A Letter from Bishop Benhase

My Sisters & Brothers in Christ,

By now many of you have heard various news reports and opinion pieces about our Church’s 77th General Convention. Not surprisingly, I have read many exaggerated reports and some that are just plain wrong. Two opinion pieces that seem to be circulating in the Diocese of Georgia are Ross Douthat writing in the New York Times on July 14 and Jay Akasie in the Wall Street Journal on July 13. I will not go through here a point by point refutation of the inaccuracies in both pieces, but suffice it to say there are many and they give the reader a skewed understanding. For example, in an otherwise thoughtful piece, Douthat claims that “most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared” the theological “premises” of retired Bishop, Jack Spong. That is patently false. I know my fellow bishops well enough to know how absurd that is. It is an irresponsible and misleading claim for Douthat to make.

Akasie’s piece, unlike Douthat’s, is not thoughtful at all. It is a hatchet job, particularly on our Presiding Bishop. While I do not agree with everything our Presiding Bishop does or says, she has presided over the House of Bishops with grace and fairness. She is not “secretive” or “authoritarian,” as Akasie claims. He uses the budget process as an example of his claims. The Presiding Bishop only proposed an alternative budget because the Executive Council presented an incoherent one, one that failed to move our Church away from a focus on governance and toward a focus on mission. The budget we passed at General Convention improved on the Presiding Bishop’s budget, but in my opinion did not go far enough in making the necessary changes toward a true missionary budget. It is a step in the right direction, but we have a long way to go.

I am confident that over the next three years we will see continued movement toward future budgets that will make mission a higher priority. The Task Force on the Church’s structure will convene soon. We must get things right in terms of structure, so we can get things right in terms of budgetary resources toward mission. There is a strong and growing movement for such transformation. I believe it was and is the Holy Spirit driving us toward significant change. Let us all pray for that to continue.

Our Deputies already reported on the General Convention’s vote to authorize a provisional rite for the blessing of same-sex couples. In both orders our deputation voted 3-1 against the enabling resolution. As I explained before General Convention, I also voted against the resolution, not because I am opposed to a blessing rite for same-sex couples, but because the rite itself is problematic, poorly written, and confusing in terms of the Church’s teaching on Holy Matrimony. The rite, however, was approved by over 70% in both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.

What will this mean in the Diocese of Georgia? Frankly, I do not know. Since this is a provisional rite and the resolution gives the Diocesan Bishop sole authority to determine its use in his/her diocese, I need more time to consult with our General Convention Deputation, our Standing Committee, and the priests of the Diocese. I plan on doing just that over the next few months. The provisional rite is not officially authorized until Advent, so I have the time needed to consult, pray, and decide. I expect to issue my decision sometime after the fall clergy conference in October.

Until then, I urge all of us to avoid reckless hyperbole and unfair speculation. Rather, let us remain constant in prayer and generous in love. It is by God’s merciful grace that we have the privilege to serve our Lord Jesus Christ on this earth. One day we will have the privilege of serving him in heaven. Until that day, we will struggle to discern what is faithful to the Gospel of Jesus.

Yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Scott Anson Benhase
Bishop of Georgia

 

Mainline Summer

Canon Frank Logue created this video to share a common theme coming up across several denomination convention. This summer, the Holy Spirit has been moving in and around conventions of the United Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal meetings, leading to Twitter.com feeds for #dreamUMC, #dreamPCUSA, #acts8 and others such as #dreamCCDOC and #dreamUCC. Each movement has grown ou of unique circumstances and will result in different responses in different places, but it is hard not to notice what God is doing this summer.

What is holding us back from taking action within our denominations? What can we begin to do to incarnate the change we wish to see without the denominations’ formal backing? How might we be increasingly faithful to the Gospel?

 

A Letter from the Deputation

With the bang of the gavel at 6:30 p.m. last night, the 77th General Convention came to a close. As 850+ deputies said their goodbyes and filed out of the Indianapolis Convention Center, a countervailing sense of completion and fatigue seemed to walk with them. Your Georgia deputation was no exception. The past two weeks have demanded our best efforts spiritually, pastorally, theologically, mentally, and even physically. It has been a privilege and joy to serve Christ and his Church in the name of our diocese, and we now look forward to returning home to you and to our families.

As we prepared this year for General Convention, each of us did so with a keen awareness of the broad theological spectrum that exists in the Diocese of Georgia, confirmed by our listening sessions and your many communications with us. Ours is a diocese in which faithful Christians on many sides of several issues find a home. In the Diocese of Georgia, both left and right have their place, and in our common love for Christ, one another, and the mission of God’s Church, the center holds.

For most of us as deputies, this sense of the center was a guiding force in our deliberations and votes. However, voting from the center presents a challenge. Regardless of the complexity of the issue, each matter at General Convention comes down to a final choice of “yes” or “no.” At times, this reality caused each of us to struggle honestly, particularly on the more controversial matters. Sometimes we agreed with the progressive majority; other times we did not; and in many cases we noted that even within our own deputation there were multiple opinions. In the end, our sole intention—both as individuals and as a group—was to vote neither liberally nor conservatively, but faithfully. In doing so, we believe we provided a voice consistent with the life of our diocese, while frequently offering perspectives otherwise underheard in this House of Deputies.

Despite the controversy of a few issues, you should know there were numerous moments of grace that seemed to be the undeniable work of the Holy Spirit. The most surprising of these was a unanimous call to overhaul the way the Episcopal Church structures and governs itself, shifting our denomination’s priorities to mission and ministry by reducing governance and overhead. Also surprising was Canon Frank Logue’s nomination for President of the House of Deputies, which neither he nor we expected. Though he was not ultimately elected (for which we Georgians may be selfishly grateful), his well-supported nomination revealed a strong desire in the church for a new way of doing business. That desire, we hope, will be a major factor in the forthcoming restructuring efforts.

Brothers and sisters, thank you for your trust in sending us as your deputation to General Convention. Your wisdom has guided us, and your prayers have sustained us. We bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters across the church, and we look forward to being home with you very soon.

The Georgia Deputation
77th General Convention

 

Legislative Update – Baptism and Communion

The House of Bishops amended resolution C029 on Access to Baptism and Communion, which is discussed below. The Bishops agreed with the work of the Diocese of Georgia deputation and others who worked to strike the last sentence of the substitute resolution proposed by the Evangelism Committee. The amended resolution will now return to the House of Deputies for consideration. With the bulk of work in front of this House of Deputies, we may not be able to consider this resolution at all. This may well be a relief to many deputies who seemed genuinely unaware that the resolution would be interpretted as offering approval for the practice of intentionally offering communion to those who are not baptized.

Final update on this resolution
As the final substantive resolution of the General Convention, C029 as amended by the House of Bishop’s. The final resolution approved by both houses reads:

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that The Episcopal Church reaffirms that baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion and that our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to go into the world and baptize all peoples.

 

Congregation Letter from a Clergy Deputy

Below is a letter from deputy Lonnie Lacy to his congregation of St. Anne’s Tifton. This is an example of one deputy’s letter home on the most publicized legislation of this convention:

 

11 July 2012
General Convention
Indianapolis, IN

Dear St. Anne’s family,

There’s a good chance you awoke this week to find the Episcopal Church in the headlines. On Tuesday at the triennial General Convention, the House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops and voted by a large margin to allow