Top Ten things from General Convention, so far

GC79 isn’t yet wrapped up, and deputies are not yet through the resolutions that they will deal with; they continue through Friday. These are ten of the most important things:

1 Marriage for All (Resolution B012)

This important resolution (B012) seeks to make marriage rites for same-sex couples available in every diocese where such marriages are legal (which rules out some non-US dioceses). On Monday, July 9, the House of Deputies (HOD) discussed it. There was much passionate debate. Deputy Scot McComas spoke in favor of it – watch his testimony:

Our deputation supported it:

It overwhelmingly passed the HOD and went to the HOB.

Wednesday, the House of Bishops (HOB) passionately discussed it, amended it with a small technical clause and passed it overwhelmingly (with a voice vote). It went back to the HOD because both houses must pass the same text. On Friday, July 13, it was overwhelmingly passed.

So what does it do?

B012 directs that provision be made for same-sex couples to marry in local churches under the direction of the clergy member in charge of the congregation. Bishops cannot prohibit this; that episcopal oversight is removed. It authorizes continued trial use of two marriage rites in current use, and authorizes publication of two more. Those two additional marriage rites are the Blessing of a Civil Marriage 2 and an Order for Marriage 2. These two rites fulfill a pastoral need for people who have had civil marriages and seek blessing from the church, and for people who want to make a lifelong, monogamous commitment other than marriage (perhaps so they can keep retirement benefits). The new rites will be available on Advent 1.

Read:

2 Book of Common Prayer Revisions

2A Plan for the Revision of the Book of Common Prayer(Resolution A068)

Fear about Book of Common Prayer (BCP) revisions has been rampant: fear that it would be done, and comforts and traditional concepts lost in a cultural re-do; fear that it wouldn’t be done, and our church’s pledge to welcome LGBT and non-binary siblings would seem false and insufficient. Rest easy. A plan has passed both houses that works toward the desired goal of updated, inclusive, and approved liturgies:

  • The 1979 BCP has been memorialized. It may continue to be used with no end in sight.
  • Work is authorized to proceed on liturgical and prayer book revision. An important goal is to have inclusive and expansive language and imagery, and expression of care of God’s creation. Translations will be provided.
  • There will be a more dynamic process for discerning common worship. A new 30-member task force on liturgical and prayer book revision with diverse voices will be formed. Bishops are to engage worshiping communities in experimentation and creation of alternative texts to offer the wider church. There will be churchwide engagement on liturgical development.

The church will bring new things forward as it considers how new and revised liturgies can be given to the church without long and expensive road of BCP revision.

2B Holy Eucharist Rite II with Expansive Language (Resolution D078)

Resolution D078 is essentially another form of prayer book revision. Rite II Prayers A, B, D expansive language versions have been authorized for trial use; Prayer C is referred back to committee for possible revision for trial use. Translations will be provided.

This resolution gives the church the immediate option to use language in our worship that has other than male-gendered images of God, and male-referenced pronouns for humanity. We’ll have expression of a bigger God and our human siblings who are not male and female, immediately. This matters because the words we pray form what we believe.

Read:

3 #MeToo

Convention faced the Episcopal Church’s role in and response to the #MeToo movement with resolutions, reflections and the hope for reconciliation. The House of Bishops invited Episcopalians to a July 4 “Liturgy of Listening.” This service of lament and confession centered on stories of sexual abuse and exploitation in the Episcopal Church. The need for work to rectify gender-based discrimination is seen in equality of pay, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and gross misuse of power. Before convention, close to 30 related resolutions were filed.

A video of deputies responding to #MeToo and Church is here:

4 Racial Reconciliation

This Convention has offered expansive conversations on racism and racial healing and spiritual transformation. This topic launched the first TEConversation, held in joint session, with bishops joining deputies in the HOD. The racial reconciliation team developed a reconciliation framework into Becoming Beloved Community, which now is the centerpiece of the Episcopal Church’s racial reconciliation efforts.

Read:

5 Revival

Saturday evening Convention learned more about the work and life of love in a revival at Austin’s large Palmer Center. The revival combined inspiring worship, compelling teaching, prayer, and engagement with God’s mission – all for the sake of the spiritual renewal and transformation in our church. Presiding Bishop Curry brought some fire!

Read, watch:

6 Public prayer & public witness

There were three opportunities for public prayer and public witness.

  1. Bishops United Against Gun Violence led daily prayer in the convention center lobby before afternoon legislative sessions.
  2. Bishops United Against Gun Violence sponsored a prayer and witness event at Brush Square Park. Deputies and bishops gathered on Sunday morning to pray and act against gun violence. Read Alternate Deputy Brent Walker’s Revival and Witness and  Episcopalians Unite Against Gun Violence and watch Public Witness: Bishops United Against Gun Violence
  3. A prayer vigil at the Hutto Detention Center was where over 1000 Episcopalians practiced their beliefs, gathering to support parents and children who have been torn apart by our government in harsh immigration law enforcement. Read: Alternate Deputy Kevin Johnson’sJoining Episcopalians at Hutto Detention Center and also Episcopalians Gather in Public Witness Outside Immigrant Detention Center.

7 Translations

There is a hunger in our church (remember always that we’re not a national church, we’re international) for authorized translations of liturgy that actually work, certainly in Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole. A couple of points to make here. 1. The Spanish and French translations of the 1979 BCP are wooden, almost word-for-word translations, thus often unspeakable and generally unworkable. “It’s like you’re thinking in English and trying to write in Spanish,” one speaker shared. 2. On Haitian Creole: Haiti is our largest diocese, and the translation of the 1979 BCP provided for them was French, which only a small part of their population speaks. A Haitian spoke about this, calling out something like this: “Y’all know that the language of the colonizer is still thrust upon us, right?” It’s kind of a double whammy for Haitian Episcopalians.

Our church recognized the need for translations and is moving quickly to provide professional dynamic equivalence translation in Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole for any new liturgies materials. Translations should reflect the idiomatic style and cultural context of their languages.

8 ¡Cuba Sí!

We welcomed Cuba back into The Episcopal Church after we cut them off 52 years ago in a tense geopolitical time. Both houses voted unanimously to re-admit the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese of the Episcopal Church. Cuba will become part of Province II. The Bishop of Cuba and her delegation were greeted with a standing ovation. Cuba Libre!

Read: Both Houses of the Episcopal Church’s 79th General Convention vote unanimously to admit Cuba as a diocese

9 Media Hub continues to improve

The church’s media hub allows people to watch from afar via livestream and catch up on what they missed with on-demand viewing. Anyone interested in the Convention can tune in to worship, follow legislation, or listen to conversations taking place. The hub features ten separate streaming channels, including four dedicated Spanish streams. Two shows, a talk show Inside General Convention/ Adéntro de la Genéral, and TEConversations, a new format for discussion, are new this year. Viewing rates are high and viewing time is reasonably long. Read: Episcopal Church Media Hub Engages Thousands, Remotely

10 Pigeon

The pigeon in the House of Deputies offered a brilliant levity. Read: Impeccable pigeon captivates 79th General Convention with real, digital presence

https://twitter.com/gc79pigeon

There will be more to reflect on

So much didn’t make this top-ten list: creation care, equal pay, immigration, social justice, ministry growth, Book of Occasional Services, Lesser Feasts and Fasts revisions,  leadership, evangelism, Israel-Palestine, rules of order changes to allow nursing moms on house floor with babies, the budget, inspiring sermons… it’s a long list. Seek out information on what matters most to you. One great place to start is at the Episcopal News Service’s General Convention 2018 news category.

 

Revival and witness

At Episcopal General Convention, we see the vast expanse of The Episcopal Church in all her diversity and grandeur.

We worshipped Saturday, July 7 at the Palmer Center in Austin with our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry leading the “revival/renewal” service. It was awesome as thousands of Episcopalians and others gathered from General Convention and many Episcopal churches in Texas. We even were picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church with their message of hate and exclusion. Quite an honor, I would say … not! Love is the message of the God and the Church, not one of hate and division as they seem to represent.

