Friday, July 10, 2009

It ain't perfect, but we need to trust our process

Yesterday we had our first conversation about Resolution 2006-B033. That is the resolution passed at the end of the last General Convention that said we would "exercise considerable restraint" before consenting to the election of any candidate for bishop "whose manner of life presents significant challenges" to the rest of the Anglican Communion.

I had a wonderful conversation with Peggy, the deputy directly behind me, about being different and feeling included in the Episcopal Church. She says that she felt welcomed by the Episcopal Church in ways that other denominations hadn't welcomed her, just as I have. Such times of careful and quiet listening are always important.

I probably won't have a chance to talk on the floor of the convention about whatever legislation eventually comes to the House of Deputies connected to B033, but having prayed a lot over the last three years since that resolution passed, I have come to a firm belief about the Episcopal Church and its polity.

We must trust our process of making decisions. Even in the present tensions around the Anglican Communion, and recognizing the considerable range of opinions about what we should do, I believe that any attempt to work outside our deliberative process--and by that I mean adding criteria for making decisions that are outside of our long-standing Consitution and Canons--puts us in danger of missing the voice of the Holy Spirit. As Episcopalians for more than 200 years, we have amended and refined our Constitution and Canons as we have discerned what God was calling us to do. Our procedures for deciding things not only hold us to standards across generations, but also protect us from rash decisions. Even now, in the deeply emotional testimonies and pleas, we must trust on our careful, slow-paced, deliberations because that is how we as a Church have come to listen to God's call to us.

When we reach decisions at a General Convention, they reflect our present, collective discernment of what we should do. Likewise, if we decide in the next Convention that we should do something else, that decision, too, reflects our present discernment. It's slow, and sometimes painful, but it's the way we work until we discern that we should work in some other way.

Our President, Bonnie Anderson, in her welcoming remarks to us, told us that she had read all the opening remarks from all the previous Presidents of the House of Deputies, and each one called attention to our particular way of making decisions as part of our identity and our strength. They also all talked about the troubles of their present times.

We can never go back. We can never be certain of the future. And there is no way out of any trouble, except to walk through it, trusting in God's presence and love.

Not everyone will agree with the result, and not everyone will recognize our process for what we believe it to be--prayerful discernment. But I believe that it is the best way for us to proceed: Neither too bold nor too safe. We must be patient, and we must stand by the decisions at each Convention. We must call upon the Holy Spirit to guide us in each decision, so that over the course of history, we can have faith that we are moving in the direction from which God has been calling us.

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