Monday, June 29, 2015

Making Headway Painfully

There is a portion of Old Testament scripture which illustrates my sense of the 78th General Convention.  It is found in 1 Kings, Chapter 18, and relates the experience of the prophet Elijah running ahead of Ahab’s chariots to Jezreel, as the chariots’ wheels bogged down in the mud of the valley.

My perception is not that of Elijah.  It is the sense of being with Ahab’s chariots.  We are bogged down and moving very slowly.  One of my frequent references in such situations – where progress is very slow – is to the story from Mark 6:48, in which the disciples are depicted as making headway painfully during a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

I would apologize for not posting to my blog last night.  It is a discipline that I try to keep. It helps me recollect and integrate the many things that happen during the day.  However, we had a specially-called meeting of my committee (the Committee on Governance and Structure) last night, preventing me from attending the Mississippi dinner that is always a highlight of General Convention.  My committee convened at 7:30 last night evening and, after much discussion, we ended our meeting close to 10:00 p.m.  It was not until after that meeting that I was able to have dinner and, by that time, I was “fried” and unable to write a blog.  My apologies.

Today I am writing on the floor of General Convention, during a four-hour afternoon session of the House of Deputies.  My committee began meeting again at 7:30 this morning, and we worked right through the Convention Eucharist, ending our deliberations just before an 11:00 a.m. legislative session, the first full session of the day.

This committee is one of the most important of this convention. We are tasked with considering, hearing, and acting on more than 40 resolutions – many of which emerged from the three year work of the Task Force on Reimagining the Episcopal Church.  That task force produced a comprehensive report which suggested numerous changes in the upper reaches of the Episcopal Church.  The committee has worked mightily to address these many topics, but we have been moving through this daunting task with a ponderous pace.

We are struggling to get key resolutions on the floor in time for them to be acted on by the House of Deputies, so that they may then be sent to the House of Bishops.  It is anticipated that the Bishops will amend whatever the House of Deputies passes, necessitating reconsideration by the deputies.  General Convention has only four days remaining, so time if of the essence.

To that end, the House of Deputies this afternoon scheduled a special order of business to consider many of these key matters at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday (tomorrow).  That time frame may allow sending the resolutions back-and-forth to the House of Bishops.  While I have some minor objections to the resolutions as they will be presented to the House of Deputies, they will be largely constructive.  However, they will fall far short of the recommendations made by the Task Force on Reimagining the Episcopal Church.

The real work of reimagining and reenergizing the Episcopal Church will be done mostly on the local, diocesan, and provincial levels – and in those synergistic, collaborative efforts that usually emerge in voluntary, self-selected relationships.  It is, in my opinion, a bottom-up process of reimagining that will be most transformative and meaningful, and not a top-down process.

It is my understanding that the Bishops have been in discussion today on the subject of marriage.  I do not know the results of their deliberations at this time.  However, the House of Deputies this afternoon approved A-037, a resolution extending the life, membership, and functioning of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage.  It has already been approved by the House of Bishops, so the House of Deputies’ action was concurrence.  The resolution is now official action of the General Convention and will prompt additional study on the subject of marriage. (I would note that the Reverend David Knight, an alternate deputy from the Diocese of Mississippi, has served on that task force during the past triennium.)

The House of Deputies also approved, and sent to the House of Bishops, resolution D-044, proposed by the entire deputation from the Diocese of Mississippi.  The resolution calls for the Confederate Battle Flag to not be displayed in the future in public, governmental, or church settings.  The resolution is grounded in our testimony and witness to Jesus Christ and his reconciling love; our baptismal vow to “respect the dignity of every human being”; and in the Episcopal Church’s fourth Mark of Mission (“transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation”).

I am very sorry to report that Bobbie Marascalco, a lay member of the Mississippi deputation, had to return prematurely to her home in Vicksburg due to the murder of a good friend, Sharon Wilson.  Bobbie was joined in her return trip to Vicksburg by her rector, the Reverend Beth Palmer, also a member of the Mississippi deputation.  We are keeping them in our prayers.

I suspect that there will be more news on marriage and structure in the next few days.  I will do my best to keep you posted in a timely way.

Please keep the General Convention and the Mississippi Deputation in your prayers.

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