Friday, July 17, 2009

General Convention: Breathing space on same sex blessings

ANAHEIM -- General Convention is over.

The convention ended Friday with a final vote by the House of Deputies on a resolution drafted by the bishops that would allow for a "generous pastoral response" to our gay brothers and sisters seeking to have their unions blessed. It was not a full-fledged endorsement of same-sex blessings, and it certainly was not an endorsement of gay marriage. But it was a giant step forward for this church.

How this plays out in Virginia will take many months, and Bishop Shannon Johnston has signaled he will work with those of us who want to provide blessings for all those living in committed relationships. What such a ceremony might look like I don't know; the resolution calls for developing "resources" for the church. When this will happen I don't know. We await further conversations with our bishop.

But make no mistake, the Church looks different today.

I know that this development will not please many in our church. Many have deep reservations that we are eroding traditional moral standards on marriage; I don't happen to agree, but those who feel differently must be heard and respected. Others will find this too slow and a half-loaf, and perhaps it is. It is up to each of us to take seriously the signs that say "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" and make it a reality.

My plea is we will give each other breathing space, listen to each other, tell our stories and trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and in our church and making us a new creation.

I also hope that we will now stop fighting over sexuality and move onto the issues that threaten our very existence on this planet. I am mindful of Bishop Stephen Charleston's declaration earlier this week that the environmental clock has stopped ticking and the crisis of global warming is upon us. We are God's hands and feet in this world, God's partners, and the Episcopal Church is especially positioned to show how human beings can live together with their differences and find a way forward. I believe Bishop Stephen when he says we are not an accident.

There were many other issues at General Convention, including passage of a budget with $23 million in cuts for the national church, roughly a reduction by a quarter of the budget. Programs were eliminated and staff was laid off. A number of my friends are now looking for work today and recovering from the shock of losing jobs they love.

I will comment further in the next few days about the other issues, our experiences and some of the more zany moments of convention. We ended as we began, in worship, and Lori and I served together holding chalices and serving communion to friends and strangers alike. We are very blessed to be in this church.


Jim & Lori

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