Monday, July 23, 2012

I Wish Heaven Had Skype

I came across several active Facebook accounts of deceased friends and relations in the last couple of days. I suspect I've always known that those Facebook accounts were still there and not deactivated. However, after the Aurora theater shootings here in Colorado this past weekend, I'm perhaps more attuned to loss due to death right now. 

Out of curiosity, I browsed through some of the posts since the deaths of the accountholders.

I was surprised there were recent posts and that some of them are frequent and current. Most of the posts express missing the deceased person a whole lot. Many were posted on the deceased person's birthday, probably prompted by the Facebook birthday reminder app. Similarly, some posts were written to share a life event, like a new tattoo, a new boyfriend, or a photo wearing a shirt the deceased person had made. 

Imagine that, posting photos to share with a deceased person. I guess it's not that different than we Chinese burning paper money and furniture for our dead so that they are well equipped in their death journeys. The tangible loss of a loved one due to death doesn't decrease our need for the love, support, and companionship of the deceased loved one. We still have those needs; we just no longer have the particular person who plugged some of those holes in our lives.

The writers talked about how the deceased person was someone they could share deep feelings and secrets with and that no one else had come along since their death to fill that gap. Especially poignant were the comments that said, "I dialed your phone number and then remembered that you're not here anymore," or, "I know you would understand, and you wouldn't judge me."

I also read posts that I would characterize as prayers of intercession. They said things like, 'Watch over me,' or 'I know you're watching over me.' In some ways, it's almost as if holding on to the memory of the deceased person is an amulet against feeling alone and being afraid. It definitely sounded like the posters did not have a belief in God or a faith community to which they could turn in life's tough moments. 

I don't know whether or not the posters have a family in whom they could confide or upon whom they could rely for support. Certainly the statistics and anecdotal evidence point to the loss of strong families and familial support systems for many people in our country. I hear from my mother, who lives with us, about her friends at the senior center that she visits three times a week for social activities. Mom says there are seniors in assisted living facilities, who feel essentially abandoned by their families, with little regular social contact that would affirm, 'You are an interesting person, and we like being around you.' Consider also, all those people in prisons and detention centers. Who is staying in touch with them to remind them of their humanity and that they haven't been forgotten?

One poster on a deceased person's Facebook wall said, "I wish Heaven had Skype," and another poster answered, "It does." A lot of pastoral care happens in the social media in small, daily exchanges like this one. Some of us purposefully are on the alert for opportunities on Facebook and other social media to respond with kindness and friendship when we come across these expressions of longing for hope and affirmation.

My prayer as a person of faith who belongs to a strong faith community, is that we, the faith communities, be the operators on the line who answer the Skype calls to Heaven. Those callers may not be calling our names or calling our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, or prayer houses, but I am convinced that they are calling us as the members of communities of faith and purveyors of hope. 

I have been convinced for a long time that what many of the lost and the lonely in our country need is someone to be family to them. That's what Herb and I have tried to do in the way we've formed our hanai ohana, a Hawaiian expression that means an intentional, extended family of choice. That is what churches that are following an accompaniment model of ministry understand is needed for building relationships and transforming communities.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reimagine GC: Eight or Ten Days?

How about Ten or Twelve Days? Because, let’s be factual, accurate . . . and honest. The time required to be at General Convention (GC) if you’re a legislative committee chair, secretary, or aide is two days more than the number of legislative days, and it’s one day more if you’re a member of a legislative committee but not an officer or aide. And if you’re a dutiful bishop or deputy and/or new to GC, then you’re also likely to show up in time to hear the opening comments of the presiding officers and to participate in the orientation sessions for each house on the day before GC officially begins. (Reminder: at GC 2012, 44% of deputies were new.)

