gays and lesbians also means attacking the Church that deals fairly with women. The cause of the small, vulnerable gay population is now linked to the large and much less vulnerable female population.

Seems to me the Episcopal right can either accept Bishop Jefferts Schori as a woman and go after her as someone who supported the consecration of Gene Robinson, or pursue the nutball logic, already on the Web although I won't link to it, that her election is a "slap in the face to the Global South." (Good luck with that by the way. She had heavy support from the Latin American countries in our Church and probably speaks better Spanish than any of the mostly Anglo bishops of the tiny but ultra-conservative province of the Southern Cone.)

4. Bishop Jefferts Schori served on the Special Commission on Windsor, the precursor of the Special legislative Committee on Windsor. Her election gives additional momentum to a trend that was building earlier in the day. The deputies, but not necessarily the bishops, seem to be giving the committee a good reception. Its recommendations are passing despite attempts to amend from both left and right.

I think the showdown will come over the language the Special committee endorsed tonight regarding the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops. It says that they are "obliged to urge" that bishops and standing committees "refrain" from giving consent to the election of what from now on I am going to call an NCGB.

As it has been explained to me, this isn't as harsh as it sounds (to my two left ears) because a) the General Convention cannot bind standing committees and bishops via resolution. Binding them would take a change in the canons, and that would require approval of two conventions. As we aren't in a position to consider such a change at this convention, the earliest it could be imposed would be six years from now, so... b) saying the committee is "obliged" to urge the convention suggests it woueldn't urge the convention if left to its own devices. I appreciate, actually, I really admire the wordsmithing here. It is first class. But it shouldn't have to be. The original resolution urging considrable caution was good enough, and, as far as I think we can go without domestic consequences.

At some point we need to recognize, just for self-preservation, that meeting the needs of Rowan Williams's diplomatic agenda could cost us evangelical opportunities here in our own backyard. We have already alienated the people our actions were likely to alienate, but we haven't reached out as energetically as we should have to the un-churched people who might find our actions appealing, who might think that finally there is a Church that takes them seriously.

Bishop Jefferts Schori's election gives us a new opportunity to do so. Let's not blow it by going all "wobbly", as a certain conservative British icon once said, on Windsor. We keep trying to be some of what God calls us to be and avoiding the pain. Let's be all of what God calls us to be, and reap the benefits.

Inching along

Episcopal News Service
Saturday, June 17, 2006

Special Committee refines pastoral-care, expression-of-regret resolutions

By Herb Gunn

[ENS] The Special Legislative Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion put final wording to two resolutions during a pair of committee meetings June 17.

Resolutions A160: "Expression of Regret" and A163: "Pastoral Care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight" could reach the floor of the House of Deputies June 18.

In formulating an expression of regret, the committee replaced the statement proposed by the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communication. The Special Commission had prepared the legislation following its extensive study of the Windsor Report.

Not only did the committee seek to incorporate the divergent and passionately expressed views from the June 14 open hearing, which drew more than 1,200 people, the committee also struggled to balance the divergent perspectives of its own members.

The final draft from the committee reads, "Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, mindful of 'the repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ' (The Windsor Report paragraph 134), express its regret for breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection in the events surrounding the General Convention of 2003 and the consequences that followed;
offer its sincerest apology to those within the Anglican Communion who are offended by our failure to accord sufficient importance to the impact of our actions on our church and other parts of the Communion; and ask forgiveness as we seek to live into deeper levels of communion one with another."

Michael Howell, member of the committee from the Diocese of Southwest Florida, sought even stronger language of penitence.

"I have some concerns about the resolution as it stands amended, in that it seems what we are expressing regret for, is starting to move along the trajectory that we did not anticipate the impact of what we [did]," said Howell, rather than "the communion made its mind very clear that we shouldn't do this and we went ahead and did it anyway."

"We are trying to find baby steps that bring us closer together," said committee member the Rev. Canon Ian T. Douglas, deputy from the Diocese of Massachusetts, "rather than running straight into each other."

Bishop Robert O'Neill of Colorado said, "The vehicle of legislation will never be adequate to sufficiently express regret or apologize."

Despite hearing little direct testimony on resolution A163 on pastoral care and Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO), the committee made two modest amendments to the legislation and sent it to the House of Deputies.

The Rev. Dan Martins, deputy from the Diocese of San Joaquin, sought to strengthen the role of DEPO in dioceses where persons believe that pastoral care from their own bishops is not possible. The original resolution of the commission called for using DEPO "when necessary." Martins asked the committee to replace the language so that DEPO would be available "when requested in good faith."

The language, said Martins, "puts more pressure on diocesan bishops to be amenable and cooperative in responding to requests."

Rebecca Snow, a deputy from the Diocese of Alaska, moved to strengthen the resolution's language that calls for other Anglican bishops to respect the diocesan boundaries across the communion. The committee approved her amendment that would have the General Convention "urge continued maintenance of historical diocesan boundaries, the authority of the diocesan bishop, and respect for the historical relationships of the separate and
autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion."

