Day 3 of General Convention
August 1, 3003
6:00 am - I chose to do the radio this morning instead of the Beep!! Beep! Beep!! that moved me to to near coronary implications yesterday. Oh, this is too early! I am not a morning person. Especially on so little sleep from the day before!
I am on the Ministry Committee, and we are holding a hearing/meeting at 7:00 this morning. This hearing/meeting is scheduled to occur at the same time that the hearing on Canon Robinson consecration. Is going on. This is nuts. I want to hear Canon Robinsons defenders and objectors. Bishop Salmon will be speaking in objection to the consecration at this hearing.
As I enter the hotel where the hearings are, The crowds are huge!
The are using the largest room available for the Robinson hearing. Outside the door to the room the lines wanting to get in wrap around they are so long. Outside the hotel the medias satellite trucks are beaming this event worldwide. I was able to get into the doorway of the room to get a few pictures of the crowd. There must be 500 people here. Or more.
I dutifully go upstairs to the 5th floor where my Committee will hold obligatory hearings on stuff people arent even concerned about. Mercy! This is how many we had upstairs:
In the old pop song Party Lights by Claudette Clark (1962), Claudettes complaint was that theres a party going on across the street and her mama wont let her "make the scene." That about sizes it up for me this morning. Up here, Im listening to a handful of people speaking in favor of minor resolutions that are about 100% guaranteed to pass. Five floors down, theyre sardined in, listening to debate on an issue that will shatter our church if it happens. What am I doing here? The folks next to me started joking about the small crowd at our hearing. Someone said "This is the people who couldnt get in downstairs "
After the hearing, we debated and debated and debated our way, word by word and line by line, through a section of a minor resolution. This was tedious to say the least. Even the chairperson got tired of it. After going over one line in about ten different varieties, the chair of our committee said, "Can we just put in something that makes sense and move on with this section?"
After it was all over, I went back downstairs. It was all over down there too. Nuts! I spoke with someone I knew who was at the hearing. He said it went well for the orthodox side, for the most part.
I got a report that said Bishop Salmon was quite eloquent in his remarks. I understand that before Bishop Salmon spoke, Jim Bradbury a deputy from Connecticut spoke in favor Of Canon Robinsons consecration. In his speech, Bradbury said that we didnt need to consider what Canterbury thought in this manner. He said, "Canterbury is irrelevant."
Bishop Salmon spoke to that. He said, "Ive never in my life believed that anyone is irrelevant." Ho!
After the meeting, I went to worship with the Forward in Faith folks at Westminster Presbyterian. Outside the church building in the grass between the sidewalk and the building was another little rabbit! Amazing. As he hopped around, I got his picture.
I also got pictures of the inside of this beautiful building. As you enter off the street there is a long formal hall. Off one side is the main worship area (I didnt go there) and down the hall is the chapel where we worship daily. (I say "we," because Im done with the daily worship at the Convention, thank you very much.)
The chapel is an absolutely beautiful stone chapel with English stain glass and elaborately carved wood everywhere. Its a feast for the eyes. The Altar is a full altar up against the wall, and there is a pipe organ in the transept. Ive never seen a Presbyterian church that looked this Episcopalian!
Robert Munday, the Dean of Nashotah House Seminary was the celebrant and preacher this morning. On the occasion of the lesser feast of Joseph of Aramathea, Dean Munday contasted the diciples (who fled after the crucifixion) to Joseph, who went to Pilate and asked for the Christs body for burial. Joseph, who had been a member of the ruling council., was willing to loose it all for the sake of our Lord.
12:30 Got a cell call from another Munday Dave Munday of the Charleston Post & Courier. The P&C has paid for Dave to fly up to Minneapolis to cover this Convention. Thats not been done in recent history, but then again, this is not like any Convention weve ever had in history. Dave wants to interview me this evening before he (and I) head over to the Hyatt for the Kendall/Candler debate. Mercy.