Gathering at the Bishops United Against Gun Violence public witness on July 8, 2018 in Austin. Photo: Brent Walker

Sunday we went to a rally of the Bishop’s United Against Gun Violence where over 80 Bishops from around the US, including our Fort Worth Bishop Scott Mayer, stood tall and listened to the testimony of a Parkland, FL victim’s family. Philip and April Schentrup spoke about the loss of their daughter on Ash Wednesday, Feb 14, 2018. In their words, “we sent two daughters to school that day and had only one return home….” Can you even being to imagine ….? Carmen, their daughter, shot four times with an AR-15, was one of the 17 murdered by the gunman that day. Today they still grieve and are rebuilding their lives with their two other children.

Episcopalians gathered at the Bishops United Against Gun Violence public witness on July 8, 2018 in Austin. Photo: Brent Walker

We also heard from a Abigail Zimmerman, a ninth-grader and Episcopalian from Waco, Texas, who co-led a school walkout March 14. The walkout of over 300 fellow of students (and teachers) solemnly stood and cried as the name and ages of all the victims of the Parkland, FL Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting were read for 17 minutes (one of many nationwide such walk-outs), and then returned to class. With a passionate voice she spoke of anger, hurt, and change we need in this work. With a passion of the young, she demanded change! Can you remember when we had that passion … where did it go? WE need to be change for the world! Our voices as members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement are a start to realizing God’s Dream for ALL humanity to live in love and harmony! Love is the answer!

 

 

Joining Episcopalians at Hutto Detention Center

Episcopalians gathered between two baseball diamonds – the permitted gathering place – to hold a Prayer of Vision, Witness and Justice near the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

As we stood there on Sunday, July 8, hundreds of us singing towards the hard walls of the Hutto Detention Center, in one of the slim windows a hand began to wave. Soon, many hands in many windows.  These hands belong to women whose children have been separated from them as they sought safety in a new land.

Nineteen buses transported more than 1,000 Episcopalians from the Austin Convention Center to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a 40-minute drive from Austin. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Two weeks ago emails began to float amongst deputies to General Convention imploring some action in response to the government’s separation of children from immigrant families. That Sunday morning morning over 800 people loaded busses and hundreds more in cars for a 35-minute trip to the Detention Center. There we gathered under the midday Texas sun.  Spontaneous song arose and over 1000 voices carried the love of Christ towards the women behind those waving hands. Soon after the official program began about half the crowd broke off and tromped across the field, yearning to be closer to women behind those windows.  Prayers were spoken.  Bp. Curry preached and more song arose.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached a sermon of “love God, love neighbor” to more than 1,000 people during a Prayer of Vision, Witness and Justice near the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a detention facility in Taylor, Texas, housing 500 female non-U.S. citizens awaiting the outcome of their immigration status. Photo: Frank Logue

Then it was over – and the inevitable poignant moment when many realized, as we were boarding our air-conditioned busses to return to our lives of freedom enabled by the happy accident of the place of our births, that after we were gone, those hands would remain trapped behind those slim windows.

Engage

I invite you to engage with the needs of families separated at our border. The Episcopal Public Policy network has resources for immigration here:

https://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/immigration 

Donate

If your heart is moved to give:

 

Author

The Rev. Kevin Johnson is an alternate deputy from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. He leads the congregation of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Texas; they gather for worship in Theatre Arlington.

Inclusive, expansive language at General Convention

I’ve written a little about liturgical revision at the Episcopal Church’s 2018 General Convention, and I’ve tracked some of the legislation as it was worked in committee and appeared in legislative sessions. A commitment to inclusion is very present in the actions of our church. Part of that is inclusive language in our worship. Another part of that is language that expresses the expansive image of God. This is a multi-layered thing, intersecting other Convention initiatives, and it’s  been visible in many ways.

A wee look at inclusive language

Let’s have a wee look at inclusive language, courtesy of the church glossary:

Inclusive language:
Spoken and written language that intentionally avoids word use that is needlessly gender-specific or exclusive. Inclusive language also means the use of male and female imagery and metaphors in a balanced way to express the truths we know of God. Inclusive language may challenge the church to discover new depths of meaning and possibility in the words of faith that we use.

