Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday--big day

It is late on a big day in Indy, so I hope to put down a few thoughts quickly.  Today's worship was almost entirely in Spanish--even the music and parts of the homily.  It was lovely and moving and certainly works in a subtle (?) way to make me aware of what it is like for others who are often on the fringes, not understanding language or customs of the majority.   Again, the theme was about taking courage, to not be afraid, to step out so that we can (like Bartolome de las Casas, whose feast day it is) work for the end of oppression and injustice.  Our first responsibility as Christians is to proclaim God's love; our privilege as Episcopalians is being part of a church where there is a generous ambiguity and lack of dogmatism so that all may grow and think as individuals.  Our part in that is to tell our story of God's love and mercy towards us so that others may also find their way home.

Today was marked with some heavy lifting as several of the big issues made their way to the floor.  It seemed very good to me that these resolutions came forth before the last day so that there was adequate time for debate (and the parliamentary maneuvering that is inevitable).  Significantly, we voted to establish a task force to focus on the structure/restructuring of the Church, the way we do business and the way we do mission. The resolution calls for a select group who are not part of the entrenched establishment to listen, pray, think, research in preparation for a consultation that involves a broad spectrum of members (bishop, clergy, lay and youth/young adults).  I think that All will really mean All as this intentionally non-named group does its work.  The bishops will take up this resolution tomorrow.

The Anglican Covenant which has been under much discussion and attack for the last triennium came to a vote in both houses.  We affirm that we want to remain with others in the Anglican Communion, but that we are not affirming the covenant at this time. How that will work out practically remains to be seen.

The third big issue was approval of liturgies for the blessing of same-sex unions.  After many, many years of debate, discussion and disappointment, the tipping point came.  Many young people spoke of the church they hoped we could be and the church they needed; some old people spoke of long, faithful relationships which could now be celebrated publicly; some spoke of the hard work of theologizing, gathering liturgies, listening deeply on all sides.  Surely, there were some who remain unsure, but voted as the Spirit led them; others voted with tears of joy and others with tears of sadness that the old way was passing away and that the new was being raised up.  I was particularly touched by the assurance given in the resolution that there is room for the ,conscience of those who disagree' that no one is forced to offer these rites and that no one will suffer disciplinary action for  refusal.  In all cases approval of the bishop will be required as congregations and clergy work together to bring this resolution to fruition.  At the end of the vote there was no sense of triumphalist victory.

And then our deputation and the Wyoming women who are attending the Triennial Meeting  had a terrific time of fun and fellowship at St. Elmo's, a famous Indy steakhouse.  Great food in great abundance, lots of laughter (not only with us, but with many other conventioneers) and a moment of rest and recuperation in preparation for the next two days in which many more resolutions will make their way to our consideration.  I am very pleased and proud to be a part of this group of thoughtful, insightful and caring brothers and sisters in Christ who exemplify their faith, hope and love in their discussions, prayer and votes.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Today was a day of legislation bookended with wonderful and different liturgies.  The morning Eucharist featured our Nation's first people with drums and singers from the Rosebud Reservation; readers from several different tribes and an excellent sermon that witnessed to the resurrection power as a small church with no congregation, no budget, no money for a priest.  But a priest was assigned who listened to the Spirit's call and began to feed the people with the produce of a garden planted on the church grounds.  As the people came, they offered their gifts and drew in others, lured by the kept promises for new life, transformed life.  The native flute, along with psaltery, dulcimer and guitar were enchanting.

Some of the big pieces of legislation came out of committees today.  Transgendered people were assured  of their place in the church and all its rites as another group was added to the anti-discriminatory canons.  When we say the Episcopal Church welcomes all, we really want all to mean all.  In committee it was moving to see that those most in favor of  bringing blessings for same-gendered relationships to approval worked with those opposed to see that a conscience clause was part of the perfected resolution.  It makes one proud to see that in the midst of disagreement there is civility in debate and care for the sensibilities and theologies of others.  It hasn't always been that way.  Maybe we are growing up into the stature of Christ; serving one another and doing away with triumphalism when what we hoped for is achieved.  We also dealt with significant issues about the conflicts between Israel and Palestine and how we might best be agents of healing and reconciliation.

