Michael Hartney Musings from Austin 2018

Day Nine

Well, the ninth day is over … a marathon session from 8 am until 1.30 pm.  The House of Deputies adjourned before the House of Bishops (they took a lunch break).  This is highly unusual to adjourn before the House of Bishops.  Recent streamlining of agendas by the Dispatch of Business in the House of Deputies has resulted in some efficiencies, obviously.

Believe it or not the House of Bishops decided to amend the Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 proposal and send it back to the House of Deputies.  And guess what?  It is what the original committee recommended: that is, to combine all of the calendars and use them all at once for the next three years.  Can you say confusion?  So … wait for it … the calendar of saints is now the entire list contained in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006, A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2015), and the proposed Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 contained in the Blue Book.  For those of us who utilize the sanctoral calendar for our daily prayers this should make for an interesting three years.  The House of Deputies voted overwhelmingly by Orders to support what the Bishops send back (I voted no on principle.).  With only a few hours left of Convention the Bishops must have known that whatever they sent back would be approved – or else, if not approved the whole thing would die.

And, the Book of Occasional Services 2018 was sent to the House of Bishops for approval.  I don’t know whether they approved it or not.  The new edition will be available digitally only, for now.  It will include some Spanish liturgical celebrations unique to the cultures of our Central American and Caribbean dioceses.

Oh, and I almost forgot … the House of Deputies (hopefully the House of Bishops, too) voted to add three saints to the sanctoral calendar: Thurgood Marshall, Florence Tim-Oi, and Pauli Murray.  What’s a few more saints for the good of the Church?  And these three are certainly worthy.

No word yet either whether the House of Bishops adopted any of the Palestine divestment resolutions that the House of Deputies sent them.

The session today ended at 1.30 pm, so there was no afternoon session.  Susan, the 1st Alternate, was not seated therefore.  C’est la vie.

Be sure to check the websites for The Living Church and Episcopal Church News Service for everything about convention’s actions.

We are off tomorrow for a family reunion in the California Sierras.  Thanks for keeping up with convention with me.

Day Eight

Well, it is the next to last day.  The Legislative Session began at 9 am.  We slogged through a lot of resolutions.  A raft of  resolutions regarding the occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem passed overwhelmingly.  Probably the Bishops will not agree … it seems to be the way it goes.  Lay persons and clergy vote one way, and the bishops vote another.

The House of Deputies got into quite a tussle regarding the proposal for a new Lesser Feasts and Fast volume.  The committee, unbelievably, reported out that they wanted to combine the calendars of the 1979 BCP (as amended in previous Conventions), the Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006, Holy Women & Holy Men, and A Great Cloud of Witnesses.  The list was humongous … and included duplicate days for lots of saints, including Saint Patrick and Thomas Ken.  It didn’t matter to the committee … here a giant list, for the next three years figure it out.  Phew.  Thankfully, an amendment returned the resolution to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music’s work for a new Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.  There will be one book now and one list of saints, the Sanctoral Calendar.  It can be revised, updated, etc. at any Convention.  But … it still has to pass the House of Bishops as the House of Deputies passed it.  Who knows what might happen tomorrow.   If Bishops don’t approve it we will continue to have four sanctoral calendars in competition with each other for another three years.  I pray that the Bishops agree.

The proposal for a new volume of the Book of Occasional Services was presented by the committee but the entire text was not yet translated into Spanish – and a constitutional question delayed a decision.  There is hope tomorrow.

Two of the Rochester clergy are leaving tomorrow, Friday, so I have been shanghaied as an Alternate Deputy.  I am the 2nd Alternate in the Clergy order elected by diocesan convention so I could be legally seated.  As the Diocese decided only to register one Alternate (at a cost of $600) I was not registered.  One of the clerical deputies paid for my registration so I could take a seat for 1/2 a day, when the other Alternate Clergy Deputy was already taking a seat.  So, now, Friday, for the whole day the Diocese of Rochester will be fully represented at General Convention in the Clerical Order with four clergy: Dahn Gandell, Denise Yarbrough, Billy Daniels, and me.  This makes it particular poignant because Susan, my wife and the 1st Lay Alternate, will be seated for Keisha Stokes.  That’s two Hartneys on the floor representing the Diocese of Rochester together!!! We are proud to do so.