 

Traditional English usage referred to God and humanity with male pronouns. A male pronoun was often used “generically” when the pronoun could refer to either a woman or a man. This traditional English usage came to be perceived as demeaning and exclusive of women. It was judged to be offensive by women and men who called for a more inclusive use of language, especially in the life and worship of the church. This call for inclusive language was rooted in the theological understanding that God includes and transcends human masculinity and femininity. God is neither male nor female. Both women and men are equally loved and included by God and should be valued and shown respect in the church’s language.

The overwhelming use of masculine language for God and for human beings is inescapable in the BCP. And there is a plea from our siblings throughout the church to include them, along with proposed legislation to change it.

A wee look at expansive language

Now, a wee look at expansive language, which isn’t in the church glossary :-(. Expanding the words we use to describe God demonstrates that God can’t be contained by our language, and certainly not be contained only in a male form with male nouns and pronouns. Expansive language can communicate the nature and activity of God. Throughout Scripture, God is referred to as a king, a consuming fire, a fortress, a creator, and a still small voice… you get the gist. There is value in a gender-based image of God, but not if it’s always just one gender, and not your gender. God’s bigger than that.

Lex orandi, lex credendi

Lex orandi, lex credendi is a key concept in all these discussions. Commonly put, “as we pray, so we believe.” It means that how and what we pray not only expresses what we believe, it forms what be believe. So if you want to know what Episcopalians believe, you look at what and how we pray.

This formation part is crucial. Our liturgy mostly excludes women and non-male gendered ideas. Shedding patriarchal language isn’t just a knee-jerk cultural response; our worship words show what we value.

Intersecting #MeToo

This convention had listening sessions and soul-searching worship and is paying attention to the harm the church has done or allowed to people. People of all genders harmed by the church are seeking honesty, justice, and reconciliation. And moving past this lamentation, it is hard to avoid that the BCP language doesn’t move us forward in equalizing how we embrace our whole community. “The western European patriarchal decidedly male and decidedly white worldview of our current BCP provides a theological framework in which women and others at the margins are much too easily seen as “less” and therefore more easily exploited, abused, and harassed,” as deputy Katie Sherrod wrote.

The convention is confronted with the low number of bishops who are women – the glass ceiling is real. On Monday, July 9, people wore purple scarves to support electing women to the episcopacy.

Intersecting racial reconciliation

The Church is committed to and is hard at work on the holy work of racial reconciliation, and it is a focus of this General Convention. The venom of racism runs deep and lurks in places unaffected by policy change. I find it inescapable that our BCP worship is fundamentally white Anglo-Saxon and has little option for embracing worldwide cultures. There have been calls for language that includes and welcomes all people, whatever their race or ethnic or regional background. This can go beyond proposals to expand the holy people included in the church commemorations, feasts, and fasts. My friend Katie Sherrod shared, “Revising it [the BCP] to make more expansive and inclusive is not only theological work but also work toward gender and racial reconciliation work.”

We do have some of this already, right?

Yes, Enriching our Worship (EOW) already offers expansive and inclusive language, and has a normal Anglican liturgical flow in all services. But, as a supplemental liturgical text, it may only be used with the permission of the diocesan bishop. And until that bishop-approval caveat is removed, or bishops’ hearts are turned in allowing its use, many in our pews cannot experience common worship with what the church already has created. And until that bishop-approval caveat on use is removed, using what the church has available today cannot expand.

People in our pews and speaking at General Convention are calling for expansive and inclusive language to become mainstream and available to everyone. Freeing up EOW is one way.

Cruise control in worship

A lot of Episcopalians seem very complacent doing cruise control worship. I knew the 1928 BCP words well from my childhood and adolescence. I know most of the 1979 BCP prayers and responses by heart, and I admit that it is comforting. That depth of connection is sustaining in our lives.

But.
That desire that I’ve heard expressed at home and at General Convention to NOT have worship disrupted by anything new is totally self-centered. I’m calling that out right now. It’s “me” over “we.” It’s not wrong to be challenged to see God and other anew, and speak new words together aloud, and share and digest new spiritual food. Change calls us out of complacency and out of a half-a-lifetime of the same words, to experience something new and inclusive for all in.

