It was a brain numbing soul draining day of parliamentary procedure in the House of Bishops. In the midst of it, good was done – but I am exhausted. Here are some highlights.
Retired Presiding Bishops Edmund Browning and Frank Griswold spoke briefly. I was particularly struck by something Bishop Griswold said: Bishops stay around for convention after convention, knowing that what is not done this time may yet be done next time. Deputies are elected for only one convention at a time. So bishops are inherently inclined to take a long view while deputies have more of a sense of urgency. He said the tension between those two perspectives is helpful and healthy. Sounds right to me.
We voted to reduce church committee meeting expenses by 50% and allocate the savings to mission such as Millennium Development Goals. And we adopted the Genesis Covenant to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% in the coming five years. Cutting down on travel is also a way to reduce carbon footprint. Much has been said about reducing the length and costs of national and diocesan conventions. We also passed the Domestic Poverty Initiative, a project to alleviate domestic poverty, particularly focused on Native communities.
We adopted Holy Women and Holy Men, a substitute for Lesser Feasts and Fasts, on a trial basis – but only after a lot of parliamentary rigmarole. Someone moved to replace the Rite I (Elizabethan English) collect with Spanish; someone moved to amend that motion to add French. Spanish speaking bishops rose up in defense of Elizabethan English. In the end, it passed as is for a 3 year trial with the understanding all our liturgical texts are actually printed in different books with different languages. I personally have a bit of a problem with parts of the book, like the addition of musicians (Bach, Handel, and Purcell) but no visual artists (like El Greco, Caravagio, and Fra Angelico). Also no poets like Tennyson, Eliot, and Auden (but they did add C. S. Lewis but not J. R. R. Tolkein). But I didn’t raise the issue, knowing it would eventually lead to movies and then it there would be no stopping it.
More good news: we approved full communion with the Moravian Church, then stood and sang the doxology in celebration. The HOB also requested $75,000 for camps like Camp Spirit for children of inmates. But the budget crunch may make that more of a nice wish than a reality.
Those were the high points. There were also low points. Lots of word smithing and nit picking. Some good proposals, like the one for licensing lay evangelists, sent back to committee. A number of bright gems gleamed in the dross of tedium.
At the end, we learned that there is a flap in the House of Deputies being stirred up by a deputy from Ecuador Central who is apparently misrepresenting how their new bishop was selected. It is a complicated and sad story going back to the removal of their bishop a few years ago for corruption. The current Bishop, Wilfrido Ramos, has achieved great healing. But wounds remain from the former bishop and they made the process of choosing a new bishop problematic. My last parish had a companion parish in Ecuador Central in the bad old days. So this is a familiar story to me. It would be sad to see Ecuador Central derailed by this. Pray for Ecuador Central.
Tonight Linda and I went to a Program, Budget, and Finance Committee meeting on the financial distress facing the Episcopal Church in coming years. We participated as best we could, being as patient as we could with dioceses that give 2% of their budget while Nevada gives its full 21% assessment. At last, I made a short speech telling the group that Nevada is one of the hardest hit states in the nation when it comes to this recession, but our diocesan income is up; and we are one of the poorest dioceses in the Episcopal Church, but we give our 21%. It’s a spiritual thing. I didn’t say “it’s a moral thing” – but it is. And I feel privileged to be in a diocese that does the right thing, not the easy thing. That’s the measure of character.