The Legislative Session begins at 8 am tomorrow.  Up early for that.

Day Seven

Well, this was quite a day.  The Legislative Committee on Ministry, that I serve, met at 8.30 am.  Unexpectedly we were in the middle of the argument regarding the admission of Cuba and its bishop into union with the General Convention.  The Constitution and Canons do not provide for the entry of a diocese with its bishop into The Episcopal Church.  As the House of Bishops had already seated Cuba’s bishop in its house this made the House of Deputies resolution a bit dicey.  An agreement was reached to let it be this time, and fix the problem later.

Then the House of Deputies convened at 10.30 and the first order of business was to seat the Deputies from the Diocese of Cuba and welcome its bishop.  It all went well with much rejoicing.  The history is interesting.  In 1966 the House of Bishops, by itself, removed Cuba from The Episcopal Church to become an autonomous diocese.  Since then the Anglican Church of Canada has taken them under their wings.  The Cuban diocese has repeatedly tried to rejoin The Episcopal Church to no avail.  After all these years – today, it happened.  They are part of our church again.  And some mighty complicated things have to take place: such as, compensating their clergy as part of the Church Pension Fund, widows of clergy since 1966, granting their clergy years of service for pension purposes, how to pay them pension $$$ when Cuba/USA restrict the transfer of benefits.  There is much work to accomplish.

Then we learned that the House of Bishops had rejected the House of Deputies action on the revision of the Book of Common Prayer.  Their new resolution does not accomplish revision of the BCP, IMO.  And, in my opinion this is a sad day for the Church. Their resolution also “memorializes” the BCP 1979.  Can anyone say, The Society for the Preservation of the Book of Common Prayer 1979?  This is what happened in the mid-70’s when we labored hard to adopt the 1979 book.  I guess that proves that old habits never die and keep coming back.

Eventually today the House of Deputies accepted what the House of Bishops proposed re: the BCP 1979.  Why, I don’t know.

And then tonight I learned that the House of Bishops have also rejected a House of Deputies resolution seeking divestment of companies supporting the occupation of Palestine, the West Bank, and Gaza.  The age-old argument that divestment won’t work was trotted out.  I heard that over and over again when the fight to end apartheid was happening in South Africa.  Guess what eventually worked?  Divestment.  Even Bishop Tutu says that divestment to force Israel to end the occupation is correct – as do the Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ, and many other of our sister denominations.

But I digress.

Other resolutions are slowly coming to votes.  We had an evening session tonight to keep the process moving along.  That is three sessions today: Morning, Afternoon, and Evening.

Some might ask: Are we having fun yet?  Well, actually I wouldn’t call it fun … but it is the church … and it can get messy.

On to Thursday!

Day Six

Sadly, late today I learned that the House of Bishops has not accepted the House of Deputies resolution that begins the revision of the Book of Common Prayer.  They have a completely different idea and are sending it back to the House of Deputies.  No guts, I guess.

The day began with Legislative Meetings at 7.30 am.  The committee on Ministry nearly finished its work, incredibly.  Matters concerning lay persons and Letters of Agreement were among the issues discussed.

To keep up with the work of the House of Deputies (and the House of Bishops for that matter) you need to be monitoring the Episcopal News Service news feed, and/or The Living Church daily round up.  They have all of the details.  I really cannot keep up with all of it.

The Houses held a joint session to consider issues of the Stewardship Creation in the late morning.  It was a good presentation  by a variety of speakers including the Archbishop of the Church of Southern Africa.

