GC79 Wrap Up

 One of General Convention's TEC onversations,  this one on racial reconciliation. The Diocese of Bethlehem's deputation table (and star!) is seen on the right. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

One of General Convention's TEConversations, this one on racial reconciliation. The Diocese of Bethlehem's deputation table (and star!) is seen on the right. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

After a good (and long!) two weeks, we're back from our travels to the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church! This post will serve as a bit of a recap of some of the highlights of GC79.

The Way of Love

gc jesus movement.png

In his opening remarks to GC79, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, gave an impassioned introduction to the Way of Love, an invitation to the whole Church to participate in a rule of life that focuses on the life and teachings of Jesus. Bishop Curry describes the Way of Love as follows:

For centuries, monastic communities have shaped their lives around rhythms and disciplines for following Jesus together. Such a pattern is known as a “Rule of Life.” The framework you now hold – The Way of Love: Practices for Jesus-Centered Life – outlines a Rule for the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

It is designed to be spare and spacious, so that individuals, ministry groups, congregations, and networks can flesh it out in unique ways and build a church-wide treasure trove of stories and resources. There is no specific order you need to follow. If you already keep a Rule or spiritual disciplines, you might reflect and discover how that path intersects with this one. By entering into reflection, discernment and commitment around the practices of Turn - Learn - Pray - Worship - Bless - Go - Rest, I pray we will grow as communities following the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus. His way has the power to change each of our lives and to change this world.
— The Most Rev. Michael Curry

The Episcopal Church has provided resources to engage with the Way of Life here. I would encourage us as individuals to pace our lives with these practices, and I look forward to discerning with you how we might embrace this rule of life as a parish!

 

Book of Common Prayer Revision

 My commemorative copy of  The Book of Common Prayer  as published for General Convention.

My commemorative copy of The Book of Common Prayer as published for General Convention.

By far, the most talked about topic throughout the entirety of GC79 was prayer book revision -- and truly, its been on the minds of Episcopalians all over the church since at least 2015, when GC78 tasked the church with the job of considering what plans for potential revision would look like. We arrived in Austin with two options: start right away on comprehensive revision to the BCP, or take three more years to live into the BCP 1979 more fully and then see what happens. It turns out we left Austin with a third option!

The House of Deputies originally passed Option 1 -- this would have authorized the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to begin work on new resources immediately while also gathering bulletins from parishes as to how they have used our current liturgies. New liturgies would have drawn on scripture and tradition to maintain an Anglican identity, and they would have included gender-neutral pronouns as well as expansive language for divinity and humanity. With this plan, we would have potentially had a new BCP by 2030.

The House of Bishops spent quite a bit of time in conversation about what the House of Deputies had passed. As many of the bishops admitted, there was a fair amount of fear of the unknown in the House of Bishops that day. I got the sense that many of the bishops were in favor of liturgical revision but not prayer book revision (mainly because I'm not sure the majority of bishops were entirely sure about what comprehensive revision would have looked like) -- and I think that's the compromise they ended up creating. The Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle, bishop of Texas, spent an evening crafting a new resolution with the help of some fifty other bishops. This group presented an interesting compromise of sorts:

First and foremost, The Book of Common Prayer 1979 has now been "memorialized" by this resolution. What does that mean? Well, it means that it won't be going anywhere -- it is now to be remembered as "a prayer book of the Church," and its use may be continued. This language made it into the resolution because, essentially, there's a lot of good stuff in the BCP 1979. It's the book that helped the Church transition into weekly Eucharist; it's the book that still has us thinking more about Baptism and Eucharist; it's the book that introduced Noonday Prayer and Compline to a much wider audience in our Church. Put simply -- I'm not sure we're done with it yet, and I think that's for the best.

However, it may be showing its age a little bit. It is still heavily male in its pronoun usage (a separate resolution passed approved Rite II Eucharistic Prayers with updated language). Eucharistic Prayer C sounds like it was written in the 1970s instead of something like the timeless Eucharistic Prayer D, which is widely considered a great success of the BCP 1979. There are also parts of the BCP 1979 that are under-utilized either because parishes and/or individuals rarely use them (Reconciliation of a Penitent, Holy Saturday, Devotions for Families) or because they're a little clunky in their usage (parts of Ministration to the Sick, the organization of the collects and prayers). This resolution tries to keep the best of both worlds -- keep the BCP 1979 for its good parts, start thinking about prayer book revision to improve it.

