It’s Wednesday, July 11, 2018, the 7th day of the General Convention. It’s hot outside (95º and getting hotter) and cold inside (the AC is cranking). Meanwhile, on the convention floor, there are moments of deep inspiration and times of stress. Of course, there is some boredom mixed with technical troubles as well. Some deputations (not us of course) are having trouble with the voting devices. Did I mention that this is the 7th day?
Today started with the deep inspiration. 52 years ago, the Episcopal Church expelled the Diocese of Cuba from our Church. We are acknowledging our mistake and (at their request) bringing them back. The Bishop of Cuba was welcomed back by the House of Bishops yesterday, and our House of Deputies followed suit today. Both decisions were loudly unanimous. I’m including a picture of the Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio of Cuba and several of her people as they came into the House of Deputies and were seated.
Another moment that brought some tears to some eyes was the presentation by the Reverend John Floberg, one of our clergy who stood with the “Water Protectors” at Standing Rock. He brought the Episcopal Church flag that had flown with so many others at the camp. It was so saturated with the smoke from their campfires that is was almost like incense. As soon as he finished his remarks, President Gay Jennings had Father Floberg escorted to the dais so that she could present him with the House of Deputies medal.
In business, the House approved a resolution to keep a high level of funding in place for our ongoing work in racial reconciliation. We also got our first look at the three year budget. We will have a lot of work ahead of us to make those two things work together.
As for the plans for a new revision of the Book of Common Prayer, everyone got something to be happy about and more to be disappointed in. That’s just how a community makes the big decisions, I guess. There will be a task force to work on this, but it will definitely not have a million-dollar budget.
It’s been a lot of work and a lot of reward. We will have a lot to talk about when we get home. Plan to be a one of the listening sessions we have planned in the diocese.
David Annis is a member of St. Anne, De Pere. To learn more about our General Convention Deputies, visit diofdl.org/gc.
My morning began with no light in the shower. I’m a bit slow of mind and body in the morning, but immediately I switched to what I call “1972 Kenya mode” no time for complaining, just get going!
I did an abbreviated Morning Prayer, then met my sister, Chris, for breakfast at 7:30. She lives in San Antonio, but works in Austin. We ate, laughed, cried and prayed together for almost 2 hours. I’m fortunate to not be on a committee!
I arrived at the convention center in time to attend the Bishops Against Gun Violence gathering. Today we prayed for Children shooting children. The Bishops have been giving out 96 crosses each day, the number of people killed on an average day in our country.
On to the third joint session of House of Bishops and Deputies as we focused on the Care of Creation.
Archbishop Thabo Makgabo from South Africa spoke of Seeing and Feeling and the need to educate, advocate and change our thinking about climate change.- to See it, Feel it and Do something!
Sr. Helena from the Community of the Holy Spirit in New York led us in a spirited exercise to to the music of a Cameroon tune with the lyrics, Love, love, love our planet; Love God’s holy earth, Alleluia!
Then we heard an emotional sharing by Bernadette Demientieff, who is a Gwich’in from Ft Yukon, Alaska. Her story of what has happened to her homeland, animals and land was heartbreaking. There is only 5% left of their land not subject to oil. I was left with how serious their issues are. Indigenous Rights Are Human Rights and let us not get weary because our labors are not in vain!
Our third speaker was Rev. Stephanie Johnson, who combines her passion as a former environmental consultant with her ministry as a priest in Connecticut to advocate for environmental laws, being a prophetic witness for those who will come after.
The highlights of our legislative session this afternoon were passage of resolutions to support Trans and non binary individuals and for individuals to be able to change their names in church records.
Worship today was also centered on the Care of Creation. Each day’s worship has been a highlight of my day.
I am Blessed.
The Rev. Sandy Muinde is Deacon assigned to Trinity, Oshkosh. To learn more about our General Convention Deputies, visit diofdl.org/gc.