In the afternoon session of the House of Deputies we passed an amazing number of resolutions dealing the Transgender and Non-Binary persons in the Episcopal Church.  All of the resolutions were overwhelming approved.  This is an incredibly different place than the Episcopal Church was just several triennia ago.  There were even two transgender male clergy (Deputies) who spoke to the resolutions.  This is not your grandmothers church anymore, for sure.

Oh, I forgot to say that Bishop Singh preached at the Convention Eucharist yesterday.  His sermon can be found here: https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/pressreleases/july-9-sermon-by-bishop-prince-singh-episcopal-diocese-of-rochester/

Worship tonight was on a Creation theme: indigenous American music, etc.  It was lovely.

My seminary, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale held their alumni dinner tonight.  It was enjoyable, though I was one of the oldest alums present.

Day Five

The Legislative Committee on Ministry began its meeting at 7.30 this morning, despite a hurricane-like downpour outside.  We slogged through some interesting issues – indigenous ministry, support for undocumented persons seeking ordination, and whether bishops and dioceses from other parts of the Anglican Communion, and our ecumenical partners, can join The Episcopal Church.  Bishop Sisk of New York was among our guests to testify.

The Legislative sessions today included discussion on a special order of business to discuss an investment screen to affect change in Palestine.  The special committee reported that USA companies are complicit in the occupation of the West Bank East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.  And that the Palestinian Church was calling on us to divest in those companies to force the Israelis to seek peace honorably.  It was quite a discussion for and against.  There were several amendments offered to soften the resolution.  All but one failed.  Eventually the vote was taken and it overwhelmingly supported the committee report: 619/214.

The other issue today was the major report on the Safeguarding of Women, children and Men in the Church.  This was something major that consumed a lot of time.  Many many persons spoke from the floor in support of the resolution which eventually was adopted in a near unanimous voice vote.

It is complicated … but I was registered as the 2nd Clerical Alternate today and sat as a Deputy for the 2nd legislative session of the day.  I have now served in the House of Deputies in 1994, 1997, 2000, 2009, 2012, and 2018.  In addition to serving as the Legislative Aide for the Committee on Ministry in 1997, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2018.  Some would say I need help … but I love it.

Day Four

[Written a day late … sorry]

Sunday was quite a day.  First was the Bishops Against Gun Violence Rally in a small park in front of the Hilton, adjacent to the Convention Center.  About 70 Bishops attended all attired in rochet and red chimeres.  It was quite sight.  Special guests were the parents and siblings of Parkland High School shooting victim, Carmen Schentrup.  Her father and mother spoke to the rally – it was heart-rending.  Next was a 16 year old high school freshman from Waco, Texas (an Episcopalian) who organized a school walkout in March in solidarity with the Parkland students.  This young woman was a spectacular speaker and wise beyond her years.  Amazing.  We sang a song or two, heard from a couple of the Bishops present, prayed and were done.

Then it was off to the Hutto Detention Center (though it is officially called the Hutto Residential Center, sic) in 19 matching white air-conditioned buses.  The transportation was paid for by Trinity Church Wall Street.  It was estimated that there were @800 Episcopalians in Hutto, Texas, for the witness at the detention center.  The rally was permitted to be held between two Little League fields adjacent to the detention center.  It was hot, very hot – and very flat.  Umbrellas and hats were a must to deflect the heat form the Texas sun while standing in the field.  The Presiding Bishop offered a rousing speech, we sang, we prayed, and we sang some more.  Many of the participants walked the .5 mile to the detention center entrance lot and were prevented by a lone police car from progressing further.  They said that they could seen women on the inside of the detention center waving to them.  A later phone call from inside the center confirmed that the women were watching.  The caller said that they were crying, knowing that people they didn’t know cared.  We certainly did.

On the way back I had one of those memorable moments.  Seated comfortably with my wife in the front of one of the first buses to leave, Bishop Barbara Harris got on and it was announced that she needed a seat in the front because she was having trouble navigating.  I heard her say, “Oh, don’t worry, I will take a seat in the back of the bus.”  Oh no I said … Bishop Barbara Harris is not going to have to sit in the back of the bus…. it just didn’t seem right.  I got up and gave her my seat.  Susan enjoyed her company back to Austin!

