How We See It
Reflections on Convention by the Bishop and Deputies of the Diocese of Northwest Texas
|July 29-Jackie Batjer||August 2-Cliff Craig||August 6-Sue Veal|
|July 30-Jake Clemmens||August 3-Jim Liggett||August 7-Bill Nix|
|July 31-Claire Cowden||August 4-Bishop Ohl||August 8-Dick Davis|
|August 1-Jim Haney||August 5-Scott Mayer|
Be Sure to visit our pages of Snapshots from General Convention
Shelia Ohl, Scott Mayer and I arrived in Minneapolis at 3:30 on Monday afternoon. We were met by Barbara and Dick Davis who had been running back and forth to the airport to pick up people from Northwest Texas. We went immediately to the convention center to register for General Convention and then to the hotel. We are staying at the DoubleTree Suites about five blocks from the convention center. After unpacking, I went to the Davis’ room where we were gathering before dinner. Betty Gilmore was there. She arrived a couple of days ago to start her job as Agenda Manager and was really glad to see some faces from home. Bishop Ohl, Shelia Ohl, Claire Cowden, Bill Nix, Jim Haney, Scott Mayer, Barbara Davis, Dick Davis, Jake Clemmens, Laura Clemmens and I walked several blocks to a wonderful seafood restaurant for dinner. Jim Liggett arrived later that night and Cliff Craig arrived on Tuesday.
Opening day of convention is Wednesday, however, legislative committees began their work at nine o’clock on Tuesday followed by orientation for all deputies that afternoon. I am serving on the Social and Urban Affairs Comm. This is my fourth convention to serve on this committee. Social and Urban Affairs committee is the largest legislative committee and divides into sub-committees and I am on the anti-racism sub-committee. The committee met from 9 to 12. We had opening worship, introductions and orientation on how the committee would operate. Our sub-committees met to discuss the resolutions we have at this point in the convention and to decide which ones we would have hearings on at 8 o’clock Tuesday night.
All of our deputation gathered in our hospitality room (the Davis’s room) to talk about the events of the day and make plans for tomorrow. Those of us who had to be at committee hearings went to grab a quick bite to eat and on to our hearings. We finished our committee hearings, did some sub-committee work and called it a day about 10 p.m.
I was excited to see the Bishop of Colombia and his family who I visited last summer in Colombia and several other people who were on that trip. I also have had a chance to say "Hi" to some folks I have served with on the Standing Commission On Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns.
Tomorrow I start with the Social and Urban Affairs Comm. At 7:30 a.m., on to worship and the opening session of General Convention. Keep us in your prayers.
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Thursday, July 31 was a full, rich and challenging 15-hour day. My day began with a 7:30 Ministry Legislative Committee meeting. I am so fortunate to have Jim Haney as a buddy on this committee which is looking at a lot of legislation, including Title III Proposed Revisions (these revisions relate to Commissions on Ministry and licensed & ordained ministries). At our committee’s open hearing we heard a lot of testimony on these proposed revisions, and our own Jim Liggett spoke eloquently to a number of issues. My subcommittee is looking at a number of interesting resolutions, including a resolution seeking to amend the canons to clarify the role of Interim Rectors and establish common expectations across dioceses. One of our subcommittee members serves as an interim and wrote this resolution.
We then gathered for the morning Eucharist – a moving and beautiful experience. Our diocese’s own Sarabeth Clevenger, member of St. Mark’s, Abilene, had two works of art featured during the worship. Another very wonderful worship experience is the daily mid-day prayer. The chaplain has designed some of the richest worship I’ve ever experienced, combining contemporary music, projected photographs of people in all walks of life, sung and spoken meditative prayers. I finally understand how well-designed, multi-media worship can touch the hearts of people of all ages.