Beloved: today was very, very full with legislation, but also with taking the temperature of the Church and determining where the Holy Spirit is leading us. Of course, part of the trick of this is that when you get some Christians (over 800!) in a room, they will not all agree about what direction the Spirit is blowing. This means there is disagreement. But there need not be disunity. Grace is called upon to fill in the gaps so that we can continue to make room for one another.
Today we talked about the approved Marriage Rites for all people (including same-sex couples) which were approved at the 2015 Convention. In the Episcopal Church, marriage is a sacrament for which the Rector or priest-in-charge of a parish has authority to celebrate or not (except in the case of remarriage in which the Bishop is to be consulted). However, with the resolution passed in 2015, right now a priest who desires to celebrate the marriage ceremony of a same-sex couple must have permission from the Bishop. So the resolution proposed for this General Convention is seeking to place same-sex marriage rites on the same playing field as heterosexual marriage rites, while also insuring that the liturgies themselves end up in any Revised Book of Common Prayer in the future, and not in a supplemental book of liturgies. Since this issue is still tender for many folks, there was much debate. The resolution was overwhelmingly approved in the House of Deputies, but the resolution also needs to pass in the House of Bishops.
We also listened to quite a bit of discussion and debate concerning the desire that the Episcopal Church "continues its firm support for the right of Israel to exist in secure borders as established and recognized by the United Nations, but also continues its strong opposition to Israel’s occupation in perpetuity of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip which is now recognized by the United Nations as the sovereign state of Palestine." The resolution is asking for the Church "to develop a human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this Church and 70 years of Church policy on Israel/Palestine ." This is not easy stuff. The Church wants to make clear that this is not an anti-semitism statement, but a statement of recognizing the rights of both Palestine and Israel and to make sure that our investments line up with our social teaching of the Gospel. You know, living out what is preached. It's complex and complicated business. (as it is for all of us on a day to day basis). This resolution passed the House of Deputies.
And then, as if that were not enough, today we also considered a resolution about Seeking Truth, Reconciliation and Healing regarding sexual harassment and abuse within the Church. There was quite a bit of testimony given, allowing people to bring their voice to the conversation---voices that have often been silenced when the Church has been complicit in the harassment and the abuse. This resolution passed the House of Deputies.
And beloved, it warms my heart to say that when we are coming up to a vote that we know will cause pain to folks within the House due to the strong feelings about the issue, we stop and pray---collectively---and we remind ourselves of two truths: We are one together, and All manner of things shall be well.
As part of taking care of many resolutions (over 450 have been presented to the General Convention), many resolutions end up on the Consent Calendar. This is a list of resolutions that the committee dealing with the resolution feels will not need debate or resolutions that are not being moved forward for action or that have been rejected by the committee. A resolution can be taken off the consent calendar in many ways, including at the request of any three deputies. For example, yesterday on the consent calendar was a resolution to continue developing "a church-wide network for planting congregations, training and recruiting planters and mission developers." (This is the source of the Mission Enterprise Zone grant Intercession Episcopal received in June of 2017). Since a similar resolution has passed in the past two conventions, it was placed on the consent calendar. The resolution asks for almost 6 million to be provided for this effort because there has been a lot of success from this endeavor in the past 6 years. Now it moves to the Bishops' calendar....as do all the other approved resolutions.
Beloved, it seems to me that we are at a time of great discernment, a time of taking the "temperature" of the Church and trying to adjust the sails to move with the Holy Spirit. Some of the Beloved agree with my take on the direction, and some do not. No matter where I might personally wish the Church to go, the Gospel calls me to make room for the One(s) who does not agree with me and my understanding. The Gospel calls me to recognize that, ultimately, God has the ship in hand and to trust that God's will shall prevail---even in the storm or the wind or the waves----and to recognize that if a sibling in Christ seems to be standing on the other side of the shore, I cannot just abandon my sibling. I must find my way toward my sibling, repairing the breach, seeking common ground and refuge for all. Pray for us all as we listen to stories and desires and people's very real woundedness. Pray for us to listen well to our siblings, members of this Body of the Risen Christ. Pray that we all might know that this work of discernment isn't about "winning." Pray, Beloved, pray that we keep our hearts leaning in toward God's justice and dream---leaning in toward one another so that Jesus can continue to bind us together. We are one together. Gospel Truth.
