Photo montage of GC, Part One

Most deputies returning from General Convention are commenting on the post-GC crash that comes from being with such a remarkable group of people, the long and intense days of legislative committees, hearings and meetings in our respective houses. It is all worth it, however, because General Convention is more than just meetings: it is seeing friends, meeting people from all over, talking with people who hold views different from one’s own and still breaking bread together. Moments of grace pop through: the presiding bishop signing, ‘Alleluia,’ in the final hymn of convention, the moment of stunned silence of recognition that the House of Deputies voted unanimously on the resolution (C095) to restructure the church before jumping up collectively and start singing. Those moments and so many more also make up GC.

For the time being, this happy but tired deputy resorts to more photographs.

Winnie Vargese (NY) leads us through a vote: ‘The vote will open… the vote is open… the vote will close… the vote is closed.’ She did so with wit and patience.

Some of us went to the Fourth of July baseball game (in over 100-degree heat) and were delighted to see a welcome to bishops and deputies on the scoreboard.

President of the House of Deputies asked the Secretary a question. He replied, ‘I wasn’t listening,’ which provoked a moment of laughter on the part of everyone… including the president… nothing like having your image projected on a jumbo screen.

Anne waiting to be recognised by the president: when a person steps on the platform, a lightbulb goes on and a signal is sent to the president’s table so she knows in what order someone stepped onto a platform. When addressing the house, the protocol is: “Madame President, Deputy NN, Diocese of Vermont…” And the query often from the president is: “For what purpose does the deputy at microphone 1-8 rise?” [There are eight microphones in the hall.]

Reid and Tom at work… seen from the second row. Each deputation sits on two rows, four and four. Our deputation was in the last row of the first block of rows and right by microphone 1 which was convenient.

Lee, a deputy from Los Angeles and Bishop Martín Barahona from El Salvador meet outside the House of Deputies during a short break.

The first four days were unrelentingly hot… 107 degrees in the sun at 10.46 in the morning. The night of 5 July it was still 95 at 8.45PM. The convention center is connected to the major hotels by skywalks but parts of them are not airconditioned so they were fairly toasty as well.

A bit blurry, but Scott during a momentary pause in business in the House of Deputies.

One of Secretary Straub’s jackets; this one is fairly mild.

When the chair cannot discern a vote, she will call for the deputies to raise their green or red cards. I think this was a procedural vote.

The legislative committee on Liturgy and Music held an open hearing on Saturday night, 6 July. Our bishop was a member of that committee. While the hearing took place in a large ballroom, the space was hardly filled, a sign of how much convention has discussed blessings over the years and how fewer people show up with each passing convention.

Hardly exciting, but the view from the back of the ballroom at the Sunday Holy Eucharist. Lots and lots of Episcopalians!!!

Sunday afternoon Angie and I swapped places and she became a deputy and I an alternate. Both have to go be certified, the badges are changed (each deputy and alternate has both deputy and alternate badges on file). Then when the deputy wants to go back on the floor, the two have to repeat the process (and they have to go together as a pair). One collects lots of pins at General Convention, too. The upper left pin is from a diocese in Brazil!

No, we are not talking about the parousia, the second coming. Alternates receive the same papers are deputies. In this case, the volunteers had not yet gotten all the papers ready for distribution.

Alternates sit to the right-hand side of the House of Deputies. Looking straight ahead, one can make out the Vermont deputation.

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Beyond General Convention

The Vermont deputation at General Convention served our diocese extremely well. I am very proud of each and every member of our deputation, and of Winnie Grace from Trinity, Rutland who represented Vermont at the ECW gathering, and of all the others from Vermont who were at General Convention in a variety of roles. Each and every person contributed to the gathering.

Here I want to comment on four things: The restructuring effort; The authorization of resources and a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships; the budget; and the worship.

The restructuring initiative that was launched holds a great deal of promise AND it will take a great deal of effort to bring something new and exciting to the next General Convention that will have broad support. There was a deep, deep spirit present at Convention that was hopeful about the future of our church and wanting to move us forward with new structures and a new commitment to help us better serve God’s mission in the world. I will do all I can to help support that effort.

The authorization of resources and a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships was adopted by a large majority in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, although it was certainly not unanimous. I rejoice that our church is leading the way in terms of the full recognition, blessing and celebration of the lives of faithful, committed, life-long relationships of same-sex couples. At the same time, I am mindful that not all in our church (even here in Vermont) are in agreement with this decision. I will continue in conversation with my colleagues in the House of Bishops who hold a different theological perspective on this from mine, just as we have done throughout the past three years. I have learned much in my listening and I believe I have been listened to with the same mutual respect. I especially welcome conversation with those in Vermont who hold a strong conviction that is counter to the decisions we made in Indianapolis on the blessing of same-sex relationships. Sometime in the not too distant future, I will issues some revised guidelines for clergy and congregations related to the use of the resources our church has authorized for provisional use. The resources, including the liturgy are authorized for use beginning Advent I.

The budget we adopted is centered on the five marks of mission. The five marks of mission are recognized throughout the Anglican Communion as a common way of shaping our life in Christ as we participate in God’s reconciling mission in the world. They include:

~ To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
~ To teach, baptize and nurture new believers 
~ To respond to human need by loving service 
~ To seek to transform unjust structures of society 
~ To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
 
The Five Marks of Mission, developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990, have won wide acceptance among Anglicans, and have given parishes and dioceses around the world a practical and memorable “checklist” for mission activities. Perhaps they will serve to stimulate you and your congregation to a deeper engagement in God’s mission?
 
The budget does continue to ask dioceses to contribute to the church-wide budget at the 19% level that is currently in place for 2012. Less that 50% of dioceses are currently meeting that asking level, including Vermont (17.7%). I was part of an effort to reduce the asking level to no more than 15% by the next triennial budget (2015-2018). The measure passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Bishops, but then was “lost” in the system of our bicameral legislative process and never made it to the floor of the House of Deputies. This was a huge disappointment for me and those who had worked so hard to build strong support for moving us in this direction. I believe it would have passed by an equally large margin in the House of Deputies, had it come to them. Before the close of Convention, the House of Bishops passed a “mind of the house” resolution affirming our strong support for this, and so I hope and trust that voice will not be lost in the next round of budget deliberations.
 
Meanwhile, back at home, our diocesan budget and finance committee will need to determine what level of commitment to the General Convention budget we are able to make for the coming triennium. There is strong feeling on the committee, following conversation at the diocesan budget summit, that we cannot continue even at the 17.7% level without serious compromise of our local and diocesan participation in God’s mission here in Vermont.
 
Worship was certainly, one the most memorable parts of General Convention! Gathering for daily Eucharist and celebrating some of the Holy Women and Holy Men in our liturgical calendar provided the best possible expression of the vitality and witness of The Episcopal Church. The preaching was outstanding, the music full of life and the diversity of our church in terms of culture and language was a delight to experience. I did miss the daily Bible Study and the opportunity that has provided at other Conventions to meet and talk with people from throughout our church. I hope that feature finds it way back into Convention in 2015.
 
Many other resolutions were considered and you can read more about the work of the General Convention on the General Convention web site: http://www.generalconvention.org/  AND through the Episcopal News Service: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/

There is good energy and momentum coming out of this General Convention and I think we are poised to be bold and confident in our engagement in God’s reconciling mission here in Vermont and beyond. Thanks to all from Vermont who demonstrated at General Convention that we are “Vermont Strong,” and thanks to all who held us in prayer during the long days of General Convention!

I’m home now from General Convention and off for a couple of week’s vacation to Scotland for some R&R, playing golf with friends and then for the Cranmer Cup competition (if you don’t know about the Cranmer Cup, ask me later!).

Faithfully,

+ Thomas

 

 

 

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Sing a New Church

(sung to Nettleton, the melody for ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing’)
Delores Dufner, OSB

Summoned by the God who made us
rich in our diversity
Gathered in the name of Jesus,
richer still in unity.

Refrain:
Let us bring the gifts that differ
and, in splendid, varied ways
sing a new church into being,
one in faith and love and praise.

Radiant risen from the water,
robed in holiness and light,
male and female in God’s image,
male and female, God’s delight.

Refrain

Trust the goodness of creation;
trust the Spirit strong within.
Dare to dream the vision promised,
sprung from seed of what has been.

Refrain

Bring the hopes of every nation;
bring the art of every race.
Weave a song of peace of justice;
let it sound through time and space.

Refrain

Draw together at one table,
all the human family;
shape a circle ever wider
and a people ever free.

The committee on the Structure of the Church sang this at their meetings and the House of Deputies sang this song after its unanimous vote on C095, Restructuring the Church.

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House of Deputies concurs with the House of Bishops

Early this evening after considerable procedural manoeuvering, the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops on Resolution A049: Authorize Liturgical Materials for Blessing Same-Gender Relationships. The journey has been long and shall continue to be long, but thirty-five years of working on this proposal has resulted in something tangible.

[The HOB changed ‘gender’ to ‘sex’ but I am referring to the resolution by its title which does not change.]

