I've been reading the resolutions put forward to General Convention. There are far fewer than in past years. Perhaps this will actually hold and we will end up with less than 350 resolutions to consider. Of those a good number are variations on several concerns, so that by the time they have been through legislative committees they will come to the floor as consolidated single resolutions addressing a specific issue. The issues most often subject to multiple resolutions are: The Anglican Covenant, The Mandatory Health Plan for Lay Workers, and the Restructuring of the Church. Hopefully when it is all whittled down there will be less than 200 items to be considered at all, many of them quickly.
It is important, I believe, to come to Convention willing to be convinced on any resolution - that is with a willingness to have a change of mind or heart. At the same time it is important to come with a sense of the matters at hand and a willingness to argue as effectively as possible for a particular stance on this or that resolution. So, recognizing that I could be changed, and for what it is worth, here is where I am finding myself before Convention on various issues:
A. On the Anglican Covenant. I am not persuaded that we need to adopt what is essentially a flawed document. So, unless persuaded otherwise, I plan to vote NO. That being said, I also want to vote a resounding YES to continuing to be a "constituent member" of the Anglican Communion, fully engaged in the work of the Communion, with as much openness to mutual recognition of clergy, mutual support in mission and sharing of common commitments with other member churches as possible. I am open to hearing out the full range of possibilities and finding the best possible expression of the mind of Convention.
B. On the blessings of Same Gender unions (A049). I am ready to vote yes. I think this work has been well done and making it available for use in those dioceses ready to do so makes sense at this time. As I understand it, the work for final inclusion of the proposed liturgy as an "official rite" will wait on the experience of use and possible revisions in the next General Convention with the canonical process then put forward for final approval over two conventions (2015-18).
C. Restructure: I wait to see what sort of resolution will finally come to the floor, but my hope is that it will include (i) a use of this next three years as a period of self examination and reformation, (ii) that there be a series of regional meetings and then a church wide gathering (special convention being one option in this) in which a clear and precise "package" of institutional changes be recommended to the next regular convention for approval, and (iii) a radical use of the budget proposal (however it comes out) to give urgency to the process of re-envisioning and restructuring. If a proposal comes forward from the committee to address these issues, I will vote for it.
D. The Budget. We have to try to pass one. I believe the current budget is unsatisfactory. As of today (June 21st) there is a new budget proposal to add to the mix, one produced by the Presiding Bishop and her staff. (More on that in a separate posting.)
At this point any budget produced by Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F), on the basis of the Executive Council budget proposal or the PB's Proposal is likely to be a mishmash. Perhaps the two proposals, the PB&F one (required by canon) and the Presiding Bishops' (required in her mind by the canonical charge for her office) might be set before the Joint Session as two choices, and that the bishops and deputies would simply chose one.
If that is not possible, the PB&F proposal could be put forward and then the Presiding Bishops' proposal could be offered as a substitute motion, debated and then voted on. If it was affirmed then the PB&F proposed budget would be moot. If it failed, then the PB&F budget would stand for a vote.
If for some reason no budget was affirmed by vote, I think the matter would have to go to Executive Council who might have to be empowered by General Convention to do what it could not do... produce a budget. This would provoke a crisis in governance, but a manageable one.
My hope is that two budgets get presented in some fashion with a clear choice being made by General Convention itself. It is late to expect PB&F to pull a magic consensus bunny out of a hat (still they have done amazing things before.)
D. Election of a new President of the House of Deputies. We now have two candidates The Rev. Gay Jennings and Mrs. Martha Alexander. I know and respect them both. I am glad they are both standing for election and I am confident that either could do the work.
My hope is that Gay Jennings is elected. In my mind she has a firm grip on the issues facing the church in this time of rapid change and increasing challenges in governance and mission. I hope that Martha Alexander will become Vice President. It may be that other candidates will appear, in which case we will all have to look again then. But now, with these as the candidates, I believe Gay is the one.
I am amazed at the talent, abilities and faithfulness of the two who have offered themselves. As in all ecclesial politics there are layers of meaning given to every choice made but I am convinced that under all the surface mutterings both these women are profoundly convinced Christians committed to the church and its life and health. It is wonderful to have to choose between these two.
E. Canonical changes regarding clergy who leave The Episcopal Church of their own volition to join another church not in communion with the Episcopal Church and not related to judgment concerning moral issues. I think we need to have another category beside "deposition" to work with. Hopefully it should be clear that a priest in good standing in TEC can be received in another church with which we are in communion by mutual consent of the bishops of jurisdiction in TEC and the other Church, without having the release from TEC taking the form of deposition. If clergy move from TEC to a church not in communion with TEC the matter of deposition might well remain since there is no connection between the churches in question. There is legislation proposed to address this issue and I hope it will pass.
So, there it is, some thoughts for now, just two weeks before General Convention. It is going to be quite a ride!
Time to get back to the Blue Book which is not Blue.