It’s Wednesday Morning, June 21st, the last day of General Convention in Columbus. Unlike the last nine days, today it is raining. There is thunder in the distance, and slick roads reflect the light from the early morning cars. The weather fits the moment.
Yesterday the House of Deputies forced the issue on the matter of A161, a resolution dealing with the election of bishops and same sex blessing. It was so bad that the left and right both could not stand it, and the middle saw it as a botched job. It failed just as I described in my essay yesterday. There I offered two scenarios that became fact. I said,
“Someone will propose a substitute on A161 and other resolutions, probably from the realignment side, and these will be so stringent that they will be unacceptable to the House and go down in flames. Then the realignment folk can say, “see, they really don’t care.”
The resolutions will continue to be so abhorrent to people on the right and on the left (for very different reasons) that they fail for want of a majority.”
The substitute was a motion using moratorium language lifted from Windsor. It was declared unconstitutional. The specific resolution A161 was indeed abhorrent.
There is lots of good coverage on this. In particular I recommend The Witness and Father Jake Stops the World.
I have been writing these blogs in the early morning, reflecting on the day before and anticipating the day to come. I predicted that yesterday would be a day with blood on the floor and a crying need for lawyers, guns and money. Well that was partially true. We did indeed need canon lawyers to get us out of the substitute resolution that was proposed. And, in a separate order of business we needed more money than the Church could guarantee to do all that the budgetary asking had requested. But we passed the budget and sent it along to the Bishops for concurrence.
On the matter of guns: the big guns of the debate on various resolutions concerning the Windsor Report were really Deputy Frank Wade and several committee members, representing the proposing body; Deputy Kendall Harmon and a small group of conservatives; and the Integrity leadership, represented on the floor by Elizabeth Kaeton. What was interesting was to see that with all their firepower the real shot heard ‘round the world was a volley of shots fired by deputies nearer the middle who had just had enough.
Democracy is not a pretty thing in action, but its results are amazing. A161, the creation of the Special Committee and a real mish-mash of material, was soundly defeated on the floor because it was awful. The realignment crowd may have voted against it because it didn’t go far enough and the progressive crowd because it was a bad piece of legislation lamenting its discount of Gay and Lesbian persons. But a large majority of the deputies saw it as bad indeed and not worthy of consideration.
Deputies worked their way thru a giant pile of legislation and worked until 9:30 at night. In the middle of the evening session the President announced that the Presiding Bishop had called a joint session for Wednesday morning (today) to present a way forward on legislation related to Windsor. This was certainly a strange development.
On the way back to my room I stopped at the bar / gathering place and ran into a bishop who immediately asked, “what’s going on with the House of Deputies? When are you going to give us something we can work with?” And, when I came in and began reading comments and blogs on the Net, it became clear that the House of Bishops, and the Presiding Bishop in particular, believe that the House of Deputies needed rescue and guidance. Some of the comments were fairly blunt: that the House of Deputies needed to be more mature and less abrasive, that we were not flexible, or that we needed help.
Well, we will see. The big guns will be in the house today. What I do know is that if the big guns get paternalistic there will be hell to pay. It may not be a good thing to insult the maturity or integrity of this large body of people who have been working hard for a long time with resolutions that concern our work in the Anglican Communion. That work, unlike the resolutions regarding mission and program, concerns high level interchange, not local contextual realities. Most deputies have little connection to the wide range of people and organizations that are central to the Communion. Most will never meet or see the Archbishop of Canterbury, most will never go to a Lambeth Conference, almost none will participate in any of the “instruments of unity.” And yet these people are asked to bear the brunt of the struggle to maintain a way forward in Anglican Communion processes. These Deputies are asked to surrender some vague edges of autonomy to some not too clearly understood or seen “higher” power.
The House of Bishops would do well to remember that Lambeth may be a fine time for them, but it is not nearly as important as money for local ministry or canons for ministry, or a budget for missionaries. The Archbishop of Canterbury would do well to understand that emissaries that seem to come from the monarch or the patriarch bearing messages of caution and dictates for action are not well received by this rag-tag body of deputies who got sent here to be the Episcopal Church assembled to empower mission, not the local branch of the Anglican Communion convened to receive marching orders.
Today promises to be a day when the streets get washed down, and hope is renewed.
My hope is that the joint session will be conducted without anxiety or paternalism, and that we do indeed find a way forward in responding to the Windsor Report, and that following that we can breeze through the remaining legislation. But we can do so only if we sweep out the corners where the power brokers have left their webs to snare the unawares.
We broke through the stained glass ceiling on Sunday. Perhaps today we can break through the walls of fear.
No matter what we do today, no one can say we are not taking the Windsor Report seriously or that we somehow have not attended to the concerns of the Primates, the Lambeth Conference or the Anglican Consultative Council. We will do what we can do, and that’s that. Everything else is for another time.
The threat that we might not make it to Lambeth, or that we will be no longer part of the Anglican Communion is a real one, but it is not as great as the promise that loving kindness will prevail if we do not loose hope, and if we do not abandon one another.
Off to work.