The complete text of the amended resolution follows:

"Resolved, that the House of Bishops concurring, that the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church affirm the centrality of effective and appropriate pastoral care for all members of this church and all who come seeking the aid of this church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention commit the Episcopal Church to the ongoing engagement of and sensitive response to the request and need of all the people of God - in particular, but not exclusively, those who agree and those who disagree with the actions of this body, those who feel isolated thereby, and gay and lesbian persons within and without this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention recognize the agonizing position of those who do not feel able to receive appropriate pastoral care from their own bishops, and urges the members of the House of Bishops to seek the highest degree of communion and reconciliation within their own dioceses, using when requested in good faith the Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) process detailed in the March 2004 statement of the
House of Bishops, 'Caring for All the Churches'; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention urge continued maintenance of historic diocesan
boundaries, the authority of the diocesan bishop, and respect for the historical relationships of the separate and autonomous Provinces of the Anglican Communion."

The committee will resume its work at 7:30 a.m. June 18, in the Hayes conference room of the Hyatt Regency, addressing resolution A161: "Election of Bishops," and A162: "Public Rites of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions."

-- Herb Gunn is editor of The Record, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan,
and a member of the Episcopal Life team at General Convention.

"No quotes, no votes, no nothing"

The press is really having a difficult time here at the Convention. As one reporter, who called me to check in on the status of our Thurgood Marshall resolution said, “I’ve got no quotes, no votes, no nothing.”

[The Marshall resolution seems certain to be referred to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. That is what the legislative committee that considered the resolution recommended, and their recommendation has passed the House of Deputies. In presenting the resolution to the deputies, Dean Sam Candler of Atlanta said his committee had been impressed with our diocese presentation, especially the statement of Darren McCutchen, the 18-year-old alternate deputy from St. Timothy’s who spoke in support of the resolution. (Darren’s statement is hiding under the keep reading button at the bottom of this post.)]

The most significant of the Windsor resolutions, those addressing the report’s request for moratoria on the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops and on the authorized of public rites for blessing same-sex relationships, have not yet emerged from the special legislative committee that is handling them. The Convention leadership had dearly hoped to deal with these issues before the election of the next presiding bishop. But, as I right, there is only about one hour left in the legislative session today (Saturday) and the bishops adjourn to nearby Trinity Cathedral for the election at about 10:30 a. m. tomorrow, so having Windsor off the table is no longer a realistic possibility.

I have no interesting PB scuttlebutt. The field is large and there is no clear front runner, so there is no talk of voting blocs, kingmakers, etc. If the candidates are doing any electioneering, they are doing it behind closed doors.

While our response to the Windsor Report is still a work in progress, there have been several votes that I found suggestive. The House of Bishops yesterday passed by 76-67 a resolution opposing state and federal constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages. They also amended one of the Windsor response resolutions that had been passed by the House of Deputies by inserting languages that stressed the independence of the Churches that make up the Communion. This amendment, which is generally perceived as making the resolution more “liberal” had been attempted in the House of Deputies, but failed. The bishops’ action, which must now be approved by the deputies, seems to contradict the “conventional wisdom” (pun not so much intended as recognized at not removed) that the deputies are the more liberal house.

The bishops continue to discuss in smaller groups whether there is some way to move toward the language of the Windsor Report without discriminating against gay Christians. They don’t seem to be making much progress, but to give you a sense of the range of ideas under discussion, some have seriously proposed postponing the consecration of any bishops until after the Lambeth Conference in 2008. There was even conversation about forestalling the selection of the next presiding bishop, and agreeing on a short-term caretaker instead. The name of Claude Payne, the retired bishop of Texas, was mentioned in this context.

Neither of these ideas makes a lick of sense to me. As a temporary measure, I thought the total moratorium on consecrations that the bishops adopted last year made sense. But two years is a long time for dioceses to be without elected leadership. And pegging consecrations to the Lambeth Conference invests whatever statement Lambeth might make on the issue with more significance than it should have. Putting off the election of a PB would not only create a leadership vacuum, but it would, I think, demonstrate that our existing leadership lacks the conviction and the will even to attempt a solution to our current problems.

(Don't forget to click and read Darren's speech.)

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Bowie's pictures, Sean's podcast

Bowie Snodgraass, whom some of you know as a columnist for Washington Window is also web content editor for She's roaming all over the convention take photographs that you can find here.

Meanwhile, Sean McConnell has his first podcast from the Convention up at episcopod. It is a lot of fun, and well worth the time it takes for it to dowload.

The Archbishop of York makes his case


John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who seems like a smart and subtle fellow, is pressing our bishops to enact full moratoria on the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops and on the blessing of same-sex relationships. He is meeting with various bishops, in smallish groups, I think, to press his case.

Those of us who were in the second floor bar of the Hyatt last night along about midnight (that was ginger ale in my glass) saw him walk through in the company of Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, an interesting site because Bruno is built like a tight end, and Sentamu like a marathoner.

His argument, as I understand it, goes something like this:

(A caution here: I haven’t heard this directly from the Archbishop, and some of what people are portraying as his argument may be their own developments on his thinking).

If you don’t enact full moratoria, several things might happen, none of them good: either you will be marginalized within the Communion, or the Communion will have to cope with intra-provincial splinters as the Akinolians attempt to assemble an orthodox international fellowship.

