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Convention has ended. It was a fun, joyous, hilarious and exhausting ride. And is now over. Which suggests that I can take a nap, and wear a non-collared shirt for a full day, and stop demanding that people call the question when I want them to be quiet.

I was all ready to come home yesterday, all set to read mindless fashion magazines on when plane when I glanced at Twitter, and discovered that the Wall Street Journal has lost its collective mind.

I’m not going to link to the article. You can Google it if you wish. It makes for a fascinating and hilarious bit of fiction. From the author’s point of view, The Episcopal Church has emerged straight from a Trollope novel, complete with lavish dinners, the finest wines, and a clandestine potentate, with a mission to destroy democracy, marriage and kittens. If we have time, we shall continue on to massacre apple pie, and America, but we might already be dead by then, so who knows?**

Wiser folks than me have responded already. You can read their replies here, here, and here.. All are brilliant, and say the things I was thinking calmly, and reasonably, which is to be commended. It hurts when someone slimes your beloved family like this.

Stepping back for a bit though–I wonder if this isn’t a positive sign. There seems to be, in certain quarters, the ready expectation that our church would die or implode, or break itself apart. After 2003, I seem to remember that forecast of doom being repeated over and over. “This will kill the church. You’re leaving the historic faith and no one will listen to you”.

Turns out, that didn’t happen like anyone thought.

True, we had epic property battles. People were hurt. People left the church. Several dioceses tried to depart, and it was ugly and painful, and I would just as soon never watch that happen again.

But a nationwide schism? Two dueling Episcopal churches in the US? TEC drummed out of the Anglican Communion with no friends, no ties, and no hope for the future, because we dared actually follow Jesus in our own context?

Nope. That didn’t happen. As we stand here, nine years on, the splinter groups have largely broken apart themselves. The remnants of the departing dioceses are proudly Episcopal still, and have started to welcome back many of those who left in the first place. The Anglican Covenant is now so low on anyone’s list of concerns, that we actually declined to respond to the request.

Instead, we started to ask: how can we do more of this following Jesus thing. How can we do it through structure? Through justice work? Through inclusion? Through how we treat each other? Through preaching and study and everything else the church is about?

It seems many of us like following Jesus as much as we liked worshipping him.

I suppose this greatly enrages some onlookers. We have been annoyingly reluctant to die, to conform to their narrative. Instead, we’ve been meandering our way into this interesting new way of being. (Episcopalians tend to meander like a giant conga line, I think.). That proves these onlookers wrong: that scares them, that makes them angry.

I’m ok with that. We’ve moved from being ignored as a church, to being laughed at, to being fought and openly opposed. I do believe something similar happened to Jesus. And if we’re intent on doing this like he did it, then we should be really ecstatic that some guy at WSJ is furious over our existence.

What comes next is resurrection.

Bring it on.

** I accept that I am prone to hyperbole, but I swear I am not making this up. So I have an offer for the Journal: in 2015, I’ll be the young female priest scarfing down energy bars and coffee between committee hearings and the end of legislative session. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, could you please save me some of these lavish dinners and finest wine you evidently found? I return, I’ll show you the nearest Panera, and plug for your iPhone.

Sleep Is For The Weak: #GC77 Day 3-5

Huh. Remember the time when I thought I could tweet, AND blog at convention, do committee work, legislative work, and also sleep?
I was but a foolish child then. Now I know better.
Food exists not here. Sleep exists not here.
Only Twitter. And voting. And amendments.

This may be a slight exaggeration. But in all seriousness, while I apologize that the blog hasn’t been as daily as I would have liked,my Twitter is constant. And following #gc77 will get you up to the minute details on all the Convention doings. And will let me sleep some. Where, no lie, I have started dreaming in parliamentary procedure. (And how did we survive without Twitter at convention? How? Now I can track legislation in several hearings at once and coordinate with others. It’s magic!!!)

Because the pace has accelerated. Now we have real legislation on the floor, and real arguments. But also, gorgeous Eucharists every day, with over 500 people in a room, all chanting and praying together. We have random moments of humor in the midst of tension, and nothing reminds me how much I love this Church than its amazing ability to laugh at itself.

For all that there’s really no time to eat or sleep, this is fun. I testified before PB&F again, on behalf of college ministry. I testified in front of Structure, to give young adults a larger voice in reform. I sponsored a resolution challenging the church to embrace social media, like Twitter. That has a hearing tomorrow morning, so we’ll see what happens. (Fun and scary, I should specify.)

