Friday, July 6, 2012

Today was the second legislative day of the 77th General Convention.  Like a locomotive gaining speed, the mechanism of General Convention is beginning to pick up momentum.  While we have -- as a House of Deputies -- dealt with some issues, nearly all of the significant ones are yet to come.  I cannot speak for the House of Bishops.  I get to see very little of Bishop Gray, but I will share a bit of what I have learned from his perceptions in a moment.

I took a day off from "the floor" today, and the Reverend Betsy Baumgarten, one of alternates, sat in for me.  I focused my attention on my committee work.  The Structure Committee actually met three times today -- 7:30 to 9:00 a.m., 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.  We are attemtping to dispatch more than 80 resolutions which have come before, and on which we must have hearings and act before the adjournment of General Convention.

Two bits of news from the Structure Committee (which is one of the most focused-on committees this year): (1) A special drafting committee has been named to devise a comprehensive, omnibus approach to reorganization of the Episcopal Church (especially the administrative and governance structures of the "national" church); and (2) the Structure Committee approved a resolution today instructing the Executive Council (the "national" church's "vestry") to sell the Episcopal Church Center, located at 815 Second Avenue in New York.  The resolution mandated that the sale take place before the 78th General Convention in 2015.  On the floor, the deadline was eliminated, but the requirement to sell the headquarters was approved.  It now goes to the House of Bishops.

The action to require the sale of Episcopal Church Center seems to me to be a "shot across the bow," indicating that the Structure Committee and the House of Deputies are interested in doing things differently.  I am suspecting that the seriousness of that intention is going to be punctuated by additional actions by the Structure Committee and the House of Deputies in the coming days.

The House of Bishops, for their part, is sending some significant signals, as well.  Bishop Gray says that his house is defeating funding resolutions which indicate "business as usual", and are also defeating certain appropriations and instructions to various Standing Commissions of the Church.  This seems to be an indication, on the Bishop's part, that they mean business, too.

There appears to be a developing consensus that restructuring is moving forward.  But, as my grandfather said many years ago, "Many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip."  We shall see; I am hopeful.

Our committee is also considering resolutions requiring that General Convention become a unicameral (one house) legislative body, and mandating that the next Presiding Bishop (to be elected in 2015) would retain jurisdiction, thereby continuing as the Bishop of the diocese he or she serves at the time of election.  Those may not be approved, but they are indications of the sentiments here.

Some of the more contentious matters are yet to be discussed.  The blessing of same gender unions will be the subject of a hearing tomorrow evening.  That matter, along with other significant issues, will be subject of debate on the floors of the two houses next week.

Please keep us in your prayers.

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