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Sunday, July 12, 2009

B033 developments

Good morning. I've just returned from the Sunday morning Eucharist with the Presiding Bishop as both celebrant and preacher. It was a genuine spectacle. All of the tables had been removed from the room, replaced by chairs in rows. Rumor has it that there were 10,000 chairs in the room, and there weren't a whole lot of unused ones. All of the bishops in procession behind Hansori Drums were really impressive. The best music was in those pieces done with "soul" - the style of piano that we associate with black gospel music. For even those Episcopalians who are rather restrained in emotional expression, the barriers came down and the place was full of songs of praises.

I've had my time of personal reflection after the service now. So I will report on another issue. In this morning's "The Daily" from Episcopal Life, there is news of action taken on the subject of B033. I was not at the committee meeting in which this vote took place, simply because I couldn't be in two places at once. But, having attended other meetings of that committee, the description in the Daily is consistent with the prior discussion I have heard.

Apparently, the Committee decided to proceed with resolution D025, a resolution which is centered on our participation in the Anglican Communion. But it fortunately it does not have the obfuscatory language of B033. No beating-around-the-bush. You can read the text here:
http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=986&type=Current
If you aren't familiar with the style, the original text is in regular print, text added to the original is in italics, and text deleted from the original is lined out but still presented so you know what was dropped.

The meetings of this committee which I have attended were significantly dominated by the deputies. Generally, there were three, occasionally four, bishops present. And not all of the bishops contributed actively to the discussions. Therefore, I'm not surprised that the vote of the deputies on the committee was 24-2 in approval, while the vote of the bishops was a 3-2 rejection. Bishops: Geralyn Wolfe of Rhode Island was committee co-chair, and William Skilton of South Carolina/Dominican Republic and Charles Keyser, retired of the Armed Forces were regulars at the meetings. In addition to these three, Jean Zache Duracin of Haiti and Dena Harrison, suffragan of Texas, were present for the vote. Bishops Leo Frade (Southeast Florida) and E. Don Taylor (New York) are both listed as committee members, but did not participate in either the discussions or the vote. The bishops caucused after the vote and later declined to comment about it. [This committee is in contrast to Bishop Smith's committee on liturgy where there are regularly quite a few bishops participating, and they don't hesitate to speak their minds openly.] This is all to say that I don't think this is a strong rejection on the part of the bishops. It was only a very small subset of bishops voting, and I'm not at all sure that they are expressing the viewpoint of the full House.

The committee deputies were ably led by Gay Jennings (lay - Ohio), the chair, and Ian Douglas (clergy - Massachusetts), member of the Executive Council and of the Anglican Consultative Council. Deputies Mark Harris (clergy - Delaware) and Neal Michel (clergy - Dallas) were also influential in the discussions. There were others, too, but I've forgotten some of the names.

What's next? Because the Dispatch Committee had already determined that resolutions on this topic would start out in the House of Deputies, this is now referred there. I don't know how long it will be before it comes to a vote. It can be hurried along by a Special Order procedure which temporarily suspends the rules and brings it to the floor quickly. If the deputies pass it in present form, it goes to the House of Bishops for a vote. If the deputies amend it in any way (even dumb stuff like punctuation), I'm told it has to go back to the committee and then to the Deputies again. Given the number of days left in Convention, I surely hope that the Deputies don't argue over amendments. I don't want another last-day debacle.

It's time now to prepare for the afternoon legislative session. If you have questions about the inclusion issues, please don't hesitate to ask. We may not know the answers, but we'll try to find them for you.

Don

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