Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We're off!!

The first couple of days have been at lightspeed! I've been to many General Conventions, but never one so ready to roll!! There is a sense of urgency here that is new. Perhaps there are many perceptions about why that is so, but my sense is that there is an urgency to move on beyond the divisions that have plagued us in the last few years.

What a joy to see the deputies from the new "continuing" dioceses of Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy -- rejoicing in their newfound voices within the Episcopal Church. Young people -- tons of them -- here as deputies and volunteers, eager to BE the Church God is calling us to be, a fully inclusive and open church, one focused on mission to the world, instead of dwelling on internal struggles.

Legislation is being front-loaded in a way I've never seen. Having experienced recent conventions where legislation gets bogged down, sometimes never reaching the floor for action, I sense an urgency in our legislative committees to get the important things discussed, heard in open hearings, perfected, and to the floor for action. Meetings of Committees are beginning at 7am; strategizing meetings often as early as 6:00! People are here to WORK, not play. To quote a favorite president of mine, "the urgency of NOW!"

For me, the time has already been exhausting. No time to rest, or even eat. It's hard for me to move from one place to another because of being stopped by countless numbers of people who want to say hello, tell me they have been praying for me, and to wish me well. More humbling still are the many people (surprisingly many, and usually young people) who want to tell me that my election is the reason they're in The Episcopal Church, or more usually, why they've returned to the Church, after year of being disillusioned with the institutional church. Wonderful, but exhausting too. Many seem so very grateful for the witness of New Hampshire to the wider Church. It is often easy to forget what our life and ministry and witness mean to the greater Body of Christ -- and it is a humbling expression of support for all of us in New Hampshire.

Today I will be testifying in favor of resolution B012, put forward by those bishops who live in dioceses where marriage equality is already a reality, asking the General Convention for a certain generosity and flexibility with the marriage rites in our pastoral care of gay or lesbian couples who want their unions legalized and sanctified by their Church. Some will argue that this is an end run around Prayer Book revision, but actually it is seeking an open and honest way of offering pastoral care to ALL our members. With the introduction of marriage equality, our priests are being forced to discriminate against certain people in their congregations, offering the sacrament of marriage to some, but not to all. This resolution would permit us, for the next three years, to experience the equal treatment of all our parishioners, and then report on that experience to the next General Convention, in preparation for the marriage equality that is destined for all of us. You'd have to be crazy to think this is a slam dunk -- but it may be possible.

More than usual, there are not enough dollars available to do all that we would like to do, for ourselves and for the world. Our own Judith Esmay serves on Program, Budget and Finance, who is charged with presenting a balanced budget, choosing among many worthy priorities and funding those that seem essential for the life and ministry of The Episcopal Church -- a daunting task indeed.

Our deputation is doing well. Somehow, seeing a familiar and trusted face among the thousands of people is an unexpected and delightful oasis of joy. We have a terrific deputation, and we should all feel grateful to them for this sacrifice of time and energy on our behalf.

Please keep all of us in your prayers as we seek to do God's will in this place. It is inspiring to see so many gathered, commmitted to God and to our beloved Church. Know that we keep YOU in our minds as we deliberate and vote, always with great affection and love. Oh, and did I mention, PRAY FOR US!!