The Fourth Legislative Day
The Rev. Stephen E. Moore
Clergy Deputy to General Convention
"The morning and the evening were the third day," it says in Inherit the Wind.
The Third Legislative Day of GC77 illustrated the radicality of the center. It is far easier to be on the far right or the far left of most of the questions and issues which vex the church than it is to find the center. There is supportive company waiting on either wing; there are buttons to wear and friendly meetings to attend. Finding the truth of the via media in a synthesis of the tension in between is more difficult (and therefor more rare).
A centrist is unlikely to support the consecration of a bishop who's never been baptized nor limit being an usher or lector to those who are confirmed. Neither William Jennings Bryan nor Clarence Darrow was entirely right, nor were they entirely wrong.
I met a burly Polynesian-looking man who appeared to have no neck while I was on my way into the convention center. He asked me where the weight lifters were meeting. I told him I had no idea, only to discover that, in one of the larger rooms not being used by General Convention, the Indiana State Bodybuilding Championship was being conducted. Remarkable! The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is not the only important thing going on in the world.
It seems as if every General Convention has a buzz word which is so overused as to become obnoxious. In 2006 it was "paradigm." In 2009 it was "outside the box." This year it is "nimble." Katrina Hamilton, the chair of our deputation, has been keeping a hash-mark score of the number of times it is used at a microphone per day. My own reaction is to sing "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick" in my best Jamaican accent while dancing my approximation of the limbo in my chair.
I took lunch after attending a self-help group meeting at which the topic was HALT, which stands for "Don't get too hungry, too angry, too lonely nor too tired." In the spirit of self care, I actually ate the cole slaw which came with my barbecued pulled-pork sandwich and fries.
We elected new trustees for the Church Pension Fund today, using the fancy new space-age electronic voting system. Electronic voting produces nearly immediate results, displayed on a jumbo screen at the front of the House. The challenge was to decide whether to vote for the candidate who handed out ballpoint pens with her name printed on them or the guy from Hawaii who accompanied his campaign literature with chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. The candidates all provided extensive biographies demonstrating the expertise necessary to manage a large retirement fund. We elected ten of the required twelve persons on the first ballot out of a field of 26 candidates. And we did it so quickly!
An inordinate part of the afternoon was spent considering which translations of Holy Scripture ought be added to or subtracted from the canonical list of those permitted to be read in divine liturgy. There was much parliamentary machination, some chicanery, and no resolution as a motion to reconsider what we had accomplished in about an hour succeeded and we will rejoin the issue on the morning of the Fourth Legislative Day.
Whenever the House is not in session, there are legislative hearings being held in nearby hotels: morning, midday and evening. It is impossible to attend them all but many people wanted, in particular, to attend both the one on the expenditure side of the 2013-15 budget and the other on the blessing of same-sex unions. This was frustrated this evening in that these two hearings were scheduled at the same time in different hotel ballrooms. The results of these hearings will appear in the form of resolutions introduced in the House in the next day or two. The other much anticipated report will be from a third legislative committee -- the one on the structure of the church -- which will make a proposal for how to go about streamlining a leaner national church for the 21st Century and how to focus that church less on maintenance and more on mission.
The high temperature in Indianapolis was 108 degrees F today; it is predicted to be only 90 degrees tomorrow, doubtless in honour of the Lord's Day. This respite is supposed to continue for the second week of convention. Pray that the weather forecasters have it right!