Elsewhere, the next three years could prove very interesting for the Episcopal Church. Bishops and dioceses are now authorized to create and experiment with new liturgical language and rites, and those new liturgies will be collected and studied by a task force created by GC79. Though the majority of Episcopal churches are fairly loyal to the prayer book, it's not uncommon for some to bend the rubrics or add unauthorized texts to liturgies (or make up new liturgies entirely). Now that we are officially in a time of liturgy creation, it will be fascinating to see what the church comes up with. If some great liturgies are crafted in the next three years, there's a chance they could make it into the future prayer book.

 

Same-Sex Marriage

 The logo for the House of Deputies at the 79th General Convention.

The logo for the House of Deputies at the 79th General Convention.

Since the 78th General Convention in 2015, the Episcopal Church has used a trial rite liturgy to marry same-sex couples. Use of the rite was at the discretion of diocesan bishops, and eight dioceses of the Church did not permit their clergy to officiate the service.

This year, a resolution passed that guaranteed the marriage rite for members of the whole Church and that those services can take place in the home parish of the couple. The dissenting bishops are now required to invite another bishop to give episcopal oversight to the process of same-sex marriages in those same eight dioceses. These liturgies will remain in trial use until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer, at which the same rites or updated rites will be added to the prayer book. Though the topic of same-sex marriage has been a hotly-debated one over the last decade-and-a-half in the Episcopal Church, it's worth noting that both the House of Deputies and House of Bishops passed the resolution overwhelmingly. 

 

La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba

 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves welcome Bishop Delgado. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves welcome Bishop Delgado. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

A high point of GC79 was the official welcome back to the Episcopal Church in Cuba. After the revolution in the 1960s, the House of Bishops voted to cut ties with the Diocese of Cuba -- a painful separation that led to decades of the Episcopal Church in Cuba being on its own as an autonomous diocese, though the Anglican Church in Canada continued to support the diocese. Since 1966, the Episcopal Church in Cuba suffered through this lack of support, and many of its clergy and members were imprisoned or even killed. As the resolution reads, "Resolved, That the General Convention laments the actions of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in 1966 that led to the precipitous and painful separation of The Episcopal Church and La Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba."

Under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, the people of the Episcopal Church in Cuba have taken on a missional identity by helping their communities in the name of Christ -- they have created day care centers, implemented irrigation systems for farming, and raised and cared for farm animals for additional food sources. With representatives in Austin for this historic moment, Bishop Delgado was seated in the House of Bishops, and the deputation from Cuba was seated in the House of Deputies. Bishop Maria addressed the House of Deputies by saying “Right now, I feel that the Holy Spirit is blowing on this entire convention and that it is moving: It’s moving here for all of us to really work with it in this very difficult world to make sure that we fulfill the needs of this world.” It was a great moment of coming together, and we give thanks for the witness and faithfulness of the good people of Cuba.

 

The end...for now

It was a lot of fun to see a full General Convention for the first time. I'm also very grateful that it only happens every three years! It takes a lot of time and energy to put an event of this magnitude together, and everyday is pretty packed on the calendar. I'd like to go again at some point -- maybe even as a deputy in future years. Though GC79 is finished, the real heavy lifting begins now. Task forces and committees continue to meet throughout the triennium to do the business that General Convention tasks them to do. GC80 in 2021 seems like a long time from now, but it will be here before we know it, and the Church has much to do before then. GC80 will be in Baltimore, Maryland.

Til then, thanks for keeping up with the blog throughout GC79!

Peace,
Dennis+

More Legislation Today; Same-Sex Marriage Resolution passes House of Deps

 A volunteer collects diocesan votes on Resolution B012. Votes that are cast by orders (lay and ordained) are still done electronically but also have a paper record to accompany it. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

A volunteer collects diocesan votes on Resolution B012. Votes that are cast by orders (lay and ordained) are still done electronically but also have a paper record to accompany it. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

Good evening from soggy Austin!

It was a good day for indoor conversation and business, as thunderstorms rolled through Austin for parts of the day. With many of the elections completed yesterday, there was much more time on the floor of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops for their respective legislative calendars. There's so much that goes into those calendars -- over 400 resolutions have to be considered, parliamentary procedure must be followed, and thanks to our bicameral system, both houses have to approve resolutions. That last part especially takes time because each house can amend resolutions, of course, which can turn into a back-and-forth parade between houses lasting several days.

We're in the midst of that parade right now for a couple important resolutions. A068, the prayer book revision resolution passed by the House of Deputies, was on the bishops' calendar this afternoon. Instead of moving into parliamentary procedure, the House of Bishops spent the vast majority of their legislative session as a committee of the whole, talking out their opinions at their tables and in front of the whole house. It was fascinating to see this group of theological heavyweights talk about the potential for a new prayer book. Would focusing on a new BCP take away from our work with evangelism, racial reconciliation, and social justice? Is now the right time given how many people on important committees will be retired by the time the book is published? Are we thinking about creating a new BCP for the right reasons? What parts of the 1979 BCP should be celebrate and retain? What does expansive language actually mean? I was grateful the bishops took the time to consider these kinds of questions, and the time spent today should be very helpful for tomorrow's session when official debate begins. That session will be one of the most anticipated of the whole General Convention.