On the other hand, if you vote for moratoria, you will be on the right side of Windsor whereas Akinola of Nigeria, Orombi of Uganda and Venables of the Southern Cone, among others who have crossed your provincial boundaries to lay claim to parishes or start churches, will be on the wrong side, and then they will be the ones subject to whatever discipline it is that the Communion can muster.

In addition, if we accept the moratoria, we buy ourselves time, the argument goes. Akinola won’t be a primate forever, and Orombi’s has a weak hold on his bishops’ loyalty (north-south tensions in Uganda). If the Communion outlives their tenures, perhaps the storm will pass.

Looking at this argument strictly in tactical rather than moral terms, I don’t find it persuasive.

While a moratorium on consecrating gay bishops is easily effected (in fact, I think the chances we will elect a gay bishop before Lambeth ’08 are already quite small), a moratoria on the blessing of same sex unions would present enormous problems. If you ban something, you have to police the ban. Most of our Church would have no stomach for this, and I think most of our bishops would hope never to learn about whatever blessings might occur. But you could count on watchdogs in each diocese to ferret out violations of the moratoria and demand that the priests, and perhaps the congregations involved be disciplined. (I know there are several people in our diocese who would relish this role.) If the bishops failed to punish the people involved, this failure would be used by groups like the American Anglican Council here in the US, Anglican Mainstream in the UK, and a number of foreign primates, as evidence that we were acting in bad faith. Hence, as a means of pacifying Anglican waters, and improving out standing in the Communion, it would gain us nothing.

If, on the other hand, the bishop disciplined the priest involved, and then the next priest involved, and the next priest involved, he or she might very well face a popular revolt. This moratorium would have an effect precisely opposite to the one its proponents suggest. It would not “create space” in which a conversation could occur.” It would not “buy time” for reconciliation. It would not “put this issue behind us” and allow us to focus on mission. Rather, it would convulse the Church

In return for taking an action that would alienate perhaps the majority of the people in our pews, we have the promise, if that is not too strong a word, that Communion pressure would be brought to bear on the primates who have claimed control of some of our churches. This would be easier to believe if Communion pressure had been brought to bear when the primates of Rwanda and South East Asia came to this country in 2000 to ordain bishops for the Anglican Mission in America. As nothing effective was done to then, three years before the consecration of Gene Robinson, it seems unlikely that the Communion can rouse itself to do much now.

UPDATE: Second thoughts on this paragraph I had written:

"Finally, while I am convinced that the Archbishop of York, and probably N. T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, are speaking for the Archbishop of Canterbury, I am not so sure that they are speaking, for the Communion. The chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, Bishop John Paterson is here, as is the Secretary General of the Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon. (I saw Paterson last night. And I think Kearon is still in town.) They have been conspicuously uninvolved in the effort to get us to go farther than the current crop of Windsor-related resolutions take us. I am not sure what to make of that, but it doesn’t strike me as though we are looking at a fully-coordinated effort to get us to abandon our gay brothers and sisters, and that gives me reason for hope."

However, while I was writing an interesting thing took place in the morning press briefing. After Bishop Ed Little of Northern Indiana said that the Arch of Y was here representing the Arch of C, Canon Jim Rosenthal, communications director for the Anglican Communion office rose, very politely and with apologies I am told, to say that in fact, while York had read Rowan's message to the Convention he was not here as Rowan's rep.

He said: "`The Archbishop of York is here on his own right, he is not here on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury."

He emphasized that York is a powerful primate on his own (indirectly delinking him with Canterbury) "I`if you live in England, you know the Archbishop of York is a very, very powerful seat."

This leads me to ask whether it is possible that thei bishops' believe they are under pressure from the entire Communion, when, in fact, they are under pressure from a handful of British bishops, and the usual suspects on the Anglican right.

Larry King alert

He's doing a show on our situation tonight at 9. An interview with the Presiding Bishop beings at 9:30. I have been aiming for a night away from the convention with a friend, so feel free to use this as an open thread for reactions to the show.

"The idol of clarity"

Susan Russell's blog is a must-read today. See particularly her posting on "the idol of clarity," and her link to the new Claiming the Blessing video.

My colleague at the Cathedral College, Wayne Floyd, is also blogging.

Windsor, the least

Not too long ago, the House of Deputies passed what is by far the least controversial of the Windsor-related resolutions. It is hiding below the keep reading button. I have left in the words that were struck out, and underlined the language that was added by amendment. Attempts to further amend the resolution to include the words “independent” and “autonomous” were defeated, probably (as Father Jake sagely observes) because Prof. Ian Douglass of Episcopal Divinity School, perhaps the leading liberal on the committee that proposed the resolution, spoke against them.

The House of Bishops has yet to consider this resolution.

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Jack Danforth meets the press

The Rev. John Danforth, formerly a U. S. Senator and U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations is the keynote speaker at tonight’s Presiding Bishop’s Forum on Reconciliation. He gave a small press conference this afternoon that drew reporters from the Associated Press, the Guardian, National Public Radio, Religion News Service, Religions and Ethics Newsweekly (PBS) and a few Church folks.

