Yesterday at General Convention, we spent a lot of time doing very little and a little time doing a lot. Most of the legislative session yesterday was spent voting. We needed to elect 12 trustees for the Church Pension Fund as well as members of Executive Council, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, trustees for General Seminary, and some other officers of General Convention. Because of the complexity of that process, it took hours to do that voting. Several deputies made comments about "watching paint dry," and they were right: it was tedious. But sometimes that's the nature of General Convention's work.
We also spend some time debating resolution B012, which proposes that same-sex marriage liturgies be offered to all parishes in the Church at the discretion of the local clergy instead of the diocesan bishop. There's a compromise contained in that resolution. It doesn't go as far as some progressives had hoped it would, and other more conservative deputies were disappointed that it goes too far. For what it's worth, I like B012. I think the way we've been handling this issue in Alabama and throughout the Church has been thoroughly unAnglican. We are united by the principle of common prayer, common worship. If the General Convention has decided that same-sex marriage liturgies are part of the doctrine, discipline, and worship of our Church, then they should be available to all. And diocesan bishops and parish vestries shouldn't get to decide what worship happens in each of our parishes. We don't let the bishop decide whether Rite 1 or Rite 2 is allowed. We don't let vestries approve whether morning prayer or Eucharist will be the principle worship service on Sunday morning. We've been doing it wrong for a while, and I'm glad this cleans it up. And I was even more grateful that, after voting and voting and voting, the Convention spent some time debating something that matters.
Underneath all of that, however, the Convention did some remarkable things that hardly got a mention, and they are on the consent calendar, which is the way that we deal with a large number of resolutions that don't need debate all at once. At the last General Convention, the House of Deputies changed the way that things go on the consent calendar. Instead of needing to act in order to add something to the calendar, we automatically put everything on the consent calendar and have to act to take something off of it for debate. Yesterday, we acted on 59 different resolutions all at once. There was conversation on each of them back in legislative committees, but, in the House of Deputies, there was no debate. In one quick voice vote, several important pieces of legislation became the policy of the church.
Here are some of them. (You can read all of them here.)
- We called for the development of a requirement that all clergy be trained on issues of substance abuse as part of ordination training. (D057)
- We invited Executive Council and Church Pension Fund to study their relationship in order to clarify their respective roles in that relationship. (A060)
- We mandated that all dioceses review their current provincial structure and participation and consider realigning. (A072)
- We decided to study whether clergy may need liability insurance to adequately defend a Title IV complaint. (A181)
- We amended the canon on safeguarding to make it clear that ordinands need to be trained in how to prevent sexual misconduct to both children AND adults. (A108)
- We directed the Recorder of Ordinations to develop a plan for gathering information on clergy race so that a study of compensation by race could be undertaken. (C029)
- We reiterated our position that Jerusalem be a shared capital and openly criticized the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. (B003)
Most of our attention goes to the big and controversial things, and it probably should. One of the best things about General Convention is our ability to debate openly the really sensitive issues facing the church. We could not have these conversations constructively in most parishes or dioceses. This is good work. But we also do a lot of good and important work without much public debate. I'm grateful for the consent calendar. Without it, I don't think we'd get our work done. But it's up to us to look at it and study it in order to see what Convention is really doing. It may not get much attention, but this is where most of what we do happens.