General Convention 2009: arrival

I am in Anaheim, thanks to Alaska Airlines and the Super Shuttle from LAX. There are Episcopal Church signs on the Anaheim Convention Center, but at the moment, my hotel, the Hilton, is home to a convention of barbershop quartets. You walk out of the elevator and into a scene from The Music Man.

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General Convention Live: Getting rolling

The convention came to life today. The hotel lobbies on Convention Way were full of Episcopalians, milling about, greeting old friends, peering at message boards to find out where their committees were meeting and gradually adjusting to the notion that it was time to get down to business.

If there is a share vibe that informs these early stages of the convention, I haven’t picked up on it. The political landscape of the convention has changed with the departure of many of the members and clergy from the Church’s four most conservative dioceses. There is no absence of conservative voices in the Church—I helped prepare some of them to be media briefers yesterday.—but it isn’t clear if there is a organized right wing with a coherent political strategy, while there is most certainly an organized left, and center-left. Whether that gives the left an advantage remains to be seen. If you bring too many resources to bear against an opponent who has surrendered the field, you run the risk of appearing overly zealous, and alienating voters in the process.

Additionally, we are expecting only a smattering of mainstream media—most of it local—until next Tuesday, and not a grand contingent then. So the sense of playing on a big stage has been diminished.

In this environment, it’s possible—just possible—that the group that pursues its agenda with the greatest respect for its legislative opponents will carry the day.

The vibe-less-ness of the convention derives in some measure from the legislative uncertainty that surrounds the traditional hot button issue of human sexuality. There are no fewer than 16 resolutions aimed at repealing, superseding or in some way mitigating the effects of Resolution B033. There is another cluster of resolutions that deal in one way or another with same-sex couples (Should they be blessed? Should they be married? Should they be blessed while we figure out whether they should be married? Should the law of a state be considered when determining the policies of a diocese?). I don’t think anyone can predict at this point the nature of the legislation that will finally come before the House of Bishop and the House of Deputies. As a result, it is difficult to determine—beyond the usual suspects—how people will vote. (I mean no disrespect by the phrase “usual suspects.” Some of my best friends are usual suspects.)

I wonder whether this uncertainty will help raise the profile of other events and issues, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s appearance at an economic forum tomorrow night, the efforts to institute a denominational health plan, revise the disciplinary canons, energize a new initiative to fight domestic poverty and otherwise communicate the fact that the Church is about more than an argument over sexuality.

Episcopal Church's new media hub goes live

From the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs:

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General Convention 2009: some committee meetings of note

The calendar is taking shape. The Social and Urban Affairs Committee will have an open hearing on Resolution B012 on Wednesday, 2 to 4 p. m. That resolution requests permission for the bishops in states that permit same-sex marraige to adapt Prayer Books rites for use with same sex couples.

On Thursday, 2 p. m. to 4 p. m., the Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee will hold an open hearing on a cluster of resolutions dealing with same sex blessings and same sex marriage.

Not long after that meeting adjourns the House of Deputies will convene, and likely approve a motion to go into a committee of the whole to consider a response to Resolution B033, the so-called "manner of life resolution." Later that evening, the World Mission Committee will hold an open hearing on the 16 or more resolutions that deal with B033.

The following morning the House will likely go back into session as a committee of the whole to offer the World Mission Commitee some final guidance.

Oh yeah, and in the middle of all of that, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will speak at a forum on the global economic crisis and offer a Bible study during Thursday morning's Eucharist.

So, unlike some previous conventions, this one is off to a quick start.

A vaccination

Archbishop Daniel Deng of Sudan made headlines during the 2008 Lambeth Conference for telling media that he thought openly gay bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire should resign. But now he is coming to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. How to make sure there isn't a repeat performance? Have a look at this story from Matt Davies of Episcopal News Service:

Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) has written to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and all the bishops, priests, deacons and laity of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church underscoring the importance of partnership between the two churches and offering an update about the urgent situation in Sudan.

In his June 30 letter, Deng expressed his gratitude for the invitation to attend the July 8-17 General Convention in Anaheim, California. Deng is one of more than 70 international and ecumenical guests expected to share in the Episcopal Church's triennial policy-making gathering.

The presiding officers' opening addresses

Read what Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President Bonnie Anderson had to say at the opening session of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal News Service stories on their remarks are here (Anderson) and here (Jefferts Schori.).

What the Archbishop of Canterbury will be up to in Anaheim

Matthew Davies of Episcopal News Service has some details on the schedule of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams as he attends the General Convention of the Episcopal Church for the first time. Meanwhile, 15 other primates and various international visitors are already on hand.

USA Today's curtain raiser

We aren't expecting many mainstream media folks until next week, with the exception of The Los Angeles Times, for whom, in some ways, this is a local story. But Cathy Lee Grossman of USA Today did file this curtain raiser. (Now if only her copy desk was aware that Episcopal is an adjective and Episcopalian is the noun. Or perhaps they do know and just couldn't come up with anything else that fit the space available.)

The convention begins with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, leading a forum on poverty, and "we want to add new initiatives on domestic poverty," Rudig says. "Yes, human sexuality is certainly going to be part of our conversation. But it's just that — a part."

With a legislature second in size only to India's, she says, "we'll also talk about polity, about how we govern ourselves. … We're messy and noisy and transparent, and out of it comes the remarkable work we do."

Some conservatives who stayed with the Episcopal Church even though they disagreed on gay bishops and blessing same-sex marriage are concerned that sexuality issues interfere with the church's missions and development in Third World countries. Since 2003, some African and South American Anglican archbishops have refused to take communion with Episcopal Church leaders or partner with the church on projects.

Eyes on the floor: reflections from General Convention

By Richard Helmer

Tuesday: Getting Underway

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The Presiding Bishop's sermon from the opening Eucharist

From Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's 's sermon at the opening Eucharist of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church:

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Making connections at General Convention

By Brenda Hamilton

Connectivity. These days that word usually brings technology to mind. As we get started here in Anaheim, I've been practicing connectivity today. This morning as I drank my coffee in my hotel room I fiddled with my laptop until I made sure my email was working. Connected, I sent messages to those at home and to family here in California to let them know of my safe arrival. Next I connected to the internet, logging onto the General Convention website and Episcopal News Service to make sure I would be able to review all the latest legislative developments and follow all that goes on at once here. Feeling a little overwhelmed by the rush of activity and the volume of information that gets thrown at deputies as soon as they arrive I decided to take a break from technology and walked out into a perfect warm California day... the kind I remember from growing up not far from here... re-connecting with my own history.

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Anderson and advisors meet with Archbishop Williams

Updated with Mary Frances Schjonberg's well-reported ENS story that includes comments from people who were in other meetings with the archbishop.

By Jim Naughton

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, and four members of her council of advice met for half an hour today with the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The topic was the distinctive governance system of the Episcopal Church, and the friction that system sometimes creates for Williams and others in the Anglican Communion.

Anderson said she and her council expressed to Williams their concern that communications and requests to the Episcopal Church are typically addressed only to the Church’s House of Bishops, which does not have authority, on its own, to respond to them.

“We are a church of more than one order of voices,” Anderson said to several reporters after the meeting.

Sally Johnson, Anderson’s chancellor and a deputy from the Diocese of Minnesota, said that the group told Williams it hoped that requests to the Episcopal Church be addressed to the Episcopal Church, rather than to the House of Bishops. “Allow The Episcopal Church to decide for it who decides,” she said.

“No one can respond and bind the Episcopal Church except the General Convention,” Johnson added. “These may seem like fine distinctions to other people, but to us they are foundational.“

The Rev. Jim Simons, chair of the Dispatch of Business Committee, and a deputy from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said Williams expressed his concern that the Episcopal Church’s governing system took too long to reach conclusions. “It is difficult to hold some decisions for three years,” said Simons, adding that the group discussed “possible alternatives,” although only in an informal way.

