The first official day of General Convention was marked by several notable moments. There was a splendid opening Eucharist – first class music and an excellent sermon by Bishop Katharine.
In the evening between legislative duties, I joined the Indigenous Theological Training Institute at a reception. It was good to see old friends and meet new ones. ITTI does vital work – unseen by most.
Then, we had the “big hearing” on structure. I was honestly surprised. 400 people attended. There has been a lot of nuttiness and paranoia on line about structural reform; but there was only one speaker who even suggested a smidgen of that. 40 people were given the chance to speak to the reform proposals. 38 passionately endorsed creating a special commission to propose transformation in governance. Several people spoke in favor of a Constitutional Convention to adopt the changes that would be proposed. The reason for the special commission is that the existing standing commissions are good at polishing the existing canons but are not set up to design a whole new system. The reason for a Constitutional Convention is that changing canons would be a roughly 9 year process and the Canons would then probably turn out to be unconstitutional.
The second day felt like a roller coaster. This morning the Structure Committee discussed what we heard last night. While some were impressed by “the overwhelming groundswell” for change; others characterized the call for a special commission as “magical thinking,” “unfaithful,” etc. and it did not sound like much was going to happen at all.
In our Friday afternoon hearings, we heard testimony on a resolution re-imagining the Presiding Bishop’s office as part time, with the PB no longer playing the role of CEO, and another moving toward a smaller unicameral convention. Both ideas seemed interesting at a minimum, perhaps promising. Then we heard from a slew of young adults wanting to serve on the special commission on restructuring. I felt some inner discomfort knowing that whether there will be such a special commission is not the sure thing they think it is. They are eager, in fact insistent, on participating in the restructuring process which I was not at all sure the existing governance structures were willing to hand over. I spent the afternoon fretting about what dashing their hopes might do to their passion for mission and ministry.
Then tonight at our committee meeting, some subterranean shift had happened. No one expressly said they had changed their mind, but tonight people were generally accepting the assumption we were going to create a group to propose adaptive change to our governance structure. I would not put any money on what the sentiments will be in the morning. But, for tonight, we appear to be headed toward some new thinking.
Along the way, I have encountered seminary classmates, a former member of the Community of Celebration (FisherFolk) with which we lived for a summer, the grandchildren of people I have buried, clergy colleagues and folks I worked with on diocesan conventions in Georgia, etc. General Convention has a kind of This Is Your Life quality.
We have just been decompressing with the Nevada deputies. It is helpful after a day of the strange world of Convention to compare notes with people we know who have been having their own strange adventures. Comparing notes is a bit of a reality check.