Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's not over yet.

There are lots of reflections on GC09 out there in blog land. And many dioceses have received same from their bishops. At times, it's difficult to believe that folks attended the same event, their perceptions are so very different! But since this is my blog, I'll include my own reflections (which will also be available in our August newsletter on-line later this week). Basically I saw it as a sign of hope, of forward movement, of courage, of standing up for the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.

Reflecting back on 12 days at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention 2009 (GC09), I can honestly say it was a great experience and a major success in so many ways. That doesn’t mean there weren’t tough decisions and difficult consequences of some of those decisions. But there seemed to be good will and hopefulness through the thousands of participants, observers, exhibitors, volunteers, and visitors. There was honesty about who we are as a church. There was honesty about our differences. There was a willingness to tackle difficult issues – especially those around a budget that resulted in the elimination of 38 positions at the national church office in New York City. Two resolutions that received a lot of media attention were focused on affirming our desire to remain in the Anglican Communion while affirming our canons and constitution regard full access to our discernment process for ordination to all three orders. The other media-hyped resolution encouraged the development of liturgical resources for same-sex blessings, and provided for a generous pastoral response for those bishops in states where marriage equality is legal.

We were challenged by the need to re-examine the way we do the institutional church in the 21st century. We at St Clement’s will spend some time over the next year reflecting on our won approaches to worship. We were awed by a chanted blessing from cantors of the three Abrahamic traditions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In that, I saw such hope for what could be in God’s creation. The introduction of almost 20 visitors from as many faith traditions showed us that we can indeed come together in the same place. The challenge is to learn to hear one another as children of the creator – in our different contexts, different ways of living our faiths, and different ways of being faithful people together.

The legislative meetings were run with clarity and completely by Robert’s Rules of Order. It was an amazing thing to see. We are a church that is governed by two houses – the Deputies and Bishops – and our legislative decision-making process is similar to what we witness in the US Congress. Although some might be frustrated by this process, it is our process and it works very well indeed when we use it with knowledge and integrity and pono. We are called to discuss, iron out, learn about, and discern issues before convention begins, in the context of committees and diocesan discussions. Our time at convention is for making decisions and moving the church as a whole in a forward direction.

General Convention can also be cumbersome and exclusive. Ten days is a lot of time to take away from our lives and, because of this, many who would like to participate cannot. The next General Convention will be cut back to eight days. The national committee charged with structure might even examine the number of representative from each diocese and other ways to decrease even more the time spent on this national event. We can certainly be more efficient and effective if we become leaner and more streamlined. And we certainly can decrease the amount of financial resources spent on this event.

The budget was cut drastically – investments are not meeting the expected revenues and there are a large number of dioceses who do not give the asking rate of 21% to the national church budget (the Diocese of Hawaii does meet this figure). There is concern about the programs that were actually cut; decisions that were made continue to be questioned concerning whether they are in the best interests of the future of the church.

On the other hand, we have great resources at the local level and particularly in our parish to reach out and share the Good News with our community, the rest of the dioceses, and the world. This is one of our challenges: to discover new and relevant ways of being church in the 21st century here in Makiki, and to identify and/or develop resources that will keep us alive and growing in both faith and numbers.

I came back with many new resources for the faith formation and development of our parishioners, and am looking forward to sharing those with you as we move into the fall. Attending General Convention as a deputy from Hawaii was a real honor and one way I can live into my ordination vows of participating in the councils of the church. I see some real benefits from General Convention for The Parish of St Clement and for the Diocese of Hawaii as we move forward as Episcopalians in Hawaii who are eager to share a religious tradition with those who are searching and seeking a meaningful spiritual life.

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