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Notes from the 79th General Convention

I am always struck by the wide diversity as the Episcopal Church and humbled by the faith and intellect that the Deputies and bishops represent in our branch of the Jesus Movement. Not that these are always at the forefront of what is uttered on the floor or reported in the press. I have taken the words of the PB to heart when he asked each speaker on the question, "Does Jesus want me to say this?" But on the whole this convention was conducted with a spirit of respect and love despite our profound and obvious differences on a variety of issues.

Let me confess that I was dumb struck and embarrassed by the stories of harassment and abuse that mainly women, both ordained and lay, have experienced within our church. I have heard a couple of personal stories from mainly colleagues over the years but I guess my privilege and my naivete allowed me to think of these incidents as rare exceptions rather than a church wide issue requiring a church wide change in discipline. If we are to be anything close to a beloved community we have to be a safe community and I believe the church is acting to make it safe.

It is always great to hear the Presiding Bishop preach and his gifts were on full display at the convention. Bishop Curry spoke passionately, powerfully and prophetically on the issues that confront us Episcopalians specifically and as Christians in general. The Holy Spirit lives in his words and the difference he has made in the Church once known as "the frozen chosen" is palpable.

One of the most powerful testimonies I witnessed was an Episcopalian father & mother of their daughter at Margery Stoneman Douglas high school. She was an active EYC member in her parish and her parents struggle to faithfully carry on was awe inspiring. The witness of hundreds of Episcopalians against the scourge of gun violence has been more than a one time event at this convention. Bishops against Gun Violence held daily prayer vigils attended by over a hundred people.

Our trip to the detention center in Hutto, TX was powerful and heartbreaking. As we walked toward the detention center from the field where we prayed and sang songs, we were met by security forces that were polite but insistent about the boundaries we were not to cross. Although several hundred yards from the 512 women detained there, we waved and chanted to the detainees, "You are not alone. You are not forgotten." We received communication from within the prison that women were tearfully staring out the windows and stayed there until our 14 buses departed an hour later.

A special joint session was held to hear testimony about the effects of pollution and climate change. The most powerful testimony was that of a indigenous woman whose people reside in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They are completely dependent on a single herd of reindeer that is being depleted due to changes in their environment. Her voice choked with emotion when she said that her people's 40,000 year history (no typo!) of drawing their life from this herd is in danger of being destroyed. She recounted that her people had no word for "tick" (the nasty parasite that has given us Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease) because they had never seen a tick until the last few years when they have appeared in the Arctic and begun to devastate the Arctic hare population. She anguish over the fact that their sacred lands - "the land where all life began" has now been opened to oil & has development. No member of the people has ever walked this sacred ground and she did not know how to respond when asked to join a survey tour of that ancient land. She called upon us to do more than pray and sympathize with her people's plight.

It was with overwhelming joy that the Episcopal Church of Cuba, which was cut adrift by the House of Bishops (under questionable circumstances and with dubious authority by acting without the consent of the House of Deputies) was welcomed back into what they consider their mother Church. This was an occasion for the longest sustained applause and shouts of joy that ended in the singing of the doxology.

The Budget for the next triennium is $133.8 million. The various constituencies of the Church actually requested $15 million more than this figure. Despite this unrealizable request there is more money for Evangelism staff, a $2.7 million increase for Racial Reconciliation work and $1 million for environmental stewardship. There is good news on the revenue side in that 80% of dioceses are now in compliance with the 15% assessment. This rate of compliance is significantly higher than the last triennium. We are drawing on our endowment at the rate of 5% which is higher than the suggested draw of 4.8% but down from the last triennium draw of 5.8%. Although there is no money directly for revision of the BCP there is funding for the initial task force work.

The process of revising the prayer book has begun. It will likely be a decade long process and may very well look like a series of rites authorized for trial use in the form of PDFs. The costs of translating each of these into Spanish, Creole, French, German and Italian (all spoken daily by Episcopalians around the world) will be significant but I think the 1979 BCP may well end up being the last collection of rites published in large quantities as a book. The costs of producing such a volume are simply too high and too time consuming to contemplate.

In the end we forged a path for all people to have access to the sacrament of marriage in their own parish. The resolution forged a difficult compromise between those with differing views but it showed us once again that we don't have to agree on everything in order to be in a relationship.

This General Convention will have dealt with over 400 resolutions while in Austin. Committee assignments for the members of our deputation have necessitated work very early morning before committee hearings began at 7:30am and often worked late into the night after the end of business that often ended after 7pm in the evening. The legislative process at GC is cumbersome but it was smoothed in many ways, especially in having Deputies and bishops meet in joint committees. As General Convention draws closer to its adjournment, I found that we still were able to do our work with expansive grace and humor. It was a great privilege to serve East Carolina in this capacity and I hope that anyone who is willing to work hard will consider this ministry. My experience was inspiring.

Peace

Jeff+




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© Mar 2018 by The Rev. Jeff Douglas


St. Thomas is a vibrant, welcoming, Christian community cultivating mind, body & spirit through worship, fellowship, and service, loving our neighbors as ourselves

The Rev. Jeff Douglas, Rector

Our Staff:
       Parish Secretary
       Julie Bazemore
       Musician:
       Jonathan Johnston
Our Vestry:
       Buddy Jones,Sr. Warden
       David Simons, Jr. Warden
       Brenda Hewitt,Clerk
       Ernie Carter,Treasurer
       Rob Outland
       Martie Tayloe
       Dr. Charles Sawyer
       David Shields
       Becky Johnson
       Carolyn Peele

Parish Commissions:

Administration:
       David Simons
       Ernie Carter, Treas.
       
Parish Life/Communications:
       Brenda Hewitt
       
Pastoral Care:
       Martie Tayloe
       Carolyn Peele
       
Worship:
       Dr. Charles Sawyer
       The Rev. Jeff Douglas
       
Buildings & Grounds
       David Simons, Jr. Warden
       
Christian Education & Youth
       Buddy Jones
       Rob Outland
       
Outreach
       David Shields
       Becky Johnson
If you would like to volunteer or have ideas about how St. Thomas' can have a more effective ministry in these areas, contact the appropriate person and make St. Thomas' ministry even better.