The Rev. Jane Johnson is Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Intercession, Stevens Point. To learn more about our General Convention Deputies, visit diofdl.org/gc.
Wishing you all many blessings on this day that God has made. We here at General Convention are certainly receiving the Spirit’s outpouring in work, in our growing relationships with the wider church, and in the spirit led worship that is an integral part of General Convention. I have yet to be in any session that has not started with prayer, ended with prayer and, on many occasions, paused for prayer during moments when the participants were at a point of exhaustion or in need of it. I truly feel that God is invited into every space being shared here.
Today our morning and early afternoon was devoted to worship. There were opportunities at area churches as well as the Convention Center. In the morning, many representatives participated in the Bishops Against Gun Violence, witness and prayer service. At this service the Schentrup family, whose daughter Carmen, who was one of 17 students and educators who was killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, High School on Ash Wednesday this year. The Schentrups belong to St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, Florida. Speaking with them was ninth grade student, Abigail Zimmerman (St. Alban’s, Waco, TX) who was eight years old when the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting took place and only 14 at this year’s shooting. She spoke about the 239 shootings that have taken place between Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas; shootings that have shaped the childhood experience of what school is for her and her contemporaries. For more information, you can read the Episcopal News Service coverage here.
Following the service in the park, more than 1000 Bishops and Deputies “at least two for every one female incarcerated at the Hutto Detention Center stood under the blistering sun July 8 in public witness to the actions of the U.S. government in its enforcement of immigration policies that have separated families over the last couple of months.” (ENS 7-8-2018). We sang and prayed. We were assured they could hear us by the Vicar of the Episcopal Church in Taylor, TX, and many walked (respectfully) to the front where the women could look out of tall narrow windows and see us. We were there to let them know in this time of despair that they are not alone. One deputy from Washington state noticed that some women were able to be at the windows, they were waving to us and one held up a small sign that she moved on the window so that we would see. I am saddened that our distance prevented us from seeing what she wrote, thinking that this was, perhaps, a message to her family, or a request for help. Read the full coverage here.
As the prayer service ended, it was time to return to the Convention Center for our 3pm-7pm legislative session during which, in the HoD, was dedicated to in large part to elections - the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings was re-elected to a third and final term as President of the House of Deputies. We then began the initial work of looking at resolution B012, and how we will moving forward into the next triennium for continued trial use, in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canon II.3.6, for “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” and the “Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2”. Questions and debate had just begun when our evening session ended. We will continue with discussion and voting on this amendment Monday morning.
On a lighter note, there has been a pigeon in the House of Deputies this past week. It choses interesting moments make its presence known and has developed quite a following. Yesterday during the tedium of multiple ballot elections, facilitated by technological glitches, the young adult presence garnered quite a bit of applause by creating a digital version of the pigeon which was projected on the monitors in the house for all to see. You can read more about our delightful pigeon experiences here.
The Rev. Dr. Erin Kirby is Rector of St. Matthias, Minocqua. To learn more about our General Convention Deputies, visit diofdl.org/gc.
I started out my day by attending church at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin. It was a short 4 or 5 block walk. It has a long history in Austin, believed to be the oldest Episcopal Church building in constant use west of the Mississippi. Their normal attendance of 25 at the 8:00am service was more like 100 today.
The next event for me, was to join the public witness by Bishop’s United Against Gun Violence which was held in a small park across from the Convention Center. Some of the featured speakers were April and Phil Schenstrup, whose daughter Carmen was one of the Parkland School shooting victims, and Abigail Zimmerman, a high school freshman who gave a rousing, impassioned speech that included a call for common sense gun laws, and the hope that her younger brothers, and eventually her own kids will not have to be afraid to go to their own school.