Williams told the group that Episcopalians had to be aware that in some parts of the Communion, “bishops only want to hear from other bishops,” Johnson said.

“We believe God guides us using all four rudders,” said the Rev. Frank Wade, chaplain to the House of Deputies and a deputy from the Diocese of Washington. “Bishops, priests, deacons and laity. Other provinces may use one.

“We are a problem for other people that we move more slowly,” he said, adding that Episcopalians believe this allows them to consult more broadly and make better decisions.

Byron Rushing, a deputy from the Diocese of Massachusetts said there was no question that Williams understands the polity of the Episcopal Church, but that he clearly has reservations about it.

"Our great deep hope” is that all orders in the Episcopal Church will be addressed in future communications with the Anglican Communion," Anderson said. “My evil twin thinks that maybe [they think] that if we are ignored enough we will just go away...or won't be legitimized."

The bishops of the Episcopal Church are under “significant pressure” from some parts of the Anglican Communion to claim authority that the Church’s constitution does not give them, she said.

During the meeting, Williams also spoke briefly with Simons of Pittsburgh and Cindy Smith, a lay woman from the Diocese of San Joaquin, about the experience of Episcopalians in diocese from which a majority of the members and clergy had left the Church to join more theologically conservative provinces in the Anglican Communion.

“We wanted him to understand what‘s going on and the toll that it has taken,” Simons said. The conversation, which touched on rebuilding efforts, was “encouraging,” according to Simons.

Chicago Consultation reception draws quite a crowd

Episcopal News Service carries this story about the Chicago Consultation and its new study guide on same-sex relationships.

The guide was unveiled at a reception at the Hilton last night, and the most striking thing about the evening to me was how many primates came and stayed, including our own Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

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Hearing no objections

By Rebecca Wilson

A hearing yesterday afternoon was the first open forum of the 76th General Convention to examine an issue that dominated the 75th Convention—the church’s inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

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My conversation with the archbishop

IntegrityTV has an interview with Deputy Michael Spencer, one of eight LGBT deputies who met yesterday with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

General Convention 2009: Title IV 101

By Richard Helmer

You can read elsewhere about Wednesday’s hot debates at General Convention, the panel presentation including the Archbishop of Canterbury, and highlights from the day’s sermons and proceedings. As Convention got into high gear on its first full day, I began my work as self-declared Title IV wonk.

Here’s my primer for all you Title IV neophytes out there:

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Video: Anderson and advisors meet the media

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies and members of her council of advice met with several reporters yesterday after their meeting with the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The panel from left to right is Byron Rushing, Diocese of Massachusetts; President Anderson; Sally Johnson, Diocese of Minnesota; the Rev. Jim Simons, Diocese of Pittsburgh; the Rev. Frank Wade, Diocese of Washington.

Hat tip: Gail Fendley

Eyes on the floor: Process and story

By Richard Helmer

Contrast: Process and Story
It’s the third day of General Convention, and I’m beginning to see the fatigue in people’s eyes as the legislation process starts to become all-consuming. I am certainly feeling it, along with everyone who rolled out of bed early enough this morning to be in legislative committees by 7:00. If you read my hastily written, voluminous post on Title IV, you’ll probably guess correctly that I was up and at ‘em first thing, listening in with a handful of other guests on the deliberations of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons.

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Some solid links from General Convention

Bishop Gene Robinson has revived his blog Canterbury Tales from the Fringe. Today he wrote:

We also had a disturbing private (no one in the gallery) conversation in the House of Bishops that led me to feel discouraged about what lies ahead. That conversation is private, so I can't detail it, but there seems to be a kind of belligerent attitude toward the House of Deputies by some of our bishops. Their vision of the episcopate is way too "high and mighty" for my taste, or my theology, and I am not happy about it. The last thing we bishops need is a larger measure of arrogance. Didn't Jesus save his most serious criticism for the religious powers-that-be of his day who lorded their power and position over others?

I can't say for sure, but the bishop may be referring to the fact that what struck me as a politically astute suggestion for the bishops to observe the Friday morning session of the House of Deputies--in which the deputies will be discussing resolution B033 from the 2006 General Convention--was voted down. I think this move would have indicated a gracious spirit on the part of the House of Bishops, and made it less likely that friction would develop between the two houses.

Dean Sam Candler, chair of the House of Deputies Prayer Book Committee, and dean of St. Philip's Cathedral in Atlanta writes:

My prayer is about peace against anxiety. I pray that all this concentrated anxiety will not produce chaos and ill will and frustration. My prayer is about the order that might very well be established if General Convention finds a way to honor and bless same-sex relationships. I am glad that those resolutions devoted to such blessings will be considered in their customary ways by the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music committee. That would make available an ordered way of life that will make a great and graceful witness to the Anglican Communion and to the world.

And Cafe favorite Heidi Shott of the Diocese of Maine has created a new blog: Six word sermon:

This morning I was attempting to give a brief rendering of the day’s sermon by the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, on Day One of the Church’s General Convention in Anaheim, California. Because I’m hosting the Daily Wrap, a short – really short, two minute – video news show, I needed to capture the essence of the sermon in a limited number of words. So I thought, “How about six?”

Six Word Sermon was born. Like an hour ago.

For each day of General Convention, I will condense the sermon from the Daily Eucharist at General Convention into six words and reveal them on the Daily Wrap. (It should be up at the Media Hub by about 8 p.m. Pacific Time.)

Eyes on the floor: B033 and Elephants

By Richard Helmer

As the retrospective on the origins of B033, passed by the 75th General Convention in 2006, was delivered to the House of Deputies this evening by the Committee on World Mission, it struck me again just how much the Windsor Report has become the elephant in the living room of The Episcopal Church, if not the whole Anglican Communion.

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Live blogging the B033 open hearing

By Jim Naughton

It is only the second legislative day of the General Convention, but these first two days have been jammed with activity and I am already feeling kind of punchy. This has something to do with attending the platform breakfast that President Bonnie Anderson hosts each morning at 6:15 a. m. for her top aides, and a couple of press assistants.

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Video: Anderson and advisors parts 2 and 3

If you viewed this item, get the rest of the story.

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The Rev. Sue Carter of the Diocese of Michigan is blogging about the General Convention for Ruth Gledhill and the Times of London.

And Gail Fendley of PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly continues to post video she has taken with her flip camera on the show's You Tube channel.

Prayerbook Committee hears testimony on marriage equality

By Rebecca Wilson

Thomas Cranmer, Shakespeare and Lord Chesterfield all made appearances in testimony at yesterday afternoon’s open hearing on same-sex blessings. Held by the Prayerbook, Liturgy and Music Committee, to which the bulk of these resolutions are assigned, the hearing lasted two hours and drew well over a hundred people.

The resolutions were divided into two categories: those that concern canonical changes and those that call for rites to be developed or amended. Most people who spoke were in favor of same-sex blessings and/or marriage equality, but not all.

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Another buffet of General Convention links

Bishop Gene Robinson continues to express concern about the possibility that the House of Bishops may be unwilling to work with the House of Deputies:

I fear (and I hope I'm not being overly dramatic here) that we are moving toward a train wreck between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. I sense an unwillingness among the bishops to listen to these voices of the laity and clergy. I hope I'm terribly wrong, but it seems that bishops feel they have some special access to God's will and nothing will persuade them otherwise. I shudder to think of a church where the Bishops are so disconnected from the will of the people they serve. Please God, let me be terribly wrong about this perception, and may the scales fall from my pessimistic eyes and reveal an episcopate who has listened to the Spirit's movement in the people of this Church. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong about this. Only time will tell.

The folks at Walking with Integrity remind us that William Stringfellow, whom the Archbishop of Canterbury praised as perhaps the greatest American theologian of the 20th century, was gay.

We are slow off the mark on the manufactured controversy about the Presiding Bishop's opening sermon in which she said described "the great Western heresy":

that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of beingy of us can be saved individually.

