Monday, May 11, 2015

Diocesan Convention: The Aftermath

I confess to my bishop and my parish that I didn't stay to the bitter end of diocesan convention. I had planned from the start to skip the workshops, seeing as how they were more directed toward clergypersons and others with pastoral duties, and the second day was already interfering with another appointment. I bailed out in the middle of the discussion of the "death with dignity" resolution (about which more later).

The convention eucharist was in fact fairly Anglo-Catholicized, to the point of "big six", smoke, and dropping the RC prayer for the acceptance of the sacrifice in at the offertory; we also dropped the Prayer of Humble Access. It was a bit fussy for my taste, but then A-C often is. The singing (all warhorses from the 1982) was strong and enthusiastic, except that for some reason we did the Meerbecke service, which apparently is unfamiliar enough now (and especially with the 1982 hymnal's musicologist-friendly rhythms) to dampen singing somewhat.

The sermon was more an address than a homily on the text, and I must give credit to Bishop Sutton credit for walking right up to the elephants and acknowledging them all. Indeed, one might think he was reading this blog, although I think if he were reading it he might not have commended Dean Markham's preposterous address on church statistics. Nonetheless the fact of our decline was noted, and moreover seen as something to be addressed.

The main speaker, Becca Stevens of the Magdalene Communities and Thistle Farms, was quite stirring, and if it feels a bit churlish to have to say this, nothing she said had me gnashing my anti-heretical teeth.

As for resolutions, we had an extra slipped into the very back of our convention journals, to authorize appointment of an assistant bishop. This passed readily, allowing Bp. Sutton to announce in his Saturday address that Chilton Knudsen, former bishop of Maine and since assistant in several other dioceses, had been asked to take the position had convention passed the resolution. It's hard to imagine that there is anyone left for whom Bp. Knudsen's gender represents a stumbling block, but her position as one of the official consecrators of Gene Robinson represents either some impressive tone-deafness, or more likely, a calculated statement that theological discussion of sexuality and gender is closed. As to core theological matters, I haven't managed to find significant documentation, but historically, clerics who are aggressive on gender and sexuality have had a bad track record. I suppose I shall just have to see.

Compensation was passed as a matter of routine; regions were rearranged (and taken out of the budget process, not that they had real input before) with one tweak to put all of Baltimore City in a single region. These resolutions and those that follow were put through a preliminary by-table discussion phase which produced cards asking questions and giving comments to be sent back to the resolution proposers. This was supposed to reduce "wordsmithing on the floor"; I think it sort of worked part of the time, but I don't know how well Robert would have countenanced such a thing.

In the case of the anti-fracking resolution the process produced a substitute resolution asking us to tell the governor to sign the moratorium bill that the legislature had already passed, the earlier version of the resolution having been overcome by political events. I sent in a card expressing my opposition to this sort of resolution, but did not rise to express my opposition on the floor. It could also be argued that, as this asked us personally to act, this version passes Scott Gunn's political resolution test. At any rate, it passed. Expect Gov. Hogan's mailbox to explode.

The resolution on, well, something having to do with the Sandtown mess was also heavily reworked, but the resulting resolution now read (freely interpreted) "the situation with the police in Baltimore City is atrocious difficult but we still don't have any idea of what do about it but mouth somewhat revised platitudes." (my alterations in italics) This also passed, though again without my vote.

I left as the deliberations on the "death with dignity" resolution debate got started, with the tone (as I expected) set by one of the first contrary speakers noting that the phrase "is a euphemism for physician-assisted suicide." Instead of getting a resolution to think about the matter, however, I'm told that the matter was tabled, effectively turning it into a resolution not to talk about the matter. The rector told me that he voted against this, because he wished the debate be worked through; I'm guessing that the desire of others beside my self to be elsewhere triumphed over moral debate. I would feel better about it if I had been prepared to offer a thought-out position, but I was not.

And thus we rolled over the diocesan odometer. And if the direction be positive, the indication of this was more a lack of some common negatives. No liturgy was emasculated (though Rite I makes this moot in any case); other than a couple of Romanisms, the liturgical texts were straight from the BCP. Hymns were sung with far more gusto than were praise songs, though unfamiliarity and some definite confusion on the part of the projection squad undoubtedly contributed to that. Bp. Sutton expressed the hope, not entirely explicitly, that the homosexuality controversies were dropping into the past. And yet at the national level I see that the latest round of the same-sex rites hew to the Enriching Our Worship pattern of 1970s radfem deviations and heresies. There was also a strong sense that the diocese was well rid of the dissenters on these issues, which is surely not a positive message for those who hold on. Bp. Knudsen's appointment is a rebuke to any conservative as well. But still, Bp. Sutton radiates a sense of vitality, which may serve the diocese well.

No comments: