Saturday, February 6, 2010

Convention Wrap Up

I am now safely ensconced back home with a cup of tea and I'm beginning the work of mentally processing the results and events of convention. Some, like most of the resolutions and the changes to constitution and canons are pretty straight forward; some, like our resolutions regarding human sexuality, the death penalty, our relationship with the Anglican Communion and especially, the viewing of the movie "Traces of the Trade were a bit more complex, to say the least.

Traces of the Trade is, as I mentioned in an earlier post, a documentary about the descendants of the largest slave trader in United States history. The film attempts to address the continuing and incredible impact slavery has on us to this day. It is an uncomfortable film to watch, especially in a room full of folks who are overwhelming white and affluent. The film is massively ambitious, and though it can be easy to ignore the difficult lessons of the film, facing full on the horror of our history and the incomprehensible things whites did to slaves is embarrassing at some times and outright overwhelming at others. I can only say that it made even me, a progressive political warrior who has worked relatively extensively in black communities and for minority causes to totally reconsider my stance on race and racial politics in our country. Take that for what you will. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

As far as the Resolutions went, almost nothing surprising happened. The closest to an exception was a resolution calling on our Diocese to spend more energy opposing the death penalty. I participated in the Resolutions breakout session discussion on this resolution and felt very confident in its chances after hearing that debate. The room seemed to be (almost) of one mind in support of the resolution and, in fact, called on more than one occasion to strengthen the resolution in some ways so it was unambiguous that we were addressing the moral issue rather than any peripheral issues. However, when we came to a vote on this it was the only resolution that required a vote by show of hands (rather than a simple voice vote.) I am immensely relieved that the resolution passed, but was saddened that it was as close as it was (I'd say 60-40 from where I was sitting.) My only real regret of the whole convention, especially considering the relative tightness of the vote, is that I did not rise and speak in support of the resolution. This is one area I feel the Bible is unequivocal and plain. Presented with someone rightly sentenced under the law to capital punishment, Jesus stepped between her and her executors and prevented the stoning from happening (John 8:1-11). We are also told "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19 KJV.) This totally leaves out that little one from the Ten Commandments "Thou shall not kill." I don't know how much plainer we can be shown our duty specific issue, and it frustrates me that so many Christians still think that a well-thought out, sadistically planned, and precisely carried out killing of any person is acceptible. We are obviously making strides in the right direction as a Church and we are clearly far ahead of our state government on this topic, but I hope we can speed our progress and stand as a moral beacon alongside the Roman Catholic Church on this issue.

To end my recap on a high note, on Friday afternoon, I had the good fortune of being elected by acclamation to serve our Diocese in a three year term as a Trustee of The University of the South. I am obviously thrilled and itching to get to work on whatever my duties may be.

Apropos to the previous paragraph, all I can think to describe convention is this: Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133) It was, in many ways all a convention should be. It was the embodiment of the Diocese with elected members sitting representative of their respective parishes. It was progressive, but with a tolerance, love and mutual respect between factions that has been conspicuous in its absence from many other meetings outside our Diocese.

It is this characteristic I most took away. Our friends from St. Paul's, Edenton, one of the most conservative parishes in the Diocese was at the table next to us. We interacted regularly and respectfully; Richard worked to modify a Resolution of theirs to make it more acceptable to the majority at the convention; they accepted as legitimate and fair the results of votes (even though I'm sure they were extremely disappointed in the failure of one of their resolutions) and did not show contempt for either the body or the individuals who voted against their resolution.

In the same vein, our reliably progressive Bishop struck a reliably (and unsurprisingly) progressive tone in his address. However, in that same speech, he also spoke at some length about his desire to accommodate many different points of view, and to allow for differences of conscience so all feel comfortable and welcome. He spoke of the areas of common ground we have in regards to human sexuality, and of the respect he had for their position. He was as welcoming and magnanimous to all (and not just the LGBT Community and its supporters!) as anyone could ask of a bishop.

It is a shame the news cameras didn't see that. There will be no clips of the conciliatory efforts made by either bishop or delegates. There will be no clips of us working together on the many things we agree wholeheartedly on, even while fumbling through the dark, trying to find acceptable ground on those things we don't. There will be no clips of the bonds of affection secured between those from the far left and the far right who, even in a short time of living and working together, are reminded of the humanity of those who stand apart; those who can so easily be called "enemies." If nothing else, gathering together reminds us that in spite of our differences we have far more in common than we think, and that though we may not all be of one mind, we are of one body and one prayer. Though we may disagree, we are of one God, one faith and one baptism. May we continue to recognize that, and to recognize our own need to serve the risen Lord in each and every one; as long as we do that I think we will be just fine.

For the 127th Convention of the Diocese of East Carolina, for those who hosted the convention, for the parishes and missions of the diocese, for the Episcopal Church, and for the people who attended and the work that was done this last week, Thanks Be To God!

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