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.
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.
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.