Here’s a sneak preview of some of the themes he will touch on tonight:

“I think our country and the world call out for reconciling. I think there is a calling to the Episcopal Church to be in a ministry of reconciliation, and the Episcopal Church, historically, is positioned to answer that call.”

He cited the Anglican heritage of the Via Media, a middle road between Catholic tradition and Protestant reform. In the last election, some Catholic bishops wanted to withhold Communion from pro-choice politicians. “That is the opposite of the way the Episcopal Church has approached political issues,” Danforth said.

He expressed his hope that the Church, for its own sake, and the sake of the world could put disagreements over same-sex relationships behind it. “The idea that a Church of less than 1 percent of the American population should be engaging itself in inside baseball is kind of ridiculous, really,” Danforth said.

The other 99 percent of the American population “doesn’t care who the bishop of X or Z isis,” or whether a rite for blessing same-sex relationships “is available in the Prayer Book or on the internet,” he added.

“I am not into the wording of any resolutions,” Danforth said. “My argument is ‘What comes first? You have to keep your eyes on the prize, and I would say the prize is answering Christ’s call to a ministry of reconciliation.”

Danforth has been speaking out recently on what he sees as the negative impact of the religious right in national politics. At the press conference he said Americans are asking themselves: "Why are religious people driving us apart? Why aren't they trying to bring us together?"

Rachel Zoll of the AP was at the press conference. Here is her story.

Conventioneers experience direct sunlight


I was on my way back from former Senator John Danforth's afternoon press conference, about which more in a minute or two, when I ran into these three Diocesan Council members looking suspiciously lighthearted, perhaps because they were not indoors breathing convention center air. Left to right, the Rev. Karla Woggon, rector of St. Andrew's, College Park, council moderator and convention deputy (one of our four alternate was taking her place on the floor); the Rev. Richard Downing, rector of St. James, Capitol Hill, and the Rev. Patricia Downing, alternate deputy and rector of Good Shepherd, Silver Spring.

The morning papers

The Associated Press has a solid report on last night's hearing.

The Houston Chronicle says Integrity, the gay and lesbian caucus in our Church feels confident that it has the votes in the House of Deputies to defeat calls for a moratorium on the consecration of partnered gay bishops. I think they are right, but the House of Bishops is another matter, and because a majority of diocesan bishops must consent to the election of any new bishop, the bishops can enact an undeclared moratorium unilaterally. Whether they would do so is an open question.

The Telegraph says three dioceses are proceeding with plans to break away from the Church. I would imagine that one of these is Pittsburgh, and I am curious whether the settlement in Calvary v. Duncan will complicate Bishop Duncan's plans. It seems that it would. At least that is my impression after reading this, this and this.

Matthew Davies' account of the meeting for Episcopal News Service is here.

And have a look at this blog posting from the Rev. Andrew Gerns of the Diocese of Bethlehem.

The big shebang

Would you be disapointed if I told you that no one committed news?

More than 1,500 people packed into a hotel ballroom, maybe another 120 out in the hall. All the big names stepping to the microphone to have their three-minutes' say. Tens of thousands of words spoken. Some of them eloquently, others not so much. One humorous moment--yup, just one--when, by the luck of the sign-up sheet, Bishop Dorsey Henderson of the committee called the name of Gene Robinson right after calling the name of Robert Duncan, and that juxtaposition drew a laugh from the crowd. ("I was reading the list," Bishop Henderson said.)

I don't think anyone said anything I hadn't heard before. And I am not sure that anyone said anything that will be remotely helpful to the committee. Its 19-members basically served as something for the speakers to look at. God bless them.

My hunch is that reporters who don't lead their stories with: "Division was on display as Episcopalians approached the final deadline for responding to etc...." will lead with Bishop Duncan's claim that reconciliation "at this point in our life is impossible." What he means by that, or whether he meant anything other than "I 'm the decider," is unclear, but you can build a nice doom and gloom lead out of it, and reporters seem wedded to the idea that if 12% of the Church of thereabouts were to take a hike, the remaining 88 percent, which includes most of our largest dioceses, would wither, while the remaining 12 percent would flourish.

I will pick through my notes and serve up some of the better quotes tomorrow. And I will have links to the press coverage. It seems utterly unlikely to me that any Windsor-related resolutions will be on the floor before Friday, and that's being optimistic.

N. T. Wright: another possibility

In the posting just below I suggested that the Rt. Rev. N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, noted Scripture scholar, etc. was either supremely egotistical or brutally calculating in sending a 4,400+ word critique of our two-month old Special Commission's report to our Convention just a few hours before the last public hearing on the resolutions contained in that report. I think perhaps I was being harsh.

It is also possible that he is criminally naive.

N. T. Wright: Le Communion c'est moi

Bishop N. T. Wright, noted Scripture scholar, Bishop of Durham and member of the commission that produced the Windsor Report has released a paper stating that the resolutions proposed by the Special Commission that I've been writing about are insufficient.
I am going to post the paper down beneath the keep reading button, but I'd like to say how deeply disappointed I am that the bishop, with whom I had a long and, for me, quite meaningful interview a few weeks ago, has chosen to insert himself in our Church's affairs at this delicate time and in this ham-fisted way.

