Archive for June, 2015

Days 4 & 5 at General Convention

I decided to take a sabbath from blog posts on Sunday…the inherent problem there is that now I’ll need to squeeze two days worth of action into this single post! I will attempt to keep it brief. As with all my posts, I would note that I will address only a small portion of the legislative calendar. Please do consider exploring the General Convention website if you would like a detailed accounting of the day’s activity. I have been most impressed with how quickly they are able to give progress updates, and will not duplicate their fine work.

The Sabbath began with a 7 a.m. peace walk against gun violence, which drew several hundred participants to the Salt Palace. I’m grateful that our Bishop took part in this event and encouraged us to take part. Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry was the final speaker, and as usual, he did not disappoint. He knows when to bring it, and on Sunday morning, he brought it.

10 a.m. worship drew almost double the crowd of previous days. We are told that the worship space can hold 5,000, and I would estimate 3,500 in attendance, perhaps closer to 4,000. That’s a lot of Episcopalians in one room! The service was exceptional – from the choir and brass to the wonderful preaching from our Presiding Bishop. I ended up sitting near the back of the space with a seminary classmate who was entertaining his 9 month old daughter, which naturally made me miss Abigail. I also had the chance to see and chat with the dean of Virginia Seminary and am very much looking forward to the seminary reunion on Tuesday evening.

The House of Deputies met for a 4 hour session Sunday afternoon. Several resolutions came to the floor, but much of our time was spent putting the electronic electing system through its paces. Human error threw a few wrenches into the works, causing the House to proceed to other business. A good bit of unexpected debate arose around possible locations for General Convention 2021. Deputies began offering amendments to include some of their “favorite” cities, which opened a can of worms. One comment of substance asked whether dioceses which are not paying their full apportionment to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (The Episcopal Church) should be eligible to host General Convention. In the end, this resolution was wisely referred back to the original committee for further deliberation, but it did allow the House to sample the process around secondary amendments. A quick caucus for Province II, and we were dismissed for the evening.

Amendment

Monday, June 29th, was Day 5. I attended the 7:30 a.m. meeting for Committee #5 on Governance and Structure. One resolution is scheduled for today, paving the way for some of the more contentious resolutions tomorrow and Wednesday. I’m glad to have spent the bulk of my committee time following this one committee rather than jumping from hearing to hearing. I feel that I have a sense of the trajectory and journey this group has walked during their time in Salt Lake, and am grateful for the service they are offering to us. Worship was once again splendid and helped make the 2 hour legislative session feel blessedly brief. During session we finished electing members to several governing bodies.

The 4 hour afternoon session saw matters starting to heat up a bit – a taste of what is yet to come. Resolution D003 proposed an amendment to our constitution to allow for dioceses to merge or otherwise reorganize themselves in the absence of a Bishop. While this may seem a minor tweak, it paves the way for other resolutions Committee #5 (Governance and Structure) will be bringing to the floor. If this had not passed, several resolutions would have required amending before coming to the House of Deputies. For more on this governance debate, I commend an excellent article in today’s Deputy News titled “Promoting Diocesan Collaboration”.

Many resolutions followed (again, I would invite you to explore the GC website for details), but I would highlight Resolution A037 from Committee #20 – the special legislative committee on marriage.  This resolution had already been passed by the House of Bishops; the House of Deputies was being asked to concur. Amendments were presented, but some voiced concern that if we add too many changes, it might not make it through the House of Bishops a second time. I cannot say whether or not this was a valid concern, but I believe the resolution is strong as presented and saw no great benefit in any of the minor amendments suggested. The House voted to concur. At the same time the House of Deputies was debating A037, the House of Bishops was voting to send Resolution A036 to the House of Deputies. Now we’re cooking! This amendment proposes a constitutional change to the marriage canons. Glad it made its way successfully through the House of Bishops, and looking forward to debate in our House.

Well, it turns out this wasn’t so brief. Thanks on behalf of the Rochester deputation for continued prayers.

Blessings and peace,

Chris Streeter. Clergy Deputy

In Honor

rainbow

In Celebration of the Supreme Court’s courageous decision

and in honor of LGBTQ community of the Diocese of Rochester.

Who’s the Celebrant – Who’s the Preacher?

The Daily worship bulletins, available online only, don’t list the Celebrant and Preacher for each service.  Though the list has been published before on this blog … here it is again in a better format:

Thursday, June 25: Opening Eucharist
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside and preach.