The two major highlights of the day for me were hearing about the 20/20 movement and participating on the Presiding Bishop’s Forum on Global Reconciliation. 20/20 is a broad movement for mission which brings together persons of all theological persuasions. The vision it promotes is of a healthy, dynamic inviting church reflective of society’s diversity. The 20/20 vision is perfectly suited for churches of many varieties in whatever size community they live. The 20/20 Task Force has brought some 25 resolutions to General Convention, all of which claim the urgency of this moment in the church’s life and show the way forward step by step. At the end of an exceptionally rousing presentation, we all turned to our neighbors and promised, "I will not stand in the way of the 20/20 movement!"
The Presiding Bishop’s Forum on Global Reconciliation began that evening at historic St. Mark’s Cathedral. We were so privileged to hear from a panel of exceptional persons: the Most Reverend Njongonlulu Ndungane – Archbishop of Capetown and Primate of the Church in the Province of Southern Africa, Jeffrey Sachs – a developmental economist who advises Kofi Anan among others, and three "witnesses of the church’s involvement in global reconciliation." The Primate of Southern Africa and Dr. Sachs eloquently described the world situation in which 1/6 of our population lives in dire poverty, struggling mightily to survive each day. Dr. Sachs is a very convincing proponent of simple solutions to ending this kind of debilitating poverty IMMEDIATELY, solutions for which Frank Griswold calls him a "realistic optimist." The three "witnesses" presented powerful testimony to the good and healing work being brought to specific situations. I took many notes at this gathering and I would love to visit with anyone who has a similar passion for this topic.
I cannot express adequately my gratitude for being here and a part of this remarkable gathering. Thank you diocese for this grand opportunity.
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By this first Friday we are now into the daily routine (or grind) of another General Convention. My typical day begins with a 7:30 p.m. committee meeting, where Claire Cowden and I faithfully trudge the three or four blocks to the Hyatt Hotel where Committee 14 on Ministry, on which we both serve, meets; and begin the day by immersing ourselves in the tedious task of major revisions of significant proportion of the canons dealing with lay, diaconal, and priestly ministry.
Then in the late morning we walk another three or four blocks to spend the rest of the day (normally until 6:00 a.m. in the evening) in the House of Deputies legislative sessions; debating, passing, rejecting resolutions that have been perfected by the various committees and that are either from the House of Bishops or on the way to the House of Bishops as part of our bicameral legislative structure.
But in between committee and legislative meetings is another significant part of General Convention, our daily 9:30 a.m. morning Eucharist and scripture reflection, where 1,500 or more people gather in a large meeting hall in table groups of eight to ten for worship and scripture discussion. It is this time that puts everything else into proper perspective for me. For as a church we find our grounds for unity in gathering around God’s altar in common worship, and by doing so we are provided with the focus by which we can discuss and deal with the contentious and controversial issues that always seem to demand so much of our attention and time. The issues that make the news, not because they are the most essential items that General Convention deals with every three years, but simply because they are the most controversial.
This year my worship table number 33 is very close to the platform and altar area. In yesterday’s worship the music was lead by a wonderful bi-cultural group named "Cross Culture’. The worship music was a wonderful blend of African American, Hispanic, Swedish, and Finnish tunes, the latter two reflecting Minnesota’s particular blend of cultures.
But what I found myself really focusing on was the contingent of deaf people sitting very near our table and having the liturgy, sermon, and music signed to them by two skilled and enthusiastic translators. While we sang the psalm refrains with our voices, the group sang the same refrains with their hands and bodies. While we sang portions of the liturgy such as the Sanctus and Agnus Dei with our voices, they sang the same portions with their hands and bodies. While we sang the communion hymns with our voices, they sang the same communion hymns with their hands and bodies. And while watching them join their form of silent language with our form of spoken language, I experienced a wonderful sensation of the unity we have even in the midst of all our diversity as part of Christ’s body; this tremendous and mysterious Church to which we belong. And I was again reminded that if we are capable of worshiping together in such diverse and unique ways, we can maintain and celebrate our unity even in the midst of all the other ways in which we might differ.
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This is Saturday’s report from General Convention. Our work for that day concluded at 1pm and the free afternoon was enjoyed by your delegation. Given our shortened schedule, you could reasonably expect this to be the shortest and most concise report of our series. That may well turn out to be the case, but I find it impossible to limit my remarks to simply Saturday’s abbreviated agenda.