1 Peter 3:15 came to mind. Lord, let me speak the truth, and let me speak it in love and with compassion.
Convention opened for the day at 2:30 p.m. On the way over, a huge dark cloud hung over the Convention Center. Hmmmm.
After the housekeeping we began in earnest on many resolutions.
Resolution A019 urged continued focus on the AIDS crisis worldwide. The resolution, in part, spoke of the "quiet voices" of AIDS in our church, in our nation and in the world. The last three words (in the world) were added by the committee. Kendall got up and thanked the committee for adding the words, In the world. He reminded the House that "Our God is a global God.." It was just a little reminder for those who look no farther than our Episcopal Church when it comes to some issues like Canon Robinson.
A014 was offered for our consideration. This is a resolution that would tell Congress (the other United States political body) that we approve of stem cell research using embryos remaining after invitro fertilization. Six straight speakers got up and spoke eloquently for the amendment. Even the youth presence got up and spoke "firmly in favor of this resolution." The teens argument was that they are going to be disposed of anyway, so whats the big deal? Let em be put to good use.
Our Jennie Olbrych spoke to this. Jennie spoke in opposition. Jennie said one of the central principles of Judeo-Christian ethics is that the ends can never justify the means. She said, "I can not vote in favor of this motion because it urges our government to press for research using embryonic stem cells created for life to be used for a different end. It would place the good of research above the good of life. It creates the temptation of seeing a child as something which we humans create or purchase, rather than as the gift of the author of life."
Jennie said a lot more and all of it was beautifully crafted and delivered. In the end, we lost. Wasnt even close, but it was worth the effort anyway.
We paused for a special order at 5:15 to honor the life of John Cannon, a long time director of the Church Pension Fund.
Interesting development on C029, a rather innocuous resolution directing all official documents be published in both English and Spanish. A delegate from Haiti Someone spoke on behalf of the French-speaking Haitians in reference to communications being translated into Spanish. The Representative from Haiti got up and spoke in French, to show that there are people who speak other languages than Spanish, and demanded that the words "and French" be added to the mix. .
I wonder and Im not being factious here I wonder if we shouldnt add Asian languages, as well? If the point is to be inclusive (and that is always the point) why stop at French?
We spent a good 30 minutes trying to figure out how to do this. Finally it passed. We will have Spanish and French in all official publications. And English, if anyone needs it.
After the afternoon legislative session, I met with Dave Munday. He was gracious, pleasant, and a joy to be with. And yes, Ill still say that, even if I dont like what he writes about me in the morning! I told him that as Christians, we werent about winning and losing. I told him I love everyone and welcome anyone. I told him that to approve Canon Robinson as a bishop would shatter this church. I told him I had no idea what the future held. In short, I told him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I pray that I proclaimed my Lords love in the process.
Mark Goodman arrived! Mark is our Clergy first alternate. I plan to let him sit in for me from time to time, and others will probably use him as well to take a break. I tell you, we all need a break! This is an exhausting schedule! Especially when one has mononucleosis. (Yes, I have it at age 51! and Ive been trying to ignore it. Pray for me.)
The whole day has been leading up to tonight. Tonight we have the hearing on D005, C022, and C051. These three resolutions all pretty much say the same thing that the Church should authorize the Liturgy Committee to come up with rites to bless faithful committed relationships outside of marriage. And place that liturgy in our Book of Occasional Services. This is the other biggie, Gene Robinson being the biggest.
Tonight, Sam Candler will debate Kendall harmon in front of what promises to be an SRO crowd with worldwide participation via satellite.
Lydia and Jennie saved me a seat in the hotel room where were meetting, It filled up quickly. This is a picture of the room at 7:05.
Below is the same basic area ten minutes later. The place was packed.
The press were here in full force. Lydia and Jennie got us the best seats in the house. Right on the same row as the microphones placed for the public to speak.