But.
What if the church liturgy doesn’t change? How many people fed up with the male-only image of God and with the masculine- or binary-dominated concepts of “other” will become infrequent attenders, or seek an accepting community outside of church? Belonging and acceptance are primary motivators in community.

But.
We can’t ignore that shifting church attendance patterns bring oodles of challenges in new liturgy. When people don’t attend as often, understanding liturgy takes longer. And that takes more verbal guidance and instruction from our worship leaders and priests. That’s a change, but it’s not all bad – there’s opportunity there. I hold that inviting and explaining in worship is formational and that it gives us all better tools for evangelism.

So why not leave it all alone?

We can’t ignore the pleas of our siblings (not just sisters and brothers) for whom the words in our BCP are not inclusive. We can’t ignore that the father-king-lord, supreme-and-distant ruler, stratified-anglican-court “power” language doesn’t fulfill all we believe about the image of God, and it doesn’t reflect how God’s people live and move in today’s world in American or other cultures. There is a spiritual hunger in our church for more.

We don’t have to deconstruct what we have. We don’t have to sacrifice the core of liturgical tradition. We do have to offer some moneypay to make a change. We do have to unselfishly sacrifice some comfort. We do have to see community and inclusion as vital – and growing in this new way is evangelism!

Something more, something new

This “more” or this “new” is waiting to be released, or born. I don’t know which. The Holy Spirit is among us pulling the church into this work.

What if there’s no revision, no path for change?

Given the length of time for BCP revision, I can logically expect to be buried with the 1979 Book of Common prayer in its current form.

Grant to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, that thy Holy Spirit may lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days. Amen

Hearing on marriage rites

My first open hearing at my first in-person Episcopal General Convention was regarding marriage and liturgy changes for marriage rites at the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. I attended part of the Convention as a guest and wanted to witness discussions on liturgy changes because that’s what I think will most affect people in our communities and churches.

Mawwiage meme via GIPHY

A wee history to catch you up

Let me give a little history to catch any newcomers up, hitting the high points. In 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared that

“homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church” (1976-A069).

Since then, Episcopalians have been working toward a greater understanding and radical inclusion of all of God’s children.

Lord help us, we have been wrestling.

We wrestled with ordination: in 2003, General Convention discussed the blessing of committed, same-gender relationships and passed “Consider Blessing Committed, Same-Gender Relationships” (2003-C051). Also in 2003, the first openly gay bishop was consecrated – Gene Robinson in New Hampshire. In 2009 the church affirmed that “God’s call is open to all,” meaning all orders of ministry were open to include all baptized LGBTQ members of the church.

And Lord help us, we wrestled with marriage, again and again. In 2009, the 76th General Convention resolved to develop resources on blessings of same gender relationships, and authorized bishops to provide a pastoral response to the relationships of all church members (2009-C056). In 2012 the church commended a provisional rite “Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing” for same gender lifelong unions (2012-A049) – subject to the permission of and under the direction of a diocesan bishop. After a quirk of Supreme Court timing, we wrestled through approving same-sex marriage rites in 2015 just a few days after same-sex marriage became legal throughout our nation. The 2015 General Convention authorized the trial use of two liturgies for marriage, available for use by all couples (“The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage” and “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2”), as well as authorized the continued use of “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” (2015-A054). However, Convention allowed individual diocesan bishops to approve use of these rites (or not approve them), acknowledging “the canonical provisions and theological diversity of the Church in matters of human sexuality.”

So marriage for same-gender people in The Episcopal Church is IMO a cobbled-together thing as we began this 2018 convention. And LGBTQ people have been waiting.