Today was the Integrity Eucharist.  Each convention the room needed to house the celebration is necessarily larger.  No longer a small hidden meeting room, but the largest ballroom available.  Mary Glasspool and Gene Robinson, presided and preached, respectively, as the 2 openly gay bishops.  As he said, "now that Mary is on board, he can retire."   Incense wafted through the air; a gospel procession throughout the assembly in which folks reached out to lovingly touch the gospel in their midst; unbelievable music with a hint of jazz (led by Dent Davidson) and African drumming. Gene  was inspiring as he exhorted us that our faith family lived in tents--always moving on where God directed them.  It would have seemed easier to settle down and get comfortable, but God has people on the move.  I'm sure that there is a link to his sermon somewhere, but I cannot easily locate it.  Louie Crew, founder of Integrity was honored with a long standing ovation and gracious thanks for his joy, grace, love and generosity. 

And with this brief synopsis of a wonderful day, I say, "May God bless you richly and abundantly wherever you are on your faith journey.  God loves you and I am compelled to say that and live into the truth of that, too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday night

Today was designed for a more relaxed approach to the General Convention.  While the ECW was putting on a 5K walk/run (making more than $7000 for a local agency which helps mothers and children), I didn't have enough time to do that and get to another traditional gathering of the Episcopal Women's Caucus.  So I did my  regular walk along the canal then off the the breakfast.  House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson gave a superb talk with many photos, illustrations and video clips about circular leadership and how it is the right paradigm for times such as this.  Awards were given and another video highlighting the contributions of Marge Christie to the Episcopal Church was premiered.  These women are great exemplars of the faith and the important work women have done for the Church.

Then off to worship.  I didn't hear a number of attendees, but it may have been around 6-7,000.  Absolutely beautiful music with a several hundred voice combined choir accompanied by brass, tympani and organ.  The procession of the bishops is always thrilling as we belted out, "Christ is made the sure foundation,"  with brass and sopranos on an amazing descant.  Once again the Presiding Bishop preached a thoughtful, inspiring sermon about our call, individually and corporately, to proclaim the prophetic word to a broken, hurting world.  She was more playful and humorous than I've seen her before.  Much of the service was in Spanish with some French and an unknown language thrown in to mix things up.  I love the broad and inclusive sense of the Episcopal Church that is evidenced at times like this.

While many deputies spend the early afternoon at Victory Field eating and taking part in carnival type activities, I joined a college roommate and sorority sister for lunch at at English style pub in another part of the city.  It was very relaxing and fun to take up as if we had never been apart, though we are facing very different challenges with aging parents, looming retirement, etc. 

Back to the Convention Center for another 4 hour legislative session which was unexpectedly shortened  with an hour break due to the lack of resolutions returned and calendared by committees for consideration.  I spent a good part of the time cruising the Exhibition area and visiting with acquaintances.

Our Province ( The Land of Lakes, Plains and Mountains:  Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming) met for some election business and for refreshments at a nearby tavern.  The cooler weather made the walk back to our hotel a relaxing and enjoying way to end the day.

Sunday morning

When I returned to my room last night, my energy was simply not there to summarize the day before hitting the proverbial hay.  But after a good nights sleep and a fin walk with even a hint of a breeze, I am up to putting down a few thoughts about yesterday.

Began with a walk beside the canal but at my regular turn around, I thought to cross the bridge and come back by a different way.  About half way back the path was barricaded with a locked gate--so needed to backtrack, find an alternative and meet other runner/walkers than the regulars I have already come to "know" on these early mornings.  It is not unlike General Convention, we get pretty used to doing things in an accepted, "normal" way, but every once in a while there is an innovative motion or idea.  Through parliamentary procedure, discussion and debate, it may be blocked; but then it also may take us on alternative path with new energy as we encounter different people with different passions and paths.

Yesterday's worship was magnificent.  Bishop Cate Waynick of Indianapolis presided and Bishop Curry of NC preached another moving, dynamic, fun sermon.  Oh to preach with that energy and insight and humor.  He highlighted those crazy Christians who courageously step out in faith--Mary Magdalene who follows Jesus right to the cross when most of the others were absent; Harriet Beecher Stowe (whose feast we were celebrating).  He wove the Battle Hymn of the Republic into the sermon and had some in tears and many in laughter at other points.  A steel pan band from Brooklyn provided some of the music, so there was a Jamaican flare as some good ol' Baptist hymns were played as a prelude and later as communion music.

The afternoon was devoted to a long legislative session that seemed to get somewhat bogged down in parliamentary maneuvering, forcing some resolutions back to committee for perfection.  Many of the deputation attended an evening hearing on the Blessing resolution. We have a terrific deputation who are following structure, urban and social issues and the budget.  Everyone is finding a pace and seems energized by who they are meeting and what they are encountering.  At times this seems to be the church at its best:  folks speaking passionately about their beliefs, often in opposition to another but with a willingness to listen.  The diversity that is so apparent can be celebrated as we move forward with faith to what may seem an uncertain future, were it not the assurance that Jesus is just ahead beckoning onward to join him in what he is doing to heal, restore and reconcile the whole world and all its amazing creatures.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 3 in Indy

Today was a more relaxed day for me as my committee work was essentially completed and we began to get going with some real legislation.  The day began a bit later with a another great walk along the canal.  The surprise for me was seeing the Presiding Bishop as she passed me on her morning run.  I believe she is as fleet on her feet as she is fast in her thinking. 

Following breakfast at Starbucks I sat in on another meeting of the Committee on Liturgy and Music.  They have a heavy agenda and interesting topics which will probably lead to some great debate on the floor.  Then off to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist where I sat beside a postulant from the Sisters the the Transfiguration.  We had  a good talk about the challenges of community life for the women who have often led successful careers in the secular world before accepting their call as religious. 

Today's service included readings, prayers and music from the Hmong people who are part of our church in various American cities.  They literally sing the entire service, except for the sermon. Some of the music was Taize style, so we were singing in Latin, too. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies was today's preacher. As it was the feast of Jon Hus, who courageously called into question papal infallibility and the heresy of the pope in office, she exhorted us to be courageous in our faith, too.  Quoting C.S. Lewis, "Courage is not just a virtue; but is every virtue at its testing point.  All virtues are dormant without courage."

As students of courage with a long line of ancestors in the faith who exhibited courage, we learn to be courageous from the people in our lives who prompt us to act despite fear.  We learn that courage is contagious--sort of a pay it forward paradigm.  In our church we are courageous as we learn to be both spiritual and religious.

Following a legislative session, several of our deputation went to Ali Baba's for a wonderful and inexpensive Mediterranean style lunch.  More time for hearings and cruising the exhibit area before another legislative session.  Some of us attended the ECW-UTO Gala Banquet which turned out to be both delicious, fun and inspiring.  We sat with women from the Miami area, Panama and a guy from Brazil.  I did not catch the name of the speaker, but he was lively and encouraging to move forward. 

Our deputation met for an hour or so in caucus.  It is great how each one has gravitated to an area or two of real interest (structure, budget, evangelism, small churches, world mission, liturgy) and lead us in understanding what is coming up. The discussions and questions are provocative, thoughtful and sincere.  We disagree, talk things through, reach new insights and understandings.  Today Marcia Himes, the national ECW president (and from Wyoming) joined us, along with her husband, daughter and other Wyoming women to let us know about the Triennial Meeting.  We are happy and pleased that it is going well for them, too.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

day 2 in Indy

Today began with another wonderful walk (though hotter and muggier) along the canal.  It amazes me as I realize how many different things I noticed this morning--different sculptures, buildings, etc.--when I wasn't so focused on getting lost.  Similarly as a 6 time deputy, I notice different things and move through the rigmarole without the same anxious focus.

The initial legislative meeting was devoted to organizing the House--and letting the Bishop's know that we were set up for business.  We actually got the the point of passing the first few resolutions which gave consent to 4 of the new bishops and a few courtesy resolutions.  With only an hour we didn't accomplish much, but the new deputies got a feel for how the business in formally conducted.

Then we all moved from the Convention Center to one of the hotels for the first Eucharist.  Brass and vocal soloists did an amazing job in a pretty traditional service.  Unlike previous years, we are seated in rows rather than at tables.  But singing familiar hymns with several other thousand people is a wonderful experience.  The PB preached another great sermon weaving in the "saints" of the day:  Walter Rauschenbusch, Jacob Riis, and Washington Gladden who were all social activists in the late 19th century.  They were each committed to building God's reign in the here and now as they worked to end poverty, opposed segregation, denounced corruption, classism, graft and corruption.  She called us to follow their example in our time to make common cause for the healing of creation and society.

In the committee I've been assigned to, we had a great discussion relative to transparency in the consent process.   But with that we completed all the work assigned to us, so I have an unexpected amount of time to attend other hearings and meetings.