GC 2012 officially ran from July 5-12, a total of eight days when the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops were organized and in legislative session. However, legislative officers and aides met for three hours on the afternoon of July 3, and July 4 was even more fully scheduled with two legislative committee sessions (8:00-12:00 and 5:00-7:00), a Program, Budget, and Finance (PB&F) Hearing on Budget Priorities (12:30-1:30), presentations by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies to the entire GC (2:00-2:45), and orientation sessions for the bishops and deputies in their own houses (3:00-4:30). (See GC schedule here.) Seriously, did anyone associated with GC want to miss the PB&F priorities hearing even though it occurred on the day before GC officially started?

The first Program, Budget, and Finance hearing on mission
priorities on July 4 was standing room only with people seated
on the floor all around the room. [Photo by Pamela Kandt]
Being accurate about the facts of what we are actually talking about will result in better collective decision-making than having each of us starting from a different understanding of the issue. I'm not arguing in this post about whether eight legislative days are sufficient or whether ten legislative days are better, in order to accomplish what we think is the work we are called to do at GC. We have not as a church yet figured out and agreed upon what we think that work is. I would remind us that God gives us everything that we need, and it is our duty to be good stewards of God's blessings.

Reimagine GC: Making Legislative Committees More Effective

Should Standing Commissions and Legislative Committees share the same membership?

There is certainly overlap in some cases, and more than one legislative committee found it helpful to refer back to the members of the related standing commission, either also serving on the legislative committee or sitting in the gallery, to ask clarifying questions about the background of A resolutions found in the Blue Book reports filed by standing commissions.

Should there be some percentage overlap, say, 50%? The advantage of a high percentage overlap is that continuity and knowledge of the prior conversations on the subject are retained. There is always a need for some new membership to allow for new debate and challenges to any group-think that might exist.

A percentage overlap target would probably be difficult to achieve, because membership on legislative committees is limited to deputies and bishops, but membership on standing commissions is open to all adult church members, who may or may not be elected as deputies for the next GC. Since membership in both types of groups is by appointment of the presiding officers, should they be requested to consider the benefits of some overlap as they are making their appointments? 

Orientation and Tools for Legislative Committees

Let’s make use of technology and volunteers to conduct orientation and provide tools for legislative committees. PowerPoint, flow charts, and decision trees are training tools to help legislative committee members get up to speed on how to conduct their business. The church has deputies with extensive training expertise, many in high risk industries with large, dispersed staffs, who know effective ways to deliver information that will assist committee members to learn their work and ensure more procedural consistency.

As we move towards GC 2015, now is the time to think ahead to providing online, interactive training in advance of arriving at the GC site. A handout with flow charts and decision trees for different scenarios on how legislation flows from house to house, committee to committee, and committee to floor of each house, would be helpful to legislative committee members and would facilitate their choices on how to advance specific resolutions.

Use of flash drives was somewhat helpful in GC 2012. However, it is highly desirable to move towards a WiFi enabled GC that would support online transmittal of resolutions among all parties involved. The use of multiple NCR paper forms with secretaries writing out resolution amendments and substitutions in longhand is archaic, inefficient, and frustrating to legislative committees and contributes to time delays as individuals trekked between hotel committee rooms and convention center secretariats.

Also, requiring multiple signatures on forms only makes sense if someone at the receiving end of the forms is verifying signatures against some master signature document prior to acting on the substance of the form. If this isn’t being done, why are we requiring signatures? Surely, we ought to commission our legislative committee officers so that they are vowing to behave in an above-board fashion in all committee matters. We are the church, after all.

For those legislative committees that absolutely must deal in paper during their meetings, provide them with a cheap ($30 HP Deskjet 1000 Printer - J110a) inkjet printer that prints up to 16 pages per minute in black, draft format, a ream or two of recycled paper, and a 30-foot extension cord. The time delay and wear and tear of sending aides out for copies can be avoided. And to save shipping costs, donate the printers at the close of GC to a local non-profit.

