Monday, June 12, 2006

General Convention Eve: A Humbling Experience

Sunday night, Susan Russell and Michael Hopkins briefed the volunteers in the Integrity "nerve center" as we prepared to lobby for or against legislation on evangelism, marriage equality, HIV/AIDS, and the raft of resolutions in response to the Windsor Report.

The bottom line: our job is to be a non-anxious presence working for a church where everyone is welcome at the Table: even the people who drive us crazy!

Afterwards, the "queer cabal" plotted to establish a parallel Episcopal province . . . oh no, wait, that is what the American Anglican Network is planning. We were just sharing table fellowship and gearing up for the next 12 days.

And, of course, we dished about Church Gossip and caught up on the doings of our spouses, children and grandchildren. Funny how when gay people live pretty much the same kind of lives as straight people, it suddenly seems radical.

Today, committee meetings and hearings on resolutions began. I sat in on the Special Committee on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, which got off to a somewhat tentative start, as the committee members are still feeling each other out. Wednesday night will be the big public hearing on the main resolutions dealing with the response to the Windsor Report, including the proposed moratoria on authorizing rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.

A prediction: the Committee will not be able to report out resolutions any more conservative than those they have received from the Special Commission, whose report and resolutions they received. The House of Bishops will gnash their teeth, wring their hands, and essentially adopt what the Committee sends them. The House of Deputies will amend the resolutions in a slightly more mainstream direction, consistent with the postive steps the Church has taken in the past 30 years toward living into the affirmation that LGBT people have a full and equal claim on the ministry of the Church.

On another matter, I testified in support of the resolution my diocese sent to Convention condemning the use of torture. The hearing with the National and International Concerns Committee went well, and the resolution will probably be strengthened to commit members of the Episcopal Church, including chaplains, to support U.S. military and civilian personnel who refuse to obey illegal orders to participate in torture. As it stands, the resolution calls on the U.S. Government to renounce the use of torture in compliance with the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to which our government is a signatory, and calls for reparations for victims of torture. At least we all seem able to agree that torture is a bad thing! Who says we are a polarized church?

Two rumors to watch for:

1. Archbishop Akinola will come to the U.S. as a rallying point for unhappy conservatives who bolt the Convention. Whether or not ++Akinola arrives, will our refusal to repent for consenting to Bishop Robinson's election be the tipping point for the planned walkout, or will it be the election of an "unacceptable" Presiding Bishop?

2. The battle over whether or not the conservatives can walk away with church property will heat up, with the focus on the Diocese of San Juaquin. That diocese has amended their canons to give priority to diocesan canons over the national canons, and have voted to refuse to submit their next bishop-elect to the consent process, according to well placed sources. Sounds like abandonment of the Communion to me. Presentments, anyone?

On a personal note, I participated in a discussion among a diverse group of deputies and alternates today, in which one conservative priest described the church as divided between "orthodox" Christians, the "misguided middle," and apostate pagans. Presumably, gay clergy like me fall in the later category. This struck me as ironic, given that the parish I serve (which is predominantly LGBT), had a major conflict with the previous rector, in part, because he wasn't ORTHODOX ENOUGH for them. The point: our simple catgegorization of one another often fails to describe the complexity of our church adequately. And that failing applies to me, too.

Being at General Convention is a humbling experience.

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