Let me first acknowledge that my words will surely inadequately describe even a small portion of the General Convention of our church. General Convention offers each of your deputies a "window on the world", a view that is diverse, intriguing, and complicated, but a view that is overflowing with the assurance of God’s presence and his abundant love. The House of Deputies has an enviable reputation for having the capacity to debate difficult and contentious issues in a spirit of Christian love and an acceptance of our differences within the body of Christ.
We arrived in Minneapolis knowing that we were facing an agenda principally driven by two very high profile and potentially divisive subjects: the affirmation of the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of New Hampshire, and sanctioning the promulgation of a liturgical rite for the blessing of same sex unions. How does one prepare oneself for making these kind of decisions? It’s not easy, but those responsible for the agenda of General Convention have done a wonderful job in allocating time and space for worship, prayer, music, and reflection. All of your delegation appreciates their efforts and have taken advantage of the opportunities afforded us to discern God’s will in these and the other matters before us.
There are those that remind us that we are making decisions that have the potential of destroying the Episcopal Church as we know it. I trust that our God of love will not allow our acts to have such a devastating effect even if we are wrong in some of our decision-making. There are those among us that remind the assembled that God’s church has been through far more difficult times and decision-making than where we find ourselves today. It seems that we sometimes get so caught up in our "own thing" that we come to believe that everything depends upon us. However, our experience as a Christian community within the Body of Christ does not bear that out.
The convention’s agenda of worship and reflection has consistently reminded us of God’s love for his creation and that through the power of his love we can achieve unity in our diversity. The most memorable event on Saturday for me was the Eucharist that morning. Our preacher was The Right Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina. Bp. Curry brought the assembly to its feet as he exhorted us to go to the "mountain top" and be nourished and empowered by God’s love. Bp. Curry’s preaching style was not one that we regularly experience in Northwest Texas but rather one that gets you on your feet and your hands in the air. Some of the fruits of his message were "joyful hearts" and "smiling faces" among the delegates present. His message of faith was truly inspiring and one that we wish we could package and replay when we need our "batteries charged".
No daily summary would be complete without recognizing the non-anxious and loving presence of our Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold. His messages, centered on unity and reconciliation, have been gratefully received by your delegation. Simply the sound of his voice cools and refreshes the space of his presence.
Sometimes, one gets the feeling that we get bogged down in the minutia of the parliamentary agenda, and we probably do, but as mentioned earlier the process works and we are ultimately able to reach a conclusion with unimaginable civility. On the other hand, the exhilaration that we enjoy in celebrating the Eucharist and "sharing God’s Peace" with others from around the world makes this experience so very meaningful that I wish each and everyone in our diocese could participate as a delegate to General Convention. If asked, I would certainly encourage each of you to consider allowing your name to be placed in nomination as a deputy to General Convention. It is a blessing for each and everyone of us who have been honored to represent the Diocese of Northwest Texas. Thank you for giving me such an opportunity.
Cliff Craig, Lay Deputy
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It was surely not my intention to be the one writing on what might turn out to be an historic day in the life of the Church; just as it was not my expectation to be on the Floor of the House of Deputies and to be voting on such an important day for that House. Things often go as we do not expect or intend.
But any talk of what happened today must be put in the context of the whole day, indeed of this whole Convention. I won’t try to do all of that today, but I may add to this little report in the days ahead.
Today began in glory. The weather has been wonderful for all of Convention, and this morning was fresh and pleasant. As I walked to the Convention Center I was met first by people giving flowers to everyone entering. An even greater relief was that the daily phalanx of vitriolic protestors, with their obscene placards and their "God hates Queers" signs had not shown up yet. I ran the gauntlet of people passing out paper and programs of every sort—the most interesting today was a pamphlet titled "What would Jesus eat, now?" about Christian Vegetarianism. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Fr. Jerry Sneary’s memorable comment, "If God hadn’t meant us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat".