I’m waiting meme via GIPHY

The marriage resolutions in the hearing

The resolutions in the open hearing at my first in-person Episcopal General Convention was regarding marriage and liturgy changes proposing marriage rites. Specifically, these three resolutions:

Now, go read those 3 resolutions linked above. I’m not explaining them here, I’m just sharing comments and observations from what I experienced in Austin at the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

Committee 13 representatives from the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops were hosting the hearing on Thursday, July 5, and the room overflowed well beyond capacity. The committee chose not to move to a larger room that would have held more people, so people stood along the walls, plopped in the aisles, and huddled in the doorways to hear. I was told by a volunteer that the committee had the option of moving to a larger room but chose not to. That was an inhospitable move on their part. This was a hot-topic hearing, at a convenient time. Tsk, tsk.

Everyday people, not just Convention deputies, were invited to sign up to testify to the committee; to speak, one had to register 30 minutes before the hearing.

I’ll share some of what I heard. There were many voices from our neighbors in the Diocese of Dallas, in the state of Texas, the Diocese of Tennessee, the Diocese of Albany, and Province Nine. There were voices from other places, too.

In opposition to including LGBT people in our BCP marriage rites, I heard:

  • It “negates my marriage vows” for others to have access to the same rite.
  • We’ve worked to “restore faith in the National Church.”
  • It’s “culturally driven.”
  • It will “widen the gap” between the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches.
  • It’s “revisionist Christianity.”
  • A change in the Prayer Book is a “change to doctrine.”
  • “Don’t separate us from the Church catholic.”
  • Same-sex marriage is not in the Bible. So it’s not biblical. So we shouldn’t have it in the BCP.
  • Sameness” will make people leave the church.
  • Theologically redefining marriage is not aligned with scriptures. A085 “alienates conservative churches and dioceses.”
  • BCP revision labels “faithful Episcopalians” as perpetrators. Drop the “Puritainizing” efforts.
  • Proposed changes alienate those with traditional views.
  • BCP change is divisive. Unity matters now. Don’t break parts off of the church.
  • God made us man and woman. His word is perfect. Now at my age I have to learn he is wrong?
  • “Better to obey God than man.”
  • “DEPO works!” (That’s Delegated Episcopal Oversight, where a congregation moves out of the oversight of their geographical bishop.) “There’s something in B012 for ‘both sides!’”

In favor, I heard and noted these stories:

  • One member of Transfiguration in Dallas shared, that the church who baptised her son now denies him the sacrament of marriage. She urged the church to move forward and provide all the sacraments of the church to all the baptised, and stop telling people they are unworthy of some sacraments.
  • A psychologist who sees LGBT children afraid. They have fear of conversion therapy. They have fear of church. The Episcopal Church has mixed messages in some ways: all are welcome, but policy contradicts that.
  • “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Make marriage rites available to all clergy to administer.
  • A married gay priest who was denied marriage but who was blessed in his marriage with, “I will bless you, and you will be a blessing,” has a daughter who was recently baptised. He shared, “explain to my daughter baptised in our church how her parents’ relationship is unequal.”
  • A non-binary person, themself a postulant, recounted feeling “lesser” in the Roman Catholic church. It’s a “fluke of geography” that the postulant and their fiancé are welcome. Don’t continue to “perpetuate bigotry against people like me.” These changes don’t take away anything, they give more rights and options.
  • We are in a spiritually-hungry time. This is good, spiritual change.
  • An immigrant who would have been outed from her original diocese in Peru shared that “marriage for all unites.” “Many of you have been loved by this church for a very long time. Some of us have not.”
  • A rector in Dallas voiced that he’s prohibited from extending an approved church sacrament to LGBT people living faithful, holy lives in commitment to one another. Yet bishops and their consciences are more important than people and their sacraments.

I heard quite a lot of perspectives as I saw Episcopalians wrestling with marriage, this sacred ritual that acknowledges and celebrates, before God and the community, the desire of the couple to enter a lifelong covenant.

Ah, twue wuv. And the role of the church in blessing it in a lifelong union. And the role of community in what they embrace.

News story on this hearing

The Episcopal News covered this hearing and a hearing later Thursday evening. Read their story Marriage-equality resolutions get long airing during committee hearings.

Marriage in the Diocese of Fort Worth

What is marriage in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth? When two people desire to form a lasting, lifelong partnership with each other in God’s love, they turn to marriage. Read about this union.

