Last night was the first meeting of Committee 15 (Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations). There are 25 people on the committee, about five bishops, ten clergy and ten laypeople. Folks are from across the country and one serves an Episcopal congregation located in Germany. We made introductions and got right to business. Our first job was to review the list of resolutions that are sent to us. Each resolution gets a hearing and we’ll start that at 7pm tonight.
There are several resolutions and memorial letters encouraging us to create a system for training clergy and lay leaders in inter-faith knowledge. Too many church leaders speak, preach or teach without an adequate understanding of the other religions they are talking about. In Biblical terms, this is “bearing false witness.” So, why not require training on this, as we do on anti-racism and Safe Church (abuse awareness).
We will need to consolidate each of the resolutions into one, formally submit it, hold a hearing and send it on to the House for debate. I volunteered to help. The subcommittee meets at 7am!
As for today, the deputies are all here and meeting in the House. There’s about 875 of us all in all, so it’s a big House. Coincidentally the NH deputation is seated at the same table at the Texas deputation, so I’m with friends and family here. Each deputation’s table has a pole with their name on it and we’ve decorated ours with a stuffed moose, Courtney’s knitted vine and a “Black Lives Matter” sign, which many deputations have also put up.
We got opening remarks from Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori (PB) and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings (PHOD). The PB likened General Convention to NASA’s Mission Control, providing support to the heroic astronauts in space (parishioners). The PHOD pointed out that of the 875 deputies, 398 are first-timers. So, 46% of the House is completely fresh, an all-time high for us.
After the speeches, we had a long orientation session. The Convention is saturated with technology this time, from iPads to voting machines and RFID tags for everyone. When you rise to speak, you insert you card and the Chair sees your name and deputation instantly and can keep tabs on the correct order that people got up in. Hopefully, this will speed up deliberation by reducing confusion about the priority of motions and simply “who got there first.”
After the orientation we had a lunch break. I had volunteered to meet with some committee compatriots to go over that resolution on multi-faith knowledge. We drafted something up and will bring it to committee tonight so it can be “ripped to shreds,” as one of our veteran deputies put it. This is how the sausage gets made, folks.
As for now, the House is hearing from each of the candidates for the Presiding Bishop election to happen on Saturday. Later, a short break and then evening hearings and events. Then, even later, my face hits a pillow.