Smiling about that, I went to Church, and what a Church it was. The Convention Eucharist was really heady stuff, with all the Bishops of the Church in procession, the Presiding Bishop Presiding at the Altar, wonderful music that ranged from traditional hymns (Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah) to new Hispanic songs, to the most intense version of "I am the Bread of Life" I have ever heard, a potent sermon on the behavioral expectations of Christians from Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearnon of the Kaduna province of Nigeria, and well over 6,000 Episcopalians in the same room.
For me, this entire Convention has been primarily a time of spiritual renewal, and of new hope in and for our wonderful Church. I have encountered, and love, a depth and flowering of faith among us, and I have been given a deeper perspective on the make-up, witness, and, indeed, the meaning of our Church. There is so much for us to celebrate, and there is such a growth and interest in our basic faith and our commitment to mission. This morning’s service was a part of that renewal.
Then Bill Nix and I met at the Credentials area to make arrangements for me to be on the Floor today. Today is Bill and Puddin’s 40th wedding anniversary; and he was taking some time off the Floor so they could spend the day together. After we got that done, there was a little over an hour before the Houses convened, and I went looking for lunch.
I ended up again at "An Irish Pub" which has ‘grab a table if you can’ sidewalk seating; and I grabbed a table pretty quick. As I was sitting down, I waived at an old friend and somehow ended up sharing my table the Bishop Keith Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy, a small Diocese in Illinois, and his wife. Bishop Ackerman is known as one of the most conservative Bishops in the Church, and both he and this poor Priest struggling to rediscover the Middle Way had a pleasant and cordial lunch. It turns out Bishop Ackerman went to Seminary and shared a room with our Bishop.
Then back to the Convention Center and the legislative day, which was to be an intense one. The demonstrators and their signs and shouts were back, so I returned by a different way. The first half hour or so was devoted to routine business, and then the Special Order on the consent to the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire began. Carefully reminded of the traditions and expectations of decorum on the part of Deputies and visitors alike, we began. There were 45 minutes of debate, at two minutes per speaker, alternating pro and con. Everyone was intense, sincere, respectful of each other, and, in spite of their passionate positions, unfailingly polite and kind to one anther.
When the time for debate ended, we were instructed on how to vote (a rather complex procedure since we were voting ‘by orders’), and then led in silence and prayer by the Chaplain for several minutes. Then we voted. Each order, lay and clerical, of every deputation voted separately. For the measure to pass, it had to receive a majority of all lay orders and a majority of all the clergy orders. A deputation’s vote only counted as a yes if the deputation were 4-0 or 3-1 in favor. Tie votes amounted to a ‘no’ vote for the deputation. It is common for an item to receive a yes vote from a majority of all the deputies present, yet, because of the way the vote by orders works, for the item to fail.
After the vote, it took about an hour to count and process the votes, and during that time we went about more ordinary business. Finally, the vote was announced and, to summarize, the consent was granted by a 3 to 2 margin. The House of Bishops will vote tomorrow and so will decide the issue of the Diocese of New Hampshire’s quest to elect Gene Robinson as their Bishop.
As requested, the entire House was silent as the vote was read, and after the vote was read. We did a few closing items ( and got caught up to where we were supposed to be yesterday) and left. Very quietly, very prayerfully, very conscious that something truly special might have happened, but unsure of what that will mean for us, and for our Church.
It may mean that New Hampshire will get the man they want as Bishop. It really will not mean much one way or anther for Northwest Texas, except that we can now expect that the House of Deputies will trust our judgment, and respect our insights, the next time we elect a Bishop.
After the Session closed, the deputation met at the Hospitality Suite, a wonder ministry of hospitality provided by Dick and Barbara Davis, toasted the Nix’s, discussed the day, and set out to a late dinner together.
Worship, faith, variety, respect, disagreement, a wonderful level of civility and concern for each other, and, finally a controversial decision made in the midst of passionate debate, real prayer, deep concern for our church, an awareness that we may be right or wrong, but that God will never desert His Church—all that and more went into the day, and into the vote. We all did the best we can do, and we offer it in prayer to God. Regardless of how the final vote went, we were today, and are all of the time, a Church to be proud of.