Friday, June 26: honoring Isabel Hapgood, women poets and musicians
Presider: Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles
Preacher: the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies

Saturday, June 27: honoring Native American Cornelius Hill;
Presider: Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota
Preacher: The Rev. Cathlena Plummer of Navajoland

Sunday, June 28: United Thank Offering Ingathering
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside and preach.

Monday, June 29: honoring St. Peter and St. Paul
Presider: Bishop Mike Klusmeyer of West Virginia
Preacher: Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America

Tuesday, June 30: honoring James Weldon Johnson
Presider: Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan
Preacher: The Rev. Kimberly Jackson, chaplain and vicar of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center, Emmaus House Chapel, Atlanta

Wednesday, July 1: honoring Hiram Hisanori Kano
Presider: Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah
Preacher: The Rev. Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Thursday, July 2: honoring  Charles Barnes
Presider: Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic
Preacher: The Rev. Colin Mathewson, St Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego (Diocese of San Diego)

Friday, July 3: Closing Eucharist
Presider: Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Preacher: Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop-Elect

Day 3 at General Convention

My Day 3 began with worship, a welcome change from 7:30 am Committee Hearings. It turns out that, for me at least, worship is a better way to start day. Go figure. Once again we were blessed with excellent music and preaching, preparing us for the day’s exciting task of electing and confirming our next Presiding Bishop. I want to say a bit about that process, but will first break the suspense:

ENS_MichaelCurry_1

The Rt. Rev Michael B. Curry, Bishop of North Carolina has been elected as our 27th Presiding Bishop! Bishop Curry will begin his 9 year term on November 1, just a few weeks before joining us as preacher for the Rochester Diocesan Convention at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva (his alma mater).

The process was a bit cumbersome, but I will try to sum up. The Bishops were sequestered in St. Mark’s Cathedral to vote, while the House of Deputies remained in session. A representation from the House of Bishops arrived shortly before 1:00 to alter us that they had indeed elected a Presiding Bishop-Elect. Our role, as House of Deputies, is to consent to this election. This report was passed on to a committee who were charged with reviewing the results of the election and then bringing a recommendation to the House of Deputies. I should mention that, at this point, the results of the election had not been shared with the wider House. President Jennings attempted to recess the House of Deputies for lunch, but was met with jeers from deputies clearly wanting to remain in session until we could officially welcome the new Presiding Bishop. The committee returned with a recommendation to consent, and Bishop Curry, along with his family and North Carolina deputation, were welcomed by the House.

I am thrilled with the results of this process and pray for Bishop Curry as he prepares to lead our Church over the next 9 years. On a logistical level, I think this process highlighted the need to adapt technologies and methods to streamline. The fact that several thousand deputies, alternates and visitors had to wait while a group physically delivered a report from across town seemed a bit dated. I understand the need for due process, but suspect the election of the 28th Presiding Bishop will be altered slightly.

Naturally, the late afternoon session paled in comparison. Several resolutions were presented, including a resolution aimed at addressing alcoholism and addiction with those entering the discernment process leading to Holy Orders.

Paul and I spent the evening attending the Program, Budget and Finance meeting. This was the most well organized of the committee hearings I have attended, and I thank the committee for keeping conversation focused. Over $12 million of unfunded requests were made, some for $30,000, some for $3 million. I do not envy the committee’s task of wading through all these requests. My prayers are with them over the next few days – I look forward to reading their final report and recommendations. I anticipate this report will be the cause of much discussion and debate on the floor of the House of Deputies.

OK, off to get ready for an early morning peace march – thanks to Bishop Singh for altering us and inviting us to participate. I’m grateful to my wonderful wife, Jenny, for preaching at Incarnation this morning so that I can be here. I still not sure why she said “yes” (to my marriage proposal, that is) but I’m sure glad she did.

Blessings and peace,

Chris Streeter, Clergy Deputy

General Convention Musings – Brad Benson

It is Day Three of Convention and just about every minute, I am in awe of the power of this gathering. This morning we were greeted at morning Eucharist with the majestic sound of a Native American drum circle. Each day’s worship takes on a different flavor. Yesterday was jazz.  We honored the feast day of an Oneida chief from New York State (!) who became a priest and went on to lead his people in a struggle for justice.

The diversity of this body is amazing and I am relishing looking at everyone’s faces.  It reminds me that our Church is so widespread.  Worship has been in English, Spanish and Italian so far.  This, in turn, reminds me of the breadth of God’s creation and I am humbled beyond measure.