Friday, July 13, 2012

ReImagine GC: Sunset the DUMB Books

I could have survived all of General Convention using only my iPad and iPhone. And . . . that was without any access to WiFi in the Convention Center. Boingo was a total Fail in the Convention Center. Like many deputies, I could never get my $9.95 per month Boingo account to work in the Convention Center, although it worked great at Denver International Airport. Thankfully, I had paid for the data packages on both devices ($29.99 monthly fee for each device), and Downtown Indianapolis has LTE (Long Term Evolution mobile communication standard), which makes for a fast, dependable cellular connection on the iPad and iPhone. 

Deputy Matt Hall, Secretary of Legislative Committee 18-
Ecumenical Relations, taking notes on his laptop at the
orientation session for Legislative Officers and Aides.
I had downloaded the Blue Book as a PDF on both devices. Thanks to Scott Gunn at Seven Whole Days, I was also able to download all the subsequent B, C and D resolutions as one large PDF file onto my devices. Scott kept us updated until July 3rd, and the first legislative day was July 5th. 

The only time I needed to refer to the B, C, and D resolutions printed out for our DUMB books (as in Damned Unwieldy Musty Binders) was on the one or two occasions when I wanted to read the Explanation of a resolution. If the GC All Resolutions Web page printed a third category of "Resolution with Explanation" in addition to "Original Resolution" and "Current Resolution," that would obviate the need for the DUMB book completely.

Colorado's alternates, (L to R) Max Bailey, Janet Farmer
and Erica Hein. Max has his MacBook laptop. Janet has a
Blue Book (which is salmon this time), and the DUMB books
in front of Janet and Erica have partially filled up with days
of calendars and resolutions.
Elections could be handled either by posting the updated nominees' information to a new GC Web page (preferred option) or continuing the practice of passing out paper (if we have to). Elections and appointments were reported on a GC Web page that contained the original resolution calling for the election or authorizing the appointment and the current resolution that detailed the results.

The General Convention Legislation Web Page had every Daily and Supplemental Calendar of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops and the most recent Messages from both houses so that I could track the status of legislation. This was particularly helpful when I retired to my room each evening and prepared for the next day's legislative sessions.

Two deputies comparing notes on their smart phones.
(On the right, Deputy Larry Hitt, Colorado.
I'm sorry I don't know the deputy on the left.)
Deputies are very grateful for the General Convention Office's negotiations with the convention hotels that gave us all free Internet in our sleeping rooms. That saved each deputy $12.95 plus tax each day! (We were also grateful for the negotiated $10 daily hotel food coupons and 10% food discounts at hotel restaurants, negotiated by staff. Thank you!) Most deputies, myself included, also traveled with a laptop on which we did our blogging, photo processing, and emails in our rooms, and free Internet meant fast downloads and updates to programs and apps.

It was also very evident that many deputies used iPads to write their testimony and carried them to the mircophones both on the floor and at hearings to give their testimony. Many preachers now preach from notes on their iPads instead on pieces of paper or index cards. The electronic notepads like iPads are slim and relatively lightweight, have long battery life, and fit easily into purses and slim briefcases.

Deputy Lelanda Lee testifying at microphone, using an iPad.
[photo by Beckett Stokes]
For a future GC, we should strive for a paperless convention with the option for those deputies who absolutely cannot go all electronic to be accommodated. We would just need a print distribution station for deputies with badges marked that they signed up for paper copies. I believe that deputies should be willing to try new technology as part of their duty to participate fully. Going all electronic not only saves paper as an environmentally conscious measure, but it also saves the time and effort of staff and volunteers who have to print and distribute the volumes of paper, and deputies will receive their electronic documents faster than paper documents. A look around the House of Deputies at the end of the last day reveals that most deputies don't carry their DUMB books home after GC is over. Many of us no longer keep paper copies of documents, preferring to file electronic copies for easier access and storage.   

