Monday, July 23, 2012

Gone Fishin'

Well, not literally.

I don't fish.

But inasmuch as the expression is a metaphor for taking leave of official duties in order to ... recreate ... then that's what's going on.

I'm on vacation. Partially "staycation," catching up on all those things around the house that there isn't time to get to during the routine course of life. Lots of reading and visiting with the offspring in Chicago. And if it ever cools off a bit, some outdoor walking. In the first half of August, Brenda and I plan to spend some time in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area.

I expect to be back in the office, in harness (including in this venue) on Wednesday the 22nd, when I hope to be, as the expression goes, "tanned and relaxed." Be well.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Lord's Day (VIII Pentecost)

This was truly "the longest day." It began with a midnight (local time) departure from Bangkok. I have to say ... the airport there is amazing: huge (a major air hub for southeast Asia), designed for efficiency, and architecturally significant. I found it very comforting to find a Burger King and a Dairy Queen in the concourse leading to my gate. Yes, I am an American, trash though that may be when it comes to comfort food! My flight then landed in Tokyo around 8am (again, local time, two hours ahead of Bangkok). No need to go through passport check or go through customs, though I did need to clear security. Enjoyed a nice chicken curry for breakfast, the abundance of place at which to recharge my iOS devices, surrealistically clean restrooms, and small and slightly amusing (to a westerner) markers of Japanese culture. Not something I'm used to finding at American airports. After about a two hour layover, it was time to board for the flight to Chicago. With a tailwind, it's nearly two hours shorter than the westbound trip. On the clock, we landed at O'Hare two hours before we took off in Tokyo! The layover was long enough to get unwound from the long flight but not so long as to become annoying. We touched down in Springfield just before noon, and I have delighted in getting reacquainted with my wife, her animals, and our home. 


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday

Our numbers began to shrink last night as airport departures began even in the midst of our boat ride. But the great majority of us assembled in the hotel lobby at 8:15 this morning and from there boarded two buses to take us the approximately four kilometers through heavy urban traffic to Christ Church for our closing celebration of the Eucharist. Christ Church dates back to the late nineteenth century, and was built for British expatriates. It remains a primarily English-speaking congregation, though, recently and for the first time, there is a native Thai priest on the staff, and Thai worship on Sunday afternoons. The church building is an interesting amalgam of a little bit of England transplanted to southeast Asia and distinctively Thai decorative and practical flourishes. It hosts what is reputed to be the only pipe organ in Thailand. Sadly, the instrument was not in use this morning. I would have loved to have heard it--perhaps even played it--and it would have gone well with the hymns we sang a capella.

There were refreshments in the parish hall following the liturgy--"light traditional Thai desserts", we were told. I did not find them appealing. 

After getting back to the hotel I visited Bob the Tailor to talk about a couple of not-quite-right details in the jacket of my new suit. He promised to have it ready for me by six. After beginning to pack for the trip home, I joined my three American colleagues for lunch in the hotel restaurant--off the the menu, not the buffet. Surprisingly, while they all ordered pizza--definitely a comfort food--I found myself drawn to cashew chicken, Thai style. It was yummy. I'm suspecting my problem has not been with Thai cuisine sui generis, but with what the hotel serves in its buffet chafing dishes. 

The consensus among the four Episcopal Church representatives here is that the trip was definitely worthwhile. It put our names and faces in front of people who might otherwise be tempted to forget about us or write us off. We want the Global South, which, let's face it, represents the overwhelming majority of the world's Anglicans, to be very clear that not all in the Episcopal Church are supportive of the communion-shattering and self-absorbed actions of recent General Conventions. There is a remnant. We need their encouragement and leadership as we endeavor to be a loyal but uncompromised minority party in our church for the indefinite future. We also have gifts to offer as partners in gospel witness and mission. In their world, the big challenge is militant Islam (and, in parts of India, militant Hinduism). In our world, it's rampant secularization. And both our worlds are challenged by nominalism and weak discipleship among Christians. Our vocation lies before us.

As I write, it's just past four in the afternoon, and for the first time since I've been here, I don't feel like taking a nap. My ride to the airport is not for another four hours. I may take a gentle walk, but don't plan on doing anything else exciting. So I will simply post this now, and go quiet in this space until I get home, which will be midday, central time, tomorrow. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday

Virtually my entire experience as an Episcopalian (going on four decades) has been spent on the Catholic side of the Anglican spectrum. I've heard and read about Anglican evangelicals, but there are precious few in the U.S., so they've been mostly an abstraction. Global South Anglicanism is dominated by evangelicals, so the abstraction has become a reality for me this week. Having been raised in free church evangelicalism, which is not quite the same thing, but with many points of overlap, and then embracing Anglicanism as a means of becoming a Catholic Christian, this has evoked some interesting and complex feelings. I've sung some songs that had been relegated to the recesses of my long-term memory, and one that I'm fairly certain I haven't even thought about in more than forty years. I've experienced a piety and a style of homiletical/pedagogical biblical exegesis that is quite foreign to my ordinary experience (today's example coming from the Dean of Delhi, lavishy accompanied by Power Point slides), but still eerily familiar. Some of it evokes nostalgia, and a desire to reincorporate it into my practice of ministry, and some of it makes me glad I don't live in this particular neighborhood anymore. Much to ponder here.

