Wednesday, July 30, 2003

And So It Begins

Well today is the first official day of GC. It has been a fairly amazing day in many ways. I'm trying to keep notes to remember all the little details for you but I don't know how well I do by the time I get to the keyboard in the evenings.
It is astounding to be surrounded by literally thousands of Episcopalians. Of all colors and pieties and theology. It was a profound moving experience to worship together this morning and hear the massed voices singing and praying together. Equally wonderful was listening to a very young lady, perhaps 8, doing the epistle reading before all these people. She was wonderful! Receiving the cup at Communion from one of the youth delegates was also wonderful.
The Presiding Bishop(PB) opened with a wonderful address yesterday calling us to be open to all points of view so that we can hear what God wants us to hear in this time and place. He reminded us that Christ came to redeem the world, not the church. A focus on who is in or out of communion with whom is not based on the Gospel. Our denomination was born in a time of conflict between "tradition" and "reform". We are the people who are called to the "both/and". We have not "become" the church, but rather we are constantly "becoming" the church.
The president of the House of Deputies also addressed us (The Very Rev. Geo. Werner). What struck me in this equally powerful address was a reminder that there is no "neutral" interpretation of the Bible. It is a powerfully disrespectful position to say that someone holding a different interpretation doesn't take Scripture seriously. He said that the church is much like Noah's Ark. The only way to bear the stench within is the remember the storm without. The two addresses created a wonderful starting point for the difficult decisions that are still ahead.
I've seen all the various "celebrities" for this GC. Canon Gene Robinson sits at the next table to mine at worship. I've passed the PB on the street several times and had many other bishops pointed out to me. Their strengths and weaknesses are well known (and often widely discussed) by all here. We come as imperfect human beings to struggle and try to find the right path.
So far we've only seen one "demonstration" by an outside group. Their message was so obviously hateful and lacking in the blessing of the Spirit that they are easily and quickly ignored. Some of the more conservative elements have also made themselves apparent. Being handed an outside publication (not published by the GC itself) that declares itself the voice of "Mainstream" Episcopalians strikes me as both arrogant and presumptuous.
The big events today were addresses by two of the GCOYP, one to the house of Bishops and the other to the house of Deputies. The two young men gave wonderful speeches and received standing ovations in each house. They challenged both houses to move forward to truly bringing young people into full membership in the church.
Beyond that Minneapolis is a beautiful city filled with wonderful people. The weather has been beautiful so we've been doing as much walking as possible. A good idea since I'm eating about twice as much as is good for me. Ah the weight I lost is coming back with a vengence!
The business will really get cranked up starting tomorrow. More updates as we go along.

Monday, July 28, 2003

First Day at GC

Well I'm here! Beautiful weather and a great hotel room in Minneapolis. So far that's all I can tell you about GC. The convention itself doesn't begin till tomorrow. My role here is as Provincial Youth coordinator for Province II. My immediate concern are my two youth delegates (they have seat and voice but no vote. They're allowed on the floor -I'm not - and can speak to convention just like any delegate. But they can't vote on the issues) Ryle and Betsy are two outstanding young people just like all the rest of the Official Youth Presence (the official term for the youth. I'll refer to it as GCOYP) They're catching back up, playing, laughing and not thinking a lot about the issues that await us. I don't want you to think that these are kids who don't care. They went through all the proposed resolutions, pulled out all the ones having to do with youth and passed them around for comment. But they then went on to read most of the rest of them too! I've spoken with a fair number of them who have also spoken to either their rector and/or their bishop about the issues coming up.

As for myself I'm saddened by the vitriol generated by both sides in these debates. While I have my own feelings on the issues it bothers me that there seems to be little discussion only posturing. There seems to be only "our way". For the traditionalists it's our way or we leave. I'm not sure how the church advances by splitting. I am also hearing from some traditionalists that they're NOT leaving even if the church does something that they think is absolutely wrong. I hope most, even all the traditionalists will take this position. We need all the parts of the spectrum (OK maybe not all, the extremes at BOTH ends can take a hike in my opinion).
I'm saddened by the feeling coming in. I'm apprehensive that some folks one way or the other will feel they have no choice but to leave. I also told the youth that they will spend the next 10 days standing firmly in the center of history being made. The world is paying more attention to our church than most days. What we do here will be marked if only for a little while. They will have the best view and perhaps even be given the chance to affect the outcome. I will pray for the youth and my church.
May God keep us all in the palm of his hand. May our ears be open to His words.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The path of many paths

I had someone bring up the question of "Does God know what's going to happen to us" again earlier. This is something that I've fiddled with for years, trying to balance an "All Knowing" God (which I believe) and Free Will (which I also believe). If we have the opportunity to hare off in any strange direction at the drop of a hat and we only decide at the last minute how can God know?
The image that came to me years ago was of me standing at the edge of a sheet of paper. Stretching out in front of me is a black line, a path. But the path begins to branch immediately and branch again and again and again. Each branch branchs again, and the branches cross one another repeatedly till the paper is a mass of black with only tiny flecks of white. Each branch or crossing is a decision or event. That decision or event offers the opportunity to move in a different direction. Each decision (voluntary or otherwise) closes off some branches but opens new ones. At the far side of the paper are the possible outcomes, good, bad and indifferent. I, standing only man height above the page can see some of the immediate surroundings, but I can not see all the possible outcomes or how to get there. God, resting in the traditional position of God - above, can see the entire page. He (pardon the anthropomorphizing, I was raised thinking of God as "him". I realize the limitations of that but it's kind of hard wired now. And the subject for a whole 'nother post) can see all the possible permutations. He knows where each choice may lead, can lead. He also knows where He would like to see me go. In the end it remains my choice. Which choice, which path eventually leading to which outcome.
Free Will and Absolute knowledge. All that's left? Deciding what to do next?

Monday, July 21, 2003

Just a week away!

One week from today I'll be winging off to General Convention, the national convention for my denomination. I've never been to one before and I'm a little nervous to be honest. For the 13 days it meets it is the largest bi-cameral(meaning two houses - Deputies and Bishops) governing body in the world. Beyond all the usual issues (who gets how much money) this GC will also face some controversial issues, verifying the election of an openly gay bishop and whether we should create a blessing service for same sex unions. Opponents of both are making loud noises that if approved they will leave the church and even threaten that our entire worldwide association may come apart. I hope they're wrong. Is this issue a struggle? Absolutely. Should it be the make or break for a worldwide communion? I just can't see it. But that's me. I'm glad that I'm just an official observer. Most people will leave me alone on the subject.
Over the two weeks that I'm there I will be posting thoughts, stories and reactions to what's going on. It will be a completely un official look, representing only my own point of view. I hope folks will stop by and leave comments as the time progresses. Not often that one gets to be at ground zero for history like this.
I'm looking forward to it.
In the meantime I have to figure out what I need to pack!