Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Final Report of Deputy Jim Greer


Anaheim, CA, July 2009

Final Report of Deputy Jim Greer, Diocese of San Diego

(These comments are the writers and do not necessarily represent other deputies or the Bishop)

Setting: We were 840ish deputies and 150 or so bishops huddled for nearly two weeks in the very secular Anaheim Convention Center. But in the midst of this world there was comfort in knowing that Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral was just a few blocks away – an edifice, come to think of it, not unlike the convention center. Historic: The inclusion decisions – gays again eligible to be elected bishops and local diocesan option for same gender relationship blessings are huge. Historians will be writing about the cause and effects of the convention’s decision for a very long time. It wasn’t just about sex: There were many other important accomplishments across the width of the church’s interest. The convention completed over 360 pieces of legislation and a lot of it is important. Well led: Occasionally defeated by the technology, the Houses were competently led, often with good humor and always with respect for all. Hard and Loving: Despite lopsided favorable votes, the results of the human sexuality actions will go down hard in some parts of the church and the communion. Bishops and Deputies in love and care took every step to create space for those who cannot agree. The language of the resolutions, the Anaheim Statement crafted by the dissenting bishops and the ‘live and let live’ implementation pattern that will surely follow are all attempts to keep as many as possible at the table. Doing more with less: With a triennial budget of $23 million in less revenue than the last budget, we must become leaner and meaner. I sensed a commitment to do so – still, the heart wants what the heart wants. Stay tuned on this one. Still no plan for growth: Disappointingly there was almost no discussion of growth for our shrinking church.

Significant Legislation
Check out this link for an update on all convention activity. Click on Legislation and then Resolution Status Report. The list below has been selected by the writer as the most significant. However there were hundreds more and others might well select different list.

  1. Episcopal Ordination/sexual orientation not a deterrent to discernment - DO25
  2. Same gender blessings/ local diocesan option - CO56
  3. Title IV clergy disciplinary reforms –A185
  4. Employee health and pension benefits –A138 &AO77
  5. Hispanic ministries/$3.5million for parish planting and help to existing groups – DO38
  6. MGDs recommit and increase to 1% – DO 19
  7. Budget for the triennium – DO67

There were many additional mission proposals approved by the convention. When you access the site above you can sort by topic and committee. If mission interests you, the committee is World Mission, etc.

There were also numerous strong statements of position on a variety of important social justice issues. While most strongly supported many of them, unlike the list above, we have no control over their outcome. There was objection to those position statements that called for a specific result in a matter of public policy debate. So for example, demanding an end to human slave trafficking was universally endorsed, but siding in favor of a single payer national health plan enjoyed less unanimity because it seems to speak for all Episcopalians when we know some would not agree.

The wisdom of bicameralism was particularly apparent in the bishops’ defeat of a deputies’ lopsided, pro-Palestinian resolution that took no regard for Israel’s security concerns. The deputies tend to be more populist and the bishops less so.

Challenges for the Church As We Move Forward
While much good and even historic work was done by the convention, the discussions expose the many difficulties and challenges facing the church. Here is what seemed to be among the most significant.

Implementation of the sexuality initiatives while keeping space for those who don’t agree and maintaining integrity in the way we develop the process.

Mission and ministry in the face of leaner financial times/less reliance on staff and a return to more volunteerism/ looking for high impact-little cost efforts such as mosquito nets and food pantries/ new focus on what we ‘need’ to do vs. what is ‘nice’ to do.

A shrinking church with no real strategy for growth – lots of briefs and plans, but no strategy and no apparent leadership in this regard.

Underwriting Hispanic ministries knowing that it may take a long time for these efforts to be self-supporting. And in this connection, bringing new clergy and bishops ‘on line’ who are functionally bilingual.

The inevitable re-organization – perhaps combining of small parishes that will not be able to afford the new employee health and pension requirements

The almost certain reality that operating a headquarters in NYC and a convention that costs $3.2 million dollars not including what the dioceses spend to send their deputations, is beyond our means and perhaps beyond good stewardship.

The ugly attacks on the Episcopal Church by those who disagree with what we do and aim to hurt the church if they can.

Finding the will and the way to reform a cumbersome and very expensive, 20th century management structure that depends on lots of full time employees, physical fly in and stay over meetings of large and numerous Standing Commissions, printed booklets produced as programming and so on and so on.

Who were the deputies?
The stats: Total Deputies – 847; New Deputies 339 (40%) Of Color 142 (17%); Female 364 (43%); 25 yo and under 17 (2%); 25-35 yo 25 (3%); 35-45 yo 76 (9%); 55-65 yo 280 (33%): 65 yo and older 161 (19%)

The S.D. Deputation: we had one in the youngest category (indeed the youngest deputy present at 17) and one in the oldest category and the others spread across most of the range. We were 3 women and 5 men, one of color. 4 of our 8 were new deputies.

One cannot fault the work ethic of the church’s bishops and deputies. From early morning till well into the evening – day after day, the convention labored. If the product is not perfect or the results universally popular, it’s not due to any lack of sweat equity on the part of these committed folks.

Who's Better Dressed?
Of interest to some, the conservatives definitely dress better than the liberals. Episcopalian liberals, at least in the summertime, are largely turned out in the spirit of Matthew’s, ‘take no care about your clothes. . .’ and the corollary, ‘or how you look in what you wear.’ The S.D. women deputies were of course the exception to prove this rule. The conservatives, on the other hand were often dressed in good fitting summer slacks, attractive knit or sports shirts/blouses and some of the men were even in blazers and ties and the women in summery dresses. With the liberals in the majority, at least at this convention, one wonders if the Episcopal Church will maintain its long standing position as style leader among Americans.

The Chaplain
The Bible tells us that for the first 6 days of creation, it was all about God’s energy but the rest of the Bible tells us that after that, it’s all about God’s and humankind’s energy attempting to work together. That’s what we need to do as we leave this meeting, work with God to make the Kingdom come.

by Jim Greer

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