The House also unanimously approved a resolution on structure (C095) that calls for a revisioning of how we live our life as a church and how we govern ourselves. Tom Little of our deputation was an instrumental player in getting that resolution created and formulating it such that it could receive this unanimous approval.

And, finally, the House approved a substitute for B005 on the Anglican Covenant in which The Episcopal Church has decided for pastoral reasons not to take a position on it at this time. (When I get back to Vermont, I will develop this thought since I was a member of the legislative committee that developed this resolution.)

A momentous day. No wonder we are all tired!

Lee

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Bishops approve Blessings Material

Greetings from Indianapolis! The days here at General Convention have been full and long. The Vermont deputation is hard at work and offering leadership in a variety of settings, including the budget, structure deliberations and several other committees. My committee assignment is Committee #13, Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music. We have met every day and our agenda has been very full. It is one of the largest committees at General Convention with 51 members. Thirty six (36) resolutions have been submitted to Committee 13. On Monday, our committee voted an amended version of Resolution A049 (Blessing of Same Gender Relationships) out of committee. This followed a two hour hearing on the resolution on Saturday night and deliberation by the committee on Monday morning. That resolution went to the House of Bishops later that afternoon, where it was approved after some additional amendments by a vote of of 111 to 41, with 3 abstentions. My understanding is that the House of Deputies will consider this legislation later today. Please keep us in your prayers as we move through the rest of our Convention business. +Thomas

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God’s Board

God’s Board
by Susan B. Taylor

God of Pilgrims,
Give us a table always,
Where we can share our food,
Tell our stories,
And sing our songs. Amen

This is the most recent addition to my family’s repertoire of mealtime blessings. I love this grace. It speaks to me about relationship, of abundance, of joy, and conversation. This is how I envision God’s table, rather like a potluck, a motley collection of seekers, skeptics, devoted, and those of mature faith.

I envision a table that is expansive enough to meet the needs of anyone who is drawn to its nourishment. That is why I’m disappointed. Because as a priest-in-formation entering my final year in seminary at the Episcopal Divinity School, I was hopeful that the practice of open-table communion that I experienced eleven years ago when my family walked through the doors of our home parish and has been feeding me and igniting a Holy fire within me ever since, would be endorsed this year at General Convention. Unfortunately, resolution C040 won’t go to legislative vote.

I was hoping that I could offer the same invitation to others that I have known, with the knowledge that I am supported in this by my denomination. Would I even be where I am now if that invitation hadn’t been there? My husband and I with our two young children were on a “church quest” for a year after realizing that the condemnation and exclusion of individuals in our church was spiritually starving us.

It had been a hard decision to leave as we were deeply immersed in the life of that local community church in our small town where we served as deacons, Sunday school superintendent, board members, fundraisers, etc.

We walked through the doors of St. Mary’s in the Mountains in Wilmington, VT through the back kitchen door and have stayed because we tasted God’s radical love. Two years later our children then ages 8 and 6 were baptized and later our eldest child was confirmed. We continue to walk that journey that we were invited into on that first day.

This is not a unique testimony. The many voices that witnessed to the transformative nature of God’s open-table spoke eloquently and passionately about lives that were changed as a result of being fed, wherever each one was in their spiritual journey.

In contrast, many of the arguments against the resolution to endorse God’s banquet being available to each and all, sounded to me to be tinged with fear and need to control the work of the Holy Spirit.

Another seminarian I know asked me, “Do you wash the newborn first or feed it?” I can answer that. The moment my daughter emerged from my womb, she was placed directly on my breast to feed. THAT, is the image of God I have. God births us, feeds us, nurtures and sustains us.

Jesus said, “I was hungry, you fed me” and “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” I pray that we will not strangle the Holy Spirit but allow her some breathing room.

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And it was morning and evening, a first day

A bunch of photographs to give you a sense of the day (cross-posted with my own Facebook page).

World Mission Legislative Committee hearing room. We are a loooong way away from one another

Bishop Martín Barahona of El Salvador testifies at the Program, Budget and Finance hearing on the Five Marks of Mission.

Secretary of the House of Deputies, the Rev’d Dr Gregory Straub did not fail us in his sartorial choice, a jacket reminscent of a 16th-century Flemish painting or a derby flag.

President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, gives her opening reflection.

Flags of the countries that belong to The Episcopal Church.

Tom Little and Anne Brown, co-chairs of the Vermont deputation, give finishing touches to the decorations on our standard.

Some of the Vermont deputation during an orientation discussion.

The view from the back of the House from the gallery (it is a long way to the water fountain).

Voting Secretary the Rev’d Winnie Vargese, leads us through a training on how to use the electronic clickers.

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