The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia! (And we have work to do!)
This is the second Friday of the Great 50 Days of Easter. It seems to me that it is also a good time for us to begin work on some of the issues that will face us at General Convention 2018 in July in Austin, Texas. As we celebrate, so let us plan.
The Task Force on Marriage has issued its Blue Book Report with their recommended resolutions to be brought to General Convention for action. The two links immediately below provide you with important information about their report and the resolutions. I urge you to go to them and read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them:
The first link takes you to the report itself. The second is an Episcopal News Service article about the overall issue. It is a longer link and you may need to copy and paste it into your browser for it to work correctly.
Among the resolutions are changes to the Book of Common Prayer and these require two “readings” and two votes at successive General Conventions. The language must be identical for the actions to take place. Some will recall that we voted on some Prayer Book changes at the last General Convention. The work of the Task Force on Marriage resulted in some language changes so we are back at a “first reading” to incorporate those changes.
Each of the dioceses in which we live has 8 Deputies elected to serve at General Convention. Four are ordained and four are lay folks. These are the people who will receive and review the hundreds of resolutions that will come before the General Convention. Resolutions are assigned to committees composed of both bishops and deputies that review and study them in depth. Each resolution will receive an open hearing held by those committees at which anyone, even non-Episcopalians may speak.
The committees then discuss, deliberate and vote on the resolutions before them. Bishops and Deputies vote separately and send the results to the appropriate house of General Convention to be considered on the floor of each house. Each house must pass the identical resolution for it to become the mind of our church or a canonical change. The committees are free to amend and change the language as they see fit. Often information heard at the open hearing may influence such changes. People who are most directly impacted by the proposed actions frequently provide moving testimony that does influence how a committee will ultimately act on a resolution. But all of this is actually AT the General Convention.
There is plenty of work to be done beforehand as well. Those who live in the following dioceses will have a chance to influence their deputations between now and General Convention. The work of the Task Force on Marriage is very important to them because their respective bishops still refuse to allow same sex marriages to be performed in their dioceses: Albany, Central Florida, Dallas, Florida, North Dakota, Springfield, Tennessee, and the Virgin Islands. Some even prohibit their clergy from performing same sex weddings outside the diocese as well.
It is critical that deputations hear from lay folks on this issue, particular us queer lay folks. What happens at General Convention will have a direct impact on us. And while the vast majority of us already have access to marriage as same sex couples, our kindred in the above dioceses do not. As you have heard me say before: lay people are able to speak the truth to power in ways that clergy cannot. Not to put too fine a point on it, there is nothing the bishop can do to inhibit us from speaking our hearts and minds, even to them! Clergy may not be able to be as, shall we say, direct.
We cannot rest on past accomplishments. So it is incumbent on all of us, even those who do not live in the above referenced dioceses to know what resolutions to come before the General Convention can have a direct impact on our lives. We have an obligation to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what our deputies and bishops will be called upon to decide. We have an obligation to let them know how we feel about the topics that will come before them. AND we also have an obligation to support our kindred in those eight dioceses as they pray, work and strive toward being able to access all the sacraments of the church.
There is a group of folks from the Diocese of Tennessee who will gather on the 29th of April to celebrate the Eucharist and bear witness to their situation. They use the name All the Sacraments for All the People (ASAP). The acronym is important. It also brings to mind the immediacy of the need. There are those who may not live long enough to know that they are fully included in the life or our church.
So, as I have urged before: write, call, email, text those who will be making decisions. Let your Deputies and your Bishop(s) know your opinion. If you have a personal story of the impact of this or other proposed legislation, share that with them. Put a face on what some might be able to more easily dismiss as an issue. A face is more difficult to dismiss.
Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all... regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God. And let us be faithful to the work before us to insure that all may know the love of Jesus!
Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow