Friday, July 31, 2009

The Episcopal Church leads the way

I saw this article in The Episcopal Cafe and just had to repost it...

Marion Hatchett, a beloved professor of liturgics at Sewanee and a key figure in the development of the 1979 Prayer book and the 1982 Hymnal has some words of exhortation for the Episcopal Church.

Quoting a speech he gave at General Seminary earlier this year:

"The American Church jumped way out ahead of the Church of England and other sister churches in a number of respects. One was in giving voice to priests and deacons and to laity (as well as bishops and secular government officials) in the governance of the national church and of dioceses and of parishes. The early American Church revised the Prayer Book in a way that went far beyond revisions necessitated by the new independence of the states.

At its beginning the American Church legalized the use of hymnody along with metrical psalmody more than a generation before use of 'hymns of human composure' became legal in the Church of England. At an early stage the American Church gave recognition to critical biblical scholarship.

The American Church eventually gave a place to women in various aspects of the life of the church including its ordained ministry. The American Church began to speak out against discrimination against those of same-sex orientation, and the American Church began to make moves in establishing full communion with other branches of Christendom.

Historically the American Church has been the flag-ship in the Anglican armada. It has been first among the provinces of the Anglican Communion to take forward steps on issue after issue, and on some of those issues other provinces of Anglicanism have eventually fallen in line behind the American Church. My prayer is that the American Church will be able to retain its self-esteem and to stand firm and resist some current movements which seem to me to be contrary to the principles of historic Anglicanism and to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures."

I am proud of the leadership my church continually offers to the larger Anglican (and Christian) community.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hospitals -- where's the 'care' in their Care?

I hate hospitals. The doctors are overworked, the nurses are overworked. Few people seem to have the time to show that they got into the 'care business' because they have a caring heart. Whether or not healthcare costs are lowered as a result of the Obama health care proposals, I am not sure what can be done to humanize the process of 'care' in most hospitals.

Don't get me wrong. One on one, I think nurses are fantastic. They are the true advocates for patients and I believe that they care. I have many friends who are nurses and I can see how much of themselves go into their profession.

I think the biggest issues are the long hours, the burnout, and the crap that they have to put up with by certain doctors who take them for granted rather than treating them as partners in patient care.

Today, I had to take Christi to the hospital. The ER was full so she spent over an hour suffering in the Waiting Room with no effort made to reduce her pain. When she was moved to an ER room, it took the usual extended effort to get an IV into her and blood drawn. She did finally get some meds for pain and nausea. But then the nurses and doctors were absent for several hours until the blood work came back -- and the results negative as always.

After that, we saw no one for another hour. As her pain began to return, it took me several attempts to get a nurse to DO something about it. They ignored her call button light. Finally, I got the doctor to tell me she was being admitted and that the floor would take care of her at that point. After more bugging, they gave her something for her pain.

Now I know that the ER is a busy place. Lots of people were coming through; lots of ambulances were bringing in patients. But it was still VERY upsetting to feel that I needed to track down people to get Christi attention. What if I hadn't been there?

We have spent enough money at this hospital to have a wing named after Christi. In fact, the hospital has done a lot of remodeling over the past nine years -- building a new ER wing, expanding floors, updating equipment, even providing wireless Internet for patients and guests.

I guess they should have taken some of that money and increased their STAFF to provide better customer care. Sometimes the best medicine is love and attention between the staff and the patient. I think we need to get back to those basics.

We don't have to sacrifice the humanity of medicine as we rush towards progress in treatment and diagnostics.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Lesson learned

Laura and I are both working on the Christian Youth Theater production of West Side Story -- one of my favorite musicals of all time (mostly because I was in my high school production of it way back when). Laura, who was hoping to land a principal role in the show, auditioned. But because of her schedule conflicts (working at camp, mostly), that was not going to be possible. She got a role as one of the Shark girls and is one of the quartet of singers in the famous 'America' scene/song.

I remember telling Laura that no one gets a lead role every time they audition. It just doesn't happen. There are a lot of talented people out there so the competition is very tough. So she needs to get comfortable with the idea of being an ensemble cast member sometimes, finding the joy in those roles, and using them to learn more about her craft and widen her versatility as an actor.

Good words I thought. Little did I know I was going share her experience as well.

