GENERAL CONVENTION 2012
submitted by The Rt. Rev. Philip Duncan, Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast
General Convention blog:
The Rev. Canon Beverly Gibson is a deputy from The Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. She reported from Indianapolis, Indiana, the site for the triennial convention of The Episcopal Church.
July 11, 2012
Dear Cathedral Family,
Thank you for your prayers for me and for our church during the past week of this 77th General Convention. Deputies and bishops have worked long hours since July 4 in order to accomplish the business that will direct the work of the church over the next three years. Yesterday saw the approval of a number of changes that should improve the church's ability to respond to the challenges it confronts.
A joint session of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops was presented with a balanced $111.5 million budget which contains block grants for new work in each of our areas of mission. The Episcopal Church will provide seed money and/or matching grants and also staff support and expertise for this new work. The budget also provides a one-time allocation for the creation of a development office for the Episcopal Church. Perhaps the most exciting and promising accomplishment of this General Convention is the unprecedented plan to restructure the church. The House of Deputies voted unanimously yesterday to approve this measure, which now moves forward to the House of Bishops for approval. It calls for a working group of lay and ordained people (especially young leaders) from outside the present leadership of the church to re-imagine what a church responsive to a rapidly changing world might look like--and to present a plan for restructuring to the 78th General Convention in 2015. I know that many of you have been confronted through the news media and internet communication with news (much of it biased or sensationalized) concerning the church's position on same-sex unions. On Monday, the House of Bishops voted by a considerable majority to allow the provisional use of a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. Late yesterday the House of Deputies concurred. Let me try to be clear about what this means--and doesn't mean. This is not a "trial rite" that will eventually be included in the Prayer Book, but rather a resource to be used only under the direction and with with permission of a bishop. It is intended to provide a "generous pastoral response" for members of this church in those dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal. It is within the discretion of any member of the clergy to decline to preside at such blessings. The church recognizes and respects the conscientious objection of any person in the church to such blessings, and this convention states that it "honors the theological diversity of this church in regard to matters of human sexuality." To boil this down: these blessings were approved for use in those places in the church where they have been asked for, where they are felt to be needed, but they will not be imposed on those places in the church which object to them. Our life at Christ Church Cathedral will continue to be focused, exactly as it has been, on sharing the love of God in Christ with the world. We will worship Him, and we will minister in His Name to our community. We are part of an Episcopal Church that allows for difference of opinion, for diversity of views, while remaining united by our foundational belief in following the way of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you will not be distracted by this matter, and that you will not allow the opinions of others to draw you away from goodness and love that unite us in Christ. Please continue to pray for me, and for our church, as we conclude this final week of General Convention. I look forward to being home soon.
July 7, 2012
In her sermon at the Community Eucharist on Day 2 of the 77th General Convention, House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson reflected on courage in remembering the life and death of John Hus. Anderson held up courage as the foundational virtue in Christian living, as it is in living out courageously the other virtues that we are ourselves changed and that we participate in God's transformation of this world.
As I have reflected on her words and on my experiences in these first few days of General Convention, I am aware of the courage being lived out here by so many people. In my service on the legislative committee for ministry, I have witnessed the courage of people who are proposing changes to the way we live our lives together in the church--to the ways we form people for ministry, to the ways we deal with the "hard spots" in our relationships within the church. We are being called as deputies to demonstrate courage in welcoming those who feel at home in our church, even when they don't seem to be like us. We are called to act courageously in facing those places where the church has failed to act well, addressing them honestly, and seeking a healthier way. In yesterday's legislative session in the House of Deputies, we experienced the call to courage in making a move that has been long studied and discussed--the sale of the Episcopal Church Center at 815 Second Avenue in New York City. We have no certainty about exactly where the church will go, about how our shared ministries will be funded and structured. But we must have the courage to take the initial steps into the unknown in order to find our way. We do not know with certainty what the week ahead holds. We do not know what the realities of our budget for the next triennium will be. We do not know what the restructuring of our church will look like. There are courageous people here working long hours to live into the unknown. They are listening carefully to many voices, attempting to make room for the Holy Spirit to move in our acting together within the Body of Christ. The foundation of all this activity is our prayer and worship together. Those of us who love the church may hear playing in the background of our minds the words of Harry Fosdick in one of our beloved hymns: "God of grace and God of glory, on thy people pour thy power. Crown thy ancient church's story, bring her bud to glorious flower. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour." Please pray for your deputies and your bishop, and for all bishops and deputies to General Convention as they go about their courageous work in the week ahead.