There was no keynote address today. Instead, after tea, we had a presentation from the Archbishop of the Province of Myanmar. They have an ambitioius mission strategy vision, and Archbishop Stephen shared it with us, also using Power Point. In many respects (including the Power Point!), it reminded me of our own mission strategy for the Diocese of Springfield. Two very different contexts, both committed to authentic gospel proclamation within those contexts. Veni, sancte spiritus.

Before lunch we heard quick summary reports from the regional working groups that met Tuesday and Wednesday evenings while most of the "westerners" took some down time. After lunch, in plenary, we (I say "we" only in a broad sense, and most of us from the "minority world" did not consider it good form to participate) worked on perfecting a draft communique from the conference. As one who considers himself a fairly adept wordsmith, and as a native speaker of English, it was at times uncomfortable to watch people for whom English is a second or third language try to come to consensus on the language of a document in English. The irony of it all--we Americans, rightfully on the margin at this event, were privileged to have proceedings conducted in our native tongue, while those with central positions were forced to work in a foriegn one--was not lost on me. 

Between three and six we were free. There was some informal conversation in the tea area. Then I took the time to see the tailor (suit jacket still not quite finished), snap some pictures of the hotel and environs, and visit with an American journalist who lives in Bangkok while working for a government-owned communications agency. He's also an Anglican, and found me through this very diary blog. It was an interesting chat.

In the evening we boarded a river boat for a three hour dinner cruise--upstream for a while and then downstream, all without leaving Bangkok. It's a big town, with something like 22 million in the metro area. And, yes, I picked up my suit ... at 10pm. I don't think those guys ever go home, but it looks like they've done good business from this conference.

Speaking of this conference: it is not an historic event, but it is a big deal. Twenty-four of the thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion are represented here, twelve by their primate, with a total of 92 in attendance--mostly bishops and priests. This group includes some of the real movers and shakers in Anglicanism, whether one perceives their influence as benign or malign. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office sent formal greetings. Nothing world-shaking is going to emerge from this meeting. But when something significant does happen, these are many of the players who will be involved. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday

This morning's preacher at the Eucharist was the Primate of Burundi, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, again on Romans 12, since language from vss. 1-2 is found in the conference theme. It was a rather "cooler" homily than we heard yesterday, centering on the wholesome notion that growth in Christiian maturity subverts our loyalty to the "empire" (whatever that might be), which, in this post-modern world, might be the ubiquitous hyper-individualism that seems to be the dominant epistemological and ethical filter.

After the tea break we heard from keynote speaker Patrick Johnstone, an Englishman who has spent most of his life as a missionary in Africa, and, among evangelicals, is one of the world's leading missiologists. He bombarded us with statistics illustrated by graphs, charts, and maps in Power Point. Way too much to take in, but very valuable, and we're told we'll be given a CD with all the slides on it. This guy is a premium numbers cruncher.

We then remained in plenary to begin to hear from the four breakout groups that met in the afternoon yesterday and the day before. Somehow this is all supposed to feed into a statement that the conference will issue at its conclusion. Glad I'm not in charge of making that happen!

The track group reports continued after lunch, but we concluded around 3pm. I visited the tailor for an initial fitting of the suit I'm buying, then caucused a bit with my Communion Partner colleagues. 

This place has a beautiful swimming pool that I've been watching people enjoy it all week, so I decided to enjoy it myself for a bit. I don't swim very often, so it's only dawning on me now that pools don't have deep ends anymore, and no diving boards. Too many lawyers. There's a cultural metaphor somewhere here waiting to be exploited.

I then returned to my room and fell asleep--once again, all the way until dinner time.

The evening plenary was devoted to the four groups of guests from the West/North/Minority World. The Communion Partners from TEC went first. We spoke very briefly and tried to strike a humble tone. We apologized for the long pattern of damage done to the wider communion by our own church, most recently at least week's General Convention, and shared the "Indianapolis Statement" minority report. Our stance was that we need the voice of the Global South to speak for us, since we are a minority voice within our own church. This is sensitive territory. Some of those here are very cool toward us because we remain in what they see as a hopelessly compromised church. They have transferred their seal of approval to the ACNA. Others are more sympathetic to our position and grateful for our continuing witness from within the Episcopal Church. I don't think we changed any minds among the former, but we did strengthen our position with the latter, and moved some off the fence in our direction. In a few minutes this evening, I think we may have essentially accomplished what we came here for.