Just a few weeks ago, I got asked to be the 'backup sound tech' for the show. I agreed, thinking that I could contribute to the show by running the sound board and making sure it all sounded great. Lil ole me, jumping to the rescue!

I have to say that I had to take my own words to heart. I figured I would walk in there and they would be happy that my 'skills' were part of the team. But what I realized was that they really did not need me at all (other than to be the backup in case their main sound tech could not make a performance). And they also had a professional sound engineer there to set up all the gear, balance everything, and ensure the quality of the sound production.

So I have to admit, I was feeling like a 'third wheel'. But then I realized that, like Laura, my role was not to be 'the sound guy'. My role was a supporting one and I needed to 'lose the ego' and figure out how I could best fulfill that support role. So I listened to Dan and Wes. I did what I was told. I determined one thing I could do was to define and write up all the sound cues in the script since I knew the show so well. So I did that. And it wsa appreciated. I figured out how to contribute. I also learned a lot more about sound design from Dan which is a real bonus!

So my job in the show is to call the sound cues that I wrote for Wes. (And I will get one day where I will actually run the board because Wes has to miss one performance.)

It is good to be reminded that in the grand scheme of things, you are just another cog in the big wheel and it is best to keep your ego 'in check' so that you have a chance to learn something new, improve yourself, support others, and enjoy life.

Humble Pie! Mmmmmm Mmmmmm Good!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Life after General Convention?

Well I learned from Twitter and Shawn Schreiner that on Friday afternoon, the House of Deputies passed resolution C056 on Same-Gender Blessings -- the one that came amended from the House of Bishops a few days before. The vote, by orders, was pretty one-sided with 2/3 of the lay voting in favor and about 65% of the clergy doing the same. I was well on my way home when the afternoon session took place.

Camp Closing Ceremony for Session IIII am home now and the first thing I did was sleep for 10 hours in my own bed. What bliss! When I got up, Ryan and I went to Camp Chicago for 'closing'. Yeah, I do Convention for two weeks and the first activity I engage in after returning is what? A church-related event! I must be a crazy man...

Camp was cool though. Got to visit with the staff, see my daughter and wife (who actually remembered who I was), and watch the drama performance, worship service, and award ceremony. All good! If you are reading this and have children between the ages of 3 and 17, you are doing them a disservice by not sending them to Camp Chicago. It is hugely fun!

After camp, Ryan and I ate at Burger King and then went to see Harry Potter! It was his first time seeing it -- I saw it on opening night (midnight) while at Anaheim so this was my second time. It was just as good the second time. Now I am home, watching Ice Road Truckers, Eureka, and doing my laundry. My DVR is full of stuff I missed -- I got some catching up to do!

My next task will be to put together a presentation to my church, St. Mary's, about the highlights of General Convention. I am also going to put on a table in our Parish Hall a bunch of materials I gathered while in Anaheim so that anyone interested can read them. My presentations are scheduled for August 9th.

Did I mention being really tired? Oh yeah. Very tired. Later this week, I will put some additional reflections on General Convention. But for the moment, my mind is a little mushy.

So, life after General Convention? Sure! But I think it starts after 2-3 days of rest and recuperation. My brian needs a rest. Thank the Lord I do not go back to work until Tuesday!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ubuntu, Odds n Ends, and Farewell

Well today was a busy one! Pat Abrams let me be a "Deputy for the Day" and it was really a cool thing to be on the floor of the House of Deputies, working through the budget, voting on lots of resolutions, electing people to offices within the Church, etc. We had two sessions today (thankfully a third 'evening' session was not required). And afterwards, I enjoyed dinner at an Indian restaurant, followed by a U2charist. We ended the day at our deputation meeting room where we debriefed 'our day', ate some munchies, and sang some 'creative' renditions of songs with an 'Ubuntu' flavor.

All in all, it was a great but tiring full day of Convention. Tomorrow, I will return to my Alternate status and sit for the morning legislative session with my fellow alternates while the House of Deputies debating Resolution C056 regarding same-gender blessings, which was passed by the House of Bishops on Wednesday. Then I take my leave of Anaheim and return to Illinois where seeing my family (a nice rest in my own bed) will be most welcome.

I want to thank the Diocese of Chicago for electing me as an Alternate Deputy to General Convention. It has been a blessed honor to serve.

