Monday, July 30, 2012

SC Ready to Secede Again?

Have you seen this post from the Diocese of South Carolina?  Apparently -- after the actions of General Convention -- Bishop Mark Lawrence is heading to the mountains and deserts to "seek God's face" in what he should do.  

I argued against consenting to his election ... on the first and second go-rounds, because I saw documents that persuaded me he was a secessionist and duplicitous. The documentation is there to support that claim.  He changed his nomination forms in response to someone who told him how to do it. 

Mark Lawrence is a smart man.  You would think that he has seen and analyzed the court actions ... which have ruled time after time that a diocese cannot remove itself from the Episcopal Church. Surely he's not so silly as to believe he can succeed where Iker, Schofield, and all the others have failed.  

Is he going on retreat to "seek God's face"? Or is he going to find the best lawyers he can find? 

I hope he will return from his "retreat" with a determination to stay in the Episcopal Church and be a part of the "loyal minority."  I could respect that, for I suspect the tide will turn one day, and I will find myself in the minority.  Even if he returns declaring me a heretic and abomination, I could stand that.  But if he decides to "pull an Iker," then I hope the Presiding Bishop and House of Bishops will come down on him with the fiercest hob-nailed boots they can procure. 

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

In Praise of the "Philadelphia 11"

Tonight I am giving thanks for the "Philadelphia 11" -- the first women ordained as priests on July 29, 1974 at the Church of the Advocate -- and for the bishops who ordained them. Just 38 years ago, no Episcopalian had ever seen a woman serving as priest. But by the brave actions of 11 women and four bishops, all that changed.

Let us remember them by name. For the faithful ministry of Merrill Bittner, Alison Cheek, Alla Bozarth (Campell), Emily C. Hewitt, Carter Heyward, Suzanne R. Hiatt (deceased 2002), Marie Moorefield, Jeanette Piccard (deceased 1981), Betty Bone Schiess, Katrina Welles Swanson (deceased 2006), and Nancy Hatch Wittig, and for Bishops Daniel Corrigan, Robert L. DeWitt, Edward R Welles, and Antonio Ramos, let us give thanks to the Lord.

This is the iconic photograph from that service -- with Bishop Welles of West Missouri as chief consecrator.

A young woman named Barbara Harris served as crucifer at that ordination. She later became the first female bishop in the Episcopal Church.

This is my personal favorite photograph, for this Godly priest -- Nancy Wittig -- and her friend Pamela Darling engaged me in spirited conversation through the 1990s that moved me out of the "Spiritual But Not Religious" camp into happy membership in the Episcopal Church. I will be forever grateful for the ministry of the Rev. Nancy Hatch Wittig.

If you want to remember how things looked in the summer of 1974, read this article. Or read Alla Bozarth's account here of the ordinations ... through the consecration of Barbara Harris ... up through the installation of Katherine Jefferts-Schori. Twenty-five years after that glorious ordination day, the "Philadelphia 11" gathered. I love this photo! My friend Nancy Wittig is third from the right.

I am deeply grateful to these woman and the bishops who ordained them. Tomorrow is the 38th anniversary of their ordination.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Christian Stewardship

“For where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.” 

In all the media hype and soundbytes that came out of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this month, not one of them (as far as I saw) noted this very significant fact: The overwhelming majority of resolutions passed by overwhelming majorities.  Probably 80-90% of the resolutions passed or failed clearly on a voice vote.  We didn’t need to resort to the next steps: holding up our green (“yes”) or red (“no”) cards nor use the electronic voting machines that would tabulate each vote.  Most of our actions related to the mission and ministry of our life as the Episcopal Church and to our witness in the world, and most received overwhelming consensus.  

Of course, the media lives to report on controversy, so they reported on things like our authorization of same-sex blessings, our non-decision on the Anglican Covenant, and so on.

I serve on the Stewardship Committee in my parish. We’re not just about the “annual pledge drive,” but about year-round stewardship activities. Several of our members have attended the TENS conferences, and we are getting better about weaving stewardship themes into the daily life of our parish.

One of the resolutions that came before General Convention was #A088, “Set Expectations for Steward Leaders.”  You can find the resolution text and explanation here. The resolution was put forward by the Standing Commission and Stewardship and Development, and you can read background on their work on pages 529-530 of the Blue Book.  Resolution A088 was one of those that passed easily on a voice vote.

