Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Over

We finished our business ahead of schedule this afternoon. The House of Deputies is still at work, but should finish by 6 PM tonight, making this the first General Convention in a long time at which all legislation was acted upon before the closing bell.

In the next few days, I will be writing a reflection letter to the Diocese that will go out on the web and on the E-pistle mailing list. I understand that our deputation will also be preparing a letter which will be posted in the next few weeks.

All in all, it was a good convention. We took some necessary steps forward towards full inclusivity, but did so in a way that was respectful to the our conservative members and to the wider Anglican Communion. Those issues aside, we also made some important changes in structure which will effect us on a more local level, such as changing our health insurance plans, adopting new disciplinary canons, affirming youth, campus ministry, evangelism, and Native American programs.

Going back to some of my earlier cautions of the last few blogs, I want to include here a few paragraphs from the letter that the Presiding Bishop sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury today. As always, the press has been creating misleading headlines about what we did here, and she wanted to set the record straight. According to Episcopal News Services:

"The letter to Archbishop Williams outlined Resolution D025, which was adopted at this General Convention, explaining that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and President Anderson understood Resolution D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature. It stated that some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution B033 but reiterated that is not the case. The letter continued, “This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025.”

"The letter also states that the Episcopal Church “is deeply and genuinely committed to our relationships in the Anglican Communion.” It also says, “In adopting this Resolution, it is not our desire to give offense. We remain keenly aware of the concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other Churches across the Communion. We believe also that the honesty reflected in this resolution is essential if indeed we are to live into the deep communion that we all profess and earnestly desire.”

"The letter expresses the profound appreciation of the Presiding Officers that Archbishop Williams, 16 Anglican Primates, and lay and clergy leaders of the Anglican Communion attended the General Convention and stressed the importance of finding ways to communicate directly about different cultural and ecclesial contexts."

The future looks hopeful, for our Church nationally, and more importantly, for the mission opportunities that await us, in spite of (or maybe because of) the financial constraints we are under.

I was proud to represent you as your bishop and to be part of this historical meeting.

The last picture I am posting is just for fun. The fact that we were able to have a good time together is a sign of health, as our chaplain reminded us. Since the creation of the Episcopal Church in 1789, there have been ten bishops named Smith.
Five of them now serve. One will be retiring soon, so this is the last time there will be so many for the foreseeable future. Here we all are. From left to right--
Andrew Smith, Connecticut; Kirk Smith, Arizona, Michael Smith, South Dakota; Dabney
Smith, Southeast Florida; Wayne Smith, Missouri.

Laura and I are headed for the Northwest for a few weeks of vacation. I will be back in the office around the middle of August. During that time both Epistles and this blog will be "on hiatus". I hope that you all have a restful and cool summer!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Catching our breath

Today was rather quiet compared to the last two. After the important decisions we have made, it was as if everyone was being rather thoughtful and taking the measure of what we had done. Sure, there was plenty of legislation to plow our way through. The House of Bishops approved the budget in about 45 seconds with no debate--maybe we just didn't want to deal with the pain we know it will cause. An estimated 35 staff people in NYC will lose their jobs, some of them long time colleagues and friends. As the Presiding Bishop reminded us, we believe in resurrection after death, and that will surely happen to the church as well. There is a lot that is dying, old ways of doing business, communicating, organizing. The church that is emerging will look a lot different than it does now, both in structure and in mission. And maybe, just maybe, we can now get beyond the controversies that have preoccupied us for so long to do the real work of the Kingdom. There was a bright spot tonight. Several hundred delegates, mostly young, gathered for a U2-Eucharist, using the music of the the rock star Bono. I stayed for a while, although the volume levels are a bit too high for these old ears. But as you can see from the video, everyone was having a great time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another historic day

There was good news and bad news today. Let's begin with the bad: At a joint session with the House of Deputies we received the final draft of the budget. We were warned it would be painful, and it was. Many staff people will be cut, all programs will be reduced, and lots of great projects will be left unfunded. I was particularly disappointed that money for our partners in Mexico was reduced by 29%. The newspaper we partner with, Episcopal Life, will also be greatly affected. On the other hand, the larger church has finally instituted some cost saving measures I have advocated for years, such as reducing travel for face to face meetings and increasing the use of electronic communication. Some programs that had to do mission, such as Hispanic ministry, youth, and church planting were actually increased. Still there was considerable anguish. Before our session began, we all stood to sing, and I took a video of the members of our deputation. The House of Bishop's spent a long time later today fussing over the wording of a substitute resolution having to do with blessings of same gender unions. We started this process yesterday, and for short time we decided to try an alternative way of dealing with this highly charged issue, rather than word-smithing amendmend after amendment. But when the ad hoc group came back today, all they had done was to rewrite the original resolution. At one point, I found myself voting with the conservative members, not over content but over process. I still believe the church has to find a better way of dealing with controversial topics than a win-lose legislative answer. Let's take a page from non-western cultures who solve problems in a family way in which all are included. Since that effort came to nothing, I was glad to vote "yes" on the roll-call that approved the resolution. Our willingness to at least explore ways of blessing such unions will no doubt result in additional disapproval from the Anglican Communion and from the more conservative dioceses here. The situation has certainly changed with the fact that five states now recognize gay/lesbian marriage with an estimated 15 more to come in the next few years. Assuming that the House of Deputies concurs with us tomorrow, the operative words of the resolution are: "Resolved, that bishops, particularly those in dioceses with civil jurisdictions where same gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of the church; and be it further resolved, that this Convention continue to honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality." This passed 104 to 30. I will be discussing the implications of this with the clergy when I return, but it is clearly a step forward towards a more inclusive church.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The House of Bishops in Action