Final Thoughts

Ubuntu!! "You in me and I in You." The theme for our Convention. A statement about our connectedness as human beings, as children of God, as fellow Episcopalians, as part of God's creation, as companions in Mission.

Our deputation has really gotten into Ubuntu (and I suppose Ubuntu has gotten into us as well). We have had a lot of fun together as we worked long hours for the past ten days. We have supported one another, laughed together, broken bread together, sang songs together. And I for one will really miss the camaraderie and the sense of community that we have developed.

This Convention has been full of experiences of Ubuntu. Sharing ministry stories with folks from Chicago. Discussing legislation and the state of our Church with my fellow Alternate Deputies at our 'table'. Having breakfasts with my mother, aunt, and cousin. Hanging out with youth from Western Michigan, Oregon, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Experiencing the daily Eucharist with thousands of Episcopalians. Sharing some 'Harry Potter love' at a midnight showing with friends. Reconnecting with friends that I probably wouldn't otherwise see if it weren't for General Convention.

I learned a lot. I learned more about the Church that I love -- its successes and its challenges. I have also gained greater insight into what makes me excited about ministry, and have seen that the Love of Jesus Christ is alive and well in the Episcopal Church. But mostly, I have learned that the Spirit does work in community and we can move forward in faith knowing that God is with us.

Got Ubuntu? The Diocese of Chicago does!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bishops pass same-gender blessings resolution

In their afternoon legislative session yesterday, 104 bishops voted to begin the development and collection of resources same-gender blessings (30 bishops voted No and 1 abstained). They amended the original text of the resoluton (Resolution C056) that was crafted within the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music committee. Now it is up to the House of Deputies to concur or reject the resolution. The House is scheduled to act upon the resolution in their Friday morning session.

Part of the amended text of the resolution includes wording to provide 'pastoral generosity' towards bishops of dioceses which cover states that have legalized same-gender marriage so that they can provide pastoral care for LGBT parshioners who have married in a civil ceremony. This addition to the resolution may make Resolution D012, which made this very request, no longer necessary if C056 passes without modification in the House of Deputies.

Many amendments were considered and rejected, including a motion to throw the entire Resolution out. But given the 3-to-1 postive vote, it seems clear that the bishops ar ready to seriously investigate ways of responding to the call for blessings between LGBT couples in lifelong, committed relationship that reflec the Love of Jesus Christ.

Note that passage of this resolution does not specifically authorize the adoption of same-gender blessings, just the process of gathering and reviewing such rites. What is gathered/developed will then be distilled into proposals for the next General Convention to consider. (Those dioceses in states that have legalized same-gender marriage will have some flexibility in responding to their specific pastoral situations.)

Click here to view the amended Resolution. You will be able to see the strikeouts in order to appreciate which sections of the original resolution were modified by the House of Bishops.

Budget revealed -- the challenge is before us

The challenge to move forward in faith, utilizing the resources we have wisely in time, talent, and treasure to fulfill our mission priorities over the next triennium.

The budget committee shared an opening statement to a joint session of both Houses on Wednesday at 2:30pm that summarized the focus and motivation behind the recently released budget for the Episcopal Church for 2010-2012. The total budget comes to $140M (which is down from the $163M that was originally estimated).

For me, the key paragraph that cuts to the chase was, "For each new challenge, there is a new opportunity. The economic environment and its effects on the financial resources available to the Budget for the next Triennium call the Church to take a very close look at all that we do, how and where we do it, whether or not certain activities should continue, and how programs might be done more effectively by a network of service organizations. This work was hard, and more often than not, painful."

It is painful. The Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F) had a difficult task, and the results were not totally unexpected. Programs have had their funding reduced or cut altogether. Significant staff reductions -- some estimate around 30 -- at the national church offices corresponding with those cuts are happening. I do not think there is anyone who is not going to be affected by the fiscal reality we are going to live with for the next three years.

The Budget committee was very clear to state that while these changes will cause us to become more efficient in the ways we move forward in mission, they are NOT 'value statements' about the quality or efficacy of those programs that have been cut or reduced.

