How We See It

Reflections on Convention by the Bishop and Deputies of the Diocese of Northwest Texas

 

July 7- Jim Liggett July 11--Mary Williams July 15--Greg Westmoreland
July 8--Linda Kelly July 12--David Mossbarger July 16--
July 9-Jackie Batjer July 13--Cliff Craig July 17--Bishop Mayer
  July 14--Mary Glover  

Bishop Mayer's two Reflection on General Convention

 

Be Sure to visit our pages of Snapshots from General Convention


 I will try to update this page, and the "Snapshots From General Convention" page, daily during Convention. It is my prayer that these pages will help our Diocese share with its Deputies in the experience of General Convention, and that they will enrich all of us as we grow in appreciation of, and service through, this wonderful Church God has blessed us with.




July 7

Not everyone has arrived yet, and there hasn’t been a chance to set a schedule for these musings. So I’ll start with a word today. You’ll be able to hear another voice very soon.

I want to begin with how I spent the evening. I was a guest of Deacon Tom and Gwen Burns at the Church Periodical Club’s (CPC) Overseas Bishops’ dinner. They do this at every General Convention; and it’s a pretty big deal. There were about 300 people and a least a dozen "Overseas Bishops". (Although one Bishop from Mexico was quick to point out that he wasn’t overseas from the American dioceses.) Meanwhile at the table, after a blessing from the Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, we listened to a Bishop from Massachusetts talk with a Bishop from Korea about their ministries to Palestinian Christians; and about how she was probably the first woman to celebrate the Eucharist in the Middle East. I also had a chance to meet Bishop Holguin from the Dominican Republic. I was looking forward to that because his Diocese is one of the fastest growing in the Church, and St. Nicholas’ and Santa Maria in Midland are developing a companion relationship with one of the parishes in his Diocese.

And none of this is ‘foreign’. Every diocese I have mentioned is a part of our Episcopal Church. We call it the 'National Church', but we are really much more than that; our ministry and mission reach far beyond the borders of the United States. In the same way, a quick tour of the Exhibit Hall gives a wonderful snapshot of the richness, variety, and commitment to faithfulness that have always characterized our church. Finally, just looking around at the glorious mix of folks who are here from every state and several nations, reflecting all perspectives and approaches, bound together by a common faith and worship, stretches and expands any familiar, rigid or stereotypical ideas of what it means to be an Episcopalian.

We are so much more than we usually realize, and so different from how we are typically portrayed. Of everything I have discovered at the two previous General Conventions I have attended, and all I expect to discover at this one, this is the one thing I wish I could put in a bottle and bring home. We often don’t know this, or the press of local concerns leads us to forget it, or, alas, in some cases it is more or less hidden from us. The scope of the work of our church, both our ‘national’ church and our diocese, is something to learn about, to support, to improve when needed, and to be proud of always. It is really a neat thing to be an Episcopalian, and it’s worth the trip to California to be reminded of that, and to try to share a taste of that with you.

Jim Liggett

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July 8

The sun is shining, the grass is green;

The orange and palm trees sway……

I hate to rub it in but while you are all sweltering back home, the deputation from Northwest Texas has been enjoying beautiful, cool, breezy days here in Anaheim….at least so far. The climate at the 76th General Convention has also been cool, calm, and collected…so far.

As a first-time deputy to GC, I have been suffering from sensory-overload trying to take it all in. Just watching the variety of people is a real experience. Ubuntu (I am because you are), is the theme of this GC. Our focus is to build relationships through listening to each others’ personal stories. Presiding Bishop Katharine has told us we must reject "business as usual…and make our decisions in hope. We can speak the love of God through this church. And we can do it together."

What an honor and thrill to have The ABC (Archbishop of Canterbury), Rowan Williams, with us on Wednesday and Thursday. The archbishop told us that if the Anglican Communion didn’t need the Episcopal Church, it would be easy to be rid of us. But, we are very much needed. In an address on Wednesday evening, the ABC addressed the current global economic and environmental crises.

One lovely thing about being a "first-timer" is that I am not on any committees so I don’t have to attend any of the very lengthy meetings which occur twice every day. I have been having a great time strolling through the exhibits visiting with people and collecting all the goodies they have to hand out. Now I have to figure out how I am going to get all these treasures home! And this is only day two!