Tonight, we had a gathering of Millennial leaders, both lay and clergy. All the under-35(ish) people involved at Convention that I could find, together in a room. You’ll get a longer report on that later (tomorrow? Hopefully?) But as everyone was going around, talking about why they were Episcopalian, and when they had felt connected or empowered this week, it hit me again.

I really, really, really love my job.

Organized: #GC77 Day 2

Today was the first day of legislation, and the first day the Houses got organized to begin their work. I know this, because I was drafted to carry a message from the House of Deputies to the House of Bishops, bearing the greetings of the house, and the message that we were organized. it was insanely complicated: my name was called (me and the lay deputy who was my Message Carrying Buddy) and forward to the platform we went. We greeted the President of the House. We received permission to leave the floor, and got our note, and headed over to the House of Bishops,
We may have then gotten lost. The convention center is huge. But we straightened it out.
And found the bishops, and asked to be received. Then, we repeated the same procedure: approach the stage, shake the PB’s hand, convey the greetings of the House of Deputies, and read my happy note. Then home to my happy Arizona deputation table I returned.

You’d be amazed how many people came up to me afterwards to tell me what a fantastic job I did. (The walking! How great! You never fell or anything!) Church, you concern me. If our standard for getting very excited is that a young priest can carry a note and read it aloud, we need to work harder. Dream big, people.
And believe it or not, this getting organized task, and a few other housekeeping-type things were all the legislation we got done today.

In other news, Canons is stalled because all of our resolutions are being worked over in other committees. Meanwhile, we held our own hearing on the proposed Title IV changes. Very exciting stuff.

And speaking of hearings, I said yesterday that I would knock off testifying in front of big and scary committees. That streak lasted 12 hours. Structure held a hearing this evening, and I spoke. A friend from seminary (@MoAmy on Twitter) has proposed a resolution asking that whatever body is in charge of reforming the structure be comprised of no less than 30% young adults. So I talked about the need for younger voices in this conversation, more of the voices that are currently underrepresented. Rather than more of the people who have lost any critical distance.
We’ll see. It’s still an early conversation.

Stay tuned!

New Structure, New Church, Same Jesus

Last week, before I left on retreat (Beautiful Authority Conference, which was amazing) I received in the mail a book from the President of the House of Deputies.