I understand that electronic devices are costly to own and maintain, and money should not be a barrier to participation. I suggest that diocesan offices consider buying some iPads that could be loaned to standing committee members and GC deputies for their meetings and otherwise deployed by diocesan staff and volunteers for other meetings. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) experimented with loaning iPads to several synods (comparable to our dioceses) to try a paperless churchwide assembly in 2011, and The Episcopal Church should try something similar in 2015. Perhaps funding could be obtained through a grant from an outside source for such a churchwide endeavor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

GC 77: Response to Proposed Anglican Covenant

Resolution B005 – Ongoing Commitment to the Anglican Covenant Process was passed as a substitute resolution on July 10th. The original resolution moved to adopt the Preamble and Sections 1, 2, and 3 of the proposed Anglican Covenant, and to establish a Task Force to monitor developments in the Anglican Covenant process, especially regarding Section 4. The substitute resolution most significantly differs from the original language with the addition of the third resolve, “that as a pastoral response to The Episcopal Church, the General Convention decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant at this convention….” I strenuously objected to this additional language, and my remarks to the House of Deputies follow:

“The request in this resolution for Executive Council to appoint a task force to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the proposed Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation is redundant and unnecessary.

The 2009 Resolution D020 commended the Ridley Cambridge Draft and successive drafts of the proposed Anglican Covenant to the dioceses for study and comment during this triennium, and that a report to Executive Council in keeping with 2006 Resolution A166 be made. Such report was made by the D020 Task Force and is now a Blue Book Report that recommends Resolution A145 with a final Resolve that says “The Episcopal Church is unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form.”

It is not a pastoral response for the General Convention to decline to take a position on the proposed Anglican Covenant when the work requested by previous General Conventions has been done and a recommendation not to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form has been made.

The D020 Task Force report says, “A significant number of responses raised the question about the effectiveness of the covenant as a way of holding the communion together when some of the provinces which had initially supported the need for a covenant appeared no longer to support it.” In fact, the majority of the Church of England’s dioceses have voted to decline to adopt the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The D020 Task Force report further says, “the task force noticed what it came to call ‘covenant fatigue.’” It is not a pastoral response to request the church to hold another three year wake for the proposed covenant. The proposed covenant is dead and needs to be buried.

The church needs to be freed from the dead body of the proposed Anglican Covenant so that we can complete our restructure work and focus our time, energy, and resources on building relationships, lifting up our youth and young adults, nurturing our ecumenical and interreligious relationships, and cultivating new resources for being Jesus’ disciples in a hurting world.

We have work to do and convening another task force and another season of study is no longer needed. This General Convention has been speaking with a clear, prophetic voice and is giving the church policy on which the future can be built. Let us continue to be courageous and stand for what we believe. Let us say no to the dead body of the covenant, and defeat this resolution.”

I was an endorser of resolution D007-Response to Anglican Covenant, proposed by Susan Russell, which said “General Convention, having prayerfully considered the merits of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant and believing said agreement to be contrary to Anglican ecclesiology and tradition and to the best interests of the Anglican Communion, respectfully decline to adopt the same….”

I opted to endorse Susan’s resolution, which gives a clear “No,” versus the Executive Council’s resolution A126-Consideration of the Anglican Covenant, which says, “The Episcopal Church is unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form.” I think it’s important to speak plainly.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Endorsement for Gay Clark Jennings for PHoD

Gay Clark Jennings
I am endorsing Gay Clark Jennings for President of the House of Deputies (PHoD), because she is both the most qualified nominee and the one who has the most fulsome vision for how she would live into the role of PHoD, if elected. Her faithfulness, humility, sense of humor, interest in people, creativity, and logical mind are characteristics of God created in Gay that will stand her in good stead, if elected.

