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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