We also heard from the two Canadians present (in a very similar situation to ours), two of the four ACNA representatives, the two Austrailians (both bishops, and rather diverse--one from Canberra and one from Sydney, which is significant if you know anything about Australian Anglicans), and the one Brit who is here (which is itself telling), a priest who works for the Church Missionary Society (CMS).

The four of us then had drinks together on an outdoor patio and a quite lovely evening, with temperatures that are more moderage than at any of the U.S. homes we come from. Way to go, Bangkok!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday

The preacher at the morning Eucharist was a Nigerian bishop, Dapu Asaju. Preaching from Romans 12 (even though it was not read in the liturgy--a rather lamentable, though once commonplace, artifact of Anglican custom), his main point was that Christians are "life savers" in a cosmic battle, a present crisis, pitting the kingdom of heaven against the kingdom of hell. This is war, and one gets the impression that the preacher thinks the troops are way too flabby. One of the things I've become more keenly aware of in this conference is the importance of context. As a westerner still trying to unlearn the mental habits of Christendom, and as one who tries to be a bridge builder rather than a bridge burner in a very diverse and conflicted church, I would have wished for more winsomeness, more gentleness, and maybe even a touch of humor. There was none of that. Yet, the Nigerian church is on the front lines of the encounter with militant Islam. Many Christians there are, at any moment, in danger of losing life or property. So they cannot afford flabby troops. Neither can we, actually, but we haven't completely figured that out yet.

The morning's keynote address was by Hwa Jung, a Methodist bishop from Malaysia. It was rich and stimulating. He flew over four important properties of the missional environment in the "Majority World" (aka Global South): 1) the north-to-south demographic shift in Christianity's center of gravity, 2) the increasing challenge of nominalism and shallow discipleship, 3) global political alignment along civilizational (rather than merely nation-state) fault lines, 4) rising persecution of Christians. He then offered six proposals for moving forward: 1) empower the indigenous churches, 2) pay more attention to discipleship and character formation, 3) deepen efforts to place gospel proclamation in authentic cultural context, 4) foster more sustainable socio-political transformation and nation building, 5) develop genuine North-South and South-South partnerships, and 6) attend to the crucial role of prayer, holiness, and unity.

I have to say, I'm about "up to here" with Thai food. It's not that I particularly dislike it--quite the opposite--but I like it as a choice, not a compulsion. I miss my accustomed variety.

In the afternoon, it was back to the "track discussion groups" we began yesterday. I was very much an observer rather than a participant. The others there (except for the Canadian and two Australians) aren't merely interested in resourcing theological formation, it is critical to their life and work. So they were highly motivated toward moving beyond general conversation to developing an action plan. It was the Nigerians who had the most energy for becoming very concrete.

Still struggling with jet lag, I was grateful when four o'clock arrived and when we were on break. It was all I could do not to nod off during the session, so I went straight to my room and hit the sack. By the time I could rouse myself, I had missed Evensong. I arrived in time for the final hymn, then followed the group over to dinner. I had nothing resembling an appetite, for any sort of food. Nonetheless, I sat at the table and drank water and tried to make conversation, even though I was still feeling very foggy. By the end of dinner, my head had cleared, and I was able to enter into some lively discussion. Then the four TEC Americans walked down the street about a quarter mile to a sort of mall--partly open air and partly covered, where we shopped for the sort of things one want to bring home to family and friends. I let one of my colleagues to the hard bargaining, then just came in behind and took advantage of the price he had negotiated. I'm crafty that way. On our way out, we spotted, of all things, a KFC. By that time, I was beginning to get a little hungry, so I ordered three drumsticks, "hot and spicy" of course. It was comfort food.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday

First full day of the conference. Same impressive breakfast buffet array as yesterday. We began with Eucharist at 7:30. The Thai Anglicans have their own Prayer Book (paper back), with Thai on the right and English on the left. We used English. The words of the liturgy are very similar to TEC's, with some interesting adaptations and variations. I have heard that Global South Anglican eveangelicals tend not to pay very much attention to liturgical detail ... and I seem to have heard correctly. Everything seemed to be "on the fly." Nobody--lectors, celebrant, keyboard musician (a bishop volunteer who was recruited at dinner last night)--was very well prepared. The exception was the preacher, Archbishop Chew, who masterfully situated the challenge of 21st century mission in St Paul's epistle to the Romans, particularly the first chapter and its theme of obedience/disobedience. A fine example of the classic evangelical Anglican genre of Bible teaching/preaching. It was long, and given that we were seated at hotel tables in the same room and configuration where our plenary sessions take place, it was easy to forget that we were in the middle of a Eucharist when he finished. 

After a short break for tea, we heard the day's keynote address. It was written by Richard Magnus of Singapore, but delivered by a surrogate as the author could not be with us. The subject was a survey of geopolitics in the post-Cold War world. It exposed the seed of what has emerged as perhaps the preeminent concern of those here assembled, which is the tense frontier between Christianity and Islam. Takeaway line: "The Arab spring is turning into a Christian autumn."