Frank Logue (facing forward)
My first piece of advice to Gay, if elected, would be to appoint fellow nominee for PHoD Frank Logue of Georgia to her Council of Advice. Frank is a very philosophical observer and thinker, and The Episcopal Church could really benefit from a PHoD and Vice PHoD team of Gay and Frank. Gay said, if elected, she would invite the new VPHoD to go on retreat with her to dialogue for several days so that they could explore together how best to work as a team. To do anything less would be insufficient from my point of view.


I just returned to my room from a two hour “meet the nominees” session that immediately followed the close of the afternoon legislative session in the House of Deputies. The three nominees for PHoD, Gay, Frank, and Martha Bedell Anderson, gamely answered questions from a steady stream of deputies for two hours. With the exception of one question, all questions were directed to all three nominees.

I believe that Gay is the most qualified, because she has a 30,000-foot view of the church, General Convention (GC), and how both relate to the wider world of the Anglican Communion, and also the on-the-ground view of chairing and participating in Executive Council, the current PHoD’s Council of Advice, prior Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs), GC legislative committees, and the Anglican Consultative Council. 

I very much appreciate the fact that Gay has chaired committees on World Mission, Structure, Governance and Administration, in times of declining resources and anxiety, and has led her committees to produce excellent and robust work products. This woman works very, very hard, and is dogged in her determination to dig deep and reach wide.

I had some early reservations when Gay announced that she would stand for election to PHoD, because I was concerned about Gay being too much of an “insider.” I worried that she would be too mired in the same old, same old, and that the church would not be gaining a leader able to embrace a new vision.

I also worried about electing an “outsider,” who wouldn’t know enough about how things have been done to be able to step carefully through the streams, gulleys, and buried boulders of the church’s traditions and more recent history. From my first triennium on Executive Council, I know that the learning curve is steep, and I don't believe the church can wait 6 to 9 to 12 months for a new PHoD to learn the ropes. There is too much coming out of GC, and the work, as well as the economy and the church in the world are moving right along. Deliberate is good; slow probably not. 

In the nominees conversation, I was impressed by Gay’s description of the orders (lay, clergy, and bishops) of the church, the GC’s bicameral structure, the role of governance in service to mission, and how they are all connected. Gay was able to articulate clearly where she sees opportunities for building on existing structural pieces and relationships and where she sees new opportunities. She also has a strong grasp of the pockets of fatigue and conflict among people and ministry areas and some good ideas of what is needed to address them.

I believe that Gay will be able to work collegially with anyone who is elected as VPHoD, as well as with our current Presiding Bishop and the Chief Operating Officer. I believe that Gay and her leadership will be respected by members of Executive Council. And I believe that the church will be well represented by Gay in our ecumenical and interreligious relationships. 

So, I'm voting for Gay Clark Jennings for PHoD.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

GC Day 3: Early Impressions

It has been intense at General Convention (GC), with lots of activity and inputs. My sense of disappointment at the proceedings in the House of Deputies (HoD) has felt overwhelming, and I’m trying to process what I’m hearing and experiencing. I apologize in advance to my fellow deputies, because it is not my usual style to complain or chide. It may be that I'm just tired, and it's fatigue peeking out of my psyche – my projections, and not objective reality I'm seeing. Or it may be sensory overload from which I can't quite recover, because the pace of data flow is fast and relentless.

The Colorado Deputation - (l to r) Brooks Keith, Zoe Cole,
Lelanda Lee & Andrew Cooley
I'm disappointed by what I perceive to be the lack of preparation and attention of some deputies. The flow of legislation in the HoD can move quickly. The parliamentary procedures can be complex. Reading the Blue Book which holds all the pre-GC reports from committees, commissions, agencies, and boards (CCABs) in advance, studying the agenda for each legislative day, and paying attention to the order of motions, amendments, substitutions, and votes, are imperative. Relying on others in one's deputation to help track legislation and hearings can be very helpful, especially if there are senior deputies in the deputation. GC is not a solitary endeavor, and teamwork among deputations can be the difference to being effective or not.

Jack Finlaw & Ruth Woodliff-Stanley
I'm disappointed by the attempts to restructure via resolutions and the budget without first having a conversation about a vision for a new whole. I think both are wrong-headed and place the cart before the horse, as so many deputies have said at the microphones when they have spoken against various pieces of legislation making those attempts. I have heard many comments in the blogosphere and here at GC about the shortcomings in the current structure and budget, but I haven't heard very many specifics about how they might look different. 

An example of this wrong-headedness is the resolution passed by the HoD, which directs Executive Council to sell the church's headquarters building at 815 Second Avenue. I'm neither opposed nor in favor of selling 815 Second Avenue. I have read and heard the clamor to relocate headquarters to a more geographically central and affordable site. I think that's a good idea. I think a lot of the church's leadership get that sentiment. I spoke against the resolution to sell 815 Second Avenue, because I don't think a decision to sell real estate can be made without appropriate deliberateness within a current context. I am opposed to requiring our board of directors to take action by fiat. As an Executive Council member, who is also a member of the board of directors of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, I cannot succumb to coercion by moral suasion or GC resolution to do something that would violate my fiduciary responsibilities.

Larry Hitt & Christy Shain-Hendricks
I think the closest anyone has come to articulating a new vision has been to call for a unicameral GC with reduced numbers of deputies and bishops in the respective houses. Prior to coming to GC, I was adamant in my opposition to a unicameral GC, because I feared the charism and personae of bishops overwhelming the voices of deputies. Let's face it: some bishops can be bullies, and some deputies can be wimps. Now that I'm here and have seen how informed and strong deputies can hold their own in debate with bishops in legislative committees, I feel less fearful about that with this caveat:  Laity and clergy must have the good sense to elect equipped, strong deputies, and diversity politics must be firmly aligned with a dedicated focus on equipping every identifiable community. My argument for a unicameral GC is that it is the only way to reduce sufficient costs associated with a legislative process, because it reduces the duplication of time and administrative costs associated with the concurrence of legislation in two separate houses.

 Jenny Te Paa, theologian from New
Zealand, who is co-chaplain for the
House of Deputies this GC.
The church says we’ve reduced the length of GC from ten days to eight days, but that’s not entirely truthful. It bothers me that we prevaricate about these kinds of things – being technically accurate, but essentially untruthful. We’ve reduced the number of days when the houses are in legislative sessions, hearing, debating, and voting on resolutions. However, two days prior to the first legislative day, legislative committee chairs, vice chairs, secretaries, and aides attend orientation, and one day prior, the committees convene for the first time. Volunteer supervisors come in one or two days earlier than that.

Mary Kate Rejouis, who, 
along with Mike Houlik, 
organizes the Convention 
worship logistics.
It takes a lot of people to make GC happen, and essential functions like the Secretariats, where the internal processes of both houses churn the legislation, are largely staffed by volunteers under the supervision of too few staff spread very thin. The church has very experienced, long-term staff, and I cannot emphasize, or be grateful enough for, how those staff members bless the church. I’ve heard a number of deputies comment that they are not getting the same level of support and accurate information from the secretariats as in the past. Do the math: declining membership equals budget constriction equals fewer experienced staff equals less staff support.

The transition to less paper and more electronic transmission of information to both deputies and committees have also caused frustration and stress. There are still large numbers of GC participants who do not travel with laptops or electronic notebooks (like iPads), including some who wouldn’t know how to use either if they were given loaners. I think it’s time for all deputies and bishops to make the effort to learn how to use the new technology. It’s our duty as deputies and bishops to become equipped and prepared to do the work of the current century in the modes of the current century, because GC is not returning to the stone ages.

St. Augustine's, NYC, steel band orchestra playing before and
after the Eucharist on Saturday, July 7th.
The hearings where every resolution must be heard have given me a sense of real hope. Thus far, I’ve attended hearings on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (in the legislative committee where I’m vice chair), Budget Priorities, the proposed Anglican Covenant, and Same Sex Blessings. The testimony has been thoughtful, nuanced, and mostly calm. I’ll talk about each of the hearings in a later post.