Here we have a closely-argued 4,400+ word analysis of preliminary resolutions that were published more than two months ago that arrives at our convention just hours before the final public hearing of the legislative committee that will craft the resolutions that will eventually be sent to the floor. It is either wildly egotistical or exceedingly calculating to intervene in another Church’s life in this fashion. Either one supposes that the Convention can drop whatever else it is doing, make a close reading of arguments that for some reason could not be put before it earlier, and adopt one’s position without modification, or one realizes that this is outcome is unlikely and this effort insulting, and one doesn’t care.

That the report materialized at the afternoon meeting of the Windsor-related legislative committee in the hands of a board member of the American Anglican Council, suggests the latter interpretation. Bishop Wright can now rise back above the fray, while the Howard Ahmanson-funded interest groups within our Church claim that we were “warned” about whatever consequences the bishop and his allies intend to advocate.

While there is much that I object to in Bishop Wright’s paper, my principal concern is the bishop’s attempt to speak as though “the Communion c’est moi.”

He writes:

“I speak therefore, not as an Englishman telling my American cousins what to do (I am well aware of the dangers of that position!) but as a member of an international and multicultural team which produced a unanimous report for the benefit (we hope) of the whole Anglican Communion.”

While the bishop writes as a member of a team, he is not, in any respect, writing for that team. The notion that his interpretation of the Report is the interpretation of the Report is an attempt to speak for other panel members who have not awarded him their proxy. Nor does he speak for the provinces which have found fault with various parts of the Windsor Report. He writes as one individual drawing on his own experiences within the Communion. As do we all.

Despite my disappointment at Bishop Wright’s 11th hour descent upon our convention, I do recommend reading his entire paper. If you don’t you will miss this sentence: “In particular (references are to paragraphs of the Report), there is a strong note of sorrow for the way in which ECUSA has 'contributed to division in the Body of Christ' (7) and followed the pattern of America's imperial actions in the world.”

If I am not mistaken this equates the consecration of a duly elected bishop of our Church (an action which is “imperial” if that word now means neither requiring nor even suggesting that other Churches follow suit) with a preemptive war that has taken tens of thousands of lives and diverted billions of dollars from alleviating human misery.

This is not a compass we should consult for moral direction.

My one consolation is that the inelegant way in which Bishop Wright has entered the arena almost assures a reaction against his position. He did not intend to push our convention to the left, but through tactical ineptitude, that is likely what he has done. That, and making the task of the legislative committee striving to find a way forward for our Church and our Communion much more difficult than it was six hours ago.

Click below to read the paper

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Darren McCutchen wows'em


This is Darren McCutchen, and some day you are going to vote for hiim for something.

Darren, a former member of our Committee on Youth, made the diocese's case to include Thurgood Marshall's name in the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts this morning at the unholy hour of 7:30. (I've got a story on the outcome over on our main convention news page at

The committee recommended referring the Marshall resolution to another committee, a so-so outcome from our point of view. But committee members spoke of how moved they were by Darren's presentation. Darren, who worships at St. Timothy's, told them that were it not for Marshall's work in desegregating America's schools, the chances that he would be giving a speech anywhere to anyone would be "nil."

You must visit...

... Seriously, you must.

Sean McConnell, my counterpart from the Diocese of California, is kicking off a podcasting site, and the first cast, should be online within the next few hours. Sean is also laying out the convention newspaper, Convention Daily, so perhaps it will be more than a few hours, but I am sure it will be posted by noon tomorrow.

He did a joint interview with Sarah Dylan Breuer of and I in the exhibit hall this afternoon, and I will be interested to hear how much of it survives editing.

Sean and I are working together on another web-based project I hope to be ableto say more about after the convention.

Night came the second day

Our deputation meets in the room adjacent to deputation chair the Rev. Frank Wade’s hotel room. The room is always packed because everyone from the diocese who attends the convention is invited. Tonight, at one point, there were 28 people in the room and others standing in the hall. We are monitoring a number of committees. The biggest news I heard that I haven’t reported elsewhere on the blog concerned the disciplinary canons contained in the rewrite of Title IV. The committee hearing testimony on those canons closed its hearing after an hour, and went into executive session. I can’t imagine an 11th hour rewrite of such complex legislation can succeed. People won’t have time to examine it carefully, and they won’t believe that the committee could transform it overnight. So my bet is that it won’t make it to the floor.

After the meeting, I headed to the U2charist. It was packed. I’d estimate that there were at least 500 people in the Renaissance Hotel ballroom, and I counted more than 100 in the doorways and in the hall.

Mary Dail from Trinity Upper Marlboro, Iris Harris and Darren McCutchen from St. Timothy’s and the Revs. Randolph Charles (Epiphany, DC), Karla Woggon (St. Andrew’s) and Preston Hannibal, canon for academic ministries, were on hand Preston and Karla even found a seat. The rest of us milled about, or sat in the hallway.

Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina preached a rousing sermon, but I couldn’t really hear it, having surrendered my seat inside after I finished taking pictures. Look for them eventually over on

The U2charist, like the Overseas Bishops’ Dinner, is an event I am going to need a little bit of time to digest. I can say, though, that there was tremendous energy in the ballroom, and a healthy minority of the crowd was currently young, as opposed to the many U2 fans who are previously young.

