Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tuesday

Usual weekday General Convention routine: 7:30-9:00 committee meeting, break for 9:30-10:30 Eucharist (or, in my case, down time), 11:15-1:00 legislative session, 1hr 15min break for lunch, then a marathon afternoon legislative session. Get the substantive details of those events here.

I'm pretty much turning into a zombie at this point in convention. At times, I've almost fallen asleep waiting for an elevator. Only three more days.

This was the evening traditionally devoted to seminary dinners, so I joyfully and dutifully reported to the Nashotah House event at a restaurant very near the hotel. What a privilege to be able to serve my alma mater.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ss Peter & Paul

Back to the barely-civilized routine of 7:30am committee meetings. See all the gory details of the legislative day here.

Before the morning legislative session, I met briefly with three Deputies, who, like me, were "raised up" by St Timothy's in Salem, Oregon. I was gone before any of them arrived in the parish, so I never knew them in that context. But there are actually even more of us floating around; St Tim's was a real "priest factory" for a while.
St Tim's alums

I had lunch with the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Dorsey McConnell, whose sense of humor is developed to about the nth degree, which is truly a tonic in an environment like this.

Immediately following the afternoon legislative session was the bishops and spouses dinner. To be honest, the timing was not the greatest. After what transpired in the afternoon, these were not the people I was most interested in spending an evening with. Nonetheless, there were many enjoyable moments.

In general, the day was harsh--physically, spiritually, and, most of all, emotionally. I have felt myself part of a beleaguered minority virtually my whole time in the Episcopal Church, which runs to more than 40 years now. It gets old. Now I feel like a boiled frog--thrown into the pot when the water was cool and comfortable, only to find that the temperature has been raised very gradually until the frog is ... cooked ... without ever having completely realized just what was happening. I used to have a lot more company. We were always a minority to be sure, but a substantial minority. Then, between the 2006 and 2009 conventions, most of my "friends" decamped to other ecclesiastical environs. Those of us who remain do so in good faith, but we are powerless. We have no choice but to embrace the gospel paradox that strength is found precisely in weakness, and really nowhere else. We were reminded of that fact today rather severely, and it's a hard lesson. We feel pretty beat up. 

As the session ended, and my emotions straddled the fence between anger and numbness, the ambient music that somebody causes to come out of the audio system in the room played the old nineteenth century hymn, It is Well. This is something I sang in my Baptist childhood, and it was my father's favorite hymn, which was sung at his funeral. So it's a trigger for some very deep feelings. The words of the first verse were actually kind of appropriate: "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billow roll, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well, with my soul.'" Indeed, in the midst of grief, anger, and confusion, it is well with my soul. God reigns. Jesus lives.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

In deference, perhaps, to this being the Lord's Day, there was nothing on the official convention agenda until the 10a Eucharist. (See here for observations about the liturgy, the sermon, and the afternoon legislative session.) Bishops were to report to our assigned territory at 9:15 to vest in rochet and chimere and process solemnly into the worship hall. It must have been a sight to behold (which I was not quite able to do, since I was part of it).

Following the liturgy, I engaged in further reputation and relationship repair in the wake of "tweet-gate" earlier this week. I had lunch with two alums of the General Convention Youth Presence, both of whom are now Deputies, and one ordained. We had a lively and cordial discussion over a range of issues. It was a rich and nourishing time.

After the legislative session, Brenda and I went straight to a panel discussion sponsored by The Living Church on the subject of marriage redefinition, with erudite panelists representing the entire range of viewpoints. It was well-attended and generally excellent.

Then there was an impromptu tactical session in my suite with six Communion Partner bishops. We need to try to be on the same page when the debate on the Marriage Committee resolutions continues.

At around 9:15, with Brenda out to dinner with others, I ordered a hamburger from room service and commenced to blogging.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Saturday

Usual 7:30-9:00 committee meeting and later after noon legislative session. Get the details here.