We then had brief introductory presentations from the convenors of four sub-groups:
 
1. Developing Resources for Holistic and Sustainable Missions
2. Global South Emerging Servant Leaders
3. Global South Theological Resourcing
4. Christianity & Other Faiths

After breaking for lunch, and a wee bit of down town, we self-selected into one of those four groups. The four of us representing Communion Partners spread ourselves evenly, one to each, and we will remain in these groups during a dedicated time each day. I went to #3, since I have more than a passing interest in theological education. I think I already knew this subliminally, but the prevailing sense in the Global South (a term that might be morphing into Global Majority) is that they were hoodwinked by seminaries in the "first world" countries that evangelized them 200 years ago, and to which they have been sending a steady stream of ordinands until fairly recently. By their lights, we sold out to the theological zeitgeist and failed to send them a memo. Now they're upset. Or at least cautious. Understandably.

These groups adjourned at 4pm, whereupon I made my way directly to the tailor a stone's throw from the front of the hotel and ordered a suit. Yes, a black one. Can't have too many. It was not particularly inexpensive for an off-the-rack suit, but it's being custom made in four days, and, for that, it's an excellent value. I figured I don't make it to Asia all that often, so I should avail myself of the opportunity.

I took a nap. Much needed. 

Evensong was on the schedule for 6pm, but it was just said Evening Prayer, sans any Psalms, and with hymns tacked on to the beginning and the end. I'm always grateful to be able to pray the office communally, but disapppointed again that more thought and preparation could not have gone into the endeavor. Those of us from the U.S. and Canada found ourselves a little perplexed that the default alternative to kneeling when kneeling is awkward is not standing, but sitting. At both the Eucharist and Evening Prayer, we were audibly directed to sit whenver the rubric said kneel. This seems completely counterintuitive, but I recall from my visit to England in January that the same thing is catching on there. Bizarre.

Dinner was a very diverse buffet consisting of--you guessed it--Thai cuisine. I'm not an adventurous eater, but there was plenty for even picky me to choose from. But now I know to add my own hot sauce. What comes out of the chafing dish is pretty tame.

The evening program consisted of regional discussion groups. Those of us from the "first world" (U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K.) were invited to crash the party of our choice, but the four TEC Americans and two Canadians (Dean Sumner and the Bishop of Algoma) found ourseleves having a fairly lively causus of our own. Some Canadian jokes were told (that is, jokes about Canada). What's the Canadian equivalent of "As American as apple pie"? "As Canadian as possible under the circumstances."

I took a brief stroll along the riverfront and then retired to write this blog post.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday

Time runs together.  I'm writing from a fourth floor room in the lovely Ramada Plaza Riverside in Bangkok, Thailand, after a record-setting (for me) 36 hour trip that began in Springfield on Saturday morning. In the process, I lost 12 hours of clock time, but I know right where I left them and will pick them up as I head east again in a few days. The journey was lenghtened by a delayed departure on the Chicago to Tokyo leg, causing me to miss a connection. As a result, I saw more of Tokyo than I'd planned on, as my re-booked flight to Thailand was out of the downtown Haneda International, rather than Narita where I had landed. The two airports are about an hour apart by bus. This is my first trip to Asia, so there's a lot to take in. Due to the nature of my visit (attending a Global South Anglican mission and networking conference, as a representative of the Communion Partners), I probably won't be getting out of the hotel much, but my room has a commanding view of the river on which Bangkok is built, which is alive with barge traffic and other smaller craft. It's quite bustling. The first event of the conference was not until 5pm, so I had the day to have a dialogue with my body about what time it really is. The body is persuasive, but I will win this debate in the end. I'm reluctant to wander beyond the point where I can turn around and see the hotel. Even in a country where I'm not fluent in the language, if I know the alphabet, I can at least still read signs. The Thai alphabet is phonetic, and reads from left to right, but beyond that I'm ignorant; hence the short leash. Many signs are also in English, however, and I did notice two custom suit makers within sight of the hotel. Tempting. The formalties began with a welcome from the dean of the Anglican congregation in Bangkok. He oriented us to some logistical matters, and then yielded the floor to a team of five Thai women--Presbyterian Christians--who presented us with a "liturgical dance" using traditional Thai forms but interpreting Isaiah 55--"Come to the water." Of course, I ended up at a table with my American compatriots--Bishop Smith, Dean Clark, and Dr Alley, along with the dean of Wycliffe College in Tortonto, George Sumner, the Suffragan Bishop of Canberra, and a representative of ACNA. Tomorrow we are under orders to mix it up a bit more. After a buffet dinner--definitely Asian, but spiced down to the western palate, unfortunately--we heard the keynote address from John Chew, Archbishop of Singapore. He is materfully in command of theology, scripture, politics, and recent history as they all bear on the occasion. 2012 is a year of great ferment (Arab Spring, EU debt crisis, new Archbishop of Canterbury to be appointed, difficult General Synod in England and General Convnetion in TEC), Bangkok with its tiny minority Christian population is emblematic of the missional challenge the worldwide church faces, and the Anglican Global South movement now has a two decade history of taking responsible principled stands in the councils of the worldwide Anglican Communion. What better time, what better place, and what better group is there to network together for the sake of mission? This will be a challenging week, but I look forward to it. I'm still generally zoinked by jet lag, but it's a good sign that it's bedtime locally, and I feel plenty ready to go native on this one.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday

Yesterday was spent unpacking, decompressing, tying up some administrative loose ends, writing an article for the Springfield Current, and running several errands.

Later this morning I board the first of three airplane flights that will end up depositing me in Bangkok (yes, Thailand). A mission and networking conference of Global South Anglicans has invited the Communion Partners to send two bishops and two rectors, and I drew the short straw, along with Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota. We will be joined by Frs Tony Clark and Chuck Alley.

I expect to have internet access while in Bangkok, so my intention is to continue to post daily, though at unusual times--Thailand is literally halfway around the world from the midwest, twelve hours ahead of central time. See you in cyberspace.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday

  • No more committee meetings, as all have finished their work, and, anyway, it would be too late for anything they might do to get accomplished. The Deputies met at 8; Bishops got to lollygag until 9. I took the opportunity to check out of my hotel and load the car.
  • See here for an account of the legislative day and overall reflections on the convention.
  • We broke at 11 for Eucharist and lunch (the latter, for me, with some old friends from Northern Indiana--Frs Henry Randolph, Jim Warnock, and Brian Grantz).
  • The houses of convention came back to order at 2:15. During the private conversation time in the HoB, it is the custom of Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwestern Pennsylvania to announce certain "awards" for the number and character of microphone "appearances" during the convention. Apparently, and somewhat to my chagrin, YFNB led in the "number" category by a wide margin for most of the time, only to be overtaken (I am relieved to say) on the home stretch by the Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. I hope the quality justified the quantity.
  • We essentially finished our work just before 5pm, but had a longish break while we waited for the Deputies to act on one final piece calling for a study of the constitutionality of certain sections of the Title IV canons. It was a show-of-hands vote, and carried 39-33, demonstrating that our ranks were thinning considerably. Interestingly, I voted in favor of this resolution, but I don't think it would have passed if all the bishops had been in the room.
  • After we adjourned, I wandered over to the HoD gallery, connected with the Archdeacon by text message, and then left with him (as we were traveling together, our wives having left on Monday) as the house was indulging in a panegyric in honor of its outgoing president, Bonnie Anderson.
  • I arrived home at around 10pm central time. Very grateful to be back.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wednesday (St Benedict)

  • Final meeting of Committee 13. Difficult, but productive. I sensed a growing attitude of charity toward those who always seem to be on the losing end of votes. Since they got their "big one" yesterday, many in the majority party are in a mood to be gracious. Not all, mind you, and not nearly enough, IMO. But some.
  • The House of Bishops continued to plow through resolutions. Being a much smaller body than the House of Deputies, we get our work accomplished with significantly greater efficiency. This allows for our customary period of private conversation prior to opening the gallery for our afternoon legislative session. And even then, we recessed at least two hours before the deputies. See here for a fuller account of the legislative action.
  • One of the fun things about General Convention is running into people from various eras in one's past. Leaving the gallery of the House of Deputies this afternoon, I was stopped by someone I overlapped two years with at Westmont College more than four decades ago. We barely knew each other in passing there and then. He's a cradle Episcopalian (a rarity at Westmont) and went right to seminary and ordination after graduation. Yet, we have both been aware of one another's work in more recent years. Such moments are a joy.
  • Dinner with my Springfield homeys. Time to get pack and ready to leave tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday

  • Another 7:30 committee meetings--and there will be yet one more. To my chagrin, they rejected my resolution to authorize the 1979 lectionary, but this was overturned by the House of Bishops in the afternoon. We also cranked out the rites for pastoral care around "beloved animals" and the daily prayer services my subcommittee has worked on. My motion to discharge the latter so they can be properly finished by people with the time to do it was defeated.
  • Once again, the opportunity for some down time between the morning committee meeting and the 11:15 (until 1:00 this time) legislative session was greatly welcome.
  • See here for the highlights of the legislative day.
  • Met with the Communion Partner bishops over lunch to hammer out a minority report on the same-sex marriage resolution that has now passed both houses. We will read this statement into the record sometime tomorrow.
  • Usual marathon afternoon session. We adjourned just in time to step into the gallery of the House of Deputies to watch the final vote on A049. Grim.
  • Dinner was at Morton's, sponsored by Nashotah House. We (meaning Nashotah) have a lot of fences to mend in all directions.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday

  • Usual early morning committee meeting. Most of it was dedicated to intense and emotional debate over A049, the enabling resolution for the rite for same-sex marriage. I'm grateful that we managed to build in strong safeguards in the language to protect the conscience of theological minorities. But I'm still deeply saddened by the outcome.
  • Once again, took the slot dedicated to daily Eucharist for some personal down time, which is hugely necessary.
  • The morning legislative session was fairly uneventful. See here for a fuller account of both the morning and afternoon sessions.
  • Lunch with Communion Partners bishops, clergy, and laity. It ended up being SRO, but the room was not that big--I think there were four round tables that may have seated 8-10, plus some chairs along the perimeter walls. Comparing this to the overflow crowds we had in a nearby church for "alternative" Eucharists and informational lunches in 2003 in Minneapolis and 2006 in Columbus, and it is painfully obvious what has happened to the conservative wing of the Episcopal Church.
  • The afternoon session brought with it consideration of the rite for same-sex marriage. Bishops from the minority party were well-prepped with talking points, and we pretty much managed to get them all in. Failure was not unexpected, but is nonetheless difficult in the moment.
  • In the evening, there was a dinner for bishops and spouses (though I went stag, as Brenda has returned home), during which we honored those who are retiring before the House of Bishops meets again next March.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Lord's Day (VI Pentecost)

  • 7:30 am meeting of the subcommittee of Committee 13 that I co-chair, now tasked with "perfecting" a collection of daily prayer resources that are intended to be more accessible than the Prayer Book daily office. We ran long, and didn't quite finish.
  • Dashed back to my room to change into cassock, rochet, chimere, and (of course!) biretta. Felt a little strange getting into an elevator all decked out, and sharing it with somebody clearly not associated with the convention. I couldn't help myself from saying, "I'm sorry. I know I look weird." (!)
  • Processed in with the other bishops for the principal Eucharist of General Convention. As hotel ballroom liturgies go, it wasn't bad. The music was spectacularly good.
  • Wandered across the street with Brenda and two visitors to the convention to the AAA minor league ballpark where the Diocese of Indianapolis was hosting a bit of an extravaganza, with free food (OK, freewill offerings encouraged--they probably collected more than they would have if they'd charged) and carnival-style entertainment. Blessedly, it was only 90, and not 105 as it's been the last several days.
  •  Back to legislative session at 2:15 (beginning, as is the custom, with a private meeting of the House of Bishops, this one lasting over an hour). We were all grateful that the calendar of resolutions was light today (apparently, the committees aren't being productive enough), which allowed for early adjournment, and an expensive visit to the C.M. Almy exhibit. (I needed some "stuff.") See here for what we accomplished.
  • After a bit of down time in the room, we headed out to a tasty dinner with the Springfield deputation at a Brazilian churrascaria about nine blocks down Washington Street. Yum.

Pictured here after the Eucharist, with the Revd Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saturday

  • Up at 6:15, aiming toward a 7:30 committee meeting. I'm accumulating a sleep deficit that is on its way toward becoming impressive. 
  • The morning committee session began with a hearing on B009, Authorize Use of 1979 Lectionary. As the author of this resolution, I was given an opportunity to address this as a witness. One "expert" witness (a former member of SCLM) showed up to speak in opposition.
  • We then had a long discussion of the rules for tonight's marquee hearing on A049, which authorizes the same-sex blessing rites.
  • After the committee meeting, I returned to my room for a nap--much needed--and to work a little more on my contribution to the subcommittee's work on the daily prayer supplement. Here's my personal summary of what we accomplished today. 
  • Over to the House of Bishops for an 11:15-12:45 legislative session. Carry-in lunch with the Communion Partner bishops in the hotel suite of one of our number. We needed to plot a little strategy for when the same-sex blessing resolution reaches the floor (not likely until at least Tuesday). 
  • We've reached the point in convention when the time allocation begins to shift. There was no afternoon committee time today, but an over four hour legislative session from 2:15 until 6:30. I seem to have gotten over my rookie fear of speaking at such events, because it felt like I was on my feet with a microphone in my hand with some frequency. It's actually a much less intimidating procedure than it is in the House of Deputies. 
  • There wasn't even time for dinner at that point, as I had to then take my place at a table in the front of a large ballroom (several hundred chairs) for a hearing on A049, which is the enabling resolution for the same-sex marriage rite. We heard alternating witnesses pro and con for an hour, then switched to specific comments and suggestions on the liturgical text itself. We ran through that list quickly, and re-opened the floor to the pro and con speakers, but apparently all the remaining "con" speakers had left the building by that point. 
  • My considerate wife had pre-ordered a carry-out dinner from the TGI Friday's in front of the hotel, which I enjoyed in the lobby while members of the Springfield deputation showed up for a little dessert and wine social event. It was good to see them, as our daily routines don't permit much contact.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday

  • Up for a 7:30-9:00 committee meeting. (See here for a summary of the day's business.)
  • Met with the other signers of the contentious amicus curiae brief to craft our collective response to the letter from the bishops of Quincy and Fort Worth, and arranged for it to be distributed.
  • Legislative session from 11:15 to 12:45.
  • Joined the Bishop of South Carolina for an impromptu lunch in one of the food court areas of the convention center.
  • Back to Committee 13 between 2:00 and 4:00, and legislative session from 4:30 until 6:30.
  • Rushed down Washington Street for a drinks and hors d'ouevres event sponsored by The Living Church, at which it was my joy to serve as a panelist in a very lively discussion.
  • Back to my room around 9:00, whereupon I had to study and make some notes for the meeting of my subcommittee on the proposed daily prayer rites.
  • "Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thursday

  • My hotel room is probably a 15 minute walk from the room where the House of Bishops meets--and I walk fast--but it's all in air-conditioned comfort owing to a system of skywalks connecting the convention center to all the nearby hotels (most of which are owned by Marriott, so TEC is helping the LDS balance sheets stay healthy!). 
  • I reported for duty in the HoB just before 8am. One of the quaint formalities is the custom of calling the roll of all living bishops in the order of their consecration. The first half or so of names called belong to retired bishops, most of whom are not present. Hearing the list of names was like an aural palimpsest of my history with the Episcopal Church. Most I knew only as names, not as actual people, but I associated those names with particular twists and turns in the history of this church.
  • Late in the morning it was back to committees. I've written here about my day with Committee 13.
  • Quick lunch with Brenda, Sylvia Little (wife of Bishop Ed Little of Northern Indiana), and Christopher Wells, editor of The Living Church.
  • Back to committees for another two-hour stint.
  • Then back to legislative session, where we actually began to make sausage. 
  • Dinner with Brenda and Sister Sarah Masterson, down here as a volunteer from our old home of Warsaw, Indiana.
  • Brief meeting after dinner with some colleagues who are also potential respondents in a Title IV action, all for doing the same thing, just to swap stories and talk about what we might do and/or say as this process unfolds.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

  • Up and out in time to hit the registration desk shortly after 7am (Eastern Time, of course), get oriented to the convention space, and find my committee room for an 8am meeting.
  • Committee 13 (Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music) spent about two hours getting organized, plotting our hearing schedule, etc., and then realized that we were a meeting in search of a purpose, since we are prohibited from actually discussing and debating legislation until after we have held hearings. 
  • So we adjourned early, which gave me time to find Brenda and begin poking around the Exhibit Hall.
  • At 2pm, both Houses met in joint session to hear addresses from the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies.
  • Then the bishops were exiled to our proper chamber, where we took care of some housekeeping announcements and orientation to the procedures of the House.
  • Then it was back to the committee room, where we held hearings on a bunch of mostly non-controversial resolutions, and then acted on them. I did not personally fare well, being on the losing side of many votes, and having a substantive amendment to a resolution shot down. Read about it here.
  • The hearing lasted until 7. Then it was back to the room to change quickly, retrieve Brenda, and head to the Class of 2011 bishops and spouses dinner. A wonderful time, capped off by watching fireworks while walking back to the hotel from the restaurant.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday

A confluence of circumstances meant that most of the morning was devoted to working with a pair of electricians getting our new kitchen stove properly installed. This meant that we couldn't devote our attention to getting ready to leave until it was pretty much time to leave--according to the original plan. So we got a late start and didn't make it to Indianapolis in time to register at the convention center. This will mean an even earlier start to the morning. But we did run into three-eighths of the Springfield deputation, and enjoyed a lively dinner together. It all starts with 8am committee meetings. Hang on.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Lord's Day (V Pentecost)

Woke up in Princeton, Indiana. From there it was about a 35 minute drive to Albion, where we made it in plenty of time for the scheduled 9am liturgy at St John's. As they are served by a deacon, it was the first time the Eucharist had been celebrated there in about a year (they get Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament most Sundays). After Mass we had a very robust discussion in the parish hall about the mission strategy vision. They were very thoughtfully engaged with what I shared, and I had to almost break away at 11:30 in order to load my stuff in the car and hit the road for Robinson, where I was due at St Mary's for a 1pm Eucharist with Confirmation. Again, the post-liturgical conversation was energetic and free-flowing. I feel like a salesman who's racking up order in the field before the R&D and engineering departments are quite ready to ship product! A good problem to have. We made it home around 6.

Over on my "real" blog, I've shared some thoughts on the recent news that I am the potential respondent to a Title IV misconduct complaint. Have a look it you'd like.

Sermon for Year B: Proper 8


Mark 5:22-24, 35b-43
St John’s, Albion & St Mary’s, Robinson

We can feel his pain. On the list of gut-wrenching experiences a human being can potentially have, losing a child is probably at the top. Jairus’ little girl, one of the lights of his life, is very sick, and appears to be dying. He’s heartbroken. He’s desperate. He’s willing to try anything. We can empathize with the situation he’s in. About 30 years ago, there was a drug called Laetrile that some thought was the silver bullet against cancer. But it wasn’t approved for clinical use in this country, so countless numbers of people took their sick loved ones to Mexico in order to obtain it. There wasn’t any good science behind the drug’s effectiveness, and it was kind of an irrational thing to do, but we can understand what drove people to do it. Desperate people often do irrational things.

When we’re desperate, we’re only a step away from surrendering to the grip of fear, and fear can lead us into all sorts of irrational and reactive behaviors. One way of describing this sort of behavior is “reptilian.” In other words, we behave like reptiles, who have very unsophisticated brains—actually, not much more than a brain stem. All they’re capable of doing is reacting to their immediate circumstances—mostly, running from danger and running toward food. Reptiles don’t have all the parts of a brain that humans have, but humans have all the parts of a brain that reptiles have, and when we’re under immediate stress, we can have a tendency to forget to use our whole brain and act like reptiles. Of course, we’re never at our most attractive when we’re behaving that way, and when we do or say things that we later regret, it’s usually because we were being reptilian.

Jairus was being reptilian. He was, after all, one of the leaders of the synagogue in his hometown. He was an important fellow. And Jesus was…a nobody…more or less. He was an itinerant preacher, of which there was no shortage at the time, and slightly kooky to boot. It was not very seemly for someone of Jairus’ standing to place himself in the position of being a supplicant to someone like Jesus. But his little girl was dying, and he was desperate.

Jairus would never have understood or expressed it this way, but his daughter’s mortal illness was evidence of none other than the cosmic power of Sin. And this is something quite apart from the individual acts that we commit or fail to commit and then label as “sins.”  Sin—capital ‘S’—is a force, a power, that is loose in the universe and foments rebellion against God. Sin is a “lame duck,” in that it has already been defeated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and will, at the end of the age, be eradicated. In the meantime, Sin manifests itself in a number of ways, including sickness, suffering, and death—including whatever it was that was afflicting Jairus’ little girl. Sin works against faith; it tries to prevent faith. Sin causes us to go reptilian. Sin limits our perspective on our experience to the present moment. It causes us to act like the only thing that matters is what’s in front of us right now. Sin prevents us from taking a long view. It tries to keep us from using our whole brain. When the power of Sin succeeds in its mission, it causes us to fall into “reptilian” reactivity and fear.

In a strange way, then, it was the power of Sin that caused Jairus to turn to Jesus for help. He was driven by fear and panic to do something that, in his world, was completely irrational. Fortunately for Jairus—fortunately for us—Jesus is in the business of redeeming people from the power of Sin. After Jairus first made his request of Jesus, the situation got even bleaker still. Word arrived that the little girl had died. Jesus tells Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” By the time Jairus and Jesus—along with the disciples Peter, James, and John—reach the house, the rituals of mourning are already in progress. Jesus says to those who are weeping and wailing, “What’s all the fuss about? The kid’s only taking a nap.” Or words to that effect. People laugh at him. Understandably. What could he have been thinking?

Here’s what Jesus was thinking: He knew that the child was really dead. She wasn’t literally asleep. Jesus was making a faith statement. And it isn’t only that he knew he was about to restore the little girl’s life, although I think we can assume that’s what he intended to do. Rather, he was taking a long view. Jesus was looking at what was happening in the present through the lens of what would happen in the future—namely, his own death on the cross and his resurrection on the third day. So, from that perspective, he could say that the girl was only sleeping.

Of course, for Jesus to see the plight of Jairus’ daughter from the perspective of the defeat of the power of Sin through the cross and resurrection, he had to look into the future. You and I have the luxury of seeing the cross and resurrection as accomplished facts. And when we keep those facts in view, the power of Sin isn’t quite so…powerful. In fact, it’s power-less. When our eyes are on the cross and the empty tomb, faith arrives and fear is banished. When our eyes are on the cross and the empty tomb, hope arrives and anxiety is banished. When our eyes are on the cross and the empty tomb, peace arrives, and panicky, reactive, reptilian behavior is banished. We are able to exercise the gift of faith, and know Christ’s healing and restoring presence with us “no matter what.” In Jairus’ case, what he received was what he wished for—the life of his daughter. In the economy of God’s redeeming love, it doesn’t always work just that way. We have disappointments. Nonetheless, the fact of the cross and the empty tomb offers us the opportunity to know the loving and healing touch of Jesus even when the outcome at the time is not what we hope for. It enables us to rise above the level of snakes and alligators and turtles and use the entire brain that God gave us. Praised be Jesus Christ. Amen.