 Lydia catches up on some baby videos during discussion of Resolution D087, which would allow for nursing and bottle-fed babies to join their parent on the floor of the House of Deputies for feeding. Photo credit to the Diocese of Colorado.

Lydia catches up on some baby videos during discussion of Resolution D087, which would allow for nursing and bottle-fed babies to join their parent on the floor of the House of Deputies for feeding. Photo credit to the Diocese of Colorado.

Elsewhere, an interesting hearing was held this morning in response to an unfortunate incident a few days ago. One of the deputies from the Diocese of Colorado has an infant child who is currently nursing. The deputy tried to bring the child with her onto the floor of the House of Deputies and was denied access because of her baby. Technically, no one outside of the deputies is allowed on the floor of the house. However, when this incident was relayed to the Rev. Gay Jennings, the President of the House of Deputies, she apologized to the deputy and to the whole house for the incident unfolding as it did. The House Committee on Rules of Order considered a resolution this morning that would make it permissible for nursing and bottle-fed children to be on the floor with a parent or guardian. The hearing was attended by numerous deputies with young children, many of whom testified to its importance. My wife, Megan, sits on the committee, and Lydia and I attended the hearing to support her and the resolution. The committee unanimously recommended its adoption to the House of Deputies, and a vote on the matter will take place later in the week. Again, I'm grateful for the St. Alban's community for your welcome of young children and families -- your gracious consideration of our youngest parishioners was very much on my mind as I heard stories at this hearing about how difficult it has been for some mothers and fathers with young children to have their children with them at church or at this convention, especially around the topic of nursing. 

 The Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, addresses the house after being reelected for a third and final term. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

The Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, addresses the house after being reelected for a third and final term. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

Finally, in what turned out to be a landslide, the House of Deputies passed Resolution B012 regarding same-sex marriage. As we said earlier, the parade continues, as the resolution will now go to the House of Bishops. This resolution would allow for same-sex marriage in all dioceses of the Episcopal Church, though a dissenting bishop would have the option to invite another bishop to oversee marriages in his or her diocese. I expect more thoughtful dialogue from the House of Bishops concerning this resolution.

We're really in the thick of it now with GC79. Both houses have significant amounts of legislation left on their calendars, not to mention the budget that will try to pay for all of it. More to come tomorrow!

Grace to you and peace,
Dennis+

Sunday at GC79: Worship, Witness, and Voting

 Sunday afternoon featured almost three hours of voting for positions in church leadership and committees.

Sunday afternoon featured almost three hours of voting for positions in church leadership and committees.

We greet you this night in the name of God and with greetings from many tired saints from General Convention!

I've heard it said from lots of folks here that General Convention brings out the best and the worst of the Church. I suppose the better part of two weeks moving from hotel rooms to conference rooms to food courts to convention centers and everywhere in between will do that! But today overall was a very good day. Megan, Lydia, and I made the short walk to St. David's Episcopal Church for their 9:00am service. St. David's is a rather large parish in Austin with numerous worship offerings and educational opportunities on a Sunday (even in Summer!). About half the congregation for our service were visitors from GC79, and the folks from St. David's were very welcoming. I've gotta admit, I thought I had a good amount of empathy and understanding for parents who bring babies and toddlers into worship, but now I really, really understand how difficult that experience can be! I give thanks that St. Alban's has welcomed so many young families with children -- it was a joy to be met with smiles even when Lydia got a little excited from time to time. 

 St. David's as seen from our hotel (near the top middle of the picture). Always nice to walk to church!

St. David's as seen from our hotel (near the top middle of the picture). Always nice to walk to church!

 Taken from the back of the nave in St. David's, Austin.

Taken from the back of the nave in St. David's, Austin.

Sunday morning was really busy on the convention calendar, and though seemingly everyone had a chance to worship somewhere in Austin, two other very important events took place in the morning. In downtown Austin, Bishops United Against Gun Violence stood in witness and solidarity for those affected by the numerous shootings in our country in recent years. Marked by the cause's orange stoles, numerous bishops flocked to the streets near the Convention Center to speak to this very important issue.

 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX. Photo credit to Episcopal News Service.

