Wednesday, July 23, 2003I had great difficulty getting yesterdays observations posted due to a viral attack on my computer. Dont worry, you cant get a virus by reading this. My web server is state-of-the art, and fully protected. My computer is what got hit (eight times!), but it is now working again. I got yesterdays post posted at 2:30 a.m. Central Time. Whew! I missed my committee meeting this morning, as I had to have an extra couple of hours of sleep. Checked my email and found quite a few notes from home some from people I dont even know. God bless you all, and thank you for your prayers. We are sore in need! At breakfast this morning, I ran into two of our ECW delegates, Frances Tovey and Martha Horne. Took their picture and immediately hit the delete button by accident Im just not a morning person! As I got to the Convention hall, I saw Frances again, and got her picture along with two of our other delegates, Margie Williams and Farabee Ruffalo.
The First Day of General Convention
This evening, I saw Frances and Martha again, and got another shot at it Here you go:
And as long as were just doing general pictures, heres the pride of St. Michaels, Charleston:
I went to the opening Eucharist at 9:30 this morning. As I mentioned a few days ago, the Convention Center is huge. It covers two city blocks. I wasnt exactly sure where the worship was going to be, so I followed some people and wound up in another convention! Sponge Bob is not exactly what I was looking for
I did find the right place to be, and I estimate we had about 1100 people there. The altar area, as you can see below, is quite impressive. There is a huge projection screen behind the altar, onto which they project various images each day. Todays images were traditional art and quite beautiful.
There was a brass orchestra and the choir from the cathedral of Minneapolis.
So far so good.From here, it went well it went off in a direction that discouraged me. We were assigned seats at round tables (like the ones we use to eat from at parish functions). We used a liturgy which was intended to be inclusive and enriching, and wound up being neither for me. The word "Lord" was expunged from usage by the Celebrant, as was any reference to a Kingdom, and as were any masculine pronoun. The Presiding Bishop was the Celebrant, and he began with the words, "Blessed be the one holy and living God." To which we replied, "Glory be to God for ever and ever." This was to replace, "Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost [Or Holy Spirit]). To which our response is, "And blessed be His Kingdom, now and forever." See the difference? Next, we sang a song no one knew. After that the Bishop said, "God be with you." To which we replied, "And also with you." After that, a six-year old girl offered the first reading. She labored through her task, missing a few words here and there, going back and correcting herself from time to time. The Gospel followed, and was read slowly and deliberately v-e-r-y slowly and deliberately. The reader began with these words "The Holy Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, according to Matthew." Whats been changed there? After the sermon by the PB, we were asked to spend a few minutes in discussion at our tables. At my table were delegates from Maine, Northern Michigan, Southern Virginia, Los Angeles, North Dakota and New York. Two delegates at my table had "Ask me about Gene [Robinson]" buttons. In our discussions, the bishop at our table said he can tolerate just about anyone except those who are intolerant. How did I feel? Very marginalized. The service continued to get even more interesting. There was no confession, either in the prayers of the people or following. During the prayer of consecration, the Presiding Bishop would alternate languages part of the words were said in English, part were said in Spanish. You never knew what was going to come next. The prayer of consecration, read, in part, as follows: "You gave the world into our care but we failed to honor your image in one another and in ourselves. We would not see your goodness in the world around us and so we violated your creation, abused one another and rejected your love. Yet you never ceased to care for us and prepared the way of salvation for all." Hmmm. Heres some of the words to one of the songs we were supposed to sing during Communion: Se-ka I- no to mo to te o tsu-na-gi, Jyu-ji-ka no motto ni ta tsu- re ra. Heres the first line to another song we sang: Pe-lo tsa rona, di tha bi-le ka o fe-la. Haleluya! (I figured out that last word.) Heres one more in that actually was sung in English Theres the third verse of this particular hymn: "We all behold one vision, a stark reality;
the steward of salvation was nailed upon a tree.
Yet resurrected Justice gives rise that we may share
free reconciliation and hope amid despair." Words mean things. The "steward" of salvation? Huh?
The prayer after the Eucharist said: Loving God,
We give you thanks for restoring us in your image and nourishing us with spiritual food in the sacrament of Christs Body and Blood. Now send us forth a people, forgiven, healed, renewed; that we may proclaim your love to the world and continue in the risen life of Christ Our Savior. Amen. And the blessing at the end was over the top. I quote: May the blessing of the God of Abraham and Sarah, and of Jesus Christ born of our sister Mary, and of the Holy Spirit who broods over the world as a mother over her children, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen. I quote from the handout accompanying todays liturgy: "The liturgies that mark these days seek to embrace the richness of our heritage as they explore the directions in which the Holy Spirit is calling the church to move in the future." I have one question Sez Who?!
George Werner, the president of the House of Deputies gaveled us into session at 11:00. We basically got our house in order for the first hour, making appointments, confirming others, etc. President Werner thanked Jim Simons of Pittsburgh and his crew for the excellent work they did yesterday at the afternoon orientation. Simons did an excellent job. The orientation was full of humor, yet packed with vital information. It was the best Ive seen in my three times here.
We paused for noonday prayers. Our chaplain, the Rev. Brian Prior from Spokane, presented a truly post-modern noonday worship.