The highlight of the day was a trip to the T. Don Hutto Detention Center near Taylor, Texas. The organizers of this trip thought they might get 150-250 people to come – instead they had over 1,000 Episcopalians who came on 16 buses and by private vehicles to pray, and share a message of love and hope, for the 512 women detained within the walls. The heat did not deter the passion of the crowd as spontaneous songs and hymns were sung followed by prayers, and a speech by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry who told us we can make America great again by making America good again. We were told the women inside could hear us, and they watched out the windows, where they could, until the last bus was gone.
There was still work waiting to be done after we got back. The House of Deputies elected people to several boards and re-elected Rev. Gay Clerk Jennings to her 3rd and final term as President of the House of Deputies. Debate started on Resolution B012 which deals with “Marriage Rites for the Whole Church” Due to the session time running out, this will continue tomorrow.
Cheryl Dobrzynski is a member of St. Peter, Sheboygan Falls. To learn more about our General Convention Deputies, visit diofdl.org/gc.
One of the unique offerings at this triennium’s General Convention are TEConversations (The Episcopal Church Conversations), which are being held during three joint sessions of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies over the coming week. Each conversation offers multiple speakers, video presentations and engaging interludes around three priorities of this gathering: racial reconciliation, evangelism and care of creation.
The first conversation revolved around racial reconciliation. We heard from a reformed, former leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization, Arno Michaelis. He told us hate and violence was an all-consuming way of life. Compassion and forgiveness are a double edged sword as the way to combat this anger and hate.
The Rev. Nancy Frausto, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) beneficiary priest was another speaker. Frausto is a dreamer, “which means I entered the country illegally. I ran and hid to be reunited with my father.” Frausto talked about the story of Jesus and Lazarus when Jesus said to the people, “Unbind him. Let him go.” She went on to say, “Imagine us unbinding this country from racism.
We also heard from a local Austin poet, Charles Dawain Stephens, aka Chucky Black, who recited his poem, Black Magic; Dr. Catherine Meeks, Director of the Absalom Joes Episcopal Center for Racial Healing and viewed a video that presented the question – What is a Beloved Community? – was answered by people representing the diversity of the Episcopal Church.
A discussion followed within dioceses surrounding the issues of racism. Our diocese focused discussion on the unbinding of our hatred, fear, oppression and pain within our diocese and churches.
Each TEConversation will be available live and online, with support materials, for local use in churches at a later date. The next TEConversation is on Evangelism. It will be 2:30-4 p.m. CDT on July 7.
The other main order of business before the House of Deputies was Resolution A068 regarding full revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. There was much debate and discussion regarding this resolution and there will be more discussion and a probable vote on Saturday morning. Please continue to pray for our delegation as consider and vote on the important resolutions before us.
Anne Peterson is a member of St. Thomas, Menasha. To learn more about our General Convention Deputies, visit diofdl.org/gc.
Greetings from Austin Texas and the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. We all arrived on July 3rd and those serving on committees had their first meetings. The process of working through resolutions has begun. I am working on the Title IV Safeguarding the Church committee. We are strengthening the clergy disciplinary canons and working on policies to ensure that our churches are as safe as possible
Today, the 4th, we did not take a holiday. We had our first meeting as the House of Deputies and we heard from our president and from our presiding bishop. He reminded us that we are serving the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ. He drove it home by talking about the lyrics of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. As He died to make men holy, let us live to make all free, While God is marching on.” Read more about his address to the convention here.
Pray for us as we do our work. Pray for our church.
Fr. Ralph Osborne is Rector of St. Thomas, Menasha and serves as Chair of the Diocese of Fond du Lac Deputation. To learn more about our General Convention Deputies, visit diofdl.org/gc.