Marriage in The Episcopal Church

The Princess Bride mawwiage scene

In case you are unfamiliar with the mawwiage references here, or if you want more mawwiage and twue wuv from the 1987 romantic comedy, go here. (And do note the power plays and manipulation as you watch.)

OMG, General Convention is Busy!

I’ve not been to Episcopal General Convention before, but I went as a guest Thursday through Saturday.

It’s eye opening. 

Now, I’m not a complete noob to this churchwide convention. In my role on the Diocese of Fort Worth communications team, I published information for our deputies in 2012 and 2015. I watched the live stream, I read and tracked important legislation so I could publish about it on Facebook & Twitter, and I voiced what mattered for our diocese and our people.

But I have to say this from my three in-person days at this Convention – our deputation is crazy busy! Legislative committees meet at 7:30 am, after lunch, and again at 7:30 pm to deal with the important resolutions they want to put before the Convention. There are morning and afternoon legislative sessions in the House of Deputies and House of Bishops, and our people are tracking discussion about and progress of each resolution in each house. Our deputies are discussing the “big picture” of resolutions as well as the small details.

The work of committee meetings and hearings

I want to say more on committee work and committee meetings and committee hearings. We have many members of our deputation who are serving on committees:

  • Katie Sherrod is the chair of the deputation and serves on the Committee on Churchwide Leadership
  • Kathleen Wells and Janet Waggoner are serving on the House of Deputies Resolution Review Committee
  • Katheen is also serving on the Constitution and Canons committee
  • Aidan Wright is assistant secretary to the committee working with the Episcopal Church in Cuba
  • Marti Fagley is serving on the Credentials Committee
  • Carlye Hughes is the Secretary for the Racial Justice and Reconciliation committee
  • Tracie Middleton is serving on the committee for the Certification of Minutes
  • Janet Waggoner is also serving on the House of Deputies Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation
  • Bishop Mayer serves on the Christian Formation Committee

And our deputies and alternates who aren’t on committees are constantly working to gain insight from other committees where we have no diocesan representatives. They are attending open committee meetings and tracking resolutions and reporting back to the deputation on what’s happening and the details of how it unfolded in committee. Plus, if they want to speak in open committee meetings, they must arrive 30 minutes before the start to sign up to speak publicly; this speaking cuts into lunch or dinner time. You’d think that lunch and dinner would be a respite, and it can be, yet luncheons and dinners and gatherings with partner organizations are added into individual agendas. Folks are always rushing to whatever’s next.

Oh, and don’t dismiss the preparation it takes to to speak convincingly to the public!

When we next elect deputies to General Convention…

Some people may have the incorrect perspective that General Convention is like a conference with an education and social focus; it barely has those things squeezed in.

General Convention is the diverse Church at large, with individuals doing hard work at a quick pace in long meetings. It takes preparation. It takes grace to listen and speak when viewpoints differ drastically. It takes guts to speak and act to give voice to what our changing church can become when others around you don’t share a similar vision of that future. So, we need to continue to elect deputies who are willing to do this hard work. We elected a great bunch to serve in 2018:

Enjoy General Convention Bingo!

From the team that offered #RoyalWedding Bingo for Michael Curry’s sermon…
In the spirit of Bonnie Ball
For your General Convention pleasure…

Enjoy #GC79 Bingo!

Call out “Bingo!” and amaze your house or committee meeting!
Bring your marked card to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s table to claim a prize. You must be present to claim your prize, but if you tweet your completed card to @DioFW, we’ll respond with recognition and e-love! We love to “Taco ‘bout love ;-)”

Get a card

Drop by the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth’s table in the House of Deputies (Table J7, right side) to say howdy and snag a card. Or print cards here (PDF: 1.7 MB, 500 pages), being sure to use print settings to print a small number of our 500 pages.

Gameplay

  • Center space is free.
  • Words must be spoken, not read.
  • No wagering, please!