A long day, and an important day.
May God bless you all,
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Today was a monumental day at the 74th General Convention for many reasons. The House of Bishops was to take up the matter of the confirmation of the Rev. Gene Robinson, bishop-elect for the diocese of New Hampshire, but last minute allegations about inappropriate behaviour surfaced and an investigation was initiated, delaying the vote of the bishops. No one is certain just how long the investigation will take, but the entire House of Bishops has resolved not to proceed until the matter can be completely cleared up and the allegations proved false.
For me, today was momentous for another reason. When Bishop Claude Paine of Texas retired in June, his position on the Joint Committee for Program, Budget, and Finance became vacant. The canons of the Church require that a lay person, a clergy person and a bishop from every province be members of PB&F. I guess it was my turn to take a place at this table and was appointed as bishop member for Province VII. (As a side note, The Rev. Bill Nix of NWT has served on this committee for the past 6 years as clergy representative of Province VII.) PB&F is perhaps the busiest committee at the General Convention, meeting from early morning until late at night to present a balanced budget. We prepare, in effect, 3 budgets, one each for the next three years of the triennium. We arrived in Minneapolis with projections of approximately $149,000,000 in income for the years 2004-2006. With the various requests from committees, commissions, agencies, boards, staff salaries, and too many other askings to mention, out projected expense side equaled approximately $4.7 million dollars per year over the annual income. For the past 8 days we have been trying to balance the income and the expense sides of the budget, a task which has to be complete by noon Tuesday August 5th, as the budget must be delivered to the printer in order to be available for the joint session on Wednesday afternoon August 6th.
The momentous occasion came about 9:45 p.m. this evening when we completed the balancing act with which we had been charged. To say that this has been a grueling time would be a major understatement. We have struggled mightily, not unlike what we on the diocesan budget committee do every year. Our charge is ever so much larger as the numbers are multiplied by millions. We have heard testimony about the needs for mission and ministry funding, youth and young adult strategies, evangelism for the future, staff salaries, program costs, all of which are vibrant and vital to the future of the life of the Church. There is very little "fat" requested, and none kept in the final budget.
The final budget comment I want to make concerns the adoption of a series of priorities for both the budget and mission of the Church. The first is youth and young adults, the second is evangelism, the third is congregational transformation, the fourth peace and justice issues, and the last is partnerships with overseas dioceses and national churches. These priorities drove our budgeting decisions, and I trust will be the driving force of the Episcopal Church for the next three years, at least.
My prayer is that we in NW Texas can focus ourselves as thoroughly on our priorities of mission in the coming months as we approach our annual convention. It is an honor to represent you and to serve you, especially these few days of General Convention.
Wallis Ohl, Bishop of Northwest Texas
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Tuesday, August 5th. The House of Bishop’s vote to ratify Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire:
This day has been nothing less than surreal. Whatever one’s opinion of the outcome of the vote, everyone was stunned by the announcement of allegations against Bishop-elect Robinson. Throughout the debate over his ratification, no one has ever questioned his integrity or character, so yesterday’s announcement was an unanticipated land mine.
After a day of worship and legislation, at 4:45 pm, the Secretary to the House of Deputies announced to us that Bishop-elect Robinson had been cleared of all allegations, quoting the investigating Bishop as saying there was "no necessity to pursue further investigation." You probably heard it before we did. It seems that CNN communicated with you faster than the House of Bishops communicated to the House of Deputies. In fact, it was approximately 6:45 PM when I learned from CNN on my hotel room television that the Bishops voted to ratify Canon Robinson’s election. I was making a quick change of clothes for our Province VII party, a riverboat ride on the Mississippi (a delightful evening, by the way).
Before this Convention began, it was apparent that some people would be elated, and some would be devastated—whatever the outcome of the vote. We, as Anglicans, are not accustomed to vote where there are winners and losers. It is a big part of our Anglican character and heritage to be comprehensive. Rarely do we face "yes or no" votes with no potential for compromise, or even consensus. We are "both/and" people, not "either/or" people. Yet history has brought us to this point.
