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What to expect on the hot button issues at General Convention

What to expect on the hot button issues at General Convention

I am on my way to Indianapolis for the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which begins, officially, on July 5, although I believe folks began trickling into town yesterday.

I don’t entirely know what to expect at this convention, but I suspect that people may arrive in a state of some agitation and find that there is little immediate legislative reason to be so stirred up.

I believe that legislation authorizing a trial rite for blessing same-sex relationships will pass, and am delighted that this will be perceived as something of an anti-climax. I am fairly certain that we will not sign on to the Anglican Covenant, but am wondering if we will nuance our no.

I suspect we will delay full implementation of the denominational health plan, and while this is certainly a significant issue, it isn’t what people are most worked up about.

Much pre-convention conversation has focused on restructuring the church and developing the triennial budget. But in some ways, on these issues, we are all het up with few places to go. Unless we waive the constitution—a dreadful idea—we can’t make any constitutional changes at this convention, so we are likely to end up arguing about whether efforts to restructuring the church should be led by the Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church—which I would prefer—or a special commission appointed by the presiding officers. This decision will not be without consequences, but it merely determines the forum in which our ongoing conversations on this issue will take place. As for the budget, by the end of this General Convention, we will have one, and some people will like it more than others.

I think there is an argument to be made for looking at the budget that the Presiding Bishop presented, cutting much of the new spending she proposed (little of it has been subject to even cursory scrutiny) and cutting the asking to so that more of the money in the church stays on the grassroots level where the experimentation we need right now is more likely to take place. I doubt this idea will prevail, and I will be only mildly disappointed if it does not. I don’t like the way that the Presiding Bishop and her closest advisors are behaving right now, but I do not believe my sleep will be troubled if they get the budget they want, even though I don’t approve of the means by which they got it.

The problems that the Episcopal Church faces now are not of the General Convention’s making, and they will no be solved either in Indianapolis or three years from now in Salt Lake City. Have you ever met anyone who said, “Gosh, you guys have a beautiful liturgy. I just loved the preacher and I could listen to you people sing all day, but I won’t be back unless you get yourselves a unicameral legislature.” Me neither. And I don’t know of a single parish that has lost members because we have too many CCABs—although I think we do.

General Convention may be able to fund or facilitate the kind of grassroots innovation that our church needs, but it can’t make it happen. The same is true, though perhaps to a less degree, of the Presiding Bishop and the staff at Church Center. Our problem is less in our structures than in ourselves. We simply are not inspiring enough people to join our congregations. I am not sure we want to, and I am not sure we know how. Legislative bodies don’t exist to solve such problems.

This is not to say what we do in Indianapolis will not be important, but we shouldn’t expect from the convention more than the convention has to give.


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Matthew Lawrence

Here here, Clint! Well said indeed.

John Shirley

Clint, AMAZING!!!! Thank you!

-John Shirley

Paige Baker

I want Clint Davis in my parish.

In fact, maybe we should consecrate him and elect him Presiding Bishop. (Although he seems like a nice fellow and I would hate to punish him like that…)

Clint Davis

The parishes I know of that are, as we say down here, “blowin’ and goin'” are warm, friendly, rowdy, hard working, loud singing, and love being Episcopalian for the sheer joy of the thing. They embrace everyone who wants to give them a try, and spend lots of time and money taking care of people who have no idea what “Episcopalian” means or looks like.

Alas, in many or most other places I’ve been, communities like this are hard to come by. I’ve been to a few church-wide events and have been disappointed by the sheer lack of social skills and “joy of all the members”, but rather it looks like a holy mess of folks who feel bad for being mostly rich, white and bored(-ing) and are trying desperately to come up with ways to make up for this without actually changing themselves from the inside. Get mad and holler at me if you want, but that’s what I see, and I think our fathers and mothers in the faith deserve better. They say that the General Convention is second only to the Democratic Convention in the amount of alcohol consumed in the host city. I used to think it was because we were a jolly bunch who liked to have a good time, but now I’m wondering if it isn’t just because most Episcopalians can’t talk to one another – let alone anyone else – without being a little tooted first. Something must be not quite right if that’s the impression I keep getting after all these years.

Here’s an idea concerning one commonly expressed concern. Instead of worrying why our congregations aren’t more racially diverse, look for a racially different congregation than yours that does great, loving work in their own community, and give them a call. Develop a relationship, work on projects together. A few Sundays out of the year, get in your Cadillac and drive to the other side of town with 30 or so other parishioners and worship with them, in their church, with their stuff and their traditions, and invite them to do the same. Pray for each other every Sunday and Feast Day in the meantime. Enjoy each other’s company and church, affirming each other, building each other up, instead of feeling bad that they’re not transferring to your church because you must be doing something wrong. Communities that are bigger than just the parish are the healthiest, and they stretch every parishioner to grow and journey and be adventurous and learn and open up, and at the same time to find that center from which everything else springs, that little corner of the Rock upon which we stand. But Lord have mercy, no one is going to want to partner with us if we aren’t having any fun, if we don’t really enjoy ourselves. If we look like we’re so mired in our controversies and collective guilt, if we’re always fighting about stuff and changing stuff every God blessed day so that an identity based most importantly in a lived experience every Sunday is impossible to locate, then we’re just rurnt. Drink up, buttercup, the end will really be nigh and maybe we’ll be too ginned up to notice.

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