There's been a great deal of reporting about the passage of two key resolutions by General Convention last week. One of the major surprises of Convention was the level of strong support that the House of Bishops gave to both the resolutions. That support came as a surprise to many.
Bishop Gene Robinson describes some of what transpired behind the scenes the night before the second of the two resolutions was adopted:
[...]I signed up to be a part of the small working group [dealing with the second resolution]. (Presiding Bishop Katharine had invited any who wanted to be a part of the group to volunteer). What followed was perhaps the most significant "moment" of the Convention for me.
We met late into the night on Wednesday night. Some 25 bishops representing the entire spectrum of opinion, from the most conservative to the most liberal. On Wednesday night, using the style of the African Indaba process from the Lambeth Conference, we each simply spoke about where we were on this issue. NEVER in my six years as a bishop have I experienced the holy speaking and holy listening I experienced that night. Each bishop in turn spoke their truth -- the pain and difficulty they've experienced in their dioceses as a result of the controversy, the personal burdens they've shouldered, the pain of gay and lesbian people in their dioceses who are not sure whether they are valued as full members of this church and their pastoral needs as children of God. Each spoke of what they needed to go home with. Each was honest and vulnerable about what they could give up for the good of the whole. It is hard to describe the vulnerability and honesty with which each bishop contributed.
We took all this to our prayers and to bed, and returned at 7:00 the next morning to decide what all this meant for the resolution before us. The vulnerability and honesty continued in this working session. What resulted was a resolution to bring back to the House that represented that group's "best way forward," although there was no attempt to lock anyone into voting for it or to commit to every word.
At our afternoon session, the resolution was presented, along with a brief account of our precious time together. Then we talked about the resolution at our tables of eight, for close to half an hour. Then the debate began. There were a few amendments offered -- some passed, some failed. But the resolution we had crafted remained reasonably intact.
Just as we were nearly ready to vote, a bishop rose and proposed "discharging" the resolution (in effect, NOT voting on it and making it "go away"). This move to not deal with the issue failed by a substantial (3 to 1) margin. It seemed clear that the Bishops knew that we could not duck out of this one. A roll call was requested, so no bishop could hide behind a voice vote. The time had come to declare ourselves. When the resolution came to a vote, it passed by a whopping 3.5 to 1 margin. Interestingly, some of the bishops who had voted to make the whole issue go away, when finally having to vote, voted "yes!" There were some bishops who voted "yes" who had NEVER voted "yes" on any gay-affirmative resolution before. This vote was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone seemed stunned.
As is our practice at the end of each session, the Presiding Bishop asked the chaplains to lead us in prayer, which they did. But what happened next was a total surprise. As the chaplain spoke the final AMEN, no one moved a muscle. Normally, we would have immediately gotten up and exited the hall. But this time, there was no movement at all. The bishops sat perfectly still, and totally silent for some 10 minutes, continuing to pray. My prayers were filled with love and concern for those who had courageously voted "yes" and would face much criticism for having done so. I prayed for those conservatives who had voted "no" and whose dioceses would demand to know why they had not been able to stop this move. And I prayed for those lgbt people who now had a new, bold affirmation that indeed they ARE full and equal members of this Church, good news for the marginalized. It was a stunning moment, and for me, a moment to experience/feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe others felt it too.
Read Bishop Robinson's full post here.