 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry standing among the Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Picture credit to Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry standing among the Bishops United Against Gun Violence. Picture credit to Episcopal News Service.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke at the gathering of bishops as well as later in the morning when about 1,000 Episcopalians worshiped and spoke to the injustice of detaining children outside of the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, TX. "We come in love. We do not think a great country like this one separates children from their families," said Curry. Tonight I am proud of the leaders of this Church, and I give thanks to God for the vigilant witness to the Gospel as seen in Bishop Curry. It's really amazing how this worship service and witness came together. A few weeks ago, a handful of deputies dreamed up the idea of having some people gather at the detention center because of its proximity to Austin. Those conversations quickly turned into planning a large event with worship and the Presiding Bishop's presence. This kind of thing would fall under the "best" of the Church! Video of the event (and lots of other videos) may be found here at the General Convention Media Hub.

Shifting gears, I've yet to mention in any detail the expansive marketplace found at General Convention. It's quite a sight to behold! Set up adjacent to the House of Deputies in its own enormous room, exhibits and shops from seminaries, organizations across the Church, vestment suppliers, and many other companies and ministries are represented here in Austin. You can buy just about anything church-related here, or you can learn about all kinds of new opportunities for ministry. Some particularly interesting and unique booths include an organization for locally-sourced wheat for communion bread, a Godly Play lesson that was happening right as we walked by, an interactive area for children including live music, and the Episcopal Shoppe (yours truly bought a bow tie with Episcopal shields all over it...might have to wear that around the office from time to time...). I've learned a lot around these booths this week -- there's tons of information about new technology for parish offices, initiatives and programs from the seminaries (Go VTS!), ways to support up and coming organizations, and so much more. This place is always abuzz. Even though we've walked through the whole thing a few times, I always find something new to read or meet someone I haven't talked to yet.

 An interactive, hands-on Godly Play lesson.

An interactive, hands-on Godly Play lesson.

 The Virginia Seminary booth can be seen under the white round logo (top, middle). This picture shows one of at least ten similar "aisles" throughout the marketplace.

The Virginia Seminary booth can be seen under the white round logo (top, middle). This picture shows one of at least ten similar "aisles" throughout the marketplace.

The afternoon was full of legislation, or at least it was supposed to be. Before legislation and resolutions, elections were held for open positions for the trustees of the Church Pension Fund, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, the trustees of the General Theological Seminary, and several others. While these are all important positions and it is the requirement of General Convention to vote upon candidates, convention dragged to a halt as the voting process took much longer than expected -- even with a completely digital system, it felt like it took ages (this might fall under the "worst" of the Church). One piece of good news to come out of all the voting? The Diocese of Bethlehem's very own canon to the ordinary, the Rev. Canon Anne Kitch, was voted on to Executive Council! You may remember Anne from our Celebration of New Ministry service last December -- the executive level of the Church is fortunate to have her aboard, and it will be very interesting to see what she will be able to report back to the diocese once those meetings begin. Congrats, Anne!

So, once all of the votes were finally completed, it was time to jump into Resolution B012, Marriage Rites for the Whole Church. This resolution is a bit of a continuation from the resolution passed in 2015 at GC78 that approved a rite for same-sex marriage under trial use. That resolution also granted bishops the right not to allow same-sex marriage in their diocese if he or she so chose -- and eight bishops did so choose. This current resolution would reaffirm the Church's commitment to a same-sex marriage rite under continued trial use with the plan to adopt it into the new Book of Common Prayer if and when that eventually comes. The current resolution as it stands also guarantees the use of the marriage rite in every diocese, and a dissenting bishop would be required to allow another bishop to have episcopal oversight of the process in a couple's home diocese. This afternoon's legislative session ended at 7pm, and because of the voting delay earlier, debate and amendments to B012 were not completed. Debate will pick up again tomorrow morning, and by the end of the morning session, we should know where the House of Deputies stands on B012.

Otherwise, that's about it for today. The House of Bishops has yet to vote on A068, the resolution that the House of Deputies passed regarding prayer book revision. We'll keep you posted!

I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday at St. Alban's. Many thanks to the Rev. Nancy Packard for leading our worship today!
The Lord Almighty grant you a peaceful night and a perfect end.
Dennis+

Deputies pass BCP Revision; Bishops next?

 Resolution A068 passes in the House of Deputies. Photo credit to @embrauza on Twitter.

Resolution A068 passes in the House of Deputies. Photo credit to @embrauza on Twitter.

Greetings from Austin!

 Worship leaflets and resolutions are all on iPads or other electronic devices. Transitioning to digital resources saved an estimated one million pieces of paper in 2015.

Worship leaflets and resolutions are all on iPads or other electronic devices. Transitioning to digital resources saved an estimated one million pieces of paper in 2015.

