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.
There is some talk of editing Rite II to include gender-neutral language while keeping Rite I, the Historical Documents, and the Lord's Prayer intact as is.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.
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!