I feel so blessed to be an Episcopalian at this time in our history, and especially blessed to be a deputy at this GC. Because I have not been present at previous Conventions, I have no way of making a comparison. But I feel a spirit of hopefulness and excitement here. I have no idea what will transpire in the coming week here in Anaheim. My prayer is that we will all trust the Spirit to guide us where Christ would have us go at this time in the life of the Church. Please keep us in your prayers.

Yours in Christ,

Linda Kelly

 

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July 9

I am grateful to be here in Anaheim at General Convention. I serve on the legislative Committee of National and International Affairs and within that Committee I serve on the sub-committee of International Political Issues. There are three other subcommittees in this Committee. As a whole committee we have dealt with over fifty resolutions at this point in the Convention. We have met at least twice a day–early in the morning and at night after our other work. We have considered resolutions concerning international gangs, Indigenous people, the environment and many other issues.

Our worship has been glorious. It is just incredible to worship with thousands of Episcopalians and to have the Archbishop of Canterbury as preacher one day.

Our diocese sits by the section for the deaf and hearing impaired. It is just beautiful to watch them signing not only the conversation going on in the House of Deputies, but also the hymns.

There are so many different kinds of things going on here at Convention. I feel such wonder, joy and excitement about our glorious Church.

 

Jackie Batjer

 

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July 10

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July 11

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Triennial 2009 so far has been full of grace: music, worship, laughter, and wonderful messages from various speakers…Oh, and some business too. Our theme is "Grow in Grace."

We have a husband-and-wife team playing (keyboard) and singing with us a few times a day at our plenary sessions – often in the morning, at breaks, and before we stop business in the late afternoon.

We have celebrated our Honored Women from each diocese. Carolyn Goebel of St. Paul’s, Lubbock, is our Honored Woman for this triennium, and she certainly deserves the honor.

We have voted on our bylaws – there are always amendments to consider. No substantial changes happened this time.

We have listened to our officer candidates speak to us about what is important to them for the next three years. Voting for officers will occur Monday, July 13. Please pray that we elect the right women so that we can continue to have a wonderful national organization.

We have been blessed to participate in daily Eucharist with the rest of the General Convention, and we have listened to some local bishops and priests celebrate and meditate. We have heard readings and prayers and songs in Spanish and French, a Native American tongue, and English. We have been blessed to have Barbara Harris, the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori, and our Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in our Eucharists and also in our plenary sessions of the ECW Triennial. Friday we also heard Phyllis Tickle talk about grace for a few minutes (much laughter and lots of good insights!).

We have also participated together in discussions on mission. These are called Mission Conversations and have been conducted so that we sit by diocese and province, so though we might know each other by name, we are getting to know one another more fully in our stories. The idea is to talk about our own personal stories about mission, to connect them to "us" and finally to connect our shared values with ideas about action, about what we might do now about our mission as a church. After all, we are in another time of great change ("emergence," as many scholars such as Phyllis Tickle call it), and we seem to be called to bring our Episcopal identity and those gifts to the changing world situation.

I’ve been serving on the Communication Committee during this time, helping to proofread some of the writing in the Triennial Today magazine that keeps everyone updated as to what has happened, what will happen tomorrow, and our responses to some of these things. I have met some terrific women, of course, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve.

Anne Hover, Carolyn Jones, and I have talked, eaten, walked (and walked and walked), laughed, and prayed together, and I’m thankful for their presence and our time together.

The exhibits area is as overwhelming as I was told…vestments, books, organizational materials, jewelry, T-shirts, bags, baskets, lions, tigers, and bears, oh, my!

This Triennial so far has indeed been all about grace as it is embodied by our sisters in Christ as well as our brothers. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to participate.

Mary Williams, ECW Triennial Representative

 

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July 12

Hello to the folk back in Northwest Texas!

The leadership of this General Convention has been moved by the Anglican Communion’s teaching of Ubuntu [I in you–You in me] from last year’s Lambeth Conference. To me, it carries various shades of 1st century Christian teaching which Paul’s first letter to Corinth exemplifies. The individual is given gifts and a ministry. The church is called to value the individual Christian–the Christian is called to uphold the dignity of his calling while humbly acknowledging their dependence on the gifts of others (I Cor.12:14-18).

It will be interesting to me to see if the secular press or the Christian press or the Episcopalian press will be able to discern the spirit of Ubuntu in an discussion on human sexuality. Certainly their parsing will be far more interesting than mine. I’d like to use my diocesan platform to discuss two resolutions, public narrative training and our daily Eucharistic.

Delegates receive information about the state of the Church. One Standing Commission of our Church (on Domestic Mission and Evangelism) has followed this information. One of their steps communicates that denominations similar to ours have experienced the same declining numbers. The Commission believes ecumenical dialogue needs to go beyond a shared theology on sacraments and ecclesiology. We need each other to help each body better communicate our communities call to non-churched folk to deepen their spirituality in our gatherings and then common life. Ubuntu exists in these relationships.

This Commission has a resolution to have the Episcopal Church finance an assembly to begin this dialogue. While I support the resolution, I’m more interesting in local implications. Yes, we can learn from this assembly, but why can’t we pursue Ubuntu in Odessa, Amarillo, Abilene, Midland, Pampa and Lubbock. After learning of this resolution, I have spoken to leaders and rank-and-file of St. Barnabas’ to raise the possibility of meeting with Christ Church Lutheran and Asbury Methodist and St. Paul’s Methodist. As St. Barnabas’ has been a leader in ecumenical outreach for the homeless program, Family Promise of Odessa, can we now work with our brothers and sisters on evangelism? Can all our parishes pursue this valued mission of finding metaphors to communicate the Good News of God in Christ?

A second resolution (coming from an individual but presenting work of some of the finest, sharpest folk I know in the Episcopal Church) concerns creating new church/community for Hispanics and Latinos. Based on intra-diocesan conversation here on mission, I am hopeful the resolution’s endorsement of a strategic plan will influence our diocese in the next three year’s. The folks who have worked on this plan include Midland’s Josie Rose and my long-time seminary buddy, Richard Aguilar, who has asked me to "speak up" for the resolution when it gets to the floor.

I pray that Ubuntu exists between the average Anglo Northwest Texas Episcopalian and the Hispanic culture which maybe still be foreign though within the walls of our own cities. Despite our fears of failure, I pray that faith responds to the godly call of this Strategic Plan!

The rank-and-file delegate is also called to rethink the importance of their leadership. The life stories–the faith stories–which God has given to each–these life stories can (and will) have an impact on the life of the church. There are moments which God has used to call me and you to action. Simply telling the story maybe the moving moment for someone else to explore God’s graceful call in their life. It’s not pushy if we humbly watch for how God uses our story. The Public Narrative Training for delegates and bishops is another gift which I pray will be received and used with energy in the diocese.

Finally I commend to our church musicians and Daughter-of-the-King/ Brotherhood-of-St.-Andrews members copies of the daily Eucharistic celebrations. While there is much "tried-and-true" Episcopalian liturgy, there is much to provide new avenues which may inform our culture about the truth of Christ Jesus. Use small groups to experience the music or discuss the prayers. Look to your clergy to point up the hints which speak volumes to our generation’s call to Christ.

I hope my story of being moved by General Convention has provided another eye that has helped the whole body of Christ in our Diocese. See ya when Emily, my daughter, and I get back home with others who’ve been at General Convention.

Much love,

David Mossbarger

 

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July 13

Greetings from your General Convention deputation on Monday, July 13th, the 6th Legislative Day of our time together in Anaheim, California.

Monday, as does every Convention day, presented myriad opportunities for dialogue, debate and informal conversations—all mixed together with prayer, reflection, and the celebration of the Eucharist.

Each and every day, I give thanks for the leadership of our Church and the processes we employ for the purpose of discerning the mind of General Convention, the voice of the Episcopal Church.

Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of deputies, keeps us on our legislative track while exercising unbelievable patience and displaying an extraordinary sense of humor.

Gregory Straub, Secretary of the House of Deputies, plies us with information interspersed with his very witty remarks. Gregory, not unlike our very own Fr. Clifton Mann, in one to whom you need to listen to very closely; failing to do so will cause on to miss a "memorable nugget" that enriches our common experience.

The Rev. Francis Wade, a clerical Deputy from the Diocese of Washington, serves as Chaplain of the House of Deputies and reminds us daily, through prayer and meditation, of our mission in Anaheim of doing the work of the Church with our hearts and minds clearly focused on Jesus Christ.

On this day, two outstanding young people from the Youth Presence reminded the Convention that our youth continue to seek the trust and respect of those more senior members of our church, and that they eagerly invite opportunities whereby they may express their ideas and opinions and be greeted and included as relevant members of our congregations.

Additionally, the House of Deputies struggled prayerfully with the Consent to the election of the Rev. Luis Fernando Ruiz as Bishop of the Diocese of Ecuador Central by the House of Bishops. The election was referred to the House of Bishops in Ecuador Central by the diocese as their electing convention was deadlocked and unable to duly elect their next Bishop. The House of Bishops of Ecuador Central overwhelmingly elected Fr. Ruiz from a slate of three qualified nominees and the House of Deputies and our House of Bishops consented to his election.

The House of Deputies heard the Standing Commission on Canons’ report on amendments to the Title IV Canons concerning the responsibilities and accountability of Members of the Clergy. The work of the committee was exhaustive and is too voluminous to be included in this daily report.

We learned late in the day of the House of Bishops’ action on Resolution D-025 (Anglican Communion: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion). The House of Bishops overwhelming approved the House of deputies’ Resolution subject to amendments. The House of Deputies will receive the amended version on Tuesday, and your Deputation believes that the House of Deputies will most likely concur with the amended version.

Once again, I believe it appropriate to share wit all of you in the Diocese of Northwest Texas that it is a joy and privilege for me to act as a Deputy to General Convention. My life in the Church is enriched by the experience.

I shall return home on Saturday I the sure knowledge that, by God’s grace and his love, as shown by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our future life and ministry as the Episcopal Church will be bountiful and fruitful.

Yours in Christ,

Cliff Craig

 

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July 14

There is likely plenty of print already about content and conversations at General Convention, and more will keep coming, so I thought I’d offer a different perspective on an aspect of our time in Anaheim. The sounds of Convention life. As you must have guessed, there are plenty of wonderful sounds coming from the volunteer Ubuntu (our theme) Choir during daily Holy Eucharist services. Hymns have been drawn from the 1982 Hymnal, as well as our other hymnals, Lift Every Voice and El Himnario. We’ve heard from a children’s choir from NYC, African drummers, and an oriental drum group, also children from CA, and a variety of accompanying instruments… organ, marimba, guitar, bassoon. Elisabeth von Trapp, Maria’s granddaughter, provided special music at worship and in concert one day. And, I have to admit, the House of Deputies, when it pauses from work and stands to sing hymns a capella sounds quite good… a choir of 800+ voices.

Just as striking and memorable are the more random sounds. We’ve had a stray pigeon that has been a regular visitor to our House of Deputies… it has remained quiet, but the House reacts with muffled laughs and "ooohs" when our winged friend passes overhead at, coincidentally momentous, times. Also in the House is the frequent – even though forbidden – clicking sound of three-ringed binders being opened to receive another stack of calendars, registers and resolution forms. The rules try to prevent the simultaneous clicking of 815 notebooks, but the habit is sometimes hard to squelch. Another signature noise in the House is the sometimes mournful, sometimes anxious, sound of all our metal chair legs being scooted across the concrete floor as we rise to applaud, pray, sing, or recess. It sounds alternately like a pack of seals or the moan an old lighthouse siren… and surely warns all our volunteers and doorkeepers that the herd of Deputies is on the move.

Around the hotel, right next door to the Convention Center, there are other varieties of sound. A favorite of mine is the odd percussion – a bit like the hand-clap we used to do to mimic the sound of horse hooves – of an army of rolling luggage carts tick-tick-ticking over the brick sidewalk. (The papers we acquire are heavy and multiply daily… so the carts are an envied possession). In the mornings, I’ve often been greeted in the stairwell by the lively conversation of the dozens of green-uniformed housekeepers making their way to the many supply and linen closets. Their greetings to each other and to us are always friendly. The sound of conversations – hushed and boisterous - and the "ping" of elevator signals are non-stop. This is one of the largest hotels I’ve ever been in and we have filled it with people from all over the USA and some of the 14 countries represented in our Church’s gathering. The restaurant spills over with sounds of meetings and greetings. The (beloved) Starbuck’s in the lobby, with its cacophony of grinders, blenders and espresso spouts is the first sacramental stop of the day for hundreds of us… really, the lines are that long. And the lounge next to the lobby is a perpetual meeting place for groups large and small, old and young, early and late. Perhaps the most unexpected sound at the hotel happens every night at 9:25. We are mere blocks from Disneyland and the patrons there – as well as those on the hotel’s upper floors – are treated to a 15-minute fireworks display every night! From my room, I can’t see the fireworks but I can count and sometimes feel the force of the detonations. I have seen it from the street though, which is much more fun.

Though I could conjure up a further list of sounds, I’ll end with a description of two extremes. First is the sound of the few protestors who take up their place outside the hall as we leave to go to lunch. I don’t think any of our Conventions end without protestors being present, but I’m happy to say that there have been only a handful here. I’d like to think I’m fair in giving others an opportunity to express their opinions, but the shouted words of one of the protestors can only be called cruel, personal and just plain hurtful and wrong. He verbally attacks anyone wearing a purple shirt and any female wearing a collar, and summarily dismisses them as unredeemable God-haters, not a categorization I find true of anyone, no matter who! But, to counter such noise, there is the silence and calm that we can and do practice in our time together in the legislative house. Even there, where there are disagreements and disappointments, as well as temptations to be smug or less than generous, we hold onto the calm and the silence. Together, we have engaged the matters – disputed and agreeable – before us and we have acted with compassion, restraint, and dignity. We each come from different places and will return with varied reactions, feelings and possibilities… but, in the silence we are together and we are strengthened by one another. Our theme has been "Ubuntu… I in you and you in me." I am because you are is another way to say it. And, when words fail us, the silence gives us ample space to share in God’s abundant spirit and to know that those words are true.

Deputy Mary E. Glover+

 

 

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July 15

After attending several Diocesan Conventions, this is my first National Convention. All I can say is, Wow! Everything is so much larger in every way. All fifty states are represented as well as Columbia, The Virgin Island, Ecuador, Venezuela and Litoral. I am on the House floor as a Deputy. There are approximately 850 Deputies. Each day we have Legislative Sessions in the morning and afternoon. We vote on many Resolutions that come before us. The House has been (for the most part) very much in order and has been very well run by the President. The process on the floor is very much like the Senate.

The days are long, however we do have Alternates who can take our place for a day. Nancy Igo took my place yesterday as I enjoyed the day at Disneyland. Last Friday night I was able to attend the California Angels’ and the New York Yankees’ game. The game was a sellout as the Angels won that night.

As the Convention is winding down, I would like to thank our representation who have helped me and showed the ropes to this Rookie. It has been an honor to me to have been selected to represent our Diocese.

Greg Westmoreland

 

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July 16

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July 17

The 76th meeting of the General Convention has come to a close. As you know, this is my first trip to General Convention as your bishop, which I count a great privilege.

I cannot overstate the high level of care exercised within the House of Bishops at this convention: the deep listening, the self-offering, the respect, the affection, and the bond. Bishops came together from the different theological and cultural perspectives which are characteristic of our tradition, seeking to discern God’s will.

The General Convention experience is more than legislation.  It’s a family reunion – gathering with long time friends.  It’s enjoying time with the deputies, volunteers, and ECW representatives of our diocese, and hearing one another’s stories.  It’s celebrating rich and creative worship with thousands of Episcopalians.  It’s strolling through the Exhibit Hall and seeing the variety of expressions of our tradition.  It’s enduring the daily grind of long hours and hard work.

Having said that, significant legislation was passed at this convention, including:

a denominational health plan, which will better serve smaller dioceses in particular;

a mandatory lay pension plan for the dedicated lay employees of the Church;

and a reduction of the overall general budget, as the Church both responds to current economic challenges, and shifts more mission initiatives to the local level.

Of course, the legislation most reported in the media concerns the two resolutions regarding human sexuality. Unfortunately, the headlines misrepresented what actually happened. It is my understanding – an understanding shared by our Presiding Bishop and most bishops – that the convention did nothing which goes beyond what is currently provided in our Constitution and Canons. We did not lift the moratoria adopted at the previous convention. We did not authorize the blessing of same-sex unions. The convention did craft resolutions which describe where we are. I will write more specifically about this in another article.

I return from this meeting of the 76th General Convention as hopeful as ever, and as grateful as ever to serve God in and through this beautiful tradition – especially in Northwest Texas – in the Name of the Holy Trinity, one God, in Whom we live and move and have our being.

With affection and gratitude,

+Scott

 

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