Tuesday, June 13, 2006

General Convention I - Introduction

I've found the first real "me" time at this whole thing... I'm sitting in an alcove by the lobby of my hotel here in Columbus because I've been hoping for a while for the chance to "blog" this convention.

In a nutshell - I've never seen so many collars in one place before. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church draws about 10,000 people every three years to some unfortunate place in the country - this year, Columbus, Ohio. It's a great city, much to my surprise. We discovered later that something is terribly wrong with this place: the city is completely spotless. I have yet to see a SINGLE piece of stray litter flapping around in the breeze along the sidewalk. Barely even a crumb - for proof of this, also consider the fact that I have not even seen a single PIGEON yet. People are friendly, service is good, and food is tasty. I came up with the theory that beneath the streets in an ancient sewer system, an underground underclass lives off of the city's trash - thus, none is seen.

After pulling into the hotel at around 8:30pm on Sunday night the 11th, I was exhausted and also slightly nervous with anticipation about meeting my new colleagues and also my new roommate for the next eleven days. Great people, every single one of them. It's going to be a great time... these are going to be good friends.

A lot of people are pretty nervous about General Convention... at the last convention, the Church approved the election of an openly gay man (Gene Robinson) as a Bishop - this let the dogs out, for sure. Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh is waging a venomous verbal/psychological campaign of division against the rest of the church family because he and a gaggle of other "leaders" think the best way to address their disagreements of the issue of Bp. Robinson is to threaten to leave the church entirely!

Since I've been here, I've heard a lot of metaphors about the church as a family: people disagree, but they come together in the end at the Table to do those few pieces of truly inviolable business. As long as a family is able to share a Table, it also maintains a critical foundation for reconciliation and understanding. This was the hope of consecrating Gene Robinson - the initiation of a new dialogue.

Instead, the homophobes in the church (who annoyingly call themselves "traditional Christians" or "orthodox") have simply left the table altogether - I learned today that a group of them are meeting separately from the rest of the family for worship. How sad.

In the meanwhile, the Church is grappling many other issues (believe it or not, some Americans care about more than "pelvic politics")... the big buzz this year is around mobilizing the entire Church to rally for the Millenium Development Goals and the ONE Campaign to "Make Poverty History." I just came back from a Eucharist service that used all U2 songs - very cool.

I hope the Church can set an example for the world of what an intentional, tense, productive, familial democracy can look like. I wrote a letter to my friends along those lines - I might post that later. The point was, however, that the Church can show the world how to LIVE democracy.

Let's see.

"We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hatetheir brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brotheror sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must lovetheir brothers and sisters also." - 1 John 4:19

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