It is also characteristically Anglican to live together charitably in disagreements. Thus far, I have not detected any sense of trimphalism by those who voted "yes". Rather, I have witnessed care and compassion toward those in pain, and even grief with them. (Had the outcome been different, I believe the same compassion would have been extended to the supporters of Gene Robinson.) As the Apostle Paul says to the Church in Corinth, "If one member suffers, all the members suffer."
I have no doubt about the presence of the Holy Spirit at this Convention.
J. Scott Mayer
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Many news reports have described what has happened here with words like "uproar" and "anger". This is simply not so. The most controversial matter, the consent to the Consecration of the Bishop-elect of New Hampshire, was dealt with calmly and with courtesy and decorum in both the house of Deputies. There was no manipulation of the Convention by the leadership. All sides have been given ample opportunity to present their cases. For example, the preacher at the great Convention Eucharist on Sunday was the Archbishop of Nigeria, an outspoken opponent of the Ordination of gay persons. The debate in the House of Deputies was restrained and fair. Before the vote was taken there was a period of silent prayer and then the Chaplain led the Deputies in a prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The duly elected Deputies from all our dioceses, clergy and laity, the overwhelmingly voted to consent to Canon Robinson’s consecration.
When this matter came to the House of Bishops, there was more prayer and discussion. Virtually every Bishop had an opportunity to express his or her opinions and feelings—before a packed gallery. There was a closed executive session for further prayer and discussion. The Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had brought a gift of Holy Oil from Nazareth which was used and each Bishop received the oil of announcing before voting. They sang the ancient hymn , Ubi caritas, "where charity and faith prevail", and proceeded to consent to the Consecration of Canon Robinson by a vote of three to two.
In many different ways our church has been struggling with gay issues for at least thirty years. My husband, Canon Veal, has consistently voted against proposals to ordain gay persons or bless same-sex unions. I don’t know how he would have voted this time—probably against consent. I would have voted for consent, as our Northwest Texas deputation did. One thing is sure of David and me. We are loyal members of this church in which we have been nurtured, and have come to know the nature and love of God. We will not put our personal opinions above the judgment of the Church.
Canon Veal, by the way, is here in his capacity as a member of the board of the Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical Officers, and this Convention has been a happy and fruitful one in terms of our ecumenical relations. We have hosted some wonderful ecumenical gusts, including a Roman Catholic archbishop, a Mar Thoma bishop, a Syrian Orthodox bishop, and a number of Presbyterians, Methodists, and members of the United Church of Christ. The Convention was addressed by the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA and by two Moravian prelates: Bishop Hopeton Clenon and the Rev. Robert Sawyer. We have reaffirmed our relationship of full-communion with the ELCA and the House of Bishops has approved interim Eucharistic sharing with the Moravians. I trust the Deputies will concur in this today or tomorrow.
The best thing about General Convention is not the information booths and certainly not the legislation. It is the worship and fellowship. It makes me so proud to be a part of this portion of God’s holy church and I feel truly blessed to be an Episcopalian.
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As I write this on Thursday, August 7, I join my 26 fellow members of the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget & Finance in breathing a big sigh of relief that both houses of the Convention have approved the $146,395,000 budget for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church for the next three years—a budget that we have spent most of the last ten days constructing. It was nice to be joined on the committee this time by our Bishop in representing the 7th Province. With all due respect to Bishop Ohl, though, I need to correct him on the number of years I have served on P.B. & F.: At the conclusion of this Convention I will complete my fourth 3-year term on the committee. It has been a challenging, but rewarding, experience; but I am happy to be retiring from this rather grueling job after twelve years.
For me it is a good time to retire: We have worked very hard for the last two triennia to make the budget for the Episcopal Church more mission-driven, and this year we finally accomplished our goal. We began with a draft budget from the Executive Council that was based on priorities they had identified from surveying the Church at large. At Convention we refined those priorities and submitted them to both houses for approval. And for the first time in history, the General Convention adopted priorities to guide the budget process:
Young adults and youth.
