The link (above) gives an excellent overview of the recent, and very busy, 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. I thought I'd take a moment to share my perspective on the 12 days I was in the City of Austin in the Diocese of Texas.
First, this General Convention had the sweetest, deepest sense of holiness I have ever felt at a GC. The conversations, even the debates, were conducted with respect and with obvious regard to the dignity, autonomy, and worthiness of every person and every opinion. I know of no episodes of anger or heated argument, which I am very happy to report.
Second, I am convinced that the Anglican via media was on display in most of GC's actions. There were several testy issues to be decided, and up or down votes, where some win and some lose, aren't always the most pastoral way to deal with issues of faith, morality, or church order. Happily, GC turned out several via media decisions, reminding me again of the genius of the middle way.
For instance, the decision to refrain from an expensive prayer book revision and to choose instead a more organic, bottom-up-rather-than-top-down method of revision was - in my opinion - a great choice. By choosing an adaptive approach where all are welcome to participate, rather than awaiting the output of experts or academicians, the GC has chosen to embrace the creativity of the whole Church, which I believe will result in some astounding originality.
GC selected this via media approach on other matters also by:
- extending the trial use of the marriage liturgies approved in 2015 and creating a process whereby people may be married in their own parishes even if the Bishop Diocesan has moral objection to same-sex marriages,
- paying "Directors and Officers Fees" to the President of the House of Deputies in recognition of the significant duties the incumbent in that office performs for the Church, and
- speaking to several political/moral situations such as: the situation in Palestine/Israel, U.S. immigration policy, and the dignity of women who have not always experienced the Church to be safe or free from abuse or sexual predators.
Three very special events took place that made me especially proud:
- On the evening of July 4th, many bishops of the Church led those gathered in a time to listen and lament the abuse some have experienced in the life of the Church and how the Church has too often failed to respond appropriately, pastorally, or adequately.
- Responding to the initiative of several concerned leaders (including the Rev. Megan Castellan, formerly of our diocese), well over 1,000 convention attendees traveled to Taylor, TX to gather at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center - where many asylum-seeking, immigrant women are being detained, many having been separated from their children - and to bring objection to the immigration policies of the current U.S. administration.
- The third was a public witness to call attention to the tragedy of gun violence in the U.S. This latter event was organized by Bishops United against Gun Violence and attended (by my estimation) by nearly 1,000 people.
To my great joy, GC welcomed the Diocese of Cuba back into union with the General Convention. Cuba, then a missionary diocese, was - due to the Cuban Revolution - expelled in 1966 by action of the House of Bishops (which may have been an unconstitutional act). After a lengthy process, the Diocese of Cuba was received anew and returned to TEC. The Bishop of Cuba, the Rt. Rev Griselda Delgado Delcarpio, is a College-for-Bishops classmate and a good friend of mine, and I was brought to tears of joy as she was welcomed and seated in the House of Bishops immediately upon the Bishops' unanimous, affirmative vote. The House of Deputies followed suit the next day, by unanimous vote, and seated Cuba's deputation immediately. This is the first time I've witnessed anything passing both houses of GC unanimously! What a joy.