It was a momentous feeling as the entire congregation was invited to be seated at the conclusion of the Eucharist as all the bishops filed out to waiting buses for the short journey to the nave of St Mark's Cathedral. Once there, we did some singing, and the chaplains led us in prayer. Then the roll was called, just as it was at the opening session on Wednesday. This was to establish the number present and voting, and, hence, the number of votes needed for an election. We cast our ballots, and then just milled around for a bit, with most eventually making their way to the parish hall, where there was food and drink laid out for us. When I was about halfway through my ham sandwich, we were suddenly called back into the cathedral nave to hear the results of the first ballot. Once there, we were handed tally sheets with enough spaces for up to ten ballots. Then the Presiding Bishop calmly read the totals, and it was immediately evident that, for what is probably the first time ever, we had a first-ballot election, and by a huge margin. There was a spontaneous outburst of applause and cheering, after which we sang the iconic African-American hymn Lift every voice and sing. Then, of course, we had to sign the testimonials of election and send two emissaries to the House of Deputies with the news. Then we went back to finish our meals while we waited for news the the Deputies had ratified our election (of which there was never any doubt). Indeed, a little while later, we were summoned back into the nave again to greet three emissaries from the House Deputies, who bore the news that was fully expected.

A few of us then walked the five or so block back to the Salt Palace to be in the gallery of the House of Deputies as Bishop Curry and his family were introduced. It was clearly the election result that the overwhelming majority of that body had been looking for.
I went back to my room to change out of my formal attire into something more comfortable, then grabbed a snack back at the exhibit hall food court before heading back into the HOB for the late afternoon session.

When the day was done, tonight was our planned deputation dinner (my treat), at a Brazilian BBQ (churrascaria) restaurant called Texas de Brasil. If you like meat, there's really nothing better.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday

Another earlyish start to the day--7:30 committee meetings. See my account of all the substantive action here. 

The highlight of the day for me was an opportunity to meet with about a dozen or so youth from the Dioceses of West Missouri and Kansas, along with three of their adult leaders. They were all involved in last night's Twitterstorm (though not themsleves part of the General Convention Youth Presence). It was a gracious and lively and generous conversation, and if there's any redeeming grace to come from my error in judgment in tweeting out what I did last night, it was found here. We prayed together, I gave them a blessing, and we left feeling like we had been visited by the Holy Spirit. 

Lunch was a working meeting once again. I hosted the Communion Partner bishops in the suite Brenda and I are staying in, and Brenda arranged for room service to have lunch brought in. We discussed various tactical issues regarding upcoming legislation. 

It was a great gift that both the afternoon committee meeting and the later afternoon legislative session both adjourned ahead of schedule. Such extra moments of down time are more welcome than I can say in the midst of such a relentless schedule.

Thursday

A more humane start to the day today--8am legislative sessions. There was no actual legislating done; just organizational formalities. In the HOB, this included a roll call of all living bishops, present or not. There is one still alive who was consecrated in 1951, the year of my birth. Another tradition is for each House to send a delegation to the other informing them that they are organized are ready to do business. The HOD sent us a team of about ten Deputies--all of whom were born in the 1990s.
I have rarely felt so old!

I'm not embarrassed to admit that, with the exception of Sunday, it has become my General Convention habit to avoid the daily celebration of the Eucharist. I'm simply healthier--physically, spiritually, and emotionally for doing so. I judge not one for either emulating or not emulating me for this. It's less than ideal, but I believe it's the best decision for me. At 11:15, it was back to committee work. As always, you can find a fuller account of the day's legislative activity, from my perspective, at my other blog.

I had a working lunch of pulled pork tacos at the exhibit hall food court with a friend who is not a Deputy but is attending General Convention in an ancillary capacity and, for my purposes, is very smart. He helped me craft language for an amendment to a resolution that I intend to propose when it comes up in the queue of Committee 11. 

