It is approaching 11:00 a.m. on Thursday morning on the ninth -- and penultimate --legislative day of the 76th General Convention. I must admit some weariness. I would describe this as a 10-day vestry meeting on steroids.
Our deputation has worked together very well and I have appreciated everyone's presence and full participation here. We received an e-mail from alternate Ed Thurmond, who returned home last night. He offered us less-than-encouraging words of the humidity we would encounter when we return to Mississippi. Somehow I look forward to it.
The session opened this morning with a meditation and prayers by the Chaplain of the House of Deputies, the Reverend Frank Wade, retired rector of St. Alban's Church, Washington (next door to National Cathedral). This is at least the second time that Frank has served in this role -- a role he has described to me as "the best job in the church." He is quite gifted at this unique ministry.
Frank's meditation this morning was about the importance of evangelism. It was the best meditation of this convention. He tells me that the meditations will be available on-line. I have been unable to find them thus far, but when I do, I will pass them on to you. As we have debated many, many issues here in Anaheim, I thought Frank's meditation got to the heart of the matter.
You may have seen news reports of the House of Bishops' action on C-056, a resolution dealing with same-gender unions. There is widely varying reporting on the subject -- some of which is very overstated in terms of its implications. The secular media has difficulty dealing with the nuances of church polity and process.
I have not had a chance to speak with Bishop Gray about his thoughts on the much-amended version which came from the House of Bishops. The current version (which should come before the Deputies later today) may be found here: http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=898&type=Current
One important caveat: The title of the resolution is listed as "Liturgies for Blessings." The resolution as currently proposed does not approve liturgies for blessing but provides for a study of the subject. The title does not change as the resolution is amended.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, those who would like to see the blessing of same gender unions clearly have the votes to move the church in that direction. The questions for consideration are how will that new majority function and how will they deal with those of different opinions? The answer to those questions will have a significant impact on future relationships within the House of Deputies and House of Bishops. Will we work together or will we be polarized (much like the nation, politically) in the future?
Of course, one of the issues which Convention is attempting to address is how Bishops in the six states which allow civil unions or same-gender blessings may respond to those individuals and legal options? That is a real pastoral issue for the Bishops in those six states. The resolution says "That bishops, 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..."
The proposed resolution calls for a study of the issues by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, during the coming triennium. It also provides, "That this Convention continue to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality..."
Our work this morning has been restricted to discussion and debate of the national budget. As I mentioned in a previous post, the budget had to be cut by $23 million over the next three years. There has been extensive discussion this morning. A number of efforts have been made to amend the budget or reappropriate funds from one line item to another. Thus far, the House of Deputies has respected the hard work of the Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (chaired by an Arkansas deputy) and rejected every effort to amend the budget.
It may be tomorrow before I get to blog again. Please keep us in your prayers.