The Millennium Development Goals are becoming a real focal point for our Church. I support them. But I am not sure we’ve done the hard work of rallying support among our rank and file. (Excuse the labor lingo, but I was born and raised in coal country.) We are on the verge of passing legislation here that will force dioceses to make some tough choices regarding our domestic mission at their next conventions. We will be asking them to devote $70,000 of every $1 million toward the MDGs. That money has to come from somewhere, and my hope is that we don’t take it from poor people in one place to give it to poor people in another.

Early evening skuttlebutt

A friend of mine is supporting Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori of Nevada for presiding bishop. Bishop Schori is generally believed to be an attractive candidate who has no chance of winning because she is a woman. My friend says, half-jokingly, that if everyone who says they plan to vote for her on the first ballot actually does vote for here, she may surprise people.

I meandered in and out of committee meetings and the exhibit hall for most of the afternoon. One person monitoring the Title IV legislation (disciplinary canons that, if passed, would apply to the laity for the first time) said the Canons committee is on the verge of deciding whether to try an extensive last minute edit/rewrite, or to scrap the whole thing. Most of the feedback at the hearings was negative.

The committee dealing with Windsor Report related resolutions apparently hasn’t moved into its new digs yet. I dropped by their hearing this afternoon and found the door jammed with people. Wiggled inside to find every chair occupied, and people lining the walls and sitting on the floor. I’d estimate there were 600 people there. Funny thing is, the committee was talking about a resolution involving letting people from other provinces sit in, but not vote, on our governing committees. This is a resolution that, were it not yoked to the Windsor Report resolutions, wouldn’t draw a crowd large enough to fill my bathroom. Meanwhile there was enough space in some of the other hearing rooms for an impromptu game of polo.

I met Kendall Harmon at the door of one of these empty-ish rooms. He and I have traded friendly emails and not-so-friendly opinions on the Windsor Report, but had never met. Kendall runs the best conservative Episcopal blog, Titus 1:9. I have been wanting to meet him for a long time.

I also ran into Ellen Washington of St. Philip’s Laurel, a South African partnership and Absalom Jones scholarship stalwart in our diocese, who is working as a volunteer; Rev. Randolph Charles, rector of Epiphany, D. C. and an alternate deputy, who said he’d been hearing great support for the Millennium Development Goals all day long; and Darren McCutcheon, alternate deputy from St. Timothy’s. Darren, a high school student, moves into the spotlight tomorrow morning about 7:30 when he will be one of the lead speakers in our diocese’s efforts to have Thurgood Marshall’s name added to the book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Say a prayer for him. And say a prayer that I get a decent picture of him.

By the way, if you skip over to the Convention news page on you will find a few of the pictures I’ve been able to transmit so far.

I am off to our deputation’s nightly meeting, and then on to U2-chairst.

Canterbury via York

This just in:

Text of a greeting from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, given to the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America meeting in Colombus Ohio. The message was read by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

"Greetings to you all in Christ's name as you meet to pray and deliberate about the life and witness of your church and the demands of God's Kingdom. May God grant you discernment as you meet and listen to each other in patience and love.

As all those involved will be acutely aware, this General Convention takes place in a climate of intense and perhaps rather oppressive attention worldwide. At the meeting last week of the Bishops of the Church of England, we recognised the pressure under which you meet, and committed ourselves to praying more deeply and more constantly for all
of you during these days. Please be assured of our loving concern for the Episcopal Church and our hopes that we in the Anglican Communion may learn again to walk with each other more trustfully.

The recommendations of the Windsor Report will be much in your minds and your deliberations, and I appreciate the work your Commissions and Committees have done in responding to the Windsor Process. I hope that the theological vision there set out in the Report of the ground and character of our communion in Christ will be clearly before you. We cannot survive as a Communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ; Windsor is not the end of the story, but it sets out a positive picture of what that might imply as together we strive to serve the mission of God.

We thank God for all that the Episcopal Church has contributed over the years to our fellowship and commend you to the One "who is able to establish you according to...the proclamation of Jesus Christ” (Rom.16.25).

Grace be with you all.


The Passion of the Cucumber Sandwich

I passed on some bad information in a now-corrected posting below. The House of Deputies doesn't meet in the worship space. It meets in the exhibit fall next door, the floor of which now looks a bit like an old time political convention, with all of the deputies sitting in rows puncuated by signs bearing the name of their diocese.

My friend Charley, a deputy from the convocation in Europe, tells me that at this morning's session, in an exercise conducted to help deputies learn to use a touchpad voting system, deputies voted down a resolution to make the cucumber sandwich the official food of the Episcopal Church. Charley thought this did not bode well for the convention because it seemed to him to indicate that deputies lakced a sense of humor.

The Rev. Frank Wade, retired rector of St. Alban's is co-chair of the committee handling Windsor-Report related resolutions, announced at the end of the morning session that due to the great interest in these resolutions, the committee will now be meeting in a ballroom that can seat 1,500. They are holding hearings today at 2 and tonight at 7, but the hearing on the two key issues--twin moratoria on the consecration of gay bishops and the authorization of public rites for blessing same-sex relationships--won't be discussed until tomorrow night.