The late afternoon was a legislative session of the House of Deputies.  Nearly the entire session was consumed by voting for members of the Executive Council, the General Seminary Board, Trustees of the Church Pension Fund, President of the House of Deputies, Secretary of General Convention, and for Treasurer.  Despite electronic voting it took seemingly forever.

Then it was off to the triennial Eucharist of Integrity.  This service was held in a hotel ballroom.  The energy of previous triennials seemed to be missing this time.  In triennials past this service has been a rallying point for LGBTQ issues and people.  The liturgies have been spectacular affairs with lots of incense, colors, music and preaching.  Time time?  Not so much.  I don’t know – perhaps some of the steam has dissipated as LGBTQ issues are not nearly as marginalized at General Convention as they once were.  Could be just me.

Day Three

Another morning of Legislative Committee meetings at 7.30 am.  The testimony this morning was not as energetic, but included a resolution on gathering statistics regarding LGBTQ clergy: their deployment and compensation; and another resolution regarding appropriate compensation and job postings for lay employees throughout the church.

A Legislative Session convened at 10.30 and continued the debate regarding a future revision of the Book of Common Prayer.  After some amendments and a vote by Orders (Lay and Clergy separately) it was approved.  The process of revision of the Book of Common Prayer will begin with the gathering of information during the next three years.  All study material will be available in English, Spanish, French and Haitian Creole, thanks to an amendment.  At the 2021 General Convention the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music will make their report, and will likely begin work on a  book for Trial Use to be presented to the General Convention in 2024.  Then at the General Convention of 2027 a Proposed Book of Common Prayer would be approved for a first “reading.”  The final approval, a “second” reading would be at the General Convention of 2030 – producing a Book of Common Prayer 2030.  2030!  Yikes.  I will be really old by then.

The House of Bishops will consider the same resolution on Monday, likely.  If they approve, the wheels will begin to move towards a new book.

Following the intense debate, and emotional at times, regarding Prayer Book revision special guests were introduced.  It was the Schentrup family of Parkland, Florida.  Their daughter, and sister, Carmen, was murdered in the Parkland High School massacre.  Carmen was a straight A student and an active Episcopalian in her church in the Diocese of Southeast Florida.  Carmen’s mother spoke – and it was moving.  She said that for days she was unable to speak about her loss, but she decided that not saying anything meant she was complicit in the silence against gun violence in America.  Many of us in the House of Deputies, numbering nearly 1000 people, had tears in our eyes as we heard her speak.  May God have mercy on us if as Americans we let this continue. [see separate posting on the home page to hear the family’s presentation]

After lunch with the Diocesan deputation: pizza in a hotel hallway lounge, a joint session Evangelism included an address by the Bishop of Iowa, a Latino church planter, musicians from the Episcopal Youth Event, and a witness by a Priest.

The evening was an entirely different story.  Everyone boarded buses for the Palmer Center in Austin – that’s a lot of buses!  There we held a revival with jazz band, gospel songs, prayer, and of course – Michael Curry preaching.  The highlight for me was the Spanish interpreter who shadowed Bishop Curry during his 15-20 minute sermon (maybe longer) and translated every phrase, sometimes complete with gestures.  She was fantastic.  Many stayed for a Texas barbecue dinner.  Me?  We came back to the central city and had a nice dinner at a local restaurant.

Tomorrow is another big day: a March with the Bishops against Gun Violence, a pilgrimage to the Hutto Detention Center for immigrant detained at the Mexico/USA border with Bishops, Lay persons, and Clergy for a witness against the policies of the Trump Administration.  And what looms as a long legislative session in the late afternoon.

