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Sunday, July 19, 2009

In case you thought GC was remote & irrelevant to Missouri...

I know that a lot of people believe that General Convention is out of touch with the "real Episcopal Church" and is just a remote, elitist group making top-down decisions they impose on the person in the pew. But General Convention is really one of the most amazingly grassroots styles of church governance I know.

If you feel that the actions of the 2009 General Convention are wrong -- and one of the great things about this year's convention was the genuine warmth of feeling between those who voted in the majority and those who did not.... and who voted with the majority changed issue by issue-- here is what you need to do: Make sure that your parish or mission elects people who represent your point of view at diocesan convention.

Here at St. Mark's we often elect as our diocesan convention representatives anyone who is willing to run, rather than really thinking about who are the best people or politicking to elect people who represent a variety of perspectives. We elect people who are willing to offer about six Saturdays a year to go to convocation meetings, often "diocesan convention groupies" who have been going to convocation and convention for years. But our diocesan convention delegates elect the General Convention deputies. And often our diocesan convention delegates are not people who are willing to take on controversy, so when advocates for GLBT issues (of whom I count myself as one) develop resolutions about going beyond B033 or asking the SCLM to develop blessings for gay unions and bring them to diocesan convention, they pass. And then those resolutions find themselves on the floor of General Convention.

Actually, the St Mark's convention delegates are great and they are "movers and shakers" in our congregation (two of them are on vestry!) but this is my impression of how the system works in many places.

One of our Missouri 2008 Convention resolutions became General Convention's C056 (developed by Jay Kloecker and Don Fisher and endorsed by Oasis congregations) which was the basis for work on the resolution which ultimately came to the floor and passed in both houses about gathering resources for blessing gay unions... it was merged with other resolutions but ours was the basis because it said, in effect, "no one should be forced to bless a same sex relationship" so it appeared irenic and inclusive. (The GC website is giving error messages or I would be able to quote our original resolution and the form which was voted on by both houses.)

To me, this means that the decisions of General Convention are not the acts of remote, top-down elitists but examples of how our local Diocesan Convention decisions can impact the whole church through General Convention. So if you are concerned about how out of touch with life in YOUR congregation General Convention is, please step up and work through the existing structures of the church to change the course of the next General Convention. Elect different people to diocesan convention. Work to bring resolutions to diocesan convention which can be sent to General Convention. Run for General Convention.

This is not meant to sound like scolding although it may. It is just my way of saying that we keep on seeing examples of Missour's local convention paving the way for the decisions of General Convention and although many feel powerless in the face of GC's actions (and the way the Press spins them) I hope that all Episcopalians will take to heart the idea that every parish and person willing to run for diocesan convention has a role to play in changing the face of our church.

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