USA Today is on the case, as is Religion Dispatches.

Episcopal News Service has a number of good stories today, including a couple to which we have paid little attention. This one examines the budget-making process, and this one looks at the future of church communications.

Live blogging: House of Deputies discusses way forward on B033

By Jim Naughton

The House of Deputies goes back into a Committee of the Whole this morning at 10 a. m. Pacific time to hear comments from as many as 30 deputies on the question of how the Church should respond to Resolution B033 from General Convention 2006, which urged those who must consent to the election of a bishop not to do so if his or her "manner of life" might increase division in the Communion.

The legislative committee that will actually write whatever resolutions come to the floor on this issue held an open hearing last night, which I blogged about here. This morning, the entire house will listen to a number of speakers (selected by lot and allocated two minutes a piece) whom I think we can assume will have strong opinions on whether to reaffirm B033, or move beyond it.

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Eyes on the Floor: B033 – A Festering Wound

By Richard Helmer

The conversation in the House of Deputies this morning on 2006 B033 brought to the fore how deeply this resolution wounded the House of Deputies and The Episcopal Church as a whole.
Calls from those addressing the House in conversation this morning included one for us as a body to be somehow dispassionate; to engage in emotional detachment as we consider the aftermath of B033. But I think that was to ask us to ignore what B033 had really wrought by way of abusing credibility and tender hearts. B033 had not only cut the House to the heart, it had severed the House’s heart from its head, even within individual deputies, a number of whom spoke close to the edge of tears about their profound regrets for voting in favor in 2006. This kind of division – head from heart – is not mere disagreement or argumentation on issues or the finer procedural points of resolutions, but seems to me much deeper. . .and in some ways quite profoundly diabolical. It flies in the face of a Gospel that calls us towards wholeness.

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General Convention: culture clash

Over the last 24 hours, the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church has conducted a well-designed, extremely respectful and entirely public reconsideration of a controversial piece of legislation: B033. At this hour, the House of Bishops decided to go into executive session tomorrow to discuss the same issue in private. (Corrected from earlier.)

When that discussion concludes, the bishops may move on to consideration of B012, the resolution that permits bishops in states with marriage equality to adapt rites in the Book of Common Prayer for use with gay couples.

The disciplinary canon revisions move forward

Eyes on the Floor: Title IV Moved and Moving

By Richard Helmer

This morning, my journey tracking revisions of the disciplinary canons, Title IV, through the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons came to an end – but one that turned out to be quite moving.

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The Integrity Eucharist

Lynette Wilson reports on the Integrity Eucharist, which drew some 1,600 worshippers to the Pacific Ballroom of the Hilton Anaheim last night:

"What right does anyone have to draw lines beyond to whom God's grace, care and favor extend? asked Bishop Barbara Harris in her July 10 sermon celebrating God's grace on all the baptized, including the Episcopal Church's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered members.

Harris, retired suffragan of Massachusetts and the first female bishop ordained in the Anglican Communion, preached to more than 1,200 people gathered for a Eucharist service hosted by Integrity USA, a support group for gay and lesbian Episcopalians. New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who lives in a long-term relationship with a male partner, celebrated.

Take a moment of enjoy Tracy J. Sukraw's headline before reading her report, which focus on Bishop Harris' passionate sermon which included:

“If we can develop rites and blessings for fishing fleets and fisherfolk, and for hunts, hounds, horses and houses, including the room where the indoor plumbing is found, we should be able to allow clergy in the exercise of their pastoral ministry to adapt and to appropriate the pastoral office of the blessing of a civil marriage for use with all couples who seek the church’s support and God’s blessing in their marriages. Yes we can,” she said.

More GC links worth a look

Cafe stalwart Marshall Scott gives his impressions on the conversation yesterday morning on B033 in the House of Deputies:

So, what strikes me is the continuing passion, the audible pain and anxiety that were quite clear. Many speak of sacrifice – of the sacrifice of people, the sacrifice of relationships, the sacrifice of the Communion. Many speak of cost – of cost in lives, of cost in relationships, of cost in ministries and vocations lost. No one speaking – no one - is casual, and no one is dismissive. Of course, the pain being what it is, I don’t know that those most engaged don’t still feel dismissed. I rather expect they do.

In this video introduced by Heidi Shott, Joe Delafield, chancellor of the Diocese of Maine.explains the revisions to the church's disciplinary canons, and why he likes them.

And don't miss Bonnie Anderson's sermon from yesterday's Eucharist..

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B012 encounters rough canonical weather

Of the many resolutions seeking to move the Episcopal Church toward marriage equality, none has received more attention than B012, the so called "pastoral generosity" resolution. The key clause is this one:

That in those dioceses, under the direction of the bishop, generous discretion in interpretation of The Book of Common Prayer is extended to clergy in the exercise of their pastoral ministry in order to permit the adaptation of the Pastoral Offices for The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage for use with all couples who seek the church's support and God's blessing in their marriages;

A number of bishops and deputies have raised concerns that allowing "discretion" to "permit the adaptation" of rites in the Book of Common Prayer is an end run around the Convention's responsibility to authorize changes to the prayer book. Others have asked why the Church should follow the state rather than making its own judgments on the issue of marriage.

As a result, advocates for marriage equality are refocusing their attention to some of the resolutions before the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music, and trying to reassure their allies that the defeat or withdrawl of B012 is not a decisive blow against marriage equality at this convention.

Fear and the Episcopal future

By Rebecca Wilson

We’ve had five hours of testimony about human sexuality in the last two days. Regardless of the setting or structure of the conversation, the speakers can be sorted into three broad groups: those in favor of full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and (GLBT) people; those against; and those who know it is coming but are imploring us to wait.

It’s that last group that’s on my mind as we wait for the resolutions on inclusion to wend their way through the legislative process. These people—perhaps a growing number, perhaps just newly emboldened to speak—may be personally uncomfortable about sexuality, but they are anxious to point out that they don’t believe being gay is morally wrong or scripturally prohibited. They know that the culture has changed, the church is changing and they, too, shall be changed. And they’re frightened.

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PBS's Ray Suarez preaches at General Convention

Click Read more to read the sermon that Ray Suarez of PBS's New Hour gave today at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

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Prayer Book subcommittee drafts blessings resolution

The sub-committee of the Prayer Book, Music and Liturgy Committee assigned to review resolutions on same-sex blessings and marriage equality has written a four clause resolution to present to the larger committee. Below is a rough paraphrase of the resolution, pending further refinement of my understanding.

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Walking back B033, revised resolution D025 clears committee

A revised version of Resolution D025 has cleared the Committee on World Mission with the unanimous support of the deputies. Two of the five bishops on the committee, including bishops' chair Geralyn Wolf, voted in favor of the resolution.

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Being challenged to tell the truth

Eyes on the Floor: Tell the Truth

(or On Dealing with Inflatable Elephants)

By Richard E. Helmer

This afternoon, Tobias Haller and Nicholas Knisely met with the new deputies over lunch to hold conversation over their impressions of the process that led to B033 in 2006.

What emerged early in the discussion was something a number of us knew already, but it bears re-telling.

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The remarks of Dr. Jenny Te Paa to the House of Deputies

Of all the words that have been spoken in this first week of the General Convention, these may be the most important ones to hear. They come from Dr. Jenny Te Paa, principal of the College of Saint John the Evangelist, Auckland, New Zealand, a guest of President Bonnie Anderson, who addressed the House of Deputies yesterday afternoon. Her text was handwritten, but is now available.

Click Read more to read Jenny's speech.

Here is a highlight..

It may be worth my repeating here something I said the other day in my contribution to the Chicago Consultation luncheon event at which I spoke. I was sharing in all humility one of my deepest regrets (one that I know is shared by other Commissioners) that as members of the Lambeth Commission we were never fully apprised of the full facts of your polity and in particular of the limits to the power of the office of Presiding Bishop.