Day Two

Legislative Committee meetings reconvened this morning at 7.30 am.  Ministry had a full house to talk about seminary education (both residential and online) and how to afford it.  There must have been five or six seminary Deans present to make their cases.  Several resolutions regarding indigenous people and the Doctrine of Discovery also attracted considerable attention.  At 10 am we recess to attend a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies on Racial Reconciliation.  Four presenters: a former skinhead, an African American rapper, the direction of the Absalom Jones Center in Atlanta, and a Dreamer who is an ordained Priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles.  All four of them made strong presentations.  Their presentations were followed by table discussions by the entire assembly.

Lunch was a quick one as the Legislative Committee reconvened at 1.15 pm.  We slogged through afternoon hearings continuing to hear testimony on the funding of education for ordained ministry.

Finally at 4.15 we held the first, and only, Legislative Session of Day Two.  Immediately a protracted discussion ensured regarding a Special Order of Business to consider the report of the Committee considering revision of the Book of Common Prayer.  Eventually it was agreed to have one hour of discussion on the report.  Persons arguing against said that the Church is not ready, after 40 years, to consider a revision of the Prayer Book.  It would be too costly; it would upset people; millenials don’t want; etc. etc.  Those arguing for the resolution pointed out that language have changed in the 40 years since the Prayer Book was adopted.  Inclusive language is now the norm, not the exception.  Changing the language in the Prayer Book is already common-place across the country.  The demographics of the country have changed dramatically since the Prayer Book was adopted.  Well, anyway, time ran out at 5.30 and the discussion will continue tomorrow.

We rushed off to the day’s Eucharist.  This was the “Festival Eucharist” which included the ingathering of the United Thank Offering (totally $3+ million this Triennium).  President of the House of Deputies, Gay Jennings preached.  Prayers were read in English, Spanish, Inuit, and Hawaiian.   Music was sung in traditions of the Hymnal 1982, Spanish songs, Inuit, and new compositions by American composers.  Members of the Austin Symphony provided brass and tympani accompaniment.  Bishops vested for the service, processed in together, and sat together.   You can follow services as the bulletins are online every day at: https://www.generalconvention.org/worship-gc2018

It all starts again tomorrow morning with Legislative Committees at 7.30 am.

Day One

The General Convention convened this morning at 8 am CDT.  Legislative actions to organize the convention were taken care of and Deputies practiced voting on their electronic voting machines.  Various appointments were confirmed: the Board of Transitional Ministry, the Church Archives, the Secretary of General Convention, etc.

We broke for the Opening Eucharist in an adjacent cavernous hall.  There must have been 2500 chairs.  A music group planed rhythmic drums as we entered to find a seat.  The dias for the choir/music group and the altar party is a raised platform behind a large square altar on its on platform in front.  Presiding Bishop Curry preached, I think for a least twenty minutes.  You can access his entire sermon on the Episcopal News Service website.    As it was at the last General Convention the entire service bulletin was only available on Ipads or phones.  [Though I did see some printed bulletins, but very few]  The Ipad service bulletin was in English, French, and Spanish.  The Hebrew Scripture reading and alternating verses of the Psalm were read in excellent Spanish.

Following the Eucharist the legislative committees reconvened until 1 pm.  My committee, Ministry, was busy considering ministry oriented resolutions.  Lunch was a quick one as the legislative committees reconvened again at 2.15 pm until 4.  Then it was off to the 2nd House of Deputies session for Day One which lasted until 6.30 pm.

Decided in the House of Deputies, awaiting approval from the House of Bishops, was the long-sought reimbursement to the President of the House of Deputies for expenses incurred as a result of her official role in The Episcopal Church.  This was a compromise resolution proposed by several bishops so it has a good chance of passing their House.  Also the House of Deputies agreed to allow bishops to join them for special presentations and discussions, but to vote separately.  It required a change to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church (pass on its first reading in 2015).  After considerable discussion which included comments from the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Dallas to defeat the matter on this 2nd reading (both Dioceses had bishops lead many of their clergy and churches out of The Episcopal Church), it passed closely on a required vote by orders in both orders.  [Lay votes required to pass: 55.  Lay vote: 59; Clergy vote required to pass 56.  Clergy vote: 58]

Time for a quick bite to eat and yet another legislative committee meeting from 7.30 – 9 pm.  As a Legislative Aide I am required to be present at least 30 minutes prior to a legislative committee meeting … so my dinner break was 30 minutes, and lunch 45.

