Now that the program year has gotten underway, we’ve starting having adult forums again at my parish. My rector asked me to give a wrap-up of the events of General Convention. I did that this morning, and it’s got me thinking again about the major things that happened there. The way that I laid it out, there were six big things that occurred
- Budget: We passed one. $134 million over three years. And for the three main pillars of the Jesus Movement, Evangelism got $5.2 million ($.7 million less than last time), Racial Reconciliation and Justice got $10.4 million (up from $9.5 million), and Creation Care got an even $1 million (up from $650K). At such a time as this, I remain confused/surprised/bewildered that Evangelism receives so little. Sure—there is work going on at the diocesan level as well, but we need a major shot in the arm to wake the Episcopal Church up to help us talk about our faith in meaningful and important ways,and to share best practices for doing so.
- The Return of Cuba: Cuba is back as a diocese of the Episcopal Church. This is a good thing. In making this move we have rolled back a unilateral move by the House of Bishops that, while understandable perhaps at the time, was a clear violation of our polity.
- The intersection of General Convention and the #MeToo Movement: We finally began to make some steps to address some of the glaring gender problems in our church. But we have to make sure they keep going. This is a very personal issue for me. I have seen the ways that my wife has been treated by the church. Far too many times I’ve had to say, “That would never happen if you were a guy.” In terms of clergy, women assistants/associates are at a major power disadvantage with regard to both their rectors and their congregations which increased the potential and possibility for bad things to happen from either side. In terms of laity, because of the greater number of women lay workers than men the inequities around clergy/lay compensation and benefits disproportionately impact women. We really can’t attempt to speak a prophetic word about economic justice to others if we can’t get our own house in order. Resolutions and covenants and task-forces are a start, but are only a start unless they keep going forward.
- Compensation for the President of the House of Deputies: This is one of the tricky technical issues that, while important, is difficult to easily convey to people in the pews. This fight is about the nature of the relationship between the House of Deputies and Bishops and the structures of authority that we have. How can we be both democratic and episcopal? What does authority at the top of our church actually look like? Convention gave a relatively nuanced answer by funding the position but not granting it salary or benefits. I think this is a good move because it emphasizes that we are episcopal in governance yet we still recognize that our non-episcopal leaders have more than just a volunteer role and deserve to be compensated for their effort and labor.
- Marriage Equality: The original resolution that added the same-sex blessing materials into the prayer book and removed the need for the bishop’s permission was a hand grenade. I personally want to see these materials widely available but I also want to keep parishes and dioceses within the church that struggle with the issue. The negotiated settlement of B012 is not perfect, but at least—so far—has been able to accomplish these two aims in a way that the original resolution could not have done. I’m not even going to try to crystal-ball this one and predict how this decision will shake out through the rest of this triennium…
- Liturgical Stuff: In my presentation, I deliberately put the liturgical stuff last because I knew that if I led with it, I’d never get to any other to other stuff, my own interests and proclivities being what they are… I called out three major things here: 1) the trial use inclusive language editions of Rite II Prayers A, B, and D, 2) the shift to TFLPBR for prayer book innovation, and 3) the sanctoral calendar.
The net effect of pulling this presentation together was to make me mad all over again about what was done to the sanctoral calendar.
The final action in the House of Bishops made a thorough and complete hash of the issue. The state of the calendar is truly a mess, so much so that I can’t keep writing about it here—it requires its own separate post.