Insights from the Rev. Mark Harris

Mark, a deputy from Delaware, is doing the best blogging from convention that I have read so far. Visit him here.

Belated first impressions

Although this is my fourth of fifth posting from General Convention, I am just getting around to setting down a few first impressions. I spent so much of yesterday getting here, setting up equipment and racing to “must cover” events that I didn’t get a chance to reflect at all on what I was seeing.

The first thing that struck me about the Convention was its vastness. It kind of reminds me of the Olympics, with life concentrated in a “village”—in this case, a village of high rise concrete and sloping glass-enclosed skywalks—and many events occurring in multiple “venues,” as they say in Olympic-speak, simultaneously.

The main hall, where where we worship is a dark modernist furrow at least 80 yards long by about 50 yards wide (I am guessing) and only about half occupied by the 200 (or so) 10-seat, round tables that have been set up to accommodate deputies, bishops, guests and the media. It’s got a “show the infrastructure” type of ceiling with the heating ducts and electrical working visible, and this adds to the feeling that one is underground. The main stage juts up from amongst the tables about three-quarters of the way down the lefthand wall as one enters. Media and guests sit at the tables closest to the door. From that distance, it is impossible to verify if the person at the podium is indeed who they say they are. I’ve been closer to Bruce Springsteen at the Meadowlands and Carrier Dome than I was to Bishop Griswold yesterday during his opening remarks.

The ceiling above the main stage is hung with banners bearing lilies of the valley. They’d look lovely someplace else, I think, but here the industrial quality of the surroundings overwhelms them.

The exhibit hall, a short walk down the main corridor of the convention center, is even larger than the meeting area, but brighter, and broken up into neighborhoods. What Diagon Alley is for wizards (That’s a Harry Potter reference for you muggles.) the exhibit hall is for Episcopalians. You can buy vestments, books, tapes, software and art. You can learn about our seminaries, publications and interest groups. You can also buy fudge—alas, it is Amish Fudge, not Anglican Fudge, so the sight gag potential is zero.

The National Cathedral’s exhibit may be the best looking one in the hall. Lots of colorful Donovan Marks photographs, great items from the museum shop and the friendly faces of his eminence Greg Rixon, my Cathedral counterpart, and Canon Michael Wyatt and Wayne Floyd of the Cathedral College. The Cathedral’s exhibit sits beside the exhibit for the American Anglican Council, an arrangement that I believe neither group finds ideas.

Roaming about yesterday, I ran into Father Richard Downing of St. James, Capitol Hill, who is here with is wife the Rev. Patricia Downing of Good Shepherd, who is an alternate deputy; the Rev. Elizabeth McWhorter of St. Patrick’s, an alternate deputy who was wearing her volunteer apron and giving directions to lost souls; Bishop Jane Dixon, who I learned to my delight is a fan of this blog; Canon Carol Cole Flanagan, who understands how the Convention works better than anyone on our diocesan staff; my friend Tim Boggs, of St. Alban’s, who is now at General Seminary and has some kind of staff-type job to do up on the main platform when the deputies are in session, and the staff of our Office of Government Affairs, Maureen Shea of St. Mark’s Capitol Hill, John Johnson of St. Thomas, Dupont Circle, Alex Baumgarten and Molly Keane.

Just to finish the Washington round-up, at the Overseas Bishops Dinner, I chatted with Rose Longmire of Holy Trinity, Bowie, president of our chapter of Episcopal Church Women. She had just gotten in to town, and had barely had time to dress for he dinner, but she said friends had told her that if she was only going to make one dinner other than the ECW’s own event, which I think is tonight, this was the one.

Maureen and I sat with Bishop Chane and Karen Chane at the dinner. We were joined by Canon Habacuc Ramos-Huerta, provincial secretary of the Church of Mexico, an old friend of the Chanes’. He met them first when the bishop was a rector in the Diocese of Massachusetts, but really got to know them when he was in Baja California and they were in San Diego.

I keep promising to write more about the international bishops and the dinner, and I will eventually. It’s not that it was a stunning event, but it was food for thought, and I haven’t digested it all yet.

It is 10:30 here, and even though today looks like a pretty slow day newswise, I’d still like to get down to the Convention Center and see what is going on. More later, either before or after the U2-charist tonight.

Bishp Sisk speaks up

Gannett News Service has a story on Bishop Mark Sisk of New York and his view on the issues before us. If there is to be an onslaught of press coverage at this Convention as there was in 2003, it probably won't materialize until Friday.

Overseas Bishops' Dinner

The Church Periodical Club sponsored its triennial dinner for bishops from other countries. I will write more about it tomorrow, but just wanted to mention that there were bishops from the Middle East, Tanzania, Uganda, Central Africa, Brazil and Mexico, as well as bishops from the many countries that you might not think of when you see the abbreviaiton ECUSA, including Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama. Neither the notion that the Episcopal Church is isolated within the Anglican Communion, or that left to itself would be nothing more than a "northern sect" survive an evening like this one.

Opening remarks

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, and the Very Rev. George Werner, President of the House of Deputies made their opening remarks to the Convention this afternoon. Neither committed news.