As a result of that crucial gap in knowledge and understanding it is my belief that the very unfair, in fact the odious myth of ‘The Episcopal Church acting (in the matter of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson) with typical unchecked US imperialism’, was more readily enabled and abetted to grow wings and fly unchecked for way too long across the reaches of the Anglican Communion.

It was only in hindsight as a number of us as Commissioners managed to catch our breath, to compare notes and to consult with our trusted Episcopal Church sisters and brothers that I realized, that we realized, to our utterly deserved chagrin that we had perhaps failed albeit inadvertently to prevent something of the unprecedented vilification of the Episcopal Church and especially of its leadership that inevitably resulted. (Here I want to pay special tribute to the careful and valuable teachings which Reverend Canon Brian Grieves and Reverend Ian Douglas so generously and patiently provided me during this period).

I share this with you not by way of exploiting the privilege of this public platform as a confessional site but rather by way of affirming with boundless respect and gratitude the truly mutually redemptive moment it is that you now enable us all to live into.

Your generosity of spirit in spite of all you have suffered so unjustly and unnecessarily over the past few years is just so perfectly admirable. That you continue with such magnanimity to gather international friends, to share with us so openly, so willingly all that you do so formidably, so precisely, so efficiently and so compassionately is a gift offering of such magnitude that it seems so utterly insufficient for me to simply say thank you, thank you, thank you.

Episcopal News Service has also interviewed President Anderson's other international guests.

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Center Aisle endorses Resolution D025 with some reservations

Along about 3:30 Pacific time, the House of Deputies will take up Resolution D025, the Episcopal Church's long-awaited reconsideration of Resolution B033 from the 2006 General Convention. Much of today's coverage will focus on this issue.

The Diocese of Virginia occupies a special place at General Convention, not simply because it is the largest American diocese in the Episcopal Church, or because its retiring Bishop Peter Lee has been such an influential figure in the Church for so long, but because through its 4-page news daily, Center Aisle it manages to capture--in very few words--the mood of the Convention. As a member of the steering committee of the Chicago Consultation then, I was grateful to wake up this morning and read this editorial in the Aisle.

Editorial - Room for Optimism

You’ve heard them before – words like recognize, affirm, encourage. They are the parlance of unity amid diversity. They are the language World Mission is using in its earnest quest for consensus on issues relating to human sexuality.

Prepare to see the results of that effort in a discussion that could occur today or tomorrow on the floor of the House of Deputies. The fate of Resolution D025 could go a long way toward determining whether our Church will continue its pilgrimage with the rest of the Communion.

The work on this resolution is not done. Bishops on World Mission voted 3-2 against the proposal, while deputies on the panel approved it 24-2. Though D025 doesn’t explicitly repeal B033, the compromise resolution from 2006, it does raise legitimate concerns by affirming that “God has called and may call” gay and lesbian persons “to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church.” That language could be interpreted as a unilateral lifting of the moratorium on gay bishops

Still, it’s encouraging to see how effectively World Mission has drawn on language of reconciliation from past Conventions and how deftly it has integrated our Church’s “abiding commitment” to the Anglican Communion with a reaffirmation of our inclusiveness as a community of faith.

It’s a reminder of how precise wording can be far more than lawyerly nitpicking; it can be a catalyst to building bonds of trust. Recall past statements by Anglican bodies for “gracious restraint” and “bonds of affection.”

So prepare for the latest quest for consensus—today or tomorrow in Deputies and, later this week, in Bishops. There is room for optimism that a compromise may emerge.

Resolution D025 does achieve key goals: It reaffirms our relationship with and strong commitment to the Anglican Communion; it recommits our Church to being an inclusive community of faith; and it acknowledges the divisions in our Church on issues relating to human sexuality, specifically the consecration of gay bishops. The task now is to ensure that, while achieving these goals, Convention does not resort to unilateral actions that could fracture the Communion.

I appreciate this editorial deeply, but I would take issue with the notion that Resolution B033 is a moratorium, and hence with the interpretation that D025 lifts a moratorium, unilaterally or otherwise. B033 was an urging. Please don't do this. In the time since B033 was passed, we did not do this. But now a new General Convention is in session, our Church is in a different place, and it is time to speak again.

I would also caution against reading too much into the opposition of the bishops on the panel who voted 3-2 against it. The sample size is small, and the vote close. One of the bishops who voted in favor of D025 was Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, who is very much a centrist.

The Center Aisle also carries an interview with the principal sponsors of D025, the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, co-convenor of the Chicago Consultation, and Deputy Rebecca Snow, a lawyer from Alaska. I recommend it in its entirety.

Live blogging the B033/D025 debate in the House of Deputies

Resolutioni D025 lives here. It comes from the Committee on World Ministry. It is a response to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention. The House of Deputies will take up this matter around 3:30 Pacific time and I will be live blogging.

Live blog (click read more):

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Live blogging D025/B033. Part the second

Part one here.Resolution D025 lives here. It is a response to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention.

Live blog:(click read more)

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D025 passes the House of Deputies

Resolution D025 passed the House of Deputies and will be sent to the House of Bishops. The vote was 77-31 in the lay order and 74-35 in the clerical order.

The resolution was co-sponsored by the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers of Chicago (and the Chicago Consultation) and Rebecca Snow, a veteran deputy from Alaska.

The text of Resolution D025 is here. It is a response to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention.

Previous installments of this live blogging are here and here.

My sense is that the resolution doesn't repeal or rescind B033, which in any event urged but did not compel. Rather it expresses the fact that we live now in a new reality. It does not so much pave the way for the election of another bishop in a same-sex partnership as it does remove an artificial impediment to our ongoing discernment on this issue which may, just may, resume diocese by diocese.and case by case.

I think the resolution will face a much tougher climb in the House of Bishops.

Live blogging the Sunday evening news conference (post D025)

Sunday evening news conference live blog beneath the fold:

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Eyes on the Floor: The house reclaims solid ground

By Richard Helmer

The question was raised early on from the floor during debate yesterday afternoon whether or not the much-anticipated resolution D025 rescinded the provisions of 2006 B033. The desire, it appeared, was for an unambiguous answer. But such an answer of “yes” or “no” would have ignored D025’s careful and heartfelt comprehension of who and where we are as a Church living with disagreement: over theological perspective, over interpretation of scripture and tradition, over the nature of faithful witness.

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July 13: What's up today at GC?

I've just had a chance to look at the bishops' legislative calendar for the day, and it seems very unlikely that they will take up Resolution D025 today. I don't think B012, the "pastoral generosity" resolution that would allow bishops in states that have legalized same-sex marriage some latitude in adapting Prayer Book rituals for use with such couples, is on the calendar either. I think substitute resolutions are in the works.

A major resolution on same-sex blessings has cleared the Prayer Book Committee by a huge margin (6-0 among bishops, 26-1 in deputies) We should have text soon. It asks for the development of rites for same-sex blessings that can be considered at our next convention. It also grants some of the "pastoral generosity" sought by B012 to all bishops.

I haven't had time to round up links today, or say much about Title IV, which comes to the floor of the House of Deputies this afternoon, or about the MDG and Latino Ministry legislation, both of which are exciting, but about which others will have to inform you more fully.

Resolution C056 on same-sex blessings

As I mentioned a second ago, a major resolution on same sex blessings has cleared the Prayer Book Committee by a huge margin (6-0 among bishops, 26-1 in deputies).

The text of the resolution follows:

Resolved, that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, collect and develop theological resources and liturgies of blessing for same-gender holy unions, to be presented to the 77th General Convention for formal consideration; and be it further

Resolved, that the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops Theology Committee, devise an open process for the conduct of its work in this matter, inviting participation from dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are or have already engaged in the study or design of such rites throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, that all bishops, noting 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; and be it further

Resolved, that honoring the theological diversity of this Church, no bishop or other member of the clergy shall be compelled to authorize or officiate at such liturgies; and be it further

Resolved, that the Anglican Consultative Council be invited to conversation regarding this resolution and the work that proceeds from it, together with other churches in the Anglican Communion engaged in similar processes.