We may remember today as the beginning of the long road towards a new prayer book in the Episcopal Church. Though the House of Bishops must concur, the House of Deputies voted to pass Resolution A068, which could give the Church an important task for the next three years and beyond. If the Bishops concur (they may vote as early as tomorrow), the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music will research and develop updates and potentially new rites that "utilize the riches of Holy Scripture and our Church’s liturgical, cultural, racial, generational, linguistic, gender, physical ability, and ethnic diversity in order to share common worship." The resolution has many caveats, including that the commission continues in all good faith to adhere to our tradition of Anglican Common Prayer, that the work includes inclusive and expansive language and imagery for humanity and divinity, that a bishop and an additional clergy or lay representative from Province IX of the Episcopal Church (which is comprised of dioceses from Latin America and the Caribbean) be a part of the revision, that the works are translated into Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole at all steps of revision, that we continue to adhere to the four tenets of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (more on this later), that there be a report and update at the next General Convention in 2021, and that the whole project for the next three years will have a budget of $1.9 million.

So what does all of this mean? For now, not much. There won't be a new book in your pew this Sunday or any time soon. This is only the beginning, but this kind of long process has to start somewhere and sometime. It could mean that by 2024, we have a trial-use Book of Common Prayer that would take two General Conventions to ratify, most likely making it the 2030 Book of Common Prayer. We are nowhere near that point now, though. Such wholesale revision takes a lot of time -- the 1979 BCP is 1,000 pages long, and while there is much I love about this BCP that I grew up with, there's much that could stand to change for the better (that could be a whole post on its own, and perhaps I'll write out my thoughts on that in the future).

 The Rev. Scott Allen, part of the deputation from the Diocese of Bethlehem, gets ready for a quick video interview. 

The Rev. Scott Allen, part of the deputation from the Diocese of Bethlehem, gets ready for a quick video interview. 

What it does mean is change is coming if the Bishops approve the resolution as well. I've participated quite a bit in the online discussion on Twitter, so since all my cards are on the table elsewhere, I'll share briefly with you my opinion. If I were a deputy and had a vote today, I would have voted against this resolution. I would prefer to see more study of the 1979 BCP in regard to what exactly we need to change before we voted to do so and a more substantial theological understanding of the kinds of language we might gain and lose (though presumably this will happen in part over the next three years anyway), I would have preferred the budget for this project to be much lower, and I would have preferred the important work of revision to be done by the vast majority of people who, by nature of their age, will inherit it in 2030. However, I am pro-revision (it's too long a process not to start sooner than later) and I am pro-updated language for God (God isn't male, after all, and much our our language, especially masculine pronouns that refer to the entire Trinity, have given many that idea). The amendment to include the four tenets of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral was a very good addition, I believe. On pg. 878 of the prayer book, it reads that we affirm "the two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself -- Baptism and the Supper of the Lord -- ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him." In practical terms, this amendment means that the revision of the BCP must adhere to this affirmation, that we baptize and say the words of institution at the Eucharist in the words Christ used -- this should mean that there will be a new BCP with the same language of baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Christ's words ("This is my body/blood" etc) must appear as we have come to know them. This avoids a theological pitfall -- we know that Jesus Christ, in his time on this earth, was revealed to be the Son of God and knew his God intimately and perfectly. In explaining that relationship to others, Jesus called God "Father". To ignore those two realities, that Jesus is revealed by God to be the Son of God and that he called God his Father, would be a grand mistake. However, it would also be a mistake in our liturgies not to recognize the many other ways in which holy scripture refers to God and how we, as children of God made in the image of God, have come to know and refer to one another in many expansive ways within our own language and our understanding of the image of God. How that looks in new and revised rites remains to be seen.

This was a bit of a divisive day at GC79 -- some were elated at the vote, others were severely disappointed. As I wrote earlier today on Twitter, though I wouldn't have voted for this specific resolution, I am still excited for the holy and good work of prayer book revision, and I will wholeheartedly support this process if and when it begins -- I hope all in the Church will, too. And while the Book of Common Prayer is an enormous part of our Church and our Christian faith as we have come to know it in the Episcopal Church, it is not the be-all and end-all. It is Jesus Christ who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and he loves us far more than we love any prayer book. I have no doubt that the Lord will continue to be a lantern to our feet and a light upon our path as we look to start this work. Even if the House of Bishops rejects the resolution, that it passed the House of Deputies is an historic step. These moments of discernment will serve the Church well in coming years -- to repeat once more, BCP revision is coming regardless; it's all a question of when.

 "Dad, when do  I  get to speak at General Convention?"

"Dad, when do I get to speak at General Convention?"

