There are lots of things that can be said of General Convention - that it is part county fair, part family reunion and part House of Representatives. That it is the largest bi-cameral legislative body in the world - with 120 or so bishops in one house and 800 deputies (half clergy and half lay) in the other. There are about 7,000 of us in all - with alternates, delegates to the Women's Triennial, visitors, exhibitors, spouses and partners, staff volunteers and international guests - filling up two hotels which flank the Convention Center located two blocks from Disneyland. Our youth delegation arrived this afternoon, which by my count adds up to nearly 50 people here from the Diocese of Newark.
I continue to be grateful, and humbled, to be among leaders in our diocese who -- through their commitment, wisdom, skill - and sheer doggedness, have shaped the mission and trajectory of the Episcopal Church. It is an amazing crew of people.
There is a lot going on. Keeping track of it all is more than one person can do. So we have been meeting during the few moments when the schedule allows; to share what we are seeing and hearing - and to help each other better understand the details and dynamics of legislation, information sessions and public narrative (more on that in a subsequent posting).
So far, the temperature seems to have cooled down on the hot-button issue of sexuality. At committee hearings - and at one very large open forum, most of those who have testified have been supportive of same-gender blessings and display an openness to gay and lesbian clergy serving in the episcopate. No votes have been taken yet in either house, but this all feels very different from 2000, my first convention, when resistance to full inclusion was angry, if not hostile.
So far, after two days of Convention, there seems to be more concern about money or, more accurately, the lack of it. There are wonderful proposals for various ministries, but fewer funds to support them. Yesterday, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, made a very compelling presentation on the crisis in the global economy. In fact, he argued that our crisis is not economic, but is rather a crisis of truthfulness. He made the rather bold assertion that we have been lying to each other in several destructive ways:
- that truth telling has broken down in our financial world to the degree that we have increasingly tolerated anti-relational practices;
- that we have lied to ourselves about limitless growth in a limited world;
- that we have lied to ourselves about our relation to each other as human beings.
He challenged us to engage in truth telling, which is a practice and a gift that the church can offer the world. And he challenged us to lead - not from a model of economics, but a model of trust.
There is a lot to ponder and pray about - which will be important as we prepare to make some significant decisions for what it means to be the church.