Thursday, July 2, 2015

The 78th General Convention - Day Eight

Our deputation with the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, PB-elect
Today is officially the eighth day of the 78th General Convention. But most of us, including me, arrived a couple of days early as committee work began. So we've been here a while, and most of us are ready to head home. For me, that time comes late tomorrow night on a red-eye from Salt Lake City to Boston.

The days here are long - some days begin at 7 a.m with legislative hearings or committee meetings and some days don't end until after 9 or 10 at night. Some wish that General Convention was shorter - I am among them, but it's hard for me to imagine how that would happen and what would need to give. The fact is that this work by nature takes time, and prayer.

Today is a bit of a slower day for me, however, as things begin to come to an end.The first thing on my agenda is worship - at 9:30 a.m Mountain Time. It could be a long day at the other end, however; depending on how much work we get to today, there may be an evening legislative session tonight. So we'll see what the day brings and how many "amendments to amendments" are suggested.

My name tag - with three of the many buttons available at
General Convention: Integrity, Ministry to the Deaf, and
Bishops Against Gun Violence (claimitgc.org) 
Today I wrote the post for our diocesan blog Conventional Wisdom where my intent was not to report the news but to dig a bit deeper. There is no much information these days, especially on social media, that I'm sure no one reading this blog needs to rely on me to "report" the news. Even so, if you are at all interested in church matters, I hope you have seen through our own blog, and through diocesan and national media, and on Facebook and Twitter the history that has been made here. First, the House of Bishops overwhelmingly elected the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, to serve as our first African American Presiding Bishop - and the House of Deputies confirmed that selection almost unanimously. When I was called to serve as the rector of St. Francis Church in Holden, a woman on the Search Committee whose name was Jane Wilson liked to say, "we get the rectors we need for the times we need them." I think that was very wise, and God is good.The past nine years really needed the steady, non-anxious leadership of the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts-Schori. She has guided our church through these times with grace, agility, and courage. Last week in her sermon on the healing of Jairus' daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage she played with the number twelve - the woman had hemorrhaged for twelve years, and the little girl was twelve. Playfully she spoke of The Episcopal Church which may be ready to move forward after twelve years of "finger pointing" and of consulting all kinds of doctors - but ultimately of coming to Jesus to touch the hem of his garment. It was a powerful sermon - as was the sermon we heard yesterday from the Rev. Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms - another extraordinary witness to the gospel.  You can listen to both of them (and others too, as well as an interview with Bishop Curry here.)

The other piece of "numerology" here has been to play with a far more familiar Biblical number: the number forty. This year, Integrity has turned forty and at the Integrity Eucharist we celebrated the witness of Louie Crew Clay. Forty long years in the wilderness. But this week we can see the Promised Land, at least from Mount Nebo: as we have gathered in Salt Lake City the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that when it comes to marriage, "all means all" and we in the Episcopal Church agree - both in the House of Bishops and as of late yesterday afternoon, with a strong amen in the House of Deputies.

The big news before this Convention was about TREC about re-imagining the Episcopal Church and about structural re-organization. So far we have been rather cautious (some might say timid) about radical changes to structure. We've taken some steps in that direction, but probably it was naive to think we'd get very far on that this time around. But I think we have done something far more important: we are finding our voice again, and our vision. In this sense we are moving forward in the re-imagining process. Our new Presiding Bishop loves Jesus, and will be an articulate spokesperson for the Gospel going forward. (Sometime after tomorrow morning when it is uploaded, check out that link above and you will see what I mean if you don't already know, after he preaches at our Closing Eucharist. Or you can watch it live with us there if you are free then.) After twelve years of hemorrhaging, we seek the healing power that Christ offers. After forty years in the wilderness, we reaffirm that "all means all" and that all the baptized really are beloved of God.

It's been a good week or so for us who call The Episcopal Church home. The work is not done - far from it. But I think we've turned a corner and I return home excited about the work that lies ahead.