Bishop Henry Parsley supported the resolution, but in a minority report will argue that the "generosity" in resolve 3 be limited to states where same sex marriage is legal.

Concurred: D045 Committee Member Transparency

The House of Bishops have concurred; D045 is the law of the land. Read the final version here.

The one and only resolve:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention direct that the membership of all committees, subcommittees, task forces, panels or other bodies elected or appointed by any body or leader throughout The Episcopal Church including, but not limited to, the House of Deputies, the House of Bishops, the Executive Council, Standing Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards of The Episcopal Church and their respective Presiding Officers and Chairs be publicly available within 30 days after election or appointment.

The bishops' calendar

Updated: looks like the bishops will take up D025 in the near future, and depending on how long that takes, could get to C056 immediately afterwards. (3:40 p.m. Pacific.)

Resolutions D025 (regarding the consecration of partnered gay bishops) and Resolution C056 (same-sex blessings) are both on the House of Bishops supplemental calendar for this afternoon. That is not guarantee that the bishops will take up these items, but it seems certain that they will eventually be in play.

Live blogging: the bishops take up D025

The text of Resolution D025 is here. It is a response to Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention.

Live blog beneath the fold:

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Amended D025 passes House of Bishops 99-45-2

An amended version of Resolution D025 has passed the House of Bishops. It must now be re-passed by the House of Deputies because it has been amended. I don't think the amendments will present a problem to the deputies.

Here is the amended resolution.

A relatively complete roll call follows as well the conclusion of my live blog of the debate. The Presiding Bishop voted yes.

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Updated, but imperfect roll call

My thanks to the Chicago Consultation and Center Aisle for their tallies. These aren't perfect. We are trying to get our hands on something official.

Click read more for the tally.

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Eyes on the floor: An epochal boundary

By Richard Helmer

Popular ideas about evolution in communities and the natural world can be deceptive. Most of us, when we’re not thinking or observing closely, imagine evolution to be a slow progression of measured, tiny changes occurring over a long period of time. Whether we’re reading the history of our own communities or the history of life on this planet, we see laid out before our mind’s eye an evenly spaced series of snapshots, each one slightly different from its predecessor. A series of these snapshots document the steady march of evolution over time, the even ticking of change in the community or cosmic clock.

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The opportunity of C056

By Otis Gaddis III

Something is happening at General Convention. In the House of Deputies, resolution D025 passed two days ago with an overwhelming majority in both orders, lay and clerical. And yesterday it was passed by two-thirds by the House of Bishops with minor amendments. That resolution reaffirms that God has called and may continue to call gay and lesbian people “to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church; and that God's call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.” If passed by the House of Deputies, this resolution will go a long way to restoring the sense of pride young adults and many converts had in the Episcopal Church upon the election of Gene Robinson and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. That pride in the Church is the fuel of mission. You can see the effect of that pride in some of the public narrative stories that I have heard. Those stories as well as my own experience as a young adult minister in my home parish indicate that those two elections deeply impacted many young adults and have functioned as icons of the kind of Church they had always wanted to be a part of and now have discovered that they wanted to be witnesses of this Church to others.

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Live blog: Bishops debate C056 on same-sex unions--then postpone

The House of Bishops is now debating C056. Here is the resolution:

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Tuesday afternoon in Anaheim

I am told that the Deputies will take up D025 almost as soon as they go into session at 2 pm Pacific, and I am assuming that the bishops will recommence their debate on C056. Stay tuned.

Amended D025 passes Deputies; Bishops to return to C056 tomorrow

The Deputies passed the amended version of D025 sent to them by the bishops by a vote of 78 deputations in favor, 21 opposed and nine deputations divided (and therefore counted as no votes.) The clergy tally was 77-19-11.

Here is the amended resolution.

Meanwhile, the bishops have decided to postpone further consideration of C056, the same-sex blessing resolution until tomorrow afternoon.

There is other stuff going on, but ENS will be on the job this evening, and I will pass along their reports.

Kendall Harmon on D025

Statement of Kendall Harmon on Resolution D025

The passage of Resolution D025 by the General Convention of 2009 is a repudiation of Holy Scripture as the church has received and understood it ecumenically in the East and West. It is also a clear rejection of the mutual responsibility and interdependence to which we are called as Anglicans. That it is also a snub to the Archbishop of Canterbury this week while General Synod is occurring in York only adds insult to injury.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the BBC, the New York Times and Integrity all see
what is being done here. There are now some participants in the 76th General Convention who are trying to pretend that a yes to D025 is NOT a no to B033. Jesus’ statement about letting your yes be yes and your no be no is apt here. These types of attempted obfuscations are utterly unconvincing. The Bishop of Arizona rightly noted in his blog that D025 was "a defacto repudiation of" B033.

The presuppositions of Resolution D025 are revealing. For a whole series of recent General Conventions resolutions have been passed which are thought to be descriptive by some, but understood to be prescriptive by others. The 2007 Primates Communique spoke to this tendency when they stated “they deeply regret a lack of clarity” on the part of the 75th General Convention.

What is particularly noteworthy, however, is that Episcopal Church Resolutions and claimed stances said to be descriptive at one time are more and more interpreted to be prescriptive thereafter. Now, in Resolution D025, the descriptive and the prescriptive have merged. You could hear this clearly in the floor debates in the two Houses where speakers insisted “This is who we are!”

Those involved in pastoral care know that when a relationship is deeply frayed when one or other party insists “this is who I am” the outcome will be disastrous. The same will be the case with D025, both inside the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

D025 is the proud assertion of a church of self-authentication and radical autonomy.

It is a particularly ugly sight.

--The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina

Eyes on the Floor: Washing Socks

Eyes on the Floor: Washing Socks

By Richard Helmer

I spent part of the early morning today sorting laundry and washing socks in the room at the hotel. After all the lofty theologizing and vagaries of parliamentary procedure of the last several days, washing socks seemed very grounding, although it reminded me of how much I missed my wife and family, waiting patiently for me to return in Mill Valley. My wife doesn’t always do my laundry, but the image of the socks hung up to dry reminded me poignantly of home and our little indoor clothes racks, often populated with articles of clothing left there to air dry throughout the week.

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A full buffet from Episcopal News Service

Episcopal Life Online is available at

Today's Episcopal Life Daily includes:

* TOP STORY - Deputies reject litigation resolution, approve ecumenical
agreement and communications study
* TOP STORY - Resolution D025 draws mixed responses
* TOP STORY - Convention Notebook: Anglican covenant study, Altar Guild Art
Show, open Communion
* TOP STORY - Convention accepts revised ministry discipline canons
* TOP STORY - Peace Fellowship's young adult representatives are active
advocates for justice issues
* TOP STORY - Environmental issues are on the table at convention
* TOP STORY - Convention reaffirms open ordination process, commitment to
* TOP STORY - Bishops to consider Rachel's Tears, Hannah's Hopes
* TOP STORY - Abagail Nelson's address at the July 14 General Convention
* TOP STORY - Ecumenical guests raise their voices in song and prayer
* TOP STORY - Convention Daily
* DIOCESAN DIGEST - LOS ANGELES: Episcopalians join hotel worker protest
* MISSION - Money and faith present conflict between scarcity and abundance,
Schut says
* PEOPLE - Massachusetts bishop honored for his work with campers
* MULTIMEDIA - Image Gallery: National Altar Guild Art Show
* MULTIMEDIA - Image Gallery: General Convention, July 14
* ARTS - Convention worship vestments hold special meaning
* DAYBOOK - July 16: Today in Scripture, Prayer, History
* CATALYST - Eating the Sun - How Plants Power the Planet

Comprehensive coverage of the Episcopal Church's 76th General Convention is
available at

For the General Convention Media Hub, visit

News in Spanish (Noticias) is available at

Click read more to see the leads of some of these stories.

