My brothers and sisters in Christ:
The 76th General Convention is now history, though it will likely take some time before we are all reasonably clear about what the results are.
We gathered in Anaheim, as guests of the Diocese of Los Angeles, for eleven full days of worship, learning, and policy-making. The worship was stunning visually, musically, and liturgically, with provocative preaching and lively singing.
Our learning included training in Public Narrative, as well as news about the emergent church, in the LA Night presentation.
We welcomed a number of visitors from other parts of the Anglican Communion, including 15 of the primates (archbishops or presiding bishops), other bishops, clergy, and laity.
You can see and hear all this and more at the Media Hub: http://gchub.episcopalchurch.org/
The budget adopted represents a significant curtailment of church-wide ministry efforts, in recognition of the economic realities of many dioceses and church endowments, which will result in the loss of a number of Church Center staff who have given long and laudable service. Yet we will continue to serve God's mission, throughout The Episcopal Church and beyond. This budget expects that more mission work will continue or begin to take place at diocesan or congregational levels. Religious pilgrims, from the Israelites in the desert to Episcopalians in Alaska or Haiti, have always learned that times of leanness are opportunities for strengthened faith and creativity.
As a Church, we have deepened our commitments to mission and ministry with "the least of these" (Matthew 25). We included a budgetary commitment of 0.7% to the Millennium Development Goals, through the NetsforLife® program partnership of Episcopal Relief & Development. That is in addition to approximately 15% of the budget already committed to international development work.
We have committed to a domestic poverty initiative, meant to explore coherent and constructive responses to some of the worst poverty statistics in the Americas: Native American reservations and indigenous communities.
Justice is the goal, as we revised our canons (church rules) having to do with clergy discipline, both as an act of solidarity with those who may suffer at the hands of clergy and an act of pastoral concern for clergy charged with misconduct.
The General Convention adopted a health plan to serve all clergy and lay employees, which is expected to be a cost-savings across the whole of the United States portion of the Church. Work continues to ensure adequate health coverage in the non-U.S. parts of this Church. The Convention also mandated pension coverage for lay employees.
Liturgical additions were also included in the Convention's work, from more saints on the calendar to prayers around reproductive loss.
What captured the headlines across the secular media, however, had to do with two resolutions, the consequences of which were often misinterpreted or exaggerated. One, identified as D025, is titled "Anglican Communion: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion." It
- * reaffirms our commitment to and desire to pursue mission with the Anglican Communion;
* reiterates our commitment to Listening Process urged by Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998;
* notes that our own participation in the listening process led General Convention in 2000 to "recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships 'characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God'";
* recognizes that ministry, both lay and ordained is being exercised by such persons in response to God's call;
* notes that the call to ordained ministry is God's call, is a mystery, and that the Church participates in that mystery through the process of discernment;
* acknowledges that the members of The Episcopal Church, and of the Anglican Communion, are not of one mind, and that faithful Christians disagree about some of these matters.
The other resolution that received a lot of press is C056, titled "Liturgies for Blessings." The text adopted was a substitute for the original, yet the title remains unchanged. It
- * acknowledges changing circumstances in the U.S. and elsewhere, in that civil jurisdictions in some places permit marriage, civil unions, and/or domestic partnerships involving same-sex couples, that call for a pastoral response from this Church;
* asks the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, and the House of Bishops, to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources for such pastoral response, and report to the next General Convention;
* asks those bodies to invite comment and participation from other parts of this Church and the Anglican Communion;
* notes that bishops may provide generous pastoral responses to the needs of members of this Church;
* asks the Convention to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality.
The full text of both resolutions is available here: http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation. I urge you to read them for yourself. Some have insisted that these resolutions repudiate our relationships with other members of the Anglican Communion. My sense is that we have been very clear that we value our relationships within and around the Communion, and seek to deepen them. My sense as well is that we cannot do that without being honest about who and where we are. We are obviously not of one mind, and likely will not be until Jesus returns in all his glory. We are called by God to continue to wrestle with the circumstances in which we live and move and have our being, and to do it as carefully and faithfully as we are able, in companionship with those who disagree vehemently and agree wholeheartedly. It is only in that wrestling that we, like Jacob, will begin to discern the leading of the Spirit and the blessing of relationship with God.
Above all else, this Convention claimed God's mission as the heartbeat of The Episcopal Church. I encourage every member of this Church to enter into conversation in your own congregation or diocese about God's mission, and where you and your faith community are being invited to enter more deeply into caring for your neighbors, the "least of these" whom Jesus befriends.
Presiding Bishop and Primate