Reconciliation and evangelism.
Justice and peace.
After two public hearings to listen to proposals for funding programs for the mission of the Church, we made several major adjustments to the budget that shifted the balance even more from administrative costs and the expense of the committees commissions, agencies, and boards of the Church to funding more direct mission. For example, we were able to add $1 million to the budget for youth ministries, to fund most of the initiatives of the exciting 20/20 Vision for evangelism and mission (Read about it on the Episcopal Church website.), add significant support to our overseas dioceses, and reinstate Jubilee grants for peace and justice.
The only sour note remains the lack of support from the relatively few dioceses that do not pay their fair share to support the mission of the Church. We considered $158,070,169 in proposals for funding important ministries, and were able to include only $146,395,000 in the budget. Were all of the dioceses giving their full share, we could have funded all of the requests and had $2 million left over. I am proud of our diocese for responding to Bishop Ohl’s insistence that we pay our fair share.
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When I woke up this morning at 6:45 am, I realized that I was very, very tired: physically, mentally and, especially, emotionally. This General Convention, more than any of the others I have attended, had completely drained me, and I still had one more day of legislative sessions! I also awoke with an uneasiness, an anxiousness about the future of our church, especially in Northwest Texas.
After breakfast, I attended the last Eucharist of Convention. The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop of our Church, was the Celebrant and Preacher. The music was wonderful. His sermon, too, was a helpful start for the day.
“As you are all well aware, we have been carefully watched over these past two weeks by the media. And what has been remarked upon, again and again, is our civility. I think, however, that our civility is not the point. It is not civility that has been at work among us, but love. To be sure there has been a certain amount of sinfulness on all sides, but there has also been a tremendous amount of grace at work as well.”….”It is love that gives us the desire to enter into the pain of the other and to bear it as one’s own. It is love that gives us the desire to exercise restraint and forbearance for the sake of one’s brother or sister.”….”I know many of you are asking: what is going to happen when I get home to my congregation, my diocese? What is going to happen to the Anglican Communion? I don’t know. But, what I do know is that love has been at work among us.”
After the Eucharist, the House of Deputies started its morning session. The President of this House addressed us and said things that were also helpful and hopeful. We were told that we had 60 resolutions to deal with before the end of the day. Most involved either concurring with actions by the House of Bishops, discharging ones that similar ones had already been acted on, and courtesy resolutions. However, there was one “big” item. This was a resolution that completely rewrote parts of Title III of the Canons of the Episcopal Church, which deals with all types of ordained ministry. Our handout on the revisions was 45 pages long! There was heated debate, but eventually we concurred with the House of Bishops. Again debate was “civil”. We ended up finishing all our work before the scheduled end of Convention. Our deputation descended on the hospitality room for a while and then went to dinner at the Black Forest Inn for some German food. It was a wonderful time with wonderful people.
I have reflected on the “civility” of our debates in light of the Presiding Bishop’s words this morning. We had several difficult issues to vote on: the election of Rev. Gene Robinson, liturgies for same gender committed relationships, supporting the establishment of a national reparations committee to study the effect of slavery in the United States, the use of the Revised Common Lectionary, and Title III Revisions. After hearing impassioned pleas from “both” sides of these issues, it came time to vote. I believe the main reason the House was so quiet when the results were read was that we all knew that the members who were on the “losing” side were hurting terribly. “When any part of the Body is hurting, all its parts are hurting.” Therefore, the “winners” were hurting, too! Our Church is hurting right now because several of our parts are hurting. It is up to all of us to love, comfort and support all those who are hurting.
Even after all of the events of the past two weeks, I come away from General Convention with a renewed sense of hope for the future of our church. Attending the General Convention provides us with an opportunity to see how diverse it is and learn about new mission initiatives in other dioceses. The General Convention took painful steps toward fulfilling the Baptismal Covenant by actually becoming more inclusive and respecting the dignity of every human being. I return to Northwest Texas with a renewed commitment to live out that Covenant. Be at peace. God loves us all!
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Last Updated: July 19, 2006