Thursday, July 9, 2009

And that's a wrap: Day one from Anaheim

What an amazing first day of General Convention it has been. The booth was teaming with action and the t-shirts were flying out. We still have a few left, only in sizes small and medium. They tend to run a bit larger or true to size, so please come by the booth in the morning and pick yours up. We are so excited for tomorrows t-shirt day presence at the Eucharist and thank you--for your overwhelming outpouring of support and enthusiasm.

Tonight, Caroline brings us two fantastic stories. We commend them to your reading pleasure and look forward to bringing you more news and a "colorful" story tomorrow.

Where did they all go?

It was a wonderful hour of testimony from gay and lesbian lay and clergy talking about their experience of marriage. It was inspiring to hear bishops arguing the importance of being able to celebrate our marriages. But something was missing. No one came to the hearing on B012 who didn’t agree with it. Have they all left for ACNA? Is there no one left willing to have a conversation, to provide a different perspective? Deputy Harrigan from South West Florida, a member of the committee, stood up at the end of the testimony and told us what people had said to him privately. Putting to one side the well known arguments against marriage for same-gender couples, he expressed four concerns.

But I’m jumping ahead. Before him, the crowded room (and those outside the open doors who could hear over the piped-in hotel Muzak) heard from approximately 30 people in favor of the resolution. Bishop Steve Lane of Maine introduced the resolution which calls for ‘generous discretion’ to be allowed bishops in those states where marriage is legal between two people of the same gender. He said that the conversation has changed since three years ago. We are no longer in a theoretical situation because now the law in some states allows marriage for same-gender couples, which creates a conflict with the canons. The resolution has four aspects – it would create one uniform standard for all the baptized, not separate classes of the baptized; it would adapt resources already available (in the BCP) so that clergy are not just making up their own liturgies; it would create transparency and accountability through the exercise of bishops’ oversight; and finally it would allow data to be gathered for the use of the whole church. He reassured the committee that though this would end “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” it is not an end run on normal Book of Common Prayer revision, but an attemp t to respond to an interim need.
And now a few highlights from the moving and articulate testimony.

One lesbian couple had refrained from having a private blessing on their relationship believing that sacraments are intended for the whole church. But as one partner has reached the age of 75, they have decide they cannot keep waiting for a church marriage and take the risk that she might die before they “come in from exile.”

At the other end of the age spectrum, Bishop Shaw of Massachusetts said that Episcopal high school students had told him they could not invite their friends to a church which did not welcome everyone. Sam Gould, who attended in 2006 as part of the official youth presence but is present this year as a deputy for Massachusetts, said “in some places the church of tomorrow has come today” and we should welcome it. Another young man who grappled with the Biblical witness concluded “I do not believe that God addressed this issue.”

Janie Donohue from Connecticut told us that most of her friends and family are not Christian but when marriage became a possibility of same-sex couples, they turned to her to celebrate their weddings. She found it difficult to explain the canons and had to emphasize that God is not the Church – a rejection by the Church is not a rejection by God. Janie is a partnered lesbian about to become a mom and her friends cannot understand why she will not get civilly married in order to provide legal protection for her child, but as an Episcopal priest she wants her marriage blessed by the faith community. She reminded us that people who leave because they think we’re too liberal don’t leave the Church but people who leave because they are not accepted, leave the Church completely.

So back to those people who weren’t there but have a different opinion. They would have said:
  • Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right
  • TEC has not yet said anything which suggests that marriage between people of the same gender can be considered a “wholesome example”
  • The way forward on B033 hasn’t been decided yet
  • There are several steps involved here – including the impact on the canons – we can’t just do one thing without considering everything else.
So let’s give the final word to a Bishop who was there and has been there again and again. Gene Robinson said ‘Marriage equality is a reality coming to a state near you… Now is the time for the Episcopal Church to stand up and be the church that God is calling it to be.”
Amen, preach it brother!

* * *

Transgender experience explained to General Convention Committee

The World Mission Committee got a quick lesson Wednesday evening on what transgender means, and the difference between "transgender" and "sexual orientation" from Integrity’s own Rev. Cameron Partridge. At a hearing on two resolutions designed to outlaw discrimination against people based on "gender identity or expression of gender identity," Cameron confidently fielded questions from the committee. Several trans people (both clergy and lay) testified to the importance of making sure the church is fully inclusive of every shade of trans person.

Deacon Vicki Gray hit it on the head when she said "bring transgendered is a baptismal thing" and pointed out the analogy between transitioning and baptism which moves us from one state to another. We are all ministers by our baptism she proclaimed, and none should be excluded from ministry.

the civil rights resolutions will be discussed starting at 7am.
Caroline Hall for IntegrityUSA

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