I will be taking this resolution to the next meeting of our parish Stewardship Committee, for it is a powerful document. It sets out expectations of those lay and ordained persons who are “steward leaders.”  It calls us to “Proclaim a Theology of Abundance and Spirituality of Money,” to “Teach Biblical and Theological Principles of Stewardship,” to “Engage and Critique Culture,” and to “Embrace the Interconnected Relationships between all Persons and Creation.” Under each of those main points, it suggests more specific ways we should commit ourselves more deeply to stewardship and lead our parishes into a deeper understanding of Christian stewardship.  It calls us to some very challenging activities – asking that we speak personally about our understanding of stewardship, “articulate the tension between the current consumer culture and following Christ,” and “speak to the impact of our lifestyles on all of God’s creation.”

If you want to help your congregation deepen its understanding of stewardship, I commend this resolution to you. Ponder it. Share it.  See what you and your congregation can do to live into it.  And please don’t rely only on my synopsis here; please read the resolution here, then think about how you and your congregation might live more deeply into Gospel stewardship. I look forward to doing that here in my parish.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Happens in Indy ...

Sometimes, the Convention Hall was chilly during GC12.  I bought this wrap from one of the exhibitors. Then I encountered a friend outside the Convention Center, and I flung the wrap around him.  I'm not going to reveal the name of this dear friend unless he chooses to do so. But we were both laughing hilariously, and we persuaded a by-passer to snap this photo.  
I only regret the photo is out of focus.  


Bloggers Unite … and Meeting Virtual Friends IRL

One of the blessings of General Convention was that I got to meet some of the people whom I had only known “virtually” through the blogosphere,  through exchanges on the HoBD listerv. or through e-mail exchanges.
This one shouldn’t surprise anyone: On the first day I walked into the gigantic hall in which the House of Deputies met, a big, firm, and friendly hand reached out and grabbed me.  It was MalcolmFrench. Not surprisingly, he was urging me to take a hard line against the Anglican Covenant.  A couple nights later, our paths crossed again, and we spent a delightful (but sweaty!) hour or more talking outside the Marriott.    I would gladly spend many more hours with Malcolm.  He is even more engaging and delightful than I expected.
Among other things, I learned this from Malcolm: The Japanese have a word for “thank you” that translates to “Thank you for doing something that I didn’t really need and that didn’t help much.”  We concurred that that word for “Thank You” should characterize the Episcopal Church’s “thank you” for the bleeping Anglican Covenant.  
On the night of July 6, I returned to my hotel, heading toward the restaurant, hoping for dinner.  But then I spotted Mark Harris and thoughts of dinner flew out of my head.  I managed to shock the hell out of Mark, I think.  Spotting him, I went to his table, dropped to one knee, and offered some silly greeting.  We had a nice conversation, as he was just coming from a legislative committee about the Anglican Covenant.  I was delighted to meet Mark and talk with him. (Thanks, Mark, for letting me horn in!)  He’s as smart, gracious, and engaging as I expected from his blog.
I encountered Scott Allen (of the Diocese of Bethlehem) early in Convention and was blessed to spend much time with him.  Scott was one of the first people who welcomed me when I was a kibitzer on the HoBD listserv, and we’ve kept up an e-mail and Facebook connection for over 6 years.  Much time as we spent together, I wanted more. Scott is even more warm and generous and friendly than he seemed in our virtual communications.
To no surprise, I also had opportunity to spend a fair bit of time with Lauren Stanley.  Though we correspond a bit via e-mail and Facebook, I hadn’t spent time with Lauren for several years.  I was again impressed by her intensity and Gospel fervor.
To my surprise, I also encountered some people who have read this blog, but whose names I had not known before.  I thank you deeply, friends who offered such kind comments about my blog.  I won’t name your names, but I remember them.  Thank you for your encouragement.
I still have much more to write about General Convention . . . but I am still processing. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reflecting on General Convention

I hope you all know that I and the other Missouri Deputies to General Convention have been posting at the diocesan blog.
We were carefully guarded by the St. Louis "Rally Squirrel" during our deliberations.

I'm slowly posting more reflections and photos on the Diocesan blog and my Facebook page.  Recovering from GC is taking longer than I expected.  And I was more weary on the nights of GC than I expected.  I only opened my laptop a couple of times during GC, and then just to check on resolutions and legislative calendars; I had no energy for blogging.
I will say this: This General Convention was one of the spiritual highlights of my life.  I am pleased with (most of) the resolutions that were passed and delightfully amazed by the spirit in the House of Deputies. The soundbytes do not capture what it means to serve as a Deputy nor to participate in General Convention.  I was honored to serve with the rest of the Missouri Deputies and to take action on the resolutions that came before us.  Now I have the bug!  I desperately hope to do it all again in Salt Lake City at the 2015 General Convention.