Bishop Griswold said that the “inner dispositions” of those at the meeting would determine the nature of the Convention. Anxiety, he said, would produce disorder, whereas, well, you can fill in the rest. This is an appealing sentiment, but it doesn’t gibe with my experience. An irenic disposition is frequently maintained by avoiding unpleasant realities. And anyone’s who has ever been in school play or worked on a newspaper knows that a chaotic process sometimes culminates in a terrific performance.

Tonight I am attending the Church Periodical Club Overseas Bishops Dinner. I am taking my camera. But given my photographic and technical skills, that is no guarantee you will see pictures.

Budget blogging

It's about 4:30 as I begin to write, and I think I can safely say that not a whole lot has happened today. There was an open hearing on budget priorities which took place before I arrived. Melodie Woerman, my counterpart from the Diocese of Kansas said that many of the speakers spoke on behalf of a proposal to devote 0.7% of the Church’s budget to the Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs have strong backing from Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, which is sponsoring a U2charist tomorrow night that I plan to attend. It seems likely to me that the spending on the MDGs will pass. What remains to be seen is whether there will be much opposition to the request from the Anglican Consultative Council for an additional $550K contribution from the Episcopal Church over the next three years.

As part of the compromising that has kept the Anglican Communion together to date, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada accepted an invitation from the Primates of the Communion not to send voting representatives to the Council’s meeting last summer in Nottingham, England. It strikes at least some deputies as rather nervy to ask us to shoulder more of the expenses of a Communion that seems eager to marginalize us. (No taxation without representation, etc.) But others point out that our voting representatives will once again be seated at the ACC’s next meeting in two years’ time, and that increasing our contribution will be viewed by at least some of the primates as a gesture of good will and good faith.

I think it will be difficult to amend the budget, but I’ll be interested to see whether those who oppose increasing the allotment to the ACC will be able to muster additional support from advocates for Appalachian Ministries and Historically Black Colleges, the group’s widely seen as taking the budgetary hit to find this extra money for the ACC.

Hello Columbus

Got here okay. Had a nice chat at the airport with a bishop from one of the provinces that has been most vociferous in its opposition to our policies on same-sex relationships. More about that later. Running off to cover the opening remakrs by Bishop Griswold and Dean Werner.

Before departing

I leave for General Convention on Monday, and plan to spend the weekend doing laundry, packing and watching my older son's baseball game. While I think the convention will be invigorating I am dreading being away from home for 10 nights. When I covered the NHL and Major League Baseball, I was on the road all of the time, but I never really mastered the art of traveling well. One consolation is the opportunity to spend some time with my friend and former Post colleague Charles Trueheart, who is a deputy from the convocation in Europe.

Yesterday I was drawn into a few conversations about the Presiding Bishop's race. I thought I would share a little bit of those here with the understanding that these don't even rise to the level of rumor, more like water cooler conversation.

There is no real front runner, but, as gossip abhors a vacuum, Bishop Alexander of Atlanta has been dubbed the sort-of, kind-of front runner.

Many people think very highly of Bishop Schori, and she apparently did quite well during the candidates' presentations at the House of Bishops meeting at Kanuga. Electing her would be a bold move. The House of Bishops is not a bold group.

Bishop Sauls has more support than people kibbitzing about the race seem to realize. But he and Bishop Schori may very well draw votes from one another, especially in the first round.

I can't imagine that we are going to elect a presiding bishop who voted with the minority on the defining issue of the day, so I don't think Bishops Jenkins or Parsley--both of whom voted not to confirm Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire--will win. But it has been pointed out to me that to unify the church after the Civil War, the bishops elected a pro-slavery Northerner. So...

I do think that these two, like Sauls and Schori, are likely to draw from the same base of support. If the presiding bishop were elected by the entire convention, I think Bishop Jenkins would have a better chance than Bishop Parsley . He has spoken very movingly about the ways Katrina changed him. But I think Bishop Parsley is regarded as the more skillful inside player, so perhaps he will be the one around whom moderate conservatives rally. On the other hand, Bishop Gulick, who voted for Gene Robinson, but whom I think is viewed as less liberal than Alexander, Sauls and Schori, could be the centrist choice.

Another factor: the bishops all know one another personally. So affection, disdain, etc., may play a more important role in the voting than ideology, administrative experience, etc. While we are discussing how Bishop A might handle situation B, the bishops are also asking themselves whether candidate C "want it too much," and whether candidate D is too interested in getting out of his/her diocese.

I haven't said anything about Bishop Duque-Gomez of Columbia because his is a curious candidacy. He does not speak much English. This would seem to present certain problems in a Church whose members, unfortunately, speak little else. He wasn't nominated by a bishop form his own province, Province 9, which includes Honduras and Haiti, among others, so it isn't as though he is viewed as their representative to our predominantly northern church.

In my more cynical moments, I wonder whether he will draw support from Bishop Duncan and the Network. Backing Bishop Duque would allow them to say a) we participated in the election, thus proving we aren't separatists and b) we backed a minority candidate from the Global South, while you supposed liberals all voted for a English-speaking Anglo. We are the tribunals of the new Communion.

And as Bishop Duque is in no danger of actually winning the election, they could collect all of these public-relations-type benefits at no cost.

I hope my cynicism is unfounded.

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