While I am here to represent a diocese, right now, the experience of this all is very personal. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision transformed my life(!!).  For a few years now I have rejoiced to be able to say, “This is my husband Carl.”  Unless you have walked in my shoes, you have no idea how liberating it is to have your marriage viewed as “normal”.  And now, that joy can spread to literally millions of others.  Never in my life have I cried so many tears of joy. Praise God.

Justice and expanding the tent are definitely two themes of convention, either deliberately or by its nature. I rejoice that my Church is engaged boldly in these two directions.

The other thought I have this morning is informed by an article that I read by a famous travel guide author. He summed up many of our tribulations in the admonishment that WE should get out more.  Convention is a reinforcement of that for me.  We really do need to GET OUT MORE and mix it up with others.  That goes for the local level as well. Listen and learn and love others around you, even if they are from another country, state, county or neighborhood.  There we will see God.

I wish everyone could be here.  The convention center is big, but not that big!  I have already made mental plans for how I will bring some of this immensely moving spirit that I’m feeling here back to the pews of my parish. More comments to come.

As a native American flutist filled the huge worship space with his lilting tone, the bishops of the Church left en masse to go to the local cathedral and vote on the next Presiding Bishop.  I wish our bishop had asked our opinion of the candidates, but I’ll assume he has been studying them far more closely than I.  I will trust that the Spirit will lead to the best choice–as it certainly was with Katherine.  I’m excited for the future.  Amen and amen.

The Rev. J. Brad Benson
Rector, St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church
Bath NY USA

Day 2 of General Convention

As it is after midnight, I anticipate that my Friday reflections will be (mercifully) shortly than previous entries. My Friday began with a 7:30 am Governance and Structure committee meeting reviewing the previous night’s hearing. Members were pleased with the turnout and noted the diversity of opinions voiced. Some voiced interest in what the afternoon’s joint discussion on structure would yield.

Worship today was led musically by the Theodicy Jazz Collective. What a treat! For those interested, worship bulletins from all 9 days of General Convention are available for viewing here.

Next we entered into a joint session of the Houses of Deputies and Bishops to formally nominate candidates for Presiding Bishop and discuss the structure of our Church. Structure conversations were conducted in small groups around the areas of General Convention, Executive Council, Provinces and Dioceses. I volunteered to serve of clerk of our group and sent a summary of our discussion to our leadership. We are told they will collate and redistribute within the next few days.

After a quick lunch, it was back to legislative committee, where the group discussed the solutions harvested from the joint session.  A second legislative session followed at 4:30, where we debated several motions including a proposed “Donor Bill of Rights” for those who contribute financial resources to the mission and ministry of the Church.

After a long day of legislation, I was grateful to spend dinner with Paul at a Mexican restaurant I had heard of through several online sources.

Red Iguana

Those who know me know that I like good food. This was hands down the best Mexican food I have ever tasted. There were several fantastic Mexican restaurants in Arlington and DC that I enjoyed during my seminary days, but none can hold a candle to the Red Iguana. Please, if you are ever in Salt Lake City, do yourself and your taste buds a favor and eat here!

After one of the most fantastic meals of my life, we headed back to our hotel to enjoy time with our Rochester Deputation. Bishop Singh organized a festive evening to celebrate today’s ruling of the Supreme Court. It was a humbling privilege to sit with many who have prayed for this day, uncertain that they would see it in their lifetime. My children will now grow up in a world where the dignity and freedom of every human being is the established law of the land. What a day.

Tomorrow the House of Deputies will wait in anticipation to consent to the Election of the Presiding Bishop. Keep the House of Bishops in your prayers as they discern who will lead our Church for the next 9 years.

Blessings and peace,

Chris Streeter, Clergy Deputy

Friday (I think…)

It’s hard to remember what day it is because General Convention has a rhythm all of itself. I notice that while there are still a number of quite well-dressed deputies (seer sucker suits, pastel dress pants, bow ties, and pocket squares are de rigueur for the sharply dressed male deputy), there seem to be more jeans, shorts, and t-shirts today. I’m grateful, frankly. General Convention is rough on your feet and I gave up on dress shoes this morning in favor of cross trainers. General Convention is also rough on your rear end, but I haven’t come up with a solution for that.