GC Counsel from an "Old Geezer"

I was honored to receive this counsel via the HoBD listserv on Sunday.  I give deep thanks to the Rev. S. Albert Kennington, who served many terms as a member of the House of Deputies and gave me permission to share this reflection. 

= = = = = = 
First, thanks for going.  As you veterans know, it's long, hard work -- sometimes great fun and sometimes totally not pleasant.  It's the people of the church being who we are, and amazingly, still loved by our Lord God.  In a book case across from my desk, I look at my 8 Gen Conv coffee mugs.  It was a privilege to be chosen those times to go.  Now it's a privilege to stay home and appreciate you.

Second, know that you are in my thoughts and prayers -- prayers for you to be aware that God is with you in all of it and for you to be aware that your brothers and sisters in faith around the world hold you and lift you up -- and thoughts meaning that I remember the routines.   I'm keeping a Gen Conv schedule before me to think of what you're doing throughout each day.

For you new deputies -- I found that comfortable shoes and brown liquids morning and evening to be great helps -- plus enjoying friendships in amazing configurations.  If you run across anyone who admits to being my friend, please give them my love.

Today is the Feast of St. Peter and Paul and the commemoration of their martyrdom.  These two guys were stalwarts to follow -- and they never figured it all out -- they struggled with heritage, tradition, with each other, and with God's new thing -- they especially struggled about people who were "different."  They never got it all figured out or settled.  So -- you go to continue their struggling.  From my advanced (or at least aging) viewpoint, I think being faithful is more about staying together in the journey and trying, in the Lord's example, to love and serve everyone.

Safe travel.  Thank you.  Peace be with you.

The Rev. S. Albert Kennington
Fairhope, Alabama 36532

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Coming Tsunami: GC2012

Way back in 2003, I started closely following the actions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.  By the close of the 2003 General Convention, I knew I wanted to stand for election as a Deputy. 
But wanting to be a Deputy is not enough if one has a secular job.  One must accrue enough vacation time to spend nearly two weeks at General Convention.  One must also have enough “vacation time” to attend meetings of the Deputation in the 9 months leading up to General Convention. In my case, it took six years for me to do so.   
I was deeply honored when the Diocese of Missouri elected me as one of the Deputies to the 2012 General Convention.  In the intervening months, I have continued to follow the e-mail listserv of the Bishops and Deputies, as well as the news from The Episcopal Church.  Starting in October, I have also met with the other GC Deputies from the Diocese of Missouri.  We have worked to get acquainted.  We have studied the news from TEC.  We have shared perspectives on the resolutions and legislation that will come to General Convention this month in Indianapolis. 
The Floor of the House of Deputies is massive. 
Having closely followed many of the Deputies who have blogged about General Convention since 2003, there are some things I know.  I know it is an exhausting experience, with many 14-hour days.  I know it is a delightful time when I will get to meet people I have only “virtually” met through e-mail and the blogosphere.  I know that the GC agenda is loaded so that most of the crucial resolutions come to the floor in the last few days, when Deputies are most exhausted.  I know that many complex issues are coming before us this month –including the blessing of same-gender covenants, the question of allowing communion before baptism, removing the requirement for confirmation before leadership, action on the Anglican Covenant, and a gazillion other actions that have received less publicity. 
I have done my best to study all those issues.  I have studied the proposals. I have listened to the other Deputies in our diocese as well as others nationally on the HoBD listserv.  When we arrive in Indianapolis and convene, I will listen to still more voices though the committee hearings.
And then the resolutions will come to the House of Deputies.  And I will have to vote “yea” or “nay” on each one.  The Rules of the House of Deputies require that each Deputy must vote on every action; no abstentions are allowed. 
The closer I come to General Convention, the more I covet the prayers of all my friends.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will be flowing through the House of Deputies more powerfully than the air-conditioning vents.  I pray that my friends throughout the Church will be holding us in prayer.  I pray that – on each resolution – I will do the right thing.  I also pray your forgiveness for those moments when I will fail to do the right thing. 
I have never been more humble than I am in these hours as I move toward Indianapolis and the General Convention. 
I have never been more aware that I am “standin’ in the need of prayer.” 
Please pray for me and the whole General Convention.  Pray that we will be able to be still and hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit amid the cacophany that sometimes characterizes General Convention.  And please forgive me if I am so overwhelmed by GC that I won’t be able to blog here.