Some positive things listed in the budget were:
  • The Millenium Development Goals have been restored in the budget, with .07% allocated to address poverty
  • Seed money was allocated in support of Hispanic communities
  • $200,000 was earmarked to assist seminarians with debt relief
  • $3 million was allocated for legal fees associated with property protection for dioceses

    Some painful cuts listed included:
  • Funding for General Convention was reduced by almost $2 million
  • Womens Ministries was cut from the budget entirely
  • Lay Ministry was cut from the budget entirely
  • Anti-Racism and Racial/Gender Justice and Equailty was reduced by $800,000
  • Evangelism & Congregational Life was reduced by $5 million
  • National Church Center services/functions were reduced by $9 million

    The Diocesan 'asking' -- what dioceses are asked to give to the National Church -- is going to be reduced over a three year period. Year 1 will remain at the current 21% level. Year 2 will be lowered to 20%. Year 3 will be lowered to 19%. It is hoped that this will help the dioceses.

    The committee suggested some 'out of the box' thinking when it comes to General Convention and the various committees that meet during the period between Conventions. Travel expenses have been reduced for CCABs to cover only 2 face-to-face meetings so the use of conference calling, video conferencing over the Internet, etc. is going to be encouraged. Some other items include:

  • The 77th General Convention will be reduced from 10 days to only 8 days to help save on expenses at both the Diocesan and National level.
  • The 'Blue Book' containing resolutins, committee reports, etc. will only be made available online
  • Free Wifi will be made available during General Convention
  • A strong push for a 'paperless' Convention will be encouraged

    On Thursday, deputies will be able to request for changes to the budget. The catch is: for every dollar you request be added in one area, you will also have to identify where those dollars are coming from elsewhere in the budget. There is no extra money laying around and the budget must be balanced. So while the discussions on the floor will likely demonstrate the pain people will be feeling, I am highly doubtful that anything in the budget will be changed.

    The budget should be published on the Episcopal Church website at some point in the near future (probably after tomorrow's debate is finished and the budget is passed in both Houses).
  • Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Church passes Denominational Health Plan

    The General Convention just passed resolution A177 calling for the establishment of a Denominational Health Plan that would be mandatory for all dioceses, covering both lay and clergy employees. This implementation will follow a 3-year transition plan so that in the end, all dioceses will offer this one plan for medical coverage. This plan will be managed by the Church Pension Fund which has continually demonstrated its ability to handle financial dealings of the Church most effectively. (Click here for more details)

    The mandatory nature of this plan is important from a cost perspective. The higher the participation level, the better the rates will be for both the Church and its employees in the plan. Things like plan deductibles, monthly fees, and details around what types of services are covered can be significantly affected by the number of people enrolled in the plan.

    I am definitely not a Healthcare specialist. But having worked closely with the Human Resources department at my company, I can tell you that the Church Pension Fund will be quite busy as the plan manager for this Health Plan. One of the things I would be most concerned about are the cost of the plan, the benefits it actually covers, how pre-existing conditions are handled, how many doctors/hospitals accept the plan, and how emergency care is handled. I have not seen a Summary Plan Document (SPD) and without that, these questions remained unanswered for me. (Perhaps the Deputies received this document and not the Alternates).

    Overall, I like the 'idea' of this plan but without having the details in front of me, it is difficult to get too excited at this point.

    A change of pace... family time & Harry Potter?

    Today, I spent time in the House of Deputies for sure, but I also spent some time with family. My mother, aunt, and cousin are all here for General Convention and up until today, I have been too committed to meetings and other arrangements that I needed to step back.

    I started my morning with a wonderful breakfast with my family and Michelle, a friend of my mother's (and defacto member of the family). We ate and talked and laughed out loud and generally had a great time together. And God saw that it was good, and it was GOOD!

    After the morning legislative session and the daily Eucharist (have I mentioned that the worship here has been awesome and the music fantastic? Well it has been.), I spent some time just talking with my cousin Margaret over lunch. You don't realize how much you miss family until you reconnect and come face-to-face with 'that which you do not normally get to experience'. It was so nice.

    Then Margaret (or Button as we call her), and I went to listen to my Aunt Edna lead a workshop on "Mothers, Sisters, and friends of the Bible". My mother joined us. And while I could only be there for about 15 minutes because I had to get over to the House od Deputies, it was amazing to watch my aunt in action. Her workshop room was full of women (this was an ECW workshop) who were fully engaged in her presentation. i was very proud.

    On the floor of the House this afternoon, we passed the amended version of the D027 Resolution that the House of Bishops passed yesterday. It was a good feeling!

    The day turned into evening. The Chicago Deputation had a dinner scheduled and we spent the time laughing, sharing copious amounts of "UBuntu", singing, and enjoying each others' company.

    And to top off the day, Ian Hallas, me, and several folks from the Western Michigan deputation are going to go the the Disneyland Theater at midnight tonight to watch the opening of the new Harry Potter movie! Yeah, we will probably pay for it tomorrow when we have to live with the lack of sleep but it will be well worth the sacrifice!

    Accio Firebolt!

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Chicago youth travel to Anaheim

    Last Friday, a group of 13 young people and their youth ministers descended upon the Anaheim Convention center. The Diocese of Chicago has always found ways to support youth who demonstrate an interest in the church, its beliefs, and its polity. Chicago youth have been to the last three General Conventions attending legislative sessions, testifying at committee hearings, and discussing issues with deputies and bishops.

    Sue Cromer, Canon for Youth, Young Adult, Campus Ministries, and Summer Camp for the Diocese of Chicago is responsible for making these and other leadership development opportunities available to the youth of our Diocese.

    When they arrived, they spent time with the Chicago Deputation to gain a sense of what had already transpired at Convention and what hearings and legislation were likely to surface while they were here. They wasted no time getting 'plugged in.'

    It wasn't all business, however. They also spent time in fellowship with the Official Youth Presence and other young people at Convention. They attended the big Sunday Eucharist celebrated by the Presiding Bishop. And they participated in a Latin Festival being held in Anaheim, enjoying a variety of food, music, and cultural events.

    Because most of the youth are also on camp staff at the Diocesan 'Camp Chicago' Summer Camp program, they left for Illinois Monday morning -- bringing stories to share with the campers coming to camp tomorrow.

    Episcopal Church a step closer to full inclusion!

    The last few days have been very eventful. It started in the House of Deputies on Sunday afternoon when in a vote by orders (meaning votes were counted by diocese, lay and clergy) resulted in the passing of Resolution D025: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion.

    This resolution (text can be found here) affirms our relationship with the Anglican Communion. It also affirms the reality of gay and lesbian members of our community living in lifelong committed relationships, and, affirms that God has called and may call such individuals to any ordained ministry in the Church.

    The voting in the House of Deputies was:
    In the laity, 50 votes required for passage. 77 voted for, 31 voted against.
    In the clergy, 49 votes required for passage, 74 voted for, 35 voted against.

    On Monday afternoon, the resolution was discussed in the House of Bishops. The bishops made an amendment to the resolution, and in a bold move, passed the resolution! The voting in the House of Bishops was 99 bishops in favor, 45 bishop dissenting, and 2 bishops abstaining. The social networking service Twitter was ablaze with the news. This occurred towards the end of the legislative seesion in the House of Deputies so news traveled quickly to the larger House.

    The amended resolution will now be referred back to the House of Deputies where they will have to review the amendment and vote to "Concur" or "Reject". So the final decision is in the hands of the House of Deputies. If the amended resolution passes, then this will effectively nullify the 2006 Resolution B033 (which issued a moratorium on the consecration of gay/lesbian bishops).

    Stay tuned!

    Youth make themselves heard!

    Deputy Ian Hallas, Diocese of Chicago
    The President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, gave us some sobering statistics about the membership of our house. Some of interest were that about 80% of the deputies in the House were age 65 or more. Less than 3% were under the age of 35. Even less than that -- 2% -- were less than age 25. That is not a good indication of how involved youth and young adults are in the legislative process of our church.

    But that 2% are doing all that they can and people are paying attention!

    Last General Convention, Mr. Ian Hallas was the first youth elected Alternate Deputy for the Diocese of Chicago. This time, he is the second youngest full Deputy at Convention. The youngest deputy is a friend of mine, Olivia Adams, in the Diocese of Western Michigan (also in Province V). Ian and Olivia are fine examples of the kind of energy, intelligence, and passion that our church needs to move forward and keep the Episcopal Church relevant both now and into the future.

    In addition to youth deputies sprinkled throughout the House, the Official Youth Presence (made up of two young adults from each Province) is also on the floor of Convention. While they have seat and voice, they do not yet have vote in the House. Resolution D066 hopes to change that. If passed in both Houses (in two consecutive General Conventions), it will grant the Youth Presence vote.

