Saturday, July 7, 2018

Process Redeemed

Two nights ago, I went to bed frustrated. As I wrote about yesterday, our legislative committee acted to discharge two identical resolutions that sought to expand paid family leave for lay and ordained church workers who need to step away from a parish for a short time when a child is born or adopted or when a close family member is sick or dying. Admittedly, it's a complicated issue. Typically, one's employer provides for that, but there are many churches that don't have the money to pay two priests or two administrators while one is giving care to a family and the other is filling in. Who will pay for it? Will the Church Pension Fund? Will there be some sort of cost sharing throughout the church? In each diocese? We all agreed that paid family leave is important, but we couldn't find the answer, and, when we saw that the last General Convention had already asked Executive Council to draft a policy but Executive Council had apparently forgotten to do it, because it was the end of a long day, we acted to make the issue someone else's problem and move on. And that was frustrating.

I woke up yesterday, wrote about it, and went to my legislative committee meeting. I didn't say a word, but, even though we had already decided to move on, the chairs of our committee stopped our work, reminded us that we have a sacred duty to respond to the needs of the church, and asked us to try again. A working group was formed who drafted from scratch a new resolution that called for Executive Council to do its work of drafting model policies and for all dioceses to review them and develop their own. It's not perfect. We still don't know who is going to pay for it. But a good night's sleep and an openness to the Holy Spirit's inspiration led our group to try again. I was heartened. I was encouraged. That's how the process is supposed to work. Well done!

In yesterday's Daily Office reading from Matthew 22, Jesus was approached by the Pharisees who wanted to trap him by asking him a question about paying taxes. Jesus surprised them by giving a perfectly imperfect answer: "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and to God the things that are God's." Of course, that helps us get the right perspective, but it doesn't really help us with the problem. Jesus was ok with that, and the crowd was, too. In today's continuation of Matthew 22, the Sadducees come to Jesus and ask him a confusing question about the resurrection, in which they did not believe. It's the trick question about a woman marrying each of seven brothers in turn and then going to heaven and wondering whose husband she will be. The Sadducees wanted to use the law of Moses to reveal a problem with the resurrection. They wanted to show that resurrection doesn't make sense. Of course, the law--the process--doesn't enslave God and God's will. Jesus said to them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." Sometimes, we have to let go of the process to get the right answer.

Yesterday, when the committee chairs brought back up the issue of paid family leave, someone could have objected and said, "We already discussed this. The matter is closed." They might have been correct, but they wouldn't have been right. I'm a policy junky. I like procedure. I like rules. Sometimes, however, they get in the way. Our committee's decision to try again despite what the rules said is an example of how Convention works. It works because God is with us. It works because the Holy Spirit animates us. It works because the deputies and bishops and staff and volunteers are all committed to letting God's will become manifest through our efforts--and sometimes despite them. May God continue to show us the way toward the fulfillment of God's promises so that Jesus Christ may reign in our hearts, in our church, and in our world.

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