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Today's calendar at General Convention

Updated: I was wrong, the same sex blessing conversation in the House of Bishops is going to occur after the budget presentation, which, I am guessing, means somewhere between 3:30 and 4:15 . To arrive at that start time I employed a sophisticated journalistic technique known as guessing.

The Houses will receive a draft of the budget in joint session beginning at 2:30 p. m. Some of the folks I have talked to are worried that the financial crisis is being used to achieve others ends, namely a more centralized power structure. I don't know enough about the details of the budget to make any sort of judgment about that, but these are folks whose opinions are widely respected, so I hope to have time to give this some thought.

Time for thought is in short supply though. Due to my other responsibilities, I've been more a typist than a writer this week, and am really grateful to Richard Helmer, Rebecca Wilson and Otis Gaddis III for providing thoughtful reportage and commentary.

Hallway conversation on C056

What I think I know: a group of more than 20 bishops of varying views met informally last night from about 9 p. m. to 11 p. m. to discuss Resolution C056, the same-sex blessing resolution. The group discussed, but apparently dismissed a suggestion that the House of Bishops take no legislative action on the issue, but issue a Mind of the House Resolution on the issue (Saying I am not sure what). The telling argument against this position was that General Convention is a legislative gathering, and that what it does is legislate, not issue statements of sentiment.

So some new language was proposed for certain sticky points in the resolution--although I am not sure what those points were or what that language is. At any rate, several bishops whose opinions on this issue are not very different than mine, seem to think that the changes are not devastating, and that the chances of passing the resolution are pretty good.

But be cautious. I have been darting around all day, and what I have written here doesn't rise to the level of real reporting.

The current version of the resolution is below the fold, so to speak. Click Read more.

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Our very own Nick Knisely is writing some great stuff

Nick Knisely has written several excellent essays on the General Convention at his blog Entangled States, but I want to call special attention to Tears of Truth.

Fast forward to Sunday lunchtime. I’d been invited (for some reason unknown to me) to a lovely lunch sponsored by the Chicago Consultation. The Consultation is a group of people in the Episcopal Church who are striving to find a both/and solution to the question of Inclusion in the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church’s membership in the wider Communion. I was seated at a table with a theologian, another priest, two lay women, one of the Communion’s primates and an Episcopal bishop. We had lunch, listened to speakers, and then we talked.

It was in the talking that the emotions stirred up in Jenny Te Paa’s speech finally overwhelmed me. I was recounting to people around the table how deeply touched I had been by her words, my voice cracked and I started to cry. Frankly I was stunned. I don’t actually cry that often. And hardly ever in public. That I was doing so here, in this luncheon told me how very profoundly I have buried the hurt that the words by others have caused. Some of the others from around the Communion at the table joined me in my tears. And the weight on my heart began to lift and by the end of the day on Sunday was gone.

Sometimes tears are cleansing. Perhaps this is one of those. So many tears have been shed by so many people in Anglican Church over the past decade. Most of those have been tears of hurt shed by LGBT members of the Communion. My tears on Sunday were to me a symbol of reconciliation that the Episcopal Church is faithfully attempting with them and with the larger Communion. Reconciliation begins, can only begin, with telling the full truth of who we are. I believe that the actions that have just been passed by the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops are truthful. They are come with tears of relief on the part of many and tears of regret by a few.

Live blogging the Bishops C056 debate: it passes

Updated it wins 104-30.

Live blog beneath the fold:

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Evil into good

By Rebecca Wilson

Here at the Anaheim Convention Center, you could swing a cat in any direction and hit a theologian capable of learned disputation on the theology of evil. I’m not one of them.

But today, as Convention concludes its debate about full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, I’m thinking of two stories I heard last weekend:

On Saturday afternoon, the Very Rev. Rowan Smith, dean of Cape Town and St. George’s Cathedral in South Africa, described his congregation’s early work toward inclusion of gay people. They began three years ago at a retreat on reconciliation, when congregational leaders decided that they needed to heal relationships with gay and lesbian people in the same way that South Africa had healed racial strife after apartheid.

Since then, the leaders of St. George’s have held conversations about inclusion of gay people with other parishes in the diocese, and also met with the archbishop. And next month, Cathedral leaders will bring to their diocesan synod a resolution to permit blessing of existing same sex unions.

It’s a small step, but notable because it indicates that other parts of the Anglican Communion beyond the usual North American suspects are grappling with human sexuality. But here’s what struck me most in Dean Smith’s story: The congregation’s reconciliation retreat was held at Robben Island, the site of the prison where Nelson Mandela and other South African political prisoners were held during the apartheid era.

Another story, from Sunday afternoon: At a Chicago Consultation lunch, Bishop Bruce Caldwell of Wyoming used the public narrative model, much in favor at this General Convention, to tell his story of how an “elk-hunting, horse-riding bishop” became a GLBT activist. You can watch his speech here.

In 1998, after Caldwell became bishop of Wyoming the previous year, Matthew Shepard was tortured and killed near Laramie. Shepard, an active Episcopalian, was targeted by his murderers because he was gay. Bishop Caldwell presided at Shepard’s funeral Eucharist in front of, as he recalled, flowers sent by Elton John.

When it was time to distribute the elements, Caldwell went to the furthest corner of the parish hall. Gay and lesbian people came with open hands outstretched, he remembered, “and they came, and they came. “ As he was distributing the bread and wine, he thought, “Why are they here? Why would they have hands outstretched after the way they’ve been treated?”

That moment, at Matthew Shepard’s funeral, is when Caldwell became an activist. He concluded his speech on Sunday by saying, “My question that I pose today, because those hands haunt me: Is it time to fill those hands? Can we fill those hands together with the absolute love of God?”

Full inclusion advocates are celebrating victories we didn’t entirely expect to achieve at this General Convention. The votes have been by wide margins, and it’s clear that minds and hearts have changed in the last three years, and even in the last ten days. There have been hours of testimony on full inclusion, and many people have told inspiring stories of loving same-gender couples, committed gay Christians doing mission work, and beloved gay and lesbian children.

But we’ve also heard stories like the two recounted above, including lesbians in Africa who are subjected by their families to what is horrifyingly called “curative” rape. And in last week’s World Mission committee hearing, the story that moved the audience most was not about loving commitment or Christian ministry, but about a young gay man named Arthur who killed himself in middle school because of bulling and harassment.

Our hearts break open when we confront the worst that human beings can do to one another, and out spills the prejudice or apathy that we’ve been harboring. It seems inescapable that we move toward justice because of places like Robben Island and people like Matthew Shepard, and perhaps they are even necessary to get us to move. So as we celebrate, the dark places we have seen and the people we have lost are much on my mind.

Rebecca Wilson is communications director for the Chicago Consultation.

Same sex blessing resolution tomorrow in Deputies

Resolution C056, the same-sex blessing resolution passed yesterday by the House of Bishops, will be heard on Friday at 9:30 am Pacific in the House of Deputies. Sorry for the confusion.

Eyes on the Floor: Less is More

By Richard Helmer

I wrote a couple of reflections back about epochal boundaries. At General Convention 2009, they seem to be multiplying as we approach our last lap of shared discernment before adjourning for the next three years.

Wednesday was filled with prophetic signs of looming change. At our Eucharist, celebrated with no paper in hand and a beautiful, simple liturgy, The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Assistant Bishop of California, warned of the impending global catastrophe unless the human family learned to live not only at peace with one another, but with the earth, this “fragile island home.” He held no punches, laying out before us the apocalyptic vision of a baking planet: baking in the throes of environmental melt-down and warfare over essential resources such as water and arable land.

While so much fear and controversy has revolved in The Episcopal Church around human sexuality and the power of bishops, we have turned a blind eye to the real crisis unfolding before us and around us. Bishops Charleston said that the clock has stopped ticking, and now the alarm is going off. Will we heed its warning?

In the afternoon, the Houses came together in joint session to hear Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F) present the proposed budget for The Episcopal Church in the next triennium. The Presiding Bishop warned us that it would be painful, as it calls for the substantial reduction for program and mission funding, cuts in staff across the board, and a massive restructuring of how The Episcopal Church goes about its ministry in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

One might say that change is looming. But I suggest we’d better call this a moment when we are being re-woven on the loom of change. Everything around us and internally to The Episcopal Church is now unraveling, and the Spirit of God is drawing the strands back together, weaving us into a new tapestry. Our basic organizational structures, economy, and even our core world-view -- forged in the post-war boom of the 1950’s -- no longer serves us, our sisters and brothers and neighbors, the planet, or our God.

But the sense of impending death is the way of the cross, as Bishop Katharine reminded us. And, as a people of faith, resurrection always follows death.

Remembering our Priorities
PB&F, in their budget proposal, remember that our mission to those most profoundly in need must come first. The 1% commitment to funding MDG’s was restored. In addition, 0.7% is allocated in the portion of the budget to focus on the relief of domestic poverty.

Diocesan asking is reduced to grant relief to the local Church, by one percentage point a year beginning in 2011. The exemption level is also increased. This will be welcome news in many parts of the Church, but there remains some unsettled concerns that a number of dioceses have not been paying their full assessments to The Episcopal Church for quite some time. PB&F presented a spreadsheet documenting diocesan giving as a percentage of their budgets, and while the precise facts remain in some dispute, it is clear that not everyone is contributing equitably to the budget of the greater Church.

Also in the proposed budget is a recognition of subsidiarity, the organizing principle that decisions for funding, structure, and mission are best left in the hands of the smallest unit of the church possible. Mission and evangelism are to be returned largely to the dioceses for development and discernment. Where I find hope in this is that our local contexts for ministry are more diverse than they ever have been. So my guess is that the tapestry of The Episcopal Church, woven together by God’s grace in the coming years, will be much richer in color and patterns.

General Convention 2012
. . .will be strikingly different from this year’s. It will be shortened to eight days, the Blue Book will be available online only, and we will leverage technology with the intention of virtually eliminating the enormous amount of paper that has been inherent in the legislative process up to this point. CCAB’s, the interim bodies that prepare reports and legislation for the next General Convention, will be meeting much more over video and tele-conferencing to substantially cut travel costs. While little hay was made of this yesterday, we are also looking at a significantly reduced carbon footprint as well. In this way, we are going to be following Jesus’ command to travel light a bit more closely.

Less is More
As the strands of a re-structured and leaner Church begin to come together, we are all learning that less is more. Less is more was the name of the game on Wednesday as the House of Deputies returned to business under late-in-the-Convention rules that reduced the time for each speaker during debate to one minute. With this rule, the House moved legislation more rapidly in an hour-and-a-half than it had for much of the week.

One key piece that passed the House Wednesday included a repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery” (D035) a centuries-old legal argument still standing in American jurisprudence. The doctrine perpetuates the lethal notion that European “discovery” of lands already inhabited by indigenous people is sufficient justification for settlers and colonizers to claim full rights to resources. It’s a hideous legacy of our past, and the House of Deputies, with only a little opposition, passed this piece to repudiate the doctrine as fundamentally immoral. Another resolution passed addressing the scourge of human trafficking, which is only growing in the pressures of economic crisis.

Word came through late in the day that the House of Bishops had crossed another epochal boundary by overwhelmingly passing a revised version of C056, which grants considerable latitude and open process for dioceses to consider liturgical materials and pastoral responses for same-sex couples entering committed relationships. It was another stunning moment for me. Yes, this is our House of Bishops – the House we feared that might be, as a whole, reactionary at this General Convention. Pray for the House of Deputies as this resolution is taken up today, though I have little doubt of it passing.

And pray most of all for both Houses today as the matter of the new budget is taken up Thursday. While the truth has already been told, there will be painful moments. Budget cuts, as we all know by now, have profound impact on the personal and vocational lives of many people. And the transition to a “less is more” Church will be challenging both to our faith and our identity.

The good news for me is that the less that Christ embraces in the cross means more for the deep needs of the world. The less that leads to death is the gateway to the more of resurrection. The sadness of this day is the raw material that will give rise to the hopes and joys of tomorrow.

Off to session. . .

Bishop Bruce Caldwell on how he became an activist

Eyes on the floor: Matters of conscience, matters of psyche

By Richard Helmer

N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, in his most recent tirade on The Episcopal Church, accused us of inciting schism, of “double-think,” implying the false choice between upholding the ministries of our LGBT members and full participation in the Anglican Communion. Others have argued well elsewhere against Bishop Wright’s rhetorical use (or abuse?) of The Episcopal Church as a straw man for whatever purpose.

But the “double-think” accusation lingers with me for many reasons. One of the most important is the implication that somehow The Episcopal Church fails to meet some standard of being of one mind on this or any other matter. It’s as though the disciples of Jesus Christ have never (our ought to have never) had an argument with each other, or that they never suffered an internal tension of conscience while following in the ways of our Savior.

Of course, they did struggle with these disagreements, both relational and internal. The arguments while on the road are easily recalled in the gospels. The church was barely formed following the resurrection, and the first disciples were already arguing about how best to organize and provide for the needs of the growing community. Or take two of the great apostles, for instance. Peter’s wrestling with the laws and purity practices of his ancestors as the Gospel began to spread amongst the Gentiles is a classic story in Acts. Remember Peter and Cornelius the Centurion in Chapter 10? Paul who stumbled – or was pushed by Christ – into conversion spends much of his letters sorting out profound theological tensions and arguments as he communicates with the small Christian communities he has helped found. Whether he settles these tensions and arguments, and how, is more than debatable even now, 2,000 years later. And the Pauline epistles are well-known for the conflicted and apparent two-mindedness about a wide variety of matters, not least of which involves the tensions between marriage and chastity.

On Thursday in the House of Deputies, as the legislative pace hastened on the penultimate day of General Convention, a matter of conscience arose around C023, a resolution meant to repudiate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) laws in the United States. As one deputy put it during the debates, we found ourselves in the age-old tension between civil rights and theological tradition. To which is the General Convention of The Episcopal Church ultimately responsible?

It would be easy for me to respond that we historically equate civil rights with theological arguments about the fundamental nature of human dignity and freedom in God’s grace. This equation goes back in recent history to the heart of the abolition of slavery, and it was key in the civil rights era of the 1960’s and after. The scriptural stories that under gird this intersection of civil law and theological discourse are readily available to cite. But our American jurisprudence and the common notions of separation of church and state still leave us much of the time with a bifurcated view of reality – separated into civil on the one hand and ecclesiastical on the other. How we navigate this distinction is one of the harder tasks of the Anglican tradition – at least in the United States.

C023 exposed this reality today as key arguments (that held it to passing through the House of Deputies by a relatively narrow margin) boiled down to conscience: conscience to disagree. The clause that mattered most was this one:

That the Convention call on all Episcopalians to work against the passage of so-called "Defense of Marriage" state statutes and state constitutional amendments, and, in states where such statutes or constitutional amendments already exist, to work for their repeal.
The key phrase was “all Episcopalians,” which to some violated the principles of D025 that passed earlier in the week. D025 passed the House of Deputies by a substantially wider margin in part because of its acknowledgment that faithful Christians in the church together may disagree on the matters of same-sex blessings in particular and the theology of human sexuality more broadly. C023 appeared to leave no room for conscientious disagreement, or at least so it appeared to some of the more conservative members of the House. It was, as another deputy put it, a matter of legislating the hearts of some of our own.

Most of us know this really doesn’t work.