Here's a video of the House of Bishops in action (maybe that is too strong a verb!). The 150 of us sit together at tables, with the Presiding Bishop on a platform with the officers. The audience (when we are open to the public) sits around us. When we wish to speak, we raise a card with a number of our table to be recognized by the chair. I have at my table Thom (Idaho), MacPhearson (W.Louisiana), Lee (Virginia), Barbara Harris (Mass, retired), Alexander (Atlanta). The going can be either tedious, when a hour or more is spent fussing over a sentence or two, or fast paced, as when it is hard to keep up reading the legislation that is being considered. Three more days to go!

Don't believe everything you read!

Before I left Arizona, I cautioned people to be very careful about what they read or see in the media, which often does not fully understand how the church works, or is spinning events to fit an agenda. A case in point was the action yesterday. As I cautioned after the vote on DO25, this does NOT overturn the earlier BO33 of the 2006 Convention. It is far more subtle than that. What it does do is to reaffirm that the ordination process (including that of bishop) is open to all people. In essence, BO33 remains in effect until the time it is tested by the election of another openly gay or lesbian bishop. It is an importanted and needed step, but it does not "repeal" any earlier legislation. About the only media source that got this correct was the New York Times, and I commend their coverage. Other papers, including the LA Times and even our own supposedly in-house Episcopal Life overstated the case with headlines such as "Church Clears Way for Gay Bishops." I suspect that this incorrect reporting may cause many of the bishops to go slow when it comes to action on the question of same gender blessings. An important resolution on that topic which was passed by the House of Deputies was argued over and then postponed by our House this afternoon. I suspect that it may be replaced with a more pastoral and less legislative response. Maybe something like a gentleman's or gentlewoman's agreement that different bishops make the pastoral response to blessings they feel is necessary without a general policy being made--we will see.

Monday, July 13, 2009

No pictures, but breaking news!

This afternoon we had our first controversial action. Deputies passed resolution DO 25 which essentially reaffirmed that the ordination process (including that of bishop) was open to all people. This was a movement away from the "restraint" of last convention's famous B033. Although BO33 was not exactly overturned (it will take an election of an openly gay person to make that happen, which frankly is not likely to happen anytime soon), this resolution was a defacto repudiation of that stance. When it came time for House of Bishop's to act, we concurred with the House
of Deputies 99 to 45.

I voted yes on this, in spite of what some inaccurate earlier reports said. It is time for us to be clear about who we are as a church in spite of the fact that it may make things harder for us in the Anglican Communion. The good news is the language of this resolution was thoughtful, considerate, and moderate in tone. I believe that even most of the my more conservative colleagues can live with it, even thought they may not have voted for it.

Tomorrow we will tackle blessings of same sex unions. I suspect that will be be a tighter and more difficult race. Please keep us in your prayers!

Weekend Update July 13

I have discovered that I have not had nearly enough time to update this blog. There is almost no break in the day, and even meal times are taken up with meetings, so now I will have to play catch up a bit. A friend remarked that Convention goes through three stages--introduction, confusion, and resolution. During the weekend it was almost business as usual in the sense that committee meetings and legislative session continued, but we did not seem to be accomplishing a whole lot, and the controversial topics have yet to be addressed. Here are some of the important legislation that was passed, however. 1. We reinstated the MDG spending in the budget. That comes to about a million dollars a year. Instead of simply reinstating the 0.7%, Convention increased this asking to a full 1%. Dioceses and parishes will be asked to do the same. 2. Pension benefits are now extended to all lay church employees who work over 1000 hours a year. 3. We adopted a new denominational health plan which should save a lot of money to most Dioceses. 4. We also adopted a new strategy for Hispanic mission, yet it is unclear if we can afford the price-tag of 3.5 million. If we can, Arizona will benefit directly from this. The one change the routine came yesterday morning at the United Thank Offering Ingathering service which is the main festival Eucharist of the Convention. All the bishops put on their "rochetes and chimeres" (red and white robes) and process into the hall. I've included a short video of the Presiding Bishop in procession along with the two previous PBs, Bishops Griswold and Browning. About 8000 were in attendance. I especially enjoyed this service since my old parish in Los Angeles sent a busload of parishioners to attend. Seeing everyone was a bit like old home week. Today Laura is with other bishop spouses doing a work project at a low income trailer park. This afternoon we expect some more heated discussions in HOB, and I will try to report on that shortly.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday July 10, Running Behind!

