Yesterday was day 3 and it was a full one! I came back to my room after 9pm having not had dinner. So, I’m catching up on the blogging now. To answer a few questions about Salt Lake City quickly:
- The hotel does not have a full bar in it, but the hotel restaurant does serve alcohol. A number of deputies are avoiding alcohol while they are here, wearing “No Thank You” buttons from Episcopal Recovery Ministries.
- The Marriott chain is owned by a Mormon family. So, there is a Book of Mormon in the nightstand. The coffee maker is hidden from view in the closet, so it’s not evidently here by default. There is, however, a Starbucks on the ground level.
- The entire city is built around the Temple. All major streets are numbered from their proximity and direction (N, S, E, W) from it. I haven’t totally cracked the code, but it’s a handy way to navigate, like the Streets and Avenues of Manhattan.
Yesterday, my Committee finished its business. We will only reconvene if a resolution is later referred to us by the House, but otherwise we are done. I helped draft a substitute resolution on inter-faith and ecumenical understanding that we are happy with. It falls short of mandated canonical change, but I think is a strong and helpful document.
The Committee did see a small amount of church power politics, which surprised me. One resolution (A070) asked that the Presiding Bishop and the PHOD jointly appoint members to inter-church and inter-faith dialogue groups. Currently only the PB does this. When discussed the bishops immediately objected, saying that this job belongs uniquely to the bishop who is the chief ecumenical officer in his or her diocese. Once the bishops objected to sharing power, the deputies dug in and fought back. For a committee that had worked so smoothly together, I was surprised. The end result: the PB still appoints but must consult with the PHOD.
We took a break for morning worship. The Eucharists here are incredible–worshiping with 1,000 people is a feeling like no other. The music is always very fine and I like the way that the PB leads worship. Also: they can serve communion to one thousand people in the amount of time it takes me to commune 75. It is a well-planned, highly-efficient operation.
Then we moved into the House of Deputies. Today was the first official day of business. As the House convenes we always have an open Bible present, as a sign of our dependence on the Word of God. It is open to a verse chosen by the President, this time Philippians 4:4-7.
We took votes to elect officers and approve the Rules of Order. Mostly procedural, some substance, but necessary to do.
Now that Committee 15 is on hiatus, I could go to other committees to listen and speak. So, I went to Committee 8 (Social Justice and United States Policy) to testify in support of New Hampshire’s resolution on abolishing the death penalty (D025). My testimony was simply to tell the story of repeal efforts in NH and that, while we haven’t won the day yet, we are confident it will come soon. So, this resolution represents methods that are working and should be taken to dioceses across the denomination.
Also at that hearing were a number of folks from the Official Youth Presence. Each of these teenagers had prepared testimony on this and the other resolutions the committee was hearing. They were great! Most of them were well-thought and more on-point than the adults. If they are the future of the church, then God is leaving us in good hands.
We had one more legislative session in the afternoon. Our table is in the middle of the room, so you can see how far we are from the podium. Just imagine that there are folks twice as far from us at the back!
After all the rules-stuff, we took our first official vote (A302). I’m pleased that the first official act of the House was to send a letter of condolence and solidarity to Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. The committees and dispatch groups worked hard to fast-track this so that the resolution could arrive in time to be read at the memorial service taking place on Friday.
Finally, I attended a hearing on Structure with Canon Kevin Nicholas. We arrived a little late, having met up for a deputation caucus to catch up with the other NH folks. We had to stand in the back since the room was packed.
When we arrived the committee was asking questions from the Presiding Bishop (barely pictured below). She was fielding questions mostly about clearing up lines of authority and responsibility of the Executive Council but also taking questions about who she is accountable to as PB and what processes are there to make formal complaint about her leadership. No softball questions here!
The open hearing then began. The Structure committee heard input on several topics, including:
- reducing the size of Executive Council from 40 to about 20
- reducing the size of General Convention from 880-ish to some other number
- elimination of formal Provinces (groups of dioceses) in favor of looser cooperative networks
The speakers are diverse: bishops, seminary deans and lay folk who came on their own dime to speak. Their opinions are also just as diverse.
Lots to participate in and lots that can make a real difference in the church and its impact in the world. I’ll keep you posted about Friday’s happenings soon.