Now, I love to read, and I love books, and so I am disinclined to question when free books start appearing in my mailbox.  But this book was an actual, physical BOOK #1, and #2, it was explaining to me the glorious history of the governance structures of The Episcopal Church, and how it makes us who we are.
And, it does.  But the problem is, who we currently are, in all its vast complexity, is not all we ought to be.
Like I said last time (or the time before the Trinity Break), currently, we’re doing an excellent job pretending to be some odd corporation.  Occasionally, on smaller scales, we like also to be a country club.  And, at points in our history, we have also tried to be a full-on kingdom.
We aren’t good at any of those things, nor are we called to be any of those things.
We’re called to be a church. The embodiment of Christ at this time and place on the earth.  We are called to be turned outward, and serving the world in Christ’s name, like chaplains to the world.
In almost no way are we currently set up to do that.  We’re set up to form committees, and to issue recommendations, or build stuff, or argue.  (We are fantastically good at arguing.)
But as far as dealing with a world that is not predominantly Christian, and not so inclined to listen to our recommendations, learn our language, or venture into our amazing buildings, we are not set up for that.
We need to build a servant structure: and not just servant in terms of “serving the mission of the church”, but servant in terms of serving the world.
And (brace yourselves) but the first thing we need to do is combine the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.
Each diocese gets their active bishops, two clergy, and two lay votes.  I didn’t come up with this brilliant plan; Tom Ferguson+ and others explain it quite well. (We can keep the Presiding Bishop to play with the other primates, for however long we get to stay in the Anglican Communion, and to organize annual Bishops’ Gatherings.  Otherwise, the presiding officer of the new Joint House should be elected from any order of ministry, for the term of the General Convention, banging the gavel and whatnot.)
There are several practical advantages to this plan: it decreases the cost of General Convention dramatically, it lessens the financial pressure on individual dioceses, it decreases the silo effect between House of Bishops and House of Deputies.
Also, it forces us to put our money where our mouth is with regards to ministry of all the baptized.  Since the 1979 BCP came out, we’ve worked hard to establish that you do not receive special powers when you are ordained.  However, neither do you lose your baptismal powers and obligations when you are ordained.  I am bound to respect the dignity of my fellow human beings just as much now as I was prior to donning the plastic collar, if not more so.  When we say everyone is equal before God, then everyone really does need to be equal in the eyes of the church’s structure, and that should include being in the same room to hash out how we’re going to be church together.  And if you’re too intimidated by your bishop to vote a different way, then may haps you, and your bishop, need another lesson in baptismal theology.
So now that everyone’s in one room together, we really no longer need doubles of the committees.  Hooray!
And, we’re going to impose two new rules to guide the work of said committees:
1. Don’t Say it, Do it.
2. Everyone is 3 years old.
Rule #1: Don’t Say it, Do it. 
The first rule is stolen gleefully from Scott Gunn+.  In essence, we need to get out of the mindset that we still run the world, in the manner of Coca-Cola, or Constantine, and that, via efficacious speech, the world will bend to our righteous will.
The Korean Peninsula will not reunify just because we pass a resolution saying we are in favor of that.  The Cuba embargo will not be lifted either.  Nor will a two state solution be reached in Israel/Palestine through the power of our paperwork, EVEN IF we send a copy to the president.
What we should do instead is ACTUALLY DO THINGS.  Want a two-state solution?  Disinvest in Caterpillar, Motorola, and companies that do business in the Occupied Territories.  (This worked to end South African apartheid.)  Want to help heal the planet?  Ask churches to convert to those swirly lightbulbs, and give them incentives to do so.  Ask them to investigate solar panels, and give them incentives.
We can’t just state what we think about things any more and assume people care.  We need to do things, and then explain why we are doing them.  Any committee that can’t fulfill its mandate in actionable steps needs to reconsider its mission.
Speaking of that:  Rule #2!  Everyone is 3 years old.
 We need to explain why.  All the time. Why do we care about global poverty, and universal healthcare?  Why do we care if everyone is included in the church?  Why do we care about transparency in the budget?  Why?  Why? Why?
We need to pretend that the entire world is populated by extremely cute and lovable toddlers who keep asking us, “Why?”
We cannot assume that people understand the connection between Jesus and taking care of the poor.  We cannot assume that people understand the connection between Jesus and loving your neighbor.  We cannot assume that people understand who in the world Jesus Christ, as portrayed in the gospels and as we know him, actually is.  We need to remember that for many, many years now, there has been a concerted effort to use the name of Jesus to bash people who are different, and to justify all manner of hateful actions.  To begin to undo that is perhaps one of the most powerful acts of mission we can engage in.
Last night on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert had on his show both Sr. Simone Campbell, who heads NETWORK*, and Martin Sheen.  Both are devout Roman Catholics, and both have been noted for their activism on behalf of peace and poverty issues.  (It was an awesome Roman Catholic grand slam.)  What struck me is the audience response.  When Stephen Colbert (who teaches Sunday School at his church, mind you) asked Sr. Simone why nuns were such ‘radical feminists’, and spent so much time serving the poor and sick, she came right back at him.  “That’s the gospel. That’s what Jesus taught us to do.” The crowd burst into sustained applause.
Ditto when Martin Sheen came out.  “Why are you such a liberal commie-type?” queried Colbert, “Well, it pretty much is about that gospel that the sister was talking about.  I’m following Jesus and this is what Jesus taught me.”  Again, the crowd went nuts.
In a period of less than ten minutes, an actor and a nun evangelized a non-churchy audience much better than most Episcopal churches ever do.  Why are we doing this?
Because of Jesus.
Ultimately, the structure we need is answered in that.  Make a structure that serves the world, and invites the question, so that everything we say, do, and are is answered by, “Because of Jesus.”
*NETWORK is an progressive Catholic group which “educates, lobbies and organizes for economic and social transformation.”

All your bases are belong to Lambeth!: The Anglican Covenant

And then, there was the Covenant.