Friday, July 6, 2012

At General Convention

I'm at General Convention where I'm serving as a lay deputy with the Diocese of Colorado's deputation and as vice chair of Legislative Committee 18 - Ecumenical Relations. I'm blogging over at the deputation's blog, which is at Come see me over there!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

GC77: Open-handedness

I'm in Indianapolis as of approximately 12:20AM. Our flight out of Denver was delayed due to thunderstorms. It was exciting to see rain and wet runways at Denver International Airport. Over the last several days friends have shared stories of evacuation and friends and relatives who have lost homes to the fires in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.

My two older grandsons, ages 11 and 13, came over yesterday unexpectedly. After a pizza dinner, my husband and brother held a movie marathon with the boys, allowing me to finalize my loose ends so that I could leave with most of my brain cells and necessary items in my luggage. I do wish I had remembered to bring my charging cable for my iPad keyboard and the extra iPad/iPhone charger, but neither is a biggie.

One of the things I'm observing in these last days leading up to General Convention is how so many of the conversations on social media and in the blogosphere appear to be good people who share a lot theologically, talking at cross purposes. The disconnects seem to stem from being entrenched in a particular semantics that doesn't allow any room for another way of talking about essentially the same thing. 

You can argue precision in speech all you want, and I'm pretty rigorous about being precise myself. However, I wonder if these same people would be quite so fixed in their positions if they were having these same conversations in person. For the people who will be here in person, I'm hoping that they will take the time to engage conversation with different people about the substantive issues, including the resolutions that espouse particular points of view.

I'm focused on contributing to the advancement of the work and the relationships of the church in an open-handed, open-hearted fashion. Open-hearted speaks for itself. Open-handed is about being generous with offering invitation, permission, and opportunity to advance someone else's point of view. Open-handed is about the generosity that holds space open for wide participation and out-of-the-box contributions of ideas and energy. Open-handed means that sometimes, you step back a step in order to open the space for others to come in.

So, in the spirit of open-handedness, I have signed on as an endorser to a resolution (now posted as D035 on the General Convention Web site) proposed by the Rev. Susan Brown Snook of Arizona that the General Convention adopt the budget proposed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. 

Others, from Susan at her blog A Good and Joyful Thing to the Crusty Old Dean site of the Rev. Tom Ferguson of Bexley Hall to my Executive Council colleague Katie Sherrod at her blog Desert's Child, have written at length with critiques and suggestions about the budget and budget process. I started more than once to write about the budget and budget process and decided that with more than enough opinion in the blogosphere, my voice wouldn't add anything to the conversation. Susan, Tom, Katie, and others have done excellent jobs of parsing the budget and budget process, and they have added value to the conversation and some substantive content for consideration.

Executive Council always intended that the budget be shaped around the Five Marks of Mission, and we were very disappointed that the Finance staff was unable to assist us in making that happen before time ran out. The budget proposal presented by the Presiding Bishop has merit even if it's not everything we want, and it is the best starting place for the Joint Standing Commission on Program, Budget and Finance to begin their deliberations at General Convention. The draft proposed budget adopted by Council is simply too flawed to provide a good starting place.

So, it's almost 2:30AM Denver time, but 4:30AM Indiana time, and I guess I should try to sleep for a few hours before getting up to attend a lunch meeting and an orientation for legislative chairs and aides. Goodnight, or good morning, as the case may be!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Redressing Wrongs: It's Everyone's Responsibility

I’ve been following the work of the Canadians in both their government and in their churches around the work of Truth and Reconciliation with regard to the wrongs done to the First Nations peoples over centuries [see note at end for links]. First Nations children were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools that systematically tried to eradicate their cultural identities and familial connections, and this was perpetrated and sanctioned by the Canadian government.