Tomorrow brings a welcomed Sunday morning -- time to reflect, to pause, and most importantly, to worship our God. We're going to venture out into Austin to St. David's Episcopal Church, a short walk from the Convention Center. Tomorrow also brings more business, and I'll have a report for you on Resolution B012, which considers continuing and affirming the use of the trial rite for same-sex marriage.

I encourage your prayers for the Church of God and for this convention!
God bless you,
Dennis+

The Way of Love & Prayer Book Revision?

 Unveiled at Eucharist yesterday, Presiding Bishop Curry announced the Way of Love, a church-wide resource for individuals and parishes

Unveiled at Eucharist yesterday, Presiding Bishop Curry announced the Way of Love, a church-wide resource for individuals and parishes

Grace and peace to you, friends!

My apologies for missing a post yesterday -- with Lydia here, I'm a full-time Dad and part-time blogger. I will do all I can to continue these posts daily, though!

Anyway, it's been an eventful couple of days here in Austin. The business of convention is hitting hard and heavy, with committees meeting every morning (sometimes as early as 7:30am) and legislation throughout the day. There are also lots of opportunities for events and sessions outside the realm of "business" -- both the House of Bishops and House of Deputies met in a joint session today in consideration of racial reconciliation and how the Church can repent of the systemic sin of racism. These can be difficult conversations, though all the more reason to have them, especially on this international stage.

Thursday the 5th marked the opening Eucharist. I had been told about how good the worship is at General Convention from previous deputies, and they were telling the truth! The music was an incredible mix of traditional and contemporary, the language of the liturgy flowed beautifully between English and Spanish, and Bishop Curry brought the house down with a characteristically-energetic sermon. He probably went on for about thirty minutes, and I'm not sure any one of the 1,000 people in attendance wanted him to stop! Preaching on John 15, Bishop Curry weaved flawlessly through Jesus' words, reminding us that if he is the vine, we are the Episcopal branches, connected to all our brothers and sisters in the Church of God -- or as he'd call it, the Jesus Movement. To watch live and on-demand video of worship and other sessions, click here for the General Convention Media Hub.

 A view from our seats at opening Eucharist. Bishop Curry is in the middle, preaching from every side of the large altar.

A view from our seats at opening Eucharist. Bishop Curry is in the middle, preaching from every side of the large altar.

As he wrapped up his sermon, he transitioned into telling the congregation about the love of Christ, that his way is the only way, and his way is love. Bishop Curry introduced a new initiative of the Episcopal Church -- The Way of Love. It is a resource for individuals, parishes, communities, organizations, and just about anyone or anything in between to use as a daily reminder, a rule of life for Episcopalians that is deeply rooted in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It's also an invitation to live into these words:

Turn. Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus.
Learn. Reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus' life and teachings.
Pray. Dwell intentionally with God each day.
Worship. Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God.
Bless. Share faith and unselfishly give and serve.
Go. Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus.
Rest. Receive the gift of God's grace, peace, and restoration.

I can't begin to tell you how inspired I am by this Way of Love. When Bishop Curry was preaching about it, the Spirit was present, and though I can't speak for everyone, I know I walked away refreshed and renewed even at just the idea of this Episcopal rule of life. I couldn't help but think I've been looking for something like this and I can't wait to tell St. Alban's about this! and Just imagine how many ways we could use this in Church! What I love about this Way of Life is its simplicity. This is not some program that a parish has to spend thousands of dollars on. It is not the latest in fads that the Church at large seems to churn through every few years. It is an invitation to reexamine and recommit to those things the Church has done well from the very beginning, and it is a great chance for our whole denomination to dwell more deeply in God's gracious presence. I look forward to our community talking about how we might use it together. Click here to see all of the new resources for the Way of Love.

 The Rev. Megan Dembi speaking to an amendment before GC79.

The Rev. Megan Dembi speaking to an amendment before GC79.

Otherwise, as predicted, prayer book revision has been the talk of convention. Over the past four days, the committee in charge of resolutions A068 and A069, the resolutions for revising the prayer book and recommitting for the 1979 BCP, respectively, decided to propose A068 to convention with amendment. As it stands now, A068 calls for wholesale revision of the Book of Common Prayer by 2030. The revision would update the language of the BCP to include gender-neutral language instead of masculine pronouns as well as add gender-expansive language to how we refer to God in certain places (based on those times in scripture when God is referred to with female language or as something else entirely -- there are many ways to which God is referred in the Bible that do not make it into our liturgies. For example, Hagar calls God "the God who sees" in Genesis).

That is only one of the topics being discussed with this resolution. Here's the full text (note that it will change when it is amended and/or passed/rejected).