This brought to my mind a deep tension that is present today not only within The Episcopal Church, but in broader American society, and even within many of our sisters and brothers individually. It was best articulated by a former music student of mine, whom I visited recently in the Midwest while on vacation. Raised in a theologically conservative Christian tradition, she holds dear many of the classic virtues of Midwestern Christian culture. But a good friend of hers is a gay man who recently contemplated marrying his partner in a state where same-sex marriage is now legal. As she described her own considerations of the matter to me, she said she was absolutely in support of full civil rights for gays and lesbians. . . but she just wasn’t sure about gay marriage.

Is this “double-think?” It would be all too easy to jump on this like N. T. Wright and point out the apparent inconsistency. While I now am very clearly a supporter of same-sex marriage, both civilly and theologically, I remember once being in such a position myself: holding an inner tension that could not quite reconcile my care and concern for my LGBT neighbors and their rights with my world-view and emotional – visceral even – attachment to a particular understanding of marriage. It was this tension that I held for a long time in an attempt to find a middle position in the midst of an evolving conscience – or as my bishop put it to me in conversation this evening, a matter of change in the psyche.

Somehow, this tension about marriage and sexuality hits us at the very core of our self-identity. Maybe this is because all of us grew up and developed as thinking and reflecting individuals in relationship with a particular understanding of marriage – for good, for ill, or for both. To change that particular understanding is, of course, to send some unsettling questions into the deepest places of our souls – those places that formed even before we could speak. And to change those deep places requires of us a true inner leap of faith, of stepping into the unknown. I remember when I did precisely that on matters concerning human sexuality. It took me nearly six months to settle into a new understanding of the world. I was grateful to have a community – at that time a university chaplaincy – to support me during that time.
Something that N. T. Wright does not bring himself to acknowledge – at least publicly – is the simple fact that The Episcopal Church, the broader society, and, yes, even the Anglican Communion are all in various stages of wrestling with a leap of faith just like this. It could be argued that the threats of schism and the fissures in The Anglican Communion are – to some degree – reflections of the deep internal conflicts of many of our leaders and communities as we attempt in vain to find solid footing in an otherwise shifting understanding of grace. . . and how that grace relates to our shifting understandings of basic anthropology and some of our most essential traditions and social institutions.

This points back to the brilliance of D025 and the now pending C056 that the House of Deputies takes up on Friday. They were wrought, particularly in the House of Bishops this General Convention, through bishops on opposite sides of these questions engaged in conscientious listening to one another – the Indaba process that a number of our bishops first experienced, ironically enough, at Lambeth.

Indaba’s deep listening and sharing is accomplished without the goal of converting one another. Rather, the intent of the process is to find in one another the deep and abiding love that is shared for the wider community, even when disagreement is strong. If conversion happens, it is mutual and communal. D025 and C056, in their current forms, reflect not a “double-think” but a communally-held tension in the collective psyche of our Church. They represent the truth of conflict held tenderly and honestly in loving community. And I think that is a beautiful truth, and a powerful one – especially for a world that resorts to demonization and warfare all too quickly to “settle” differences.

I am reminded that all of us on the more liberal side of our Church and faith tradition must endeavor to remember the process and experience that brought us as individuals and communities to where we are, and how we must be wary of our expecting others to be in the same place at the same time with us. This is not to suggest we forestall laboring for justice. But at the very least, we must acknowledge and hold compassion for those who most strongly disagree with us. It would be easy to cut them off or hold them in derision. The whole point to remember, as has been stressed by so many of our finest leadership, is that they are a part of us. We belong to one another in God’s grace. This is living into the Ubuntu theme of this General Convention, and indeed that of the Christian Gospel.

When the disciples argued, Jesus continued to walk with them. When the early church argued, they kept at proclaiming the Gospel. When Peter was flummoxed in a vision of unclean animals, the Spirit showed it to him again and again. When Paul was caught up in cycles of his own theological rhetoric – I imagine his brow furrowed as he pondered the carefully crafted paragraphs – God still stood by, stretching Paul’s mind and heart towards new vistas of grace-filled revelation.

So, it seems to me, as the dust settles and the outcome of this General Convention begins to clarify where we are now as a Church of many minds but one heart towards Christ, we must remember our call to stand by one another and all our communities as we journey through the deep questions of conscience and psyche our resolutions reflect.

After all, we belong to one another. . . perhaps even across the great expanse of the Atlantic.

Deputies go to worship and lunch; no totals yet on blessings vote

updated with fuller quotations throughout

By Jim Naughton, Lauren Stanley and Rebecca Wilson

The deputies are debating the resolution passed by the bishops that would give bishops latitude in allowing clergy to bless gay marriages, and that would also begin the collection and development of "theological and liturgical resources.

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Anderson, Jefferts Schori send letter to Archbishop Williams, Anglican Primates

Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:

[July 17, 2009] A letter describing the steps taken by The Episcopal Church’s 76th General Convention and reaffirming the close relationship with the Anglican Communion was sent today to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson. A copy of the letter also was sent to the 38 Primates, and clergy and lay leaders of the Anglican Communion

The letter to Archbishop Williams outlined Resolution D025, which was adopted at this General Convention, explaining that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and President Anderson understood Resolution D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature. It stated that some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution B033 but reiterated that is not the case. The letter continued, “This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025.”

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C056 wins

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has passed a resolution on same-sex blessings. The House of Bishops approved the legislation by a margin of more than 3-1 yesterday. tin of more than 3-1 yesterday. The House of Deputies passed the legislation by a slightly smaller margin today.

The lay order voted in favor of Resolution C056 by 78-23 with seven divided deputations. The clergy passed the legislation 74-27-7.

Read our live blog of the debate.

Thurgood Marshall: one step closer

The efforts of the Dioceses of Washington and Maryland to establish a liturgical feast day for Thurgood Marshall moved closer to fruition yesterday as the General Convention "call(ed) upon the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to add Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to the liturgical Calendar of this Church now."

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The Presiding Bishop's closing sermon

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the sermon below the fold at the closing Eucharist of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Both/and thinking is the kind of tension that keeps our hearts pumping and mission thriving. It’s also the kind of tension that drives some of us crazy – what’s more important – justice or mercy? Inclusion or orthodoxy? Ministry grounded in bishops or in baptism? Most of those polarities are false choices. The long view says that if we insist on resolving the tension we’ll miss a gift of the spirit, for truth is always larger than one end of the polarity. Tension is where the spirit speaks. Truth has something to do with that ongoing work of the spirit, and it can only breathe in living beings capable of change and growth.


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Bearing with each other

My Face to Faith column in the Guardian is now live:

Our church has not sought to increase the strain in the communion, but to redistribute it. The suffering on all sides of the debate over homosexuality must be borne by the entire church. Ideally, it would be borne by the entire communion in the form of generous pastoral discretion and respect for the discernment of individual provinces, but Williams and a majority of the primates have rejected this most Anglican of accommodations in favour of a single-issue magisterium on the issue of homosexuality.

Gradually, tentatively, the Episcopal Church has begun to push back. The result, in Anaheim, was a pair of resolutions that attempted to be firm yet conciliatory, recognising the need to move, but move slowly, in order to bring along as much of the church as possible.

President Anderson's closing remarks

The remarks of President Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, on the closing of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

A few preliminary thoughts on General Convention 2009

Our thanks to everyone who read our General Convention coverage. Visits to the site were up about 50 to 60% over our average, and more than doubled our average on the day of the vote on the resolution D025, which acknowledged that God calls gays and lesbian Christians to all orders of ministry in our Church.

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Like so many of the rest of you, when I think of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, my mind drifts back to the 1991 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls v. Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.

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General Convention: Thanks for stopping by

Thanks to everyone who visited the Café during the General Convention. We received 181,645 visits (5,859 per day) and 619,816 page views (19,994 per day) during the month of July. That's our biggest month ever. The visits came from 77,961 sites--second only to the 86,000+ sites which connected to the Cafe in January, when we were involved in publicizing Bishop Gene Robinson's participation in President Obama's inauguration.

Support the work of Episcopal Cafe´below:

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