Saturday, July 18, 2009

No longer strangers

Readings are here.

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Rest awhile sounds delightful to the bishops and deputies and all who attended General Convention the last 2 weeks. I told people I was on the General Convention diet - no time to eat. I received notes from friends at home giving me helpful ideas about how to eat healthy with the schedule of 7 a.m. committee meetings, legislative sessions, worship and of course the need to see all one's friends from all over the country. This was the best organized convention I have attended in the 9 times I have gone. Both presiding officers - the President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori are calm, non-anxious presiders over the complex parliamentary procedure mix of Robert's Rules and Episcopal Rules of Order. They both allow people to speak their passions in a non-manipulative setting. Even those who lose various votes feel heard.

The Gospel goes on to talk about how the crowd's needs impinged on the Apostles' need for rest. And so it was at General Convention. The needs of the poorest of the poor were ever before us. We restored the 0.7% for a Millennium Developments Goals line item and raised it to 1%. Even though it means cutting our own programs and relying more on the volunteer strength of the church. We had resolutions that added up to much more that we could count on coming in this time of economic worry. Many worthy programs could not be funded or were cut back and staff will be let go. We stood in solidarity with the Disney workers who are being asked on minimum wage to pay more for health insurance out of their meager salaries.

The church decided to follow the thinking of the author of Ephesians:
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

The General Convention made two clear statements about where we are as a church on full inclusion. One was that we will follow our canons on non-discrimination on access to the process to ordination. (not guaranteeing ordination but access to the process) essentially saying that where we are today is a place of no more moratoria but a place of careful discernment and being true to our heritage.

The other was the request to begin looking at rites for marriage and blessings for gays and lesbians in committed, mutual, faithful partnerships. More and more states are offering civil marriage and partnerships. In those states bishops can make pastoral accommodation for those couples. We will consult widely as we develop rites - and we will study the whole question of all marriages and the rites we use.

The Convention had many more young leaders - in both the Deputies and the Bishops - strong articulate voices who are taking over the church with wisdom and energy.

We had visitors from all around the Anglican Communion - telling us to stand up for all that we have to offer - not to act out of fear - but to offer hope.

I have much hope for the church as I stand here today - we took a leap of faith and I believe the angels were bear us up. If not we have the promise of the resurrection. We look to the day when there are no strangers - only brothers and sisters, family - at home on the earth in all the lovely diversity and connection that God offers.

UPDATE: The sermon came out somewhat this way but I did add a comment made by our 18 year old Deputy when asked what she thought was the most important thing - she said it would probably be some unnoticed thing that becomes the base for something we don't even know yet. Also talked about the Denominational Health Plan, the Title IV revisions, and the Covenant.

Here is a interview with me made by our Communications Officer in Wyoming.