Today started for me at 7:30 am with the Congregational Vitality committee. After feeling like things were a bit chaotic and disorganized for the last two days, today the committee really got down to business.   Buoyed by some good news regarding funding from the Program, Budget & Finance committee (which is responsible for the budget), they passed A086, which creates a network for Latino-Hispanic Congregational Development with $1.5 million, D009, which creates a new staff position and resources for congregational development with $700,000, and A015, which supports an existing plan for helping Province IX move towards sustainability. The resolutions that include money have to also go through Program, Budget, & Finance (PB & F), so I’ll be watching their agenda and may get to check out that committee. The discussion was interesting. There are no ‘promises’ from PB & F, so there is some strategy involved in deciding how much to ask for, and worries that if they fund one of the congregational vitality initiatives it may mean less money for another congregational vitality initiative.

In the middle of the hearing, there was a roar from the committee next door. It turned out that this was not a celebration of the addition of an especially exciting saint to the liturgical calendar. Rather, the Supreme Court decision on marriage had been announced. About an hour later as the entire convention gathered for worship, there was celebration in the air. I have to say that twenty-five years ago I could never have imagined our country or our church getting to this day. Children born today will always have lived in a country where equal marriage is the law. I honestly cannot begin to imagine how this may shape their lives, or, in fact, the common life of our country in the years to come.

Worship was uplifting, with music from a spectacular jazz band, a great sermon from the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, all presided over by Bishop Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles.

Following worship, there was a joint session of deputies and bishops. We heard a brief address from the archbishop of Brazil on the occasion of that church’s 125th anniversary. The Joint Nominating Committee for the Presiding Bishop formally nominated the four candidates for presiding bishop. The rest of the session was an extended table conversation about church structure. Each group was asked to reflect on how various structures of the church help parishes do mission (the General Convention, Executive Council and Church Center staff, Provinces, and Dioceses). If you saw cryptic tweets on my Facebook page, they were my attempt to report back from our table conversation to the legislative Committee on Governance and Structure (this General Convention is trying very hard to be as up-to-date, tech-wise, as possible). In looking at tweets hashtagged #gcgas, it’s clear that there is a WIDE diversity of views on the value of all the current structures of our church.  I don’t know what I think this means for re-structuring efforts.

At 1 pm, I had lunch with our deputation (finally!), which was great, thanks to Kristy Estey. Congregational Vitality met once again at 2:15. They discussed D005 (the reach- for-the-moon church planting resolution I’ve referred to earlier). Ultimately there were still too many details to iron out for the resolution to be reported out. After determining that the deputies and bishops had not worked out their differences on A012 and A085, the committee adjourned until this evening.

The early adjournment of the committee let me get out of the Salt Palace for a bit. The facilities are certainly top-notch; however, there are only so many hours that one can spend in large, relatively dark, windowless, aggressively air-conditioned rooms, so it was a treat to walk around downtown Salt Lake City for a little bit. It has been in the mid to high 90’s here all week, but it hasn’t felt too oppressive. Salt Lake City seems to be built on a very flat basin, nested between mountain ranges, which you can see rising from what seems just blocks away. The streets downtown are all very wide, and I understand from a deputy from Utah that the city was designed this way because Brigham Young (the early Mormon leader) wanted to ensure that an oxen cart could make a U-turn on any downtown street.

I’m now observing the afternoon legislative session of the House of Deputies. The new rules of order passed yesterday allow legislation from committees to be placed on a consent calendar, which means they are all passed at one time – a real gift to a deliberative body of 840 members. Dozens of uncontroversial pieces of legislation can be dealt with a single vote. Committees can ask that their resolutions be taken off the consent calendar for individual consideration; resolutions may also be taken off the consent calendar by petition of three deputies. Today’s consent calendar passed with no objection. Many of the rest of the resolutions have passed without debate. One resolution, proposing a “Donor Bill of Rights,” modeled on similar ‘bills of rights’ to other non-profits resulted in relatively extensive debate and several proposed amendments. Questions about the theology of stewardship represented by such a ‘bill of rights’ ultimately resulted in its defeat.

An odd operating procedure of the House of Deputies: a resolution can be reported by committees to the house with the recommendation that it be rejected. This means the House still has to debate and vote on a resolution that the committee thinks is a bad idea. It’s an odd system, especially in a House that meets for only nine days every three years where time is at a premium.

Most of the resolutions coming before the House today are the easier, less controversial issues. I’m sure debate will heat up in the days to come. Evening plans are still in flux, so I’ll update tomorrow. My parish, my friends in Rochester, my cats, my house, my family are on my heart and mind this evening: it has been a very, very long week.