    Other resolutions regarding young people in the church are:

    B003: Camping Ministries
    This resolution would direct the Youth Formation Area of the Evangelism and Congregational Life Center to help dioceses to develop currciulum, training, and resources for camp programs. Chicago has been fortunate to have a wonderful Summer Camp program in place for many years.

    D064: Youth Meeting in Europe
    This resolution includes many young adults actions including recommending 30 young adults make a pilgrimage to Geneva Switzerland to engage with organizations like the World Council of Churches and the World Health Organization in implementing the Millenium Development Goals. All activities are designed to help build leadership skills and a deepening of faith through engagements in the work of the Church.

    D065: Youth Seat, Voice, and Vote on Vestry
    This resolution directs that each congregation create at least one youth seat on their Vestry or Bishop's Committee. This seat(s) would include voice and vote for a one year term for a youth between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Here in the Diocese of Chicago, we wrote and passed a similar resolution and have authorized youth on Vestry for over five years now.

    At Monday's morning legislative session, Mr. Zach Brown and Ms. Carolyn Chu addressed the House of Deputies with empassioned speeached on the vitality and importance of youth and young adult participation in the life of the Church. One quote I particularly liked was "It's our job to show you our interest; it's your job to give us the opportunity."

    Young people have been showing their love and dedication to the Episcopal Church during this Convention. The other 80% of the House is taking notice. This is a good thing! Let's work to empower more youth to get engaged in mission and involved in the life of our church -- at the parish, diocesan, and national levels!

    Budget cuts expected to be 'draconian'

    At the afternoon Legislative Session, a letter from the Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F) was read aloud to the House of Deputies. It was reported that the actual budget shortfall is closer to $14 million and that significant cuts will be made across the spectrum of the budget.

    It was also suggested that the 'diocesan asking' may be reduced (the amount each diocese is asked to contribute to the church) in hopes that a lower 'asking' might result in more dioceses actually paying it in full. This diocesan asking is the primary source of income for the national church.

    The budget committee is digging in deep, working well past midnight to come up with the budget that they plan to announce to a joint session of the House of Deputies/Bishops on Wednesday's afternoon Legislative Session. In fact, the budget has been completed and is now being printed in preparation for Wednesday. In addition to broad cuts, it is likely to contain 'creative proposals' for reducing the costs of the next General Convention as well as the expenses associated with the various committess and task forces that will meet over the next three years.

    After the budget is announced on Wednesday, we will all know and feel the pain that these economic times, and the impact of reduced giving and membership, have wrought. I doubt anyone will come out unaffected. Lack of funds will certainly impact resolutions with financial implications, which in turn will impact the way we fulfill out mission in the next three years.

    The rubber is about to hit the road.

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    And so it begins!

    Wednesday was the first official day of General Convention. We had a short Legislative Session in the morning where the House got itself organized and ready to conduct business. Then we went to the daily Eucharist which was led by the Presiding Bishop who gave a very good sermon.

    I ran into Bishop Persell and Nancy at the service. They were looking very well and happy to be part of the Convention. I also ran into another good friend from the past -- Fr. Jim Friedrich and his wife. Jim is well known for his work with Cathedral Films but my favorite memories are of him are as one of the assistants at St. Johns in Los Angeles, my home parish as a child.

    Highlights for me

    Budget Priorities

    The House of Deputies approved the mission priorities for the Church which will guide the Budget allocations during Convention. These priorities are:

    • Networking the members of the body of Christ

    • Alleviating poverty and injustice

    • Claiming our identity

    • Growing congregations and the next generations of faith

    • Strengthening governance and foundations for ministry
    Now it goes to the House of Bishops for their consideration. A full description of each priority can be found here.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks to Convention

    The opportunity to hear from the Archbishop of Canterbury who gave an insightful assessment of our world today -- we are in a crisis of truthfulness. We all need to get back to a place where our actions and behaviors are based on 'mutual attention' to the truths in our relationships, to the world we live in, and to the 'Common Good'. We, the Body of Christ, were made so that what is given to us is then given to others in turn.

    Hearing on Resolution B012

    At 2pm today, testimony was heard during the hearing for Resolution B012: Pastoral Generosity. This resolution is in response to recent State Supreme Court decisions legalizing marriage between same-sex couples. This has been done in six states thus far, with more states expected to follow suit in the near future.