I have also been thinking about the work being done and still to be done in the United States over truth telling, apologies, redress, and reconciliation regarding the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that was a major component of the American economy in this country’s early colonial period and the U.S. government enacted discrimination in the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese internment during WWII. Truth telling and apologies have been uneven in the U.S., resistance of the dominant Anglo culture is high, and much work remains. [One could easily argue that the Cradle to Prison Pipeline is another form of American de jure slavery, as author Michelle Alexander does in her 2011 book The New Jim Crow, but that is the subject for another post.]

I think that redressing old wrongs takes many forms, and not everyone agrees that all the forms should be honored or done. As many people as there are under the sun, there will be that many opinions of all things. A broken egg cannot be unbroken, but a broken egg must be acknowledged as having been broken, including who broke it, when and where it was broken, telling the story of the broken egg.

All of us are the products of our histories and our forebears. An Indigenous person’s history and forebears tell a different story imbued with different emotions and stories of tragedy, oppression, colonialism, suffering and pain, than does an Anglo person’s history and forebears. It is also true for African Americans and Asian Americans that their stories differ from Anglos’ stories. The stories of Hispanic Americans and Arab Americans are unfolding today, and racial profiling, scapegoating, and racism embedded into state laws are regrettably part of those stories, too.

In the conversation about redress and the First Nations peoples, the first step in redress is acknowledgement that colonialism and genocide occurred against the Indigenous people of the Western hemisphere, perpetrated by Europeans who set out across the oceans to enrich themselves and better their own lives without regard for how that impacted the Indigenous peoples’ lives. That is the first acknowledgement.

The second acknowledgement must be that there are legacies in the form of societal ills that have been left by the oppressions of genocide, residential schools that forced Native children to be separated from their families and their tribal identities, and the disempowerment of entire nations of Native people through their being driven from their homes, their hunting grounds, and their traditional way of life.

The fact that there is so much resistance among Anglos to even taking the first step towards acknowledgement is very telling. It tells of a lack of interest in and appreciation for someone else’s story, someone else’s history, someone else’s suffering. It tells of an egocentrism that believes that Anglos are at the center of the universe and everyone else is somehow lesser.

Acknowledgement is not counterproductive, far from it. Acknowledgement opens the door to conversation and relationship. Acknowledgement says, “I seek to understand your story, your history, what your forebears lived through, and how you carry that story, your forebears and that history within you, and how those things all are part of who you are.” For an Anglo, acknowledgement also says, “I see the part that my forebears, direct or indirect, played in your story and in your history, and how our stories and histories are intertwined and connected.”

When the Anglo and the Native can see how they are connected through their stories, then a relationship based on mutual awareness of who each other is can begin. Then, healing of each other’s stories based on acknowledgement of their histories and their forebears’ roles in those histories can begin, too.

This work is not about collective guilt, but rather, collective responsibility. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for acknowledging and righting wrongs and doing the work of building reconciled relationships, because we are all part of Creator’s great story of humankind and how we are meant for each other and for the care of creation.

Trying to redress old wrongs ends in the future, far beyond our lifetimes. Our human frailty, egocentrism, selfishness, and laziness will impair and delay our ability to seek conversation and build relationships as intently as is needed. Our task is to begin now so that the time far beyond our lifetimes is sooner, rather than later. The task begins with you and me.


For more information about Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, see the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Web site here and the Anglican Church of Canada’s involvement here. The Canadian Commission “has a mandate to learn the truth about what happened in the residential schools and to inform all Canadians about what happened in the schools.” The Anglican Church of Canada states that it “is committed to healing and reconciliation from the legacy of Indian residential schools." and that "This work takes place among Indigenous groups and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. We support the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) by working in our church, and in collaboration with other churches, Indigenous groups, residential school survivor groups, and the government.”

Thanks to my sister, Elsie Dennis, for her generosity in reading an earlier draft of this post and offering suggestions to improve it.