As you can see, there's quite a lot being proposed here (and for quite a lot of money). The almost $2 million price tag is only for the next three years. The committee estimates that the whole process through 2030 could cost up to $8 million. The cost of this enormous project is but one of the concerns. It would be an understatement to say that convention and, more accurately, the Church at large is divided on the idea of prayer book revision. Much of the debate is on the language of new or updated liturgies. As we pointed out in the previous post, some of the changes would be fairly trivial -- in some instances, it would be as simple as "he" changing to "God" when speaking of the whole Trinity, though it could remain "he" when specifically referring to Jesus. Another part of debate is on the idea of masculine language altogether. Though "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" is a biblical formula and very much a part of how God is revealed to us in scripture and tradition, it is not the only way in which God is named -- as we pointed out above, there are many different kinds of names and references to how we might come to know God. I imagine a compromise could be met that, at least, appeases part of both sides. It would not be too difficult a change to update the language of Rite II to change masculine pronouns while still retaining some of the traditional language. However, this resolution does call for substantial revision, which would affect the entire book. At some point, the Church will have a new prayer book -- we always have since the 1500s, after all -- but the Church may not yet be ready. As I mentioned in the previous post, there has been considerable testimony from deputies in their 20s, 30s, and 40s for concern about the timing of this resolution. Essentially, yes, it will take a while for a new prayer book, but the concern of many is that we a) haven't done our theological homework well enough to understand fully the debate about these kinds of language changes; b) we do not have the diversity of people in place in the right committees actually to accomplish what the resolutions asks the Church to do; c) it costs a ton of money; and d) parts of the 1979 BCP are great and don't need revising.

Debate would have gone well past the appointed time had worship not been on the calendar this evening. Deputies will pick up the date tomorrow morning at 10:30 central time for an additional half hour. If the resolution is adopted, it would still have to pass in the House of Bishops, which it may not -- wholesale change typically takes longer for the House of Bishops.

At this point, it's tough to guess what will happen tomorrow. If A068 passes, we could potentially see the beginning of a long road of revision. Certainly some folks would be severely disappointed while others would be elated. It is my hope and prayer that this isn't a crossroads for the Episcopal Church. I still hear people voicing complaint about the last time we did this in the 1970s. As I said, at some point, no matter what happens tomorrow, the BCP will get revised. Keep the Church and the House of Deputies in your prayers as they and we get ready for a big day tomorrow.

In completely unrelated news, Austin is a strange, lovely town, though this priest is missing home a bit. As predicted, convention is exhausting and I'm not even a deputy! Lydia is handling it well, all things considered, but I think she misses home, too.

Til tomorrow, God's peace be with you.
Dennis+

Bishop Curry brings the fireworks on July 4th

 The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, gives a rousing "sermon" at the 79th General Convention. Photo courtesy of @texasbishop

The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, gives a rousing "sermon" at the 79th General Convention. Photo courtesy of @texasbishop

Greetings, friends, and happy Independence Day!

Federal holiday or not, GC79 marched on today with loads of committee meetings, opening remarks from the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies (among others), and a listening session inspired by the #MeToo movement.

With so much to do, committees can't afford to wait until the convention officially begins tomorrow to start their work. Much of these early meetings are a combination of hearings for resolutions, in which members of the public may share their thoughts in front of the committee, and the work of finalizing and/or amending language to current resolutions. Once committees are satisfied with the wording, they await their turn before the House of Deputies and House of Bishops. Resolutions must pass in both houses, though they may be sent back to committee for more work -- or they may not be passed at all. To be sure, this can be tedious work.

Prayer Book revision was again a hot topic in committee, in person among deputies and onlookers, and online through Facebook and Twitter. Part of what makes revision such a divisive topic is what kind of revision we're all talking about. If the 1979 Book of Common Prayer has run its course, why is that the case? An inevitable part of revision, be it now or later, will be to update certain gendered language to be more inclusive and more expansive. For example, where there are masculine pronouns for God, the update would include simply naming "God" instead of "he" or "him". On p. 355, instead of And blessed be his kingdom...it could more appropriately read And blessed be God's kingdom, now and forever, Amen. However, the question remains, how far does this revision go? When we baptize, we baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit -- this command comes from Christ himself in Matthew's Gospel. Many in the Church, myself included, would be happy to change "him" to "God" but can't imagine completely foregoing the formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It remains to be seen how far this convention's consideration of this type of revision will end up, but at some point, it will have to be dealt with.

 Dad and Lydia look on from the Visitor's section of the House of Deputies.

Dad and Lydia look on from the Visitor's section of the House of Deputies.

There is some talk of editing Rite II to include gender-neutral language while keeping Rite I, the Historical Documents, and the Lord's Prayer intact as is. This could be an interesting compromise, though it would take another three years to become official, and it does kind of feel like a delay of the inevitable. We shall see.