Related information

July 7-8 General Convention activities – public worship, public witness

Some interesting activities are happening at General Convention …

July 7 Public worship, revival-style

Olive Tree field trip

A Eucharist scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 7, invites people to join in the Jesus Movement. This worship will feature elements of a revival with innovative worship and music. It will be held at Palmer Events Center, a very large venue within walking distance of the Austin Convention Center, to allow more people to attend from neighboring dioceses and be inspired by the Presiding Bishop’s preaching. The Palmer Events Center is able to seat all the General Convention deputies and bishops as well as visitors. Food and entertainment will follow the worship – the Diocese of Texas invites you to Texas Night! Expect live music, free water, cash bar, a warm evening, and beautiful sunset. A pre-paid supper option for $20/plate is available.

Advocacy activities

July 8 Bishops Against Gun Violence public witness at General Convention


Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a group of more than 70 Episcopal bishops, will sponsor a prayerful public witness event Sunday, July 8 at 9:30 a.m. at Austin’s Brush Square Park, across the street from the Austin Convention Center. Speakers will include Philip and April Schentrup and Abigail Zimmerman.

Phil and April Schentrup’s daughter, Carmen, was killed in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Ash Wednesday of 2018. Since Carmen’s death, both April and Phil have spoken out publicly against gun violence, as well as pushed hard for solutions that bring our country together. Phil and April believe that the Church must advocate against gun violence and promote public safety so that our nation can live together in peace.

Abigail Zimmerman has lived in Texas since 2011. She will enter the 9th grade in August. She enjoys reading, writing, traveling, swimming, and hiking. She co-led a school walkout in March to remember the victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, and spoke at her city’s March for Our Lives event. Abigail is a member of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, where she acolytes and is active in the youth group.

At the end of the event, participants will be invited to walk together to the 10:30 a.m. General Convention Eucharist, or to attend worship at local Episcopal churches. The Prayer Service at the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, Texas has been planned not to conflict with this event.

With the summer heat in mind, participants are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.

Additional details may be posted on the Bishops United Against Gun Violence website. The best way to connect with this event may be to connect with it on Facebook here.

July 8 Prayer Service Set at Detention Center During General Convention

Responding to calls from Episcopalians across the church to act on behalf of families seeking asylum at the southern U. S. border, a team of concerned leaders heading to General Convention has planned a prayer service outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, at about noon on Sunday, July 8.

The planning team, led by alternate Deputy Megan Castellan, rector of St. John’s Church in Ithaca, New York, is working with Grassroots Leadership—a local community organizing group in Texas that has held numerous gatherings at the Hutto Residential Center. Deputy Winnie Varghese, director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, is helping to arrange buses to the event.

“What is happening to those at our borders is monstrous,” Castellan said. “My bishop, DeDe Duncan-Probe [of Central New York] and I were discussing how we, as a church, could respond on Saturday morning. By evening, and with the help of enthusiastic Episcopalians across the church, the idea had taken shape and was moving forward.”

The detention center at 1001 Welch St. in Taylor is operated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by CoreCivic, formerly the Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company, and is about a 40-minute drive from the Austin Convention Center where General Convention is being held.

Varghese says Trinity Wall Street hopes to provide buses for the event that would depart from the convention center at 10:45 a.m. Organizers hope participants will carpool, and free parking is available nearby. But those who would like to reserve a bus seat should email bustohutto@gmail.com. Buses will leave from the convention center shortly after the conclusion of the Bishops United Against Gun Violence event. Organizers say participants may also drive to the detention center. Parking is available nearby.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, have arranged for a one-hour delay in Sunday’s legislative calendar to facilitate participation by bishops and deputies. The legislative session will begin at 3:15 CDT.

The event, which Curry and Jennings will attend, is open to all who are committed to praying for an end to the inhumane treatment of those seeking asylum in the United States. It has been planned not to conflict with the Bishops United Against Gun Violence event at 9:30 a.m. in Brush Square Park, near the convention center. A former medium security prison, the Hutto center has been the target of frequent lawsuits over issues including harsh conditions, poor food and sexually abusive guards. Originally a family detention center, the facility, since 2009, has housed only female immigrants and asylum seekers. The planning team, which includes several clergy and parishioners of the Diocese of Texas and the Association of Episcopal Deacons, is considering follow-up advocacy activities.