Today was the business meeting of the House of Bishops.
First we passed the resolution on our own behavioral norms for Convention, essentially a behavioral covenant committing us to prayer, direct communication, and respect for those with whom we disagree.
The next Resolution called on the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the President of the House of Deputies, to appoint a special commission to investigate and report on all aspects including canonical aspects of situations where church leaders are “impaired” (a term of art in the canons covering a variety of problems) with special attention to addiction and substance abuse. While there was no dispute whatsoever about the need to do this, there was a lot of feeling surrounding it, so we did a good deal of parliamentary wordsmithing. In retrospect, I think it would have been better to have an Indaba group about addiction in the church before taking official action. No legislative or formal action can be a sufficient container to hold all the feelings and concerns we have. So it would have been good to share those concerns in a less restrictive conversation. Still, we took the needed action. As an aside, this is something I wonder about restructuring the Church. I wonder if formal mechanisms are able to handle the feelings and relational dynamics at play.
In response to a request from the anti-racism committee of the Executive Council, we supported the appointment of a special commission to draft a new pastoral letter on the sin of racism in light of Ferguson and other recent events that show us something about the continued racial woundedness we experience.
The ecclesiology committee (Ecclesiology” is the theological doctrine of the nature of the Church) then asked us to disseminate their draft report, Remembering and Reimagining, for further comment and development. That actually proved a bit controversial over concerns that we might seem to be endorsing the report prematurely. There must be more going on here than I know or understand. I gather some of the discomfort relates to the breakaways that happened a few years ago. In any event, after some more parliamentary tweaking, we passed the resolution.
Finally, we passed a Resolution of mourning for those killed, injured, and bereaved in the church bombings in Pakistan and further expressing support for Pakistani Christians enduring violent persecution. We have already received a message of appreciation from the Bishop of Pakistan.
Leaving the business meeting Bishop Rob Hirschfeld and I recommended new poets to each other. He recommended Wistawa Szymborska, Poems: New & Collected. I recommended Franz Wright, Walking To Martha’s Vineyard and God’s Silence.
Over lunch I met with the Stewardship & Development Committee. Bishop Greg Rickel, who has chaired this committee in the past and who remains in the thick of the work, briefed us on what has been going on in recent years and what we may expect in the way of resolutions.
In the afternoon, Michael Barlow, the Secretary of General Convention, along with 14-Convention veteran Bishop Dick Price, and host Bishop Scott Hayashi, gave us a cursory orientation to General Convention so we can better find our way around and help the deputies from our dioceses do the same. I really like Michael Barlow. He has made the Gen Con office considerably friendlier. I feel more welcomed and less judged these days. Michael’s main point is that we are going to be using a lot more technology and a lot less paper. But we still need to wear our nametags. No subcutaneously implanted identity chips. We will also be the greenest Gen Con ever.
The main thing to know is that we cannot access “the virtual binder” with our own devices. Our devices could crash the system. So they are going to issue us each our own rented iPad for use at Convention. Renting the iPads is cheaper than what we paid for photocopying 3 years ago. The iPad will not be able to connect to Internet at The Salt Palace where we meet. That is just for intranet access to Convention info. But back in our hotel rooms, etc. it will access the Internet.
In order that we may live up to our Episcopal tradition of being good guests, the folks putting on Gen Con will provide resources from the LDS Church to help us understand their perspective. We are encouraged to take a friendly view of our LDS brothers and sisters who have been good friends to the Episcopal Church in Utah and who are being quite helpful in hosting this Convention.
Then came the closing Eucharist with a sermon by Bishop Katharine. “The invisible become visible when we practice curiosity.” Then came our formal-ish dinner and a bit of a party afterward. Now it is time to pack up and head home. It has been good to be with these remarkable people but I am more than ready to get back to the remarkable people in the Silver State and sleep in my own bed once again.