Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11 - Blogging GC'12

We did it.

1.     We in the House of Deputies (HoD) passed the “Structure” proposal to establish a task force to formulate “a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration.” The resolution (C095), which passed by a unanimous voice vote in the HoD, deliberately left open what form the final recommendations would take. It explicitly stated that the members of the task force are to be diverse (without specifying categories to be represented) and that they should not be (my words here) entrenched in the current structures. The task force will be appointed jointly by the Presiding Bishop (PB) and the new President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) (the Rev. Gay Jennings from the Diocese of Ohio). The task force will however be accountable directly to the General Convention and not its presiding officers. Some of the matters at issue are likely to include the following:
a.     Will the Presiding Bishop (PB) continue to be devoted full-time to being a sort of CEO for The Episcopal Church as well as its first-among-equals but-nonetheless-chief shepherd (a bishop among bishops rather than an archbishop, but the primate of our province in the Anglican Communion and not also a diocesan bishop)?
b.     Will the staff of The Episcopal Church shrink further? And what will be the principal functions of this church-wide non-diocesan staff?
c.     Will General Convention continue as a bicameral body, meeting once every three years, or will the Houses unite, shrink, and meet more often for briefer periods?
d.     Will the committees and commissions of General Convention be restructured so that they are far fewer in number, with different functions?
2.     HoD affirmed our desire and commitment to remain involved in the discussions and work of the Anglican Communion (D008). This was then sent to the House of Bishops (HoB) for their concurrence.
3.     HoD demurred on the Anglican Covenant [in its current form], opting not to say either “yes” or “no” but instead to say that we are committed to continuing to follow and participate in the conversations in the Communion about the proposed Covenant (B005). This also was then sent to the HoB for their concurrence.
4.     HoD passed the Blessings resolution, concurring with the amendments proposed by the HoB (A049). This authorizes provisional use of a rite for blessing same-sex unions (with the diocesan bishop’s approval), beginning with the First Sunday of Advent 2012, and commends the study materials developed since the previous General Convention for use in The Episcopal Church.
5.     And we heard presentation in a joint session of HoD and HoB of the proposed budget for 2013-2015. This will be considered in the HoD today.

There are many matters still to consider by the end of our final legislative session, tomorrow (Thursday, July 12) at 6:30 p.m. But the items listed above are big, and if budget discussions go well today, we could be on course for a very successful General Convention.

NOTE:  The parliamentary maneuvering on the Blessings resolution (A049) was unparalleled in my three General Conventions. I wrote down all the steps, but I won’t bore you. Believe me, everyone outdid themselves. But it must be said, I think, that part of what was going on is that the PHoD was doing everything she could to be generous to the socially conservative members of the HoD who were very distressed by the prospect of almost certain approval of same-sex blessings. Also, they were doing everything they could to gum up the works surely because they did not want to let this happen without doing everything they could to stop it – partly for the message they would have to convey back home but also surely partly because they could not in good conscience do otherwise, answering to themselves alone. One deputy from the Diocese of Southwest Florida asked explicitly that the HoD please not engage in celebration when the vote was taken and the result announced. And when all work in yesterday's final legislative session was completed about 6:45 p.m., and we had prayed, the members of the credentials committee returned and the final vote was announced. There was on the floor of the HoD no celebration. I left with others, quietly, with an expanding sense of how momentous an act had just been completed.

You can find the vote and some excerpts from the news coverage here:

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