Following a quick lunch with our deputation, I spent a bit of time cruising the Exhibit Hall and seeing numerous old friends; then sat in on a hearing regarding the work on "Holy Women, Holy Men. Then back to the House for more legislation and some minor debate.  The big issues won't come up for a while yet, so they allow debate to go on a bit longer now.  After supper I attended another hearing on Structure/Restructure of the church.  Most folks were calling for radical change now:  things are broken and now is the time to do something, but just how that will weigh out is anyone's guess at this point.  After a brief time of refreshment and laughter in our "hospitality room" with some of the deputation and some of our women who are attending the Triennial Meeting of the Episcopal Church Women,I packed it in to share a few thought with you, gentle and inquisitive readers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

first day

The day for me started early with a great pre-dawn walk along the canal/White River.  The paved path took me beside the NCAA headquarters and through part of the UIPUI campus.  There were quite a few other walkers and joggers out preparing for the long day of sitting that awaited.  Following a quick Starbucks breakfast I reported to the committee to which  I'd been assigned:  the Consent for New Bishops.  It is likely that canonical changes will make the work of this committee obsolete after this convention.  After some lively discussion about our purpose and agenda for the day, we had 4 hearings as part of the process to give the newly elected bishops the go ahead for their consecrations.  Later in the day we did the same for 4 more.  All were approved by the committee so will move to the House of Deputies, then on to the Bishops. 

They were articulate, bright, often humorous as they shared some of their journeys to this place.  The church will be in good hands under their capable leadership.  One (can't remember which one and my notes are in another place) told how many folks had asked if was excited about his election.  He said that excitement was not generally the emotion that seemed to be exhibited in biblical calls.  The sacrifice that accompanied calls seemed to take away that.  Others spoke eloquently about reconciliation, listening, the work of the Holy Spirit, prayer. 

Following lunch with our deputation all the bishops and deputies met together for talks by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies. The former (Katharine Jefforts Schori) encouraged us to see the next 9 days as a time to strengthen our hearts, to get a tune-up, to let our hearts get in synch with God's.  "Breathe, breathe deep to receive the Holy Spirit who brings the chaos of the deep; we are borne on the breath of God.  So breathe deep because God is in our midst."  Citing different kinds of breath (baby's first one, a dying gasp, the resuscitative breath forced into a drowning victim's lungs) she said, "Don't be afraid to breathe--it brings life, joy, new possibilities. She called us to take courage in getting to know the folks who are different, who have been our sparring partners, to learn to make bridges and to breathe together.  Also to be responsive, nimble and more communicative as we make God's Word flourish.

Bonnie Anderson, HOD President spoke about our early days of Independence (good topic since it is the 4th of July) and how the winds of democracy affected our polity in the church.  She challenged us to be the People of God Church to stay focused on the Promised Land where all are heard and the gifts of all are valued.  We should act generously with one another and to take our responsibilities as deputies seriously.

With the fireworks display completed (and viewed as reflections in the hotel windows across the plaza), I am ready to hit the proverbial hay. It has been a good first day, seeing old friends and meeting some wonderful new brothers and sisters in Christ.  This church is a strange and beautiful mystery that embodies God's grace as we witness that God can and does use the likes of us to grow the reign.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Indiana, my Indiana!

Well, here I am in downtown Indianapolis for the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  This will be my sixth one as a deputy from Wyoming; I missed once since I've been ordained and served once as the Chaplain for the Triennial Meeting of the Episcopal Church Women.  While our deputation will be putting info out on a the diocesan website and through Face Book, I hope to blog (at least occasionally) about my experiences and reflections.  I am not sure that I will be able to post many photos, but will give it a shot later.

Today was a travel day, flying from Laramie through very smoky skies to Denver, then on to Indianapolis.  It wasn't too hard to discern the other Episcopalians on the flight--an old friend from previous conventions and a new friend reading one of the books recommended before getting here.  I took a stretch limo in with a carload of folks from South Carolina, Virginia and Florida--instant connections and common friends.  Met one of our deputies in the lobby, toured the convention center and met with most of our group for supper together at California Pizza.  Lots of fun and great food.  A nice stroll through the downtown--hot and muggy, to me--then back to the hotel to get organized and a phone call to my sister who just saw her son begin his time at the US Military Academy at West Point.   And so with this brief start up, I will take leave of you, gentle reader, and catch some Zzz's.  Tomorrow committee meetings start early and then we are off and running by the afternoon.