We began with a powerpoint presentation of pictures (mostly interesting-looking people) accompanied by a weird recorded rock song. Very Weird. I couldnt pick out all the words, but this is some of the stream of consciousness in the song: "Each of us has a name given by the stars, given by thy neighbor, given by our enemies, given by the sea " Huh?From there we went to prayers prayed by three different people, rotating around. We sang a brief Taze-style song, accompanied by guitar and a hand-held harp, being played with a bow. When the three were done, the chaplain offered prayers over the music of the guitar. After the music ended, he gave a brief homily entitled, "Welcome to Camp General Convention." We sang another simple Taze-styled song, and again he prayed during the instrumental parts. After a final prayer, we resumed the day. I was struck at the difference between this style and what we have previously had for noon-day worship. Previously, noon-day meditations were only spoken. They were talks on some subject might have been Biblical, might have not. But the presentation was always completely rational and logical totally modern in approach. Todays presentation had a whole nother feel. Post-Modern. And it was good. Well, with the exception of that horrible song, it was good! Brian is probably in his late 20s, guessing by looks. The folks who put together that morning Eucharist could take some lessons from Brian. This is strictly my opinion, but to me, this noonday worship looks a lot more like the future than the baby boomer angst liturgy that I witnessed earlier in the morning. We broke for lunch, went over to the AAC luncheon. In the morning opening Eucharist we sang nothing recognizable, and some things which bordered on unsingable. At the ACC lunch, we sang "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling." The voices of the 200 people there, singing in 4-part harmony, brought a tear to the eye.
Doug McGlynn, Rector of Ascension, Pittsburgh, gave a beautiful reflection based on the word "attitude." As Father McGlynn reminded us, it is a sailing term, and literally means to set the sail for the prevailing wind. We must set out sails for the Holy Spirit to direct us and take us where He wants us to be. John Guernsey (Virginia) gave the general news report, and Martyn Mimms (Truro Church) gave us what he called the official AAC "spin." These AAC lunches are so incredibly wonderful. They lift the spirit at just the right time where it needs lifting.
After lunch my Committee (Ministry) held a hearing on Title II proposed canons.
One of the changes in canon calls for what is being termed "Direct Ordination." People coming out of seminary and planning to be priests are first ordained as deacons. This is done to remind us that we are always servants (deaconi) first. God may have other orders planned for us, but we are all deacons. We who will eventually be ordained to the priesthood are euphemistically called "transitional deacons." If this modification passes, the Episcopal church will do away with this historical process, and ordain all deacons as permanent deacons, and all priests as priests. Quite frankly, I think we will be giving up a bit too much of our tradition by doing this. I AM a deacon, and I always will be. I believe every priest and every bishop should also be a deacon first.It appears that the Ministry Committee (of which I am a member) is almost completely in favor of direct ordination. I suspect it will become a resolution later this week. I hope cooler heads will prevail when it gets out onto the floor. After the hearing, we went directly into the afternoon session of the house. All morning we dealt with housekeeping orders. In this afternoon session we heard from the Mayor of Minneapolis, a life-long Episcopalian, who welcomed us to his fair city.
We approved the elections for Bishop of New Jersey and Nebraska and we voted for a few very minor items. As we will have considered around 700 resolutions before this is all over, Im not going to try and list everything we vote for. I will report on all the major issues facing us. If you have a particular question about the status of a resolution dear to your heart and I dont cover it, but all means email me, and I will.
Interesting point of order. In previous conventions we used red and green cards to signify a yes or no vote. We started using cards about five conventions ago to try and do away with loud voices prevailing in a vote. In Denver, we entered into the electronic age with "Digivote" keypads. We only used them in times when recorded votes were necessary. For this convention, we did away with the red and green cards and went to exclusive use of the Digivote. Someone got up and asked if we could go to voice vote in order to speed things up. The President said that sounded reasonable and would rule that we would use voice on the matters not requiring a 2/3 vote. Another delegate got up and reminded the Chair that we originally went to red and green cards because of the confusion inherent in voice votes. The delegate requested we go back to using red and green cards. Round and round and round we go. Cooler heads prevailed. We stuck with the Digivote electronic machines. During the break, I saw another old friend to the diocese, Kempton Baldrige. Back in 1987, Kempton took my place at Redeemer, Orangeburg as the assistant to Bill Snow. Kempton is now connected with the Episcopal Church in Europe. He took a look at me and said, "John, Youre getting some gray hair." Look in the mirror, Kempton!
After the break, one of our delegates came back and informed me that rumors are beginning to fly about our diocese, South Carolina. Word has it that we have already decided to leave the church. Further word says that several congregations in Upper South Carolina (the other SC diocese) are getting ready to petition their Standing Committee to become members of our diocese. Rumor also has it that Texas is resigned to the fact that the church is going to split and they are right now getting on with getting out, because they have too much to loose. I cant speak for Texas. Ill bet I could, but I wont. I can say this with complete confidence. Speaking for SC, let me say unequivocally that we havent even talked about leaving. We couldnt do such a thing anyway! In order for something like that to happen, there would have to be a special convention held in our diocese, with delegates from the parishes and missions. Rumors are nuts! Thanks to our friends over at the San Joquin diocese, I found a truly great article by Kevin Martin that addresses this subject. The article is entitled, "The Day After General Convention." I commend the article to you, and you can read it by clicking here. I do love #9 on his list of ten things to do. I decided to skip supper tonight. As we had nothing mandatory happening tonight, I decided to use the time to get an earlier start on this posting. And since I only got five hours of sleep last night, Im going to turn in a little earlier. Its only 11:55, and after I send this to the website, Im done. Going to bed. Goodnight from Minneapolis, and see you tomorrow!