Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day "Zero" of 2012 General Convention

Day "Zero" (before Convention business officially opens) features a few blog posts, a number of public hearings, and opening remarks from The Presiding Bishop and The President of the House of Deputies (which are excerpted and linked to the whole address).

Bishop Steve Lane (Maine) on the big word of pre-convention:  change

Bonnie Anderson, The President of the House of Deputies, connected July 4th to the church to deliver the most alarming marks:
Frederick Douglass, as you may know, was born a slave and escaped to freedom. He became one of this country’s leading abolitionists — the most prominent African American leader of the 19th century—and his writing and oratory served as the conscience of the nation for many years during the struggle to end slavery.
In his famous speech, Douglass spoke for those who were not made independent by Independence Day: 
“The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” 
The scourge of African American slavery that Douglass struggled against has ended in this country, but the plagues of racism, oppression, discrimination, violence and poverty have not—not in the United States, and not in any of the other fifteen countries of the Episcopal Church. What we celebrate on July 4th in the United States is an ideal that we have not yet achieved. Douglass’s words still ring true:  The blessings in which we, this day, rejoice, are still not enjoyed in common. 
As we set about discussing how to restructure the church, we need to remember that the blessings of independence earned through struggle in many countries of the Episcopal Church are not yet enjoyed in common in the church either. We have not yet realized the ideal of shared leadership of laity, clergy and bishops. Too many potential leaders in our church are excluded because people who already have power and access to money, technology, and education enjoy the privileges not available to all of us. 
We are a great and diverse body gathered here today, but I know — we all know — that too many voices are still missing. Too few of us gathered here today are poor, or young or people of color. In our idealistic yet imperfect polity, too many voices remain unheard in the councils of the church. 
Worse yet, in recent months, it’s even become fashionable in some circles to celebrate the exclusive nature of the church in the name of efficiency — to treat our governance as a lifeboat in which there is precious little room for laypeople and clergy, to question the value of our shared authority to the future of The Episcopal Church, to assert that the diversity of voices in our governance is just much, too loud, too messy, too expensive, and way too big.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's opening remarks:
I would invite everyone here to take a deep breath. Breathe in Holy Spirit, the source of life. Remember that we depend on that divine gift for all that we are and all that we have. Breathe deep, for the spirit is blowing a fresh wind, and bringing new creation out of the chaos of the deep. Contemplating that chaos frightens some, for we never know what is coming, but there is no creation without it – like the death that must precede resurrected life. We struggle with it because we can’t yet see what is aloft on that breeze. Yet we are the stuff of God’s creation, we are borne on that wind as partners in God’s re-creation, reconciling, and healing of this world. Breathe deep, and be not afraid, for God is at work in our midst.... 
Discovering the most effective ways to organize and network ourselves for mission, for governance, and for supporting that mission is going to require us to look outside ourselves. We have to be willing to search out the gifts and assets already present. Something like a blue ribbon commission would be helpful – a leadership group that includes independent voices, that is non-partisan, that will offer the input of outsiders and people on the margins of the church, not just those already deeply invested in the church and in the way the church is now. That may not be easy for this body to engage, but God is already at work beyond this Episcopal Church and we have something to learn from that reality. 
A lot of the anxiety in this body right now is rooted in fear of diminishment, loss of power or control, or change in status. The wider church – the grassroots – in not all that interested in the internal politics of this gathering. It is interested in the vitality of local congregations and communities, in ministry with young people, and in opportunities for transformative mission engagement in and beyond the local context. Our job here is to make common cause for the sake of God’s mission. That is in part a political task. 
Politics is not a dirty word – it refers to the art of living together in community, and it applies to Christ’s body as much as it does to the various nations in which this Church is present. We don’t yet live in the fullness of the reign of God, even though we do see glimpses of it around us and among us. Our task is to gather the various parts of this body of Christ, together with any partners who share our values, for the work of building societies that look more like the reign of God. That takes compromise, for we will never all agree on the proper route or method for getting there. We live in the awkward yet lively tension between what is and what will eventually come to be, in God’s good time. We aren’t going to find perfection at this Convention, but we can prayerfully work at discerning a way forward that will let us gather our common gifts to work toward that dream of the reign of God. 
We’re in this together – as the full range of Episcopalians, together with our Christian siblings – both those most like us and those who seem most distant – and we have other potential partners for the various parts of the mission God sends us to do. Our task is to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, in finding and blessing any creative gift that will serve God’s dream. Can we reframe our view? Will those with eyes to see and ears to hear look for the places where God’s creative presence is already at work? God has given those gifts, and we will miss the mark if we ignore them. We will miss all five marks if we ignore the partners and possibilities around us.

The Deputation from Minnesota had a nice list of voiced budget priorities:

Speakers so far have argued for:
--Our covenant partners to whom we give grants around the world
--Episcopal relief and development expressed many thanks for the MDGs, lots of great stories of people whose lives are better because of our generosity.
--Advocating continuing financial support for the network of social justice and jubilees ministries
--Devon just spoke very eloquently about what a prophetic witness we could make if especially in these hard times we chose the poor over our own needs.
--Advocating for the indigenous theological training institute 
--Advocating funding for indigenous ministries 
--Wanting money to plant churches
--(Fun fact: average age of episcopalians is 67 years old)
--Wanting not to cut money for the examining chaplains
--Supporting women’s ministries
--Developing electronic network infrastructure 
--And of course lots of advocates for Christian Ed, youth, and campus ministries

Finally, last night included the screenings of two movies.  From The Rev. Dr. Caroline J.A. Hall, Integrity President:

What a wonderful evening it was! About 125 people crowded into our meeting room to watch Out of the Box and Love Free or Die. As I’m sure you all know by now, Out of the Box is a moving and fascinating look at what it means to be transgender, and particularly, transgender people of faith. Most of the participants were there tonight, as were Bishop Gene Robinson and Bishop Tom Shaw. Love Free or Die follows Bishop Gene for an eventful year from his exclusion from the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in 2008 to the General Convention of 2009 and the passing of D025 which opened the door to ordaining more LGBT bishops. In the movie, Bishop Tom Shaw comes out as a celibate gay man.

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