Oh, Anglican Covenant!  You seemed like such a pressing issue only a few months ago.  (We were so young and naive then….) Then England staged its own small uprising, and now, no one can figure out if you are still an issue for us or not.  But to that in a second.
For the purposes of us here at home, the Anglican Covenant is a brief little document that can be found here:
This is the fourth and final draft, and it has been sent to General Convention for our acceptance, or refusal.  (Or our kicking the can down the road, which is always an option.  The Anglican Covenant: it IS a houseplant!)  This came out of the Windsor Report–that document that came from the wider Anglican Communion after we consecrated +Gene Robinson in 2003.
All that aside, there are some structural problems with the Covenant.  Setting aside the moral, ecclesiastical, and postcolonial problems that are all in this document and its assumed worldview, there are also some structural problems in there.  Just to round it out.
The Standing Committee on Constitution and Canons did an excellent report regarding these problems, and it is to this that I now turn.
They said, for starters, that the beginning is not great.  Specifically, the preface possibly conflates our communion with Christ, and our accession to the ordering of Anglican Communion.  Whoops.  This is not encouraging–at no time in our history as Anglicans have we taken a “no church= no salvation” stand, and it seems odd that we’ve chosen this point in time to start.
It’s one thing if we strive to make our common life mirror the communion we already have with Christ.  It’s another thing if we insist that our relationship with God depends entirely upon the status of our earthly relationships.  Here there be dragons.  Here, madness lies.
Specifically, saith the SCCC, our TEC Constitution does not mention the Anglican Communion,  (other than the fact it exists) or Lambeth, or anything other than The Episcopal Church, and, y’know, Jesus Christ.  Mainly because that was all we were concerned with at the time. (Revolution, y’all.)
Same with our Canons.  We don’t require accession to the Anglican Communion at ordination; we require adherence to the “doctrine, discipline and worship as this church has received them.” (emphasis mine) Right off the bat, in the Preface and Introduction even!, the Anglican Covenant suggests that it would like to change all that.  So there’s a Constitutional change we’d have to make, right off the bat.  (Keep in mind, that would take at least 9 years.)
Which brings us to: Section 4!  Such a mess, Section 4!
This section is the one that draws the most fire. It’s the disciplinary section: the part that lays out what happens if the fellowship that’s set up so nicely in Sections 1-3 falls apart.  In other words, it’s the Section of Consequences.
We already talked about the issue of autonomy;  are we bound in the Anglican Communion by love and friendship, despite our distinct differences at times, or are we bound by our agreeing on things?  It’s entirely unclear.
Amusingly, the Covenant itself seems to want it both ways.  In Section 4.1, the text says that nothing in the Covenant will override the autonomy of individual provinces, or let one province direct or guide another.
Then, it proceeds to lay out procedures by which both of those things can happen.  According to the report, the Anglican Communion at large would have to weigh in on …anything.   From changes in our Prayer Book to ordinations of bishops.  Also, we would need someone to make sure that we were toeing the official Anglican Communion line here in the States, and that person would suddenly be the Presiding Bishop.  So that canonical job description would need to be entirely rewritten.
Basically, as it currently stands, to accept the Covenant would mean placing the Anglican Communion, and its Instruments of Communion, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, above our General Convention in our hierarchy.  And it would mean a vast rewrite of our Constitution and Canons.
But!  There is, as aforementioned, a wrinkle.
For those not keeping score at home, not enough individual dioceses in the Church of England voted in favor of the Covenant to let it go to their General Synod for confirmation.  They can try again, but not before 2015 at least.
Despite the protestations of the Anglican Communion Secretary General to the contrary, this would seem to throw a major wrench in the works worldwide.
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, in his statement immediately after the vote in England, said that basically, everything was fine, we are not concerned over a minor setback, the parrot was just pining for the fjords of Norway, and anyway, you naysayers, seven other provinces (out of 38) like the Covenant just fine.   So there!
What he glossed over in his frantic, nothing-to-see-here attempt was that the Covenant hands a lot of power to the Archbishop of Canterbury; not just the primates, and the Anglican Consultative Council.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is an archbishop with jurisdiction in the Church of England; not just a random dude in a funny outfit sauntering vaguely about Europe.  So if the Church of England has decided (as they just did) not to partake in this whole structure, it’s rather bad form to stick their bishop in charge of the rest of the Communion.
We once fought a revolution over the likes of this.
So now, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.  Reject it? Ignore it and hope it goes away?  Pass it, and try to conquer the known Anglican world, just to bother +Peter Akinola?
We’ll find out, come July.