That's not even the whole of it with Prayer Book revision. Deputies and Bishops must also decide if the rite approved in 2015 for same-sex marriage would make the new prayer book (most likely yes). The timing of all of this revision is also up for debate. Among Episcopalians in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, there seems to be quite a bit of concern that the overwhelming majority of folks who would craft the language of the new prayer book will not be the generation(s) actually using it once it is completed in 2030 or later. As one of those younger Episcopalians, I'm inclined to agree. Again, we'll see as convention progresses.

 "Can I vote, please?"

"Can I vote, please?"

The most riveting moment of the day was, without a doubt, The Most Rev. Michael Curry's opening remarks. I'm not sure he kept his promise that it wouldn't be a sermon, but I'm pretty sure none of us minded! As always, Bishop Curry gave an impassioned speech about the hope of Jesus -- that we, as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, have both answered his call and must continue to do so. He made repeated mention of seeing Episcopalians do this good and holy work, be it at the Standing Rock reservation, Puerto Rico, our parishes and towns, or anywhere. It's a movement that keeps going, proclaiming "Nothing can stop the movement of Jesus of Nazareth. If you don't believe me, ask Pontius Pilate! He tried! It didn't work." Later, in her remarks, the Rev. Gay Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, thanked Bishop Curry for his witness, courage, and faithfulness, especially after all the press of the Royal Wedding. I think many of us in the room today were giving thanks for those same qualities of his, too.

Tomorrow (finally) brings the true start of GC79. I'm looking forward to the opening Eucharist and to see what kind of progress is made in more committee work. Until tomorrow, all our love from Texas!

Dennis+

It begins!

 Lydia and Mom coloring at the Episcopal Relief and Development booth. Photo courtesy of @seanmcconnell on Twitter.

Lydia and Mom coloring at the Episcopal Relief and Development booth. Photo courtesy of @seanmcconnell on Twitter.

Greetings from deep in the heart of Texas!

Though General Convention doesn't officially begin until July 5th, you wouldn't know it based on how many folks are already here in Austin. Almost everyone at the handful of hotels in downtown Austin seems to be here for GC79! The business of convention has started with some committee meetings, but votes and official business will start Thursday morning. Until then, deputies, bishops, and visitors are trying to keep cool in the heat (102 today!) with some shopping at the many, many booths of vendors, seminaries, Episcopal Organizations, and ministries.

So far, much of the talk has been of the town of Austin itself (it's wonderful) and folks greeting friends and colleagues from across the Church. Kevin, our bishop-elect, sends his greetings, as do many others. If there was one topic of business on many people's minds, it might be prayer book revision. As you may have read in The Sonlight, this year's convention could vote to begin a process of substantial prayer book revision...or it could not. We'll keep you posted, but if you made me guess right now, I'm not sure it happens this year. I'll try to write with more specifics as convention continues.

Otherwise, all is good here in Austin. We miss you all and we're praying for you. Thank you for your prayers, and do keep the whole Episcopal Church and GC79 in your prayers -- much to do soon!

Yours in Christ,
Dennis+

GC79

Dear friends,

GC seal.png

Every three years, the Episcopal Church gathers for its General Convention -- a two week assembly of Episcopalians from all over the country and the world who conduct the business of the Church, worship together, enjoy fellowship, and much, much more. Each diocese sends lay and ordained deputies to vote on resolutions and serve on committees. My wife, Megan, is one of the clergy deputies for the Diocese of Bethlehem, so Lydia and I are going along for the ride! This year's convention will be held in Austin, TX. It is the seventy-ninth General Convention of the Episcopal Church -- the first one was in 1785 in Philadelphia!

The resolutions passed at General Convention typically have an impact on the wider Church -- they can involve our liturgies, finances, and ministries, among other things. Lots of things happen, but the proceedings are often under-reported for those folks who can't make it in person. Over the last few conventions, Facebook and Twitter have made it much easier to follow along from home, and this year will be no different. The hashtag for the event is #GC79, and it will be widely used over the course of the convention.

Just like in our home diocese of Bethlehem, the business of the Church matters for our parish and every parish. Think of General Convention as a really important Parish Annual Meeting, but it's for the whole Church and it only happens once every three years. It is an exhaustive, and, from what I hear, exhausting, time for the Church. Yet it is one we look forward to every three years as a time to come together as a denominational family to discern where the Holy Spirit may be guiding us for the next three years and further into the future.

To keep us better informed, I will be blogging each day from GC79. I'll try to update you on important votes each day, what the assembly heard from speakers or in worship, and any other interesting goings-on around convention. I welcome your comments and questions, and I'll do all I can to reply.

Look for an update around July 4th!
Grace and peace,

Dennis+