    Bishops in these dioceses are asking the church for 'pastoral generosity' to give them permission to authorize marriage rites for LGBT couples who have entered into civil marriage and would like to have their marriages recognized and celebrated in their church. Without passage of this resolution, priests and bishops face a serious pastoral challenge in responding to their parishioners. How can they discriminate against a segment of their communities of faith when it comes to the Sacrament of Marriage?

    Hundreds of people showed up for the hearing. Many, like myself, had to stand outside the meeting room and strain to listen to the testimonies. Laypersons, priests, and bishops -- including Bishop Gene Robinson -- spoke in favor of the resolution. Many shared the pain they have endured as a result of not being able to celebrate their bond of matrimony in and with their church communities.

    Concerns on my mind
    1. We have a $9M shortfall in the budget. This means drastic cuts. The question will be 'where' the cuts will be reflected. One area I worry about? The draft budget proposal has cut all financial support for black colleges that the church helped to establish long ago. These colleges, like St. Pauls College, Voorhees College, and St. Augustine have been hard hit by the economic crisis. State funding has dried up or been drastically reduced while demand for improved curriculum, higher enrollments, and operating costs have increased. Given the church's mission priorities, it seems inconsistent that we would cease to fund educational institutions that help people escape the bonds of poverty and despair. I believe funding needs to be reinstated and even increased if possible.

    2. We need to recommit ourselves as a Diocese and as a Church to eliminate institutional racism. We need to dedicate the time, talent, and treasure required to continue moving forward in this very important goal and to show others how to do the same.

    3. We need to ensure the equal access for all the children of God to all Sacraments of the Church. How can the church call upon its clergy to discriminate against a segment of their congregations by denying them the Sacrament of Marriage? All people are created in the image of God. I liked Bishop Gene Robinson's comment during the hearing today, "Marriage equality is a reality coming to a state near you."

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    It's all about Ubuntu!

    Yesterday I got on a plane and flew to Anaheim, CA in preparation for the upcoming 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. General Convention meets every three years and is the legislative body that votes on the Canons and laws that govern the church. General Convention is similar to the United States government in structure -- two houses -- where votes are cast for legislation. There is the House of Deputies (with both clergy and lay deputies) and the House of Bishops. Legislation must be passed by both houses in order to become law. Our governing body is widely considered to be the largest in the world with over 1000 deputies.

    So anyways, yesterday was mostly a day of fellowship, reconnecting with friends, and preparing for the days ahead. It was also the first day of Registration for deputies and bishops. So after getting my badge, document binder, and other materials, I spent most of the day reading and getting my schedule entered into my iPhone.

    Today was the Opening Day for Convention. Legislative Committees are already meeting. I attended the Prayer Book, Liturgies, and Music committee meeting in the morning. One of the main decisions made today was the date for the Hearings on resolutions pertaining to Same Sex Blessings. It appears that these will take place on Thursday at 2pm. It is anticipated to take the entire two-hour period allocated.

    Also interesting is that the Hearings on the resolutions pertaining to Resolution B033: Exercise Restraint in Consecrating Candidates (from the last General Convention in 2006) are scheduled on the same day -- Thursday evening at 8pm. It is going to be a very busy day on Thursday indeed!

    This afternoon, Convention opened with addresses by the Presiding Bishop Schori and the President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson. We were introduced to the theme of Convention: Ubuntu.

    ArchBishop Desmond Tutu, when speaking of Ubuntu, said "One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity."

    Then we received an introduction to Public Narratives -- a participatory, vision-focused dialogue on the Mission of the Church which was directed by the last General Convention in Resolution D043. These Mission Conversations are designed to help articulate our commitment to mission by sharing a person's individual faith journey, the values of our community, and how we choose to 'act' in response. During this Convention, all deputies will learn this method of 'sharing our story' as well as how to help others articulate their own stories.

    Tonight, there will be more Legislative Committee meetings. I haven't yet decided which one I will attend. Lastly, there is a meeting for Deputies of Color which I will attend -- where we discuss legislation that may have important impacts upon minority ministries, issues of social justice, and progress towards anti-racism within the Church. It will also be nice to meet up with old friends.

    Tomorrow will be our first FULL day of committees, legislative sessions, etc. More then!