I've been covering action in the House of Deputies, pictured above, where more than 800 clergy and laity from the 111 dioceses of the Episcopal Church meet in two sessions each of the nine days of Convention. It is a high tech affair with electronic voting (although it took the better part of two days for the deputies to figure out how to use the keypads!).
Tuesday night, Bishop Gene Robinson (the guy in the purple shirt) and Joe Salmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, were the guests of honor at the premiere of Voices of Witness, a video produced by Claiming the Blessing. Wednesday morning, +Gene and Joe held a press conference supporting marriage equality, which General Convention will be considering in a resolution from the Diocese of Newark. Last night, +Gene was on Larry King Live, along with Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
Human sexuality continues to be a major focus of Convention, with more than 1500 people crowding a hearing room Wednesday evening to hear testimony on resolutions calling for Convention to repent for the actions of the last General Convention, and impose moratoria on electing partnered gay bishops and on authorizing rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. The Archbishop of York spoke in favor of these resolutions, but many spoke against them. The resolutions are still being "perfected" by the Special Committee dealing with responses to the Windsor Report.
Deputies, bishops and visitors relax in the Exhibit Hall in between sessions, where Claiming the Blessing has a comfortable booth with free popcorn. Folks can also watch the "Voices of Witness" video there. You can see the video online here.
One of the major issues before Convention is the development of the budget for the national church in the next triennium, which will total nearly $152 million. The Convention has identified the following funding priorities in order of importance: 1. Justice and Peace programs, including supporting the U.N. Millenium Development Goals; 2. Young Adults, Youth and Children's ministries; 3. Reconciliation and Evangelism, engaging those who do not know Christ in God's mission of reconciling all things; 4. Congregational Transformation: revitalizing congregtations and leadership development; 5. Partnerships with other churches of the Anglican Communion, as well as ecumenical and interfaith partners.
Other important legislative matters include an interim Eucharistic sharing agreement with the United Methodist Church (passed by the bishops already) and hearings on repentance and restitution for the church's complicity in slavery. These matters have yet to come to the floor of the House of Deputies. Every day begins with committee hearings at 7:30 am and ends with a 10 pm Integrity debriefing. No wonder I'm so tired.