Thankfully the day is over now.  It starts again tomorrow morning with legislative committee meetings at 7.30 am (I have to be there at 7, at least.)  So, good night.

Day: -1

Well, today is over.  Whew.  The day began at my Committee, Ministry.  Like any new thing it needs to be set up and tested before it runs smoothly.  Well, the committee needed that, for sure.  It was a four hour meeting and I think that I can safely say that very little was accomplished.  We held hearing on four resolutions – which all dealt with Christian formation.  This is a terribly important topic and particularly important for the Ministry Committee to deal with.  Imagine, Christian formation does not always equal ordination! Would that all Commissions on Ministry throughout the church saw their role as for the Laity, and not exclusively for the raising up of ordained ministers.  But I digress.

For some reason the leadership asked the committee to begin consideration of a resolution that dealt with the establishment of a Task Force to examine addictive behavior in persons aspiring to ordained leadership.  This would apply to deacons, priests, and bishops.  The questions: what is addiction?  is gaming an addiction?  doesn’t everyone have an addiction of some kind?  should task force members include persons recovering from addiction?  etc. etc.  They ended trying to reword the resolution on a projection screen as a committee of the whole.  This is never a good thing.   This is a task for a small group of persons to word-smith the changes and bring it back – 26 people have 26 opinions about how things should be worded.  But they labored on, and on, and eventually decided … wait for it … to send it to a small committee and come back!

And the committee debated, gently, whether a Standing Commission on Formation should be established.  You see, at the 2015 General Convention all Standing Commissions except Governance and Liturgy/Music were abolished.  So the Standing Committee on Governance is overwhelmed with important work – like Christian formation.  In a resolution they have asked for help by establishing a new Standing Commission for formation specifically.  Well … will this lead to a slippery slope of standing commission again?  will everyone want a standing commission?  should this be a task force?  Oh, goodness.  Again, the committee didn’t reach any agreement and sent it back to a small committee to “work on it.”

Four hours!  And nothing to show for it.  Tomorrow we have fifteen resolutions to have hearings for … four times more than today.  Unless the leadership miraculously steps up this could be a long day.

Meanwhile the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies met in a joint session to hear a rousing, as usual, address by the Presiding Bishop, an address by the President of the House of Deputies, an address by the President of the Episcopal ChurchWomen, an address by the President of the Church Pension Fund, and a welcome from the Bishop of Texas.  Then in separate sessions the houses learned how to use their Ipads specifically issued for convention.  [Note: You can access all of this information on the Virtual Binder, too.  I have a tab on the home page for you.]  These Ipads have extra features for note-taking and communication.  It was an exhaustive slog through things like: click here, click there, scroll up, scroll down.  And then the Parliamentarian briefed everyone on the Rules of Order.  Now I love rules of order, but I must admit that trying to explain them to persons who don’t love them can be almost futile.  He covered everything, but it took seemingly forever.

At last the day was over … and it was raining for the walk back to the hotel.  Thanks, God.  Susan and I skipped the Austin fireworks for a restaurant dinner in the hotel and a good night’s sleep.

Onward.  The first legislative day is tomorrow.

Day: -2 later

A day of meetings to learn about meetings.  Very Episcopal.

Registration for everyone began at 9 am.  This is always an interesting time because everyone is in various queues according the Diocese by Alpha order.  Bishop, Lay Deputies and Clergy Deputies and Alternates are all in the same lines.  It is quite a gathering of who’s who in the Episcopal Church – all in one place.  And then there is “you.”  After they waited in a line to be certified, they had to get in another line to be registered, then in a third line to receive their computer tablet (specially designed just for Convention).  The tablet is electronically linked to each Bishop, Deputy and Alternate so you have to give them back!  It is really much easier than the giant binder of a decade or so ago that every Bishop, Deputy and Alternate had to lug around (4 inch ring binder!)

The Committee Officers and the Legislative Aides met in the afternoon. to hear short addresses by the Presiding Bishop and the Presiding of the House of Deputies and be duly inducted using a version of the commissioning prayers from the Book of Occasional Services.  The the chairs of the Dispatch of Business of both the House of Bishops and House of Deputies addressed us about procedures to fill papers.  It all ended with about 30 minutes for dinner, so that had to be skipped because the committees met at 5.30 until 7.30.  The committee I serve, Ministry, got itself organized in a spacious meeting room at the JW Marriott.  It is always a fun time trying to figure out how the hotel will manage these meeting rooms which are actually cutouts of their large ballrooms.  Ours was, so far, quite successful.

Finally found a hamburger stand adjacent to the hotel and walked to a CVS for a necessary supply of Diet Coke.  Not a bad price: 3 12/packs for $10.  And they are returnable in New York, but not in Texas.  Should I bring all of them home?  Nah.

Rochester folk gathered tonight to check in.  Everyone has “made it” here but Dawn Gandell who for some reason is way laid in Chicago.  She will be here tomorrow.  Tomorrow’s committee begins at 8 am and I have to be there at @7.15 – so I am outta here tonight.

Day: -2 early

Safely arrived in Austin.  As usual the ride in the shuttle from the airport to the hotel was with other Episcopal lay/clergy friends.  We are all converging on the same geography so everywhere you looked there was someone you know, or think you know.

Example: I was standing at the baggage carousel and starting talking with the Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Bethlehem.  She serves on the committee which I serve as Legislative Aide.  In the midst of our conversation a gentleman comes over, assumes that I am part of Diocese of Texas welcoming committee, and introduces me to a priest and his family from Central America who don’t speak English.  They need to find out how to get from the airport to the city.  I explain that they can take the shuttle with us, or call Lyft or Uber.  Confused they eventually seem to understand.  Thinking about the gentleman who began this conversation I realized that he was a Bishop, as he had a hefty episcopal ring on his right hand.  He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him.  And so it goes.

Registration is this morning, my orientation meeting in the afternoon, and first committee meeting tonight.

Day: -3

On the way to Austin, waiting for my flight from Rochester International Airport/Charlotte/Austin.  Weather there is about the same as it is here: 100 degrees, though there is a bit less humidity there.  Doesn’t matter really as we will be in hotels and the convention center mostly 24/7.

I have read today that persons are worried that General Convention will be contentious, etc.  Hey, it is General Convention.  That is why we get together, all of us.  People have strong opinions, they talk, they listen, and they compromise ultimately.  It is who we are as Episcopalians.  If we didn’t like it this way we would be Roman Catholics and the Pope and the Bishops would tell us what to do.

I am of mixed feelings right now regarding revision of the Book of Common Prayer.  The present books was adopted as the Proposed Book in 1976, 42 years ago.  The BCP 1928 was adopted as the Proposed Book in 1925, a 51 year interval.  But consider what has happened to the world, technology, the environment, space exploration, etc.  in the 42 years since 1976.  Language and communication have changed immensely at a rate never imagined in 1976.  But I know that the full impact of the sweeping liturgical changes implemented in the 1979 BCP has not yet been fully realized throughout the church.  That is sad as I have spent nearly my entire ordained ministry preaching and living those changes every day.

And then there is the proposed change in the Celebration of Marriage.  Printing gender neutral services in the Book of Occasional Services misses the point in my opinion.  There is a reason why the volume is called “occasional”.  If we mean that same gender marriages are equal to opposite gender marriage (and we do) then we have to say so in our liturgical book, the Book of Common Prayer.  Yes, there will be “fall out” from this decision but this is a matter of justice and compassion.  We have said that the LGBTQ community is the “other” long enough.  They are us, and we are them.

On to Austin.  The new day awaits.