I ran into Olin Camp and the SC Youth Presence!
Here's one of Olin and Dave Wright, our Diocesan Youth Coordinator:
I sat next to a beautiful woman, Mrs. Laura Allen, who was practicing what she was going to say tonight. She told me she was going to talk about her son, who died from AIDS. She let me read her speech. I cried. I literally wept. She allowed me to copy her speech into my handheld while we waited. Her speech can be found about a page or so below, in the context in which it was delivered.
Frank Wade, head of the Liturgy Committee, chaired the meeting. Frank asked that us to make sure that what you say is an improvement on silence. Listen to one another. No demonstrations, no applause.
Sam Candler speaks in favor of the blessings of relationships outside of marriage.
Kendall Harmon speaks against. (Isnt it interesting how orthodoxy is cast on the negative side the Against side?)
They will each speak for 15 minutes. Then it gets opened up for this large crowd to speak.
Sam Candler spoke. Candler gave a very well-crafted talk. Slick. It was full of Scripture, and he even quoted Jesus saying, "Fear not. Dont be afraid." I sort of got the sense that as he was preparing this talk he wanted to prove that his side could quote scripture too. He did. Someday - I believe on the last day - hes going have to answer for the way he used the Bible tonight. Candlers main point was that hed changed his mind. He used to think of the argument in terms of nature. (As in, its not natural) Now he thinks in terms of commitment, and the church should be all about commitment.
In the gospel according to Candler, God is interested in life-long relationships. The Church blesses faithfulness, and draws us to a new creation in it. In that new creation, grace overcomes what we think we know by nature.
He also said there were only 4 texts in the Bible that spoke to the issue of homosexuality, and none of them spoke to the kind of relationship he was recommending here.
Again, I need to say that he made a very good presentation of a well-crafted highly honed speech. I do have to give him that. Hed done the work ahead of time.
Kendall Harmon began with humor, and then went right to it. He said this isnt a debate about who is included. Christ includes all, he said, this isnt a debate about pastoral care. The church welcomes all.
Kendall drew a distinction between orientation and action. The Bibles positive teaching is the gift of monogamy between a man and a woman. Complementary.
Kendall said a major area of disagreement with Sam Candler was over Scripture. Kendall said, "This is not just about four verses in the Bible." There is an enormous amount of testimony. Its not just four verses, its the whole of Scripture. Kendall said, but even if it were just four verses, that still wouldnt excuse us. Just because not much is said about something is never a valid argument after all, not much is said in the Bible about incest. But we all know what the Bible thinks on the subject.
Kendall said theres no set answer from the "pro side" as to why were attempting to do this blessing. Some say that marriage needs to be shifted others say there need to be a new category like marriage but not marriage. And a whole different third says, Lets just bless it and see what God does. Kendall reminded everyone that not everyone who wants fidelity wants exclusivity. We arent talking about monogamy here. He said, "Im in a church thats about to bless relationships and we dont know what they are!"
He gave a great analogy of a married couple. The husband is carrying on an emotional relationship with another woman, and the wife has letters, cards, etc. to prove it. The woman says to her husband, "If you consummate this affair you will shatter our marriage." In reply the husband could say, "If you choose to leave over my action then it will have been you who shatter it." The husband could say, "Lets just stay here and keep having meals together and eventually you may change your mind." But either way, the husband is the one at fault. Thats a great analogy for the Episcopal Church.
Kendall ended his talk with a plea about the final day, when we stand (with Sam Candler) before the Lord and give an account of how we handled what he had given us to be stewards of. Kendall asked, "Do you really want to say, "Lord, I voted to clearly reject your recorded word. Lord, I voted to shatter your church."
It was Kendall, at his finest. Thank you, Lord.
After this, the chair opened up the process to allow two-minute speeches from the floor. I tried to take pictures, but there were so many speeches I soon realized I couldnt. Heres just a few:
The Con side (thats what we were called) spoke first.
A bishop spoke first said overseas the bishops there are speaking of American unilateralism. Its not a good thing for us to be doing.
The "pro" side went next.
A bishop on the pro side said, "Jesus said, do not be afraid." We need not fear. I spoke with an overseas bishop and he said if America did this we would disagree, but it would not destroy us."
On the Con side, Doug Taylor-Weis spoke people who have a hard time with the commandment honor thy father and thy mother. He said, even if I could overlook the commandment, I amd a man under authority and I do not have the authority over look it. I do not have the authority to bless what you propose.
Pro A man named Little, from Vermont spoke on how he led the fight in the Vermont legislature for the same sex bill they passes up there. He said it was shaky at first, but they all got over it.
Con Bishop Skilton got up and made an impassioned plea for what this would do to hurt the Church and destroy mission opportunities. Great Job, Bishop!
Pro A priest from Idaho said the greatest way to make the Episcopal church grow in Idaho would be to offer same sex blessings. Lydia Evans (sitting next to me) said in an aside, "So, were to do this to the whole church just to make his church bigger?"
On and on it went. Lydia Evans spoke for the "con" side. She spoke of her daughter, and her concern that some day down the road her daughter may settle for less than Gods best and decide to enter into one of these "less than marriage" committed relationships with her boyfriend. She reminded the people that there would be nothing binding if they is this and thus her daughter would have no legal protection if the boyfriend decided to split. Is this what we want? Great Job, Lydia!
Pro side a man from New York been living together for years. Said he had a yearning. A yearning to share what others already have in marriage.
Con Dorsey Henderson, Upper South Carolina bishop Bishop Henderson said wasnt completely against the idea, its just that we havent done all our homework. (thanks a lot for nothing, Bishop.)
Pro side Someone asked, "what about our youth? What message are we sending them- are we saying we dont want them unless they want to get married? The speaker then said, "If the church had held up models of gays living in life long-relationships, my son would still be alive today."
Which leads us to when Mrs. Allen spoke for our beliefs.
Heres exactly what she said:
My name is Laura Allen, and I am the mother of a dead homosexual son. Bradford was the youngest of my six children. He was handsome, funny, gifted and a magna Cum laude university graduate. He was loved by his family and he chose to live his live as a homosexual man, Did he have a life partner? Yes, he had many of them, and each one was always the "one true love" at that time, of course.
In a recent (6/14/2003) Dallas Morning News interview, the Rev. Troy Perry, moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, the congregation of which most are homosexual, was asked, "Why doesnt your denomination impose monogamy for committed couples like other Christian denominations? His answer was, Monogamy is not a word the gay community uses. We talk fidelity. That means you live in a loving, caring, honest relationship with your partner Some would say that committed couples could have multiple sex partners as long as there is no deception."
In the course of Bradfords life and lifestyle he became HIV positive, after a few years the opportunistic disease of AIDS became manifest, and I asked him to move into my home so that I might care for him. During the last two and a half years of his life he had to have three painful surgical procedures as a result of the physical aspects of the practice of male homosexuality.
About three o clock one morning Bradford called me to come to his room for a reality check, for he was reading his Bible. As we prayed and read, he asked me to call a priest for his confession for he grieved that he might have infected some others with HIV, and I did. From then on he repudiated his previous life of homosexuality, received communion regularly, the last rites for the dying, and he died peacefully in my arms, "ransomed, healed, restored, and forgiven."
Dozens more spoke, but Mrs. Allen said all that need to be said. Amen.
We ended at 10:00. Got back to my room at 10:30, and picked some supper that Mrs. Skilton had gotten for her husband and me. I took it back to my room, and kept working on this post.
Tomorrow, the heat gets turned up a notch, and Sunday Oh Sunday! Pray for us!!
Its now 3:38. I cant even see straight right now. Im crashing. Good night from Minneapolis. See you tomorrow.