From 2;15 until 4:00, it was back to the committee room. Again, follow the link in the second paragraph above this one for a fuller account. 

Between 4:30 and 6:30 we were back in our respective legislative Houses. As has been customary, the HOB took an hour in executive session, about which I am not allowed to say anything specific, but the bulk of it was spent in table discussions just about how we're doing with the whole General Convention thing, and especially the Presiding Bishop election process. 

At one point after coming out of executive session, we were introduced to the General Convention Official Youth Presence, a group of about a dozen or so 16-20 year olds, two of whom addressed us for about five minutes. This engendered one of those relatively rare moments when, upon further reflection, I would not choose to do what I actually did do, which was tweet out, "I've never been very impressed with the Official Youth Presence. How do they get chosen?" So, for the rest of the evening, I was ground zero for a Twitter storm, which was a completely new experience for me, and not one I would care to repeat. It is painfully obvious that whatever point I wished to make in the tweet was not even remotely worth the price of so much misunderstanding and hurt feelings. I wish I hadn't done it, but I did. And it would waste the pain that has already been experienced if I didn't elaborate just a bit on what I was thinking in the first place. What we heard from the two young people who addressed us was, by my lights, annoyingly issue-oriented, a litany of tired cliches checking the obligatory boxes of progressive orthodoxy. I am weary of the church I serve being reduced to such litmus tests, its vitality judged by the progress made toward a list of popular objectives. I have rather higher hopes for the youth of our church. I would like to think that those chosen to fill such a role would give evidence of a grasp of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives and in the world, some testimony of their growth in the path of discipleship and holiness of life. And while I would expect to see confidence and enthusiasm in their demeanor, I would also rejoice to see a sign of humility, of wonder and openness to truths they may yet have not discovered. Perhaps I would see what I'm looking for if I were to engage in an extended conversation with the two who spoke, or with any of their silent colleagues. My ill-considered tweet was testimony to my disappointment that I didn't see it in that moment. 

While the storm was erupting on Twitter, I managed to enjoy dinner with most of the Springfield deputation at P.F. Chang's. It was marginally OK.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nativity of St John the Baptist

A 7:30am start time to a meeting is harsh and challenging. A 7:00 start time is inhumane and brutal. But I was at my place in the (cavernous) room set aside for Committee 11 right on time--glad, in this case, for the time zone setback that supposedly made it feel like 8:00 to my body. We met for 90 minutes, heard testimony on resolutions having to do with resources for music in small churches, translations of liturgical materials into other languages, and the like. Then we began the legislative sausage-making business, and voted to report out about a half dozen resolutions with an Adopt recommendation, save for one that would have asked the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to produce a series of essays on Christian initiation. See details here. 

At 9:00 we gather in the House of Deputies chamber for initial remarks from the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies. An hour later, the bishops adjourned to our own chamber for a lot a tedious but necessary organizational issues (like learning how to use our "virtual binders"--dedicated iPads with all the resolutions and reports--everything that would have been in loose-leaf form in conventions past.
Lunch at Olive Garden with our deputation chair, Kevin Babb. (Brenda was on a bishops spouses event.)

From 1:30 until 4:30 we were back in joint session of the two Houses for the purposes of hearing from the four candidates for Presiding Bishop. We saw a two-minute video from each one introducing himself, heard slightly longer opening statements from each, then several rounds of random questions in certain set categories that each one was asked to respond to. The Twitterverse was comparing it to ecclesiastical Jeopardy. Overall, a valuable exercise.

Then there was a welcome generously long break, with time for dinner. Brenda and I found a nice Mexican place, with very tasty mole sauce.

From 7:00 until nearly 9:00, I was back in committee, with more hearings, this time on resolutions related to the liturgical calendar. (See the link above for the substance.) Sadly, we then got bogged down in some procedural issues--the order in which the committee should consider the resolutions--and there's not an entirely satisfying path out of the thicket. Somehow, something will emerge.