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."

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