Yesterday was so hectic, that I have not had a chance to upload a new video. I've attached one of a typical morning (7.30AM) in our Committee Room. This work is beginning to wind down now that most of our legislation has been discussed and sent out to the floor. This afternoon we had a 4 hour House of Bishops meeting. The news item was that we approved an agreement with the Moravian Church (not many of those in Arizona, but lots on the East Coast). This arrangement is similar to the one we have with the Lutherans and represents another step towards Christian unity. Tonight was the Arizona delegation dinner. About 18 of us (deputies, ECW delegates, Altar Guild) had a good time at P.F.Chang's. We were joined by Chuck Robertson, who, although he works for the Presiding Bishop, still "belongs" to Arizona. Tomorrow is not so busy, and I will try to get some video of my public humiliation for having lost a bet on the Superbowl to the Diocese of Pittsburg!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

House of Bishops gathers, Wed. July 8

This was really the first full day of Convention. I started early with my committee meeting where we made some good process on the seven or so resolutions on our agenda. At 9.15 AM the opening Eucharist Convention took place with Presiding Bishop Schori preaching and celebrating. It was an impressive sight to see about 8000 Episcopalians from all over the globe united in worship. Logistically it was impressive that everyone was able to receive the bread and wine in about 10 minutes. In the afternoon there were more meetings and the first long session of the House of Bishops. We met for 1/2 hour privately before the visitors gallery is opened, and people come streaming in. We welcomed a large number of visiting bishops and Primates, including the Archbishop of Canterbury who gave an address about world poverty in the evening. I did not attend this, thinking it would be too crowded, but Laura did and found it very compelling. Some drinks with friends and then dinner concluded the evening. Lots of work, and also lots of socializing!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7--Committees Underway

The day began at 8 AM with the first meeting of my Communications Committee. We seem off to a good start with very knowledgeable collection of talent from around the Country. We had a chance to get acquainted and to set our agenda for public hearings. At these hearings, anyone, deputy or not, can sign up to address the committee. This is democracy at its best. We also met at the end of the day to begin discussions on three of the seven resolutions we now have before us. At noon today the exhibit hall opened. The Korean drummer group from St Jame's School in Los Angeles (where I used to be rector) provided music. In the video you can see them warming up (my old colleague, Fr. Aidan Koh,the Korean priest at St James, looks on approvingly). One could easily spend an entire day in the exhibit hall. Laura plans to help at several of the booths including Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, where she serves on the Board. Our friend who made my special Arizona vestment set has begun his own company, (, and that set is on display there. Laura is keeping him company. Tomorrow promises to be another busy day, with a talk by Archbishop Rowan Williams in the evening. The House of Deputies and House of Bishops will also have their first full meetings.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday, July 6th--Ready to Go!

This was the last relaxing day we will have for a while--tomorrow is a 7AM to 9 PM schedule! Laura spent much of the day helping to ferry visiting archbishops from the airport. I spent the afternoon in the last orientation and briefing session we have before our committees go into session at 8 AM tomorrow. One person leaned over to me during the meeting and whispered half-seriously, "The purpose of this gathering is to raise our anxiety level." I am one of the co-chairs, and since I have never done this before, I am a bit nervous. Walking home from dinner tonight, I stopped at the local donut place and bought 2 dozen donuts to share with the committee tomorrow morning. Maybe I can buy their affection! The video for tonight is a peak at our hotel room. When I did this at Lambeth, it proved to be the most popular of my postings. I doubt that the inside of a American hotel room is quite as exotic, but here goes...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

here's the VIDEO!

Arrival in Anaheim

Laura and I had a quick trip to Anaheim today. The traffic was not too bad, although it was hotter in California than in Arizona, 115 degrees near Palm Springs! There are not too many folks here yet. That will change tomorrow. I have several meetings in the afternoon, and Laura has volunteered to help drive visiting dignitaries from the airport. We ran into Chuck Robertson in the lobby and ending up having dinner together. He has a complimentary meeting room, which he has invited our deputation to also use. That room supplied the backdrop for tonight's first video blog.

Trying to post the video, but we are having some technical problems. Three computers with us but none of them seem to work right--either I will post the video later tonight, or will get a new camera tomorrow!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

General Convention, Here We Come!

Laura and I are busy packing for our trip to Anaheim and General Convention. Since we will then be taking some vacation time afterwards, the car is getting pretty full!

I've imported my column in E-pistles for this week describing who will be blogging from convention. You can find that information right below this entry.

My plan is to post a short (1 minute) video every evening, beginning tomorrow, July 5.As I did at Lambeth, these postings will be an attempt to capture some of the spirit of the meetings and the human interest side of the events. I will also try to share my impressions of the work being done, although you can probably get more insightful analysis from other sources.

The plan is to attend the early cathedral service tomorrow morning and then hit the road, hoping to get to Anaheim by about dinner time.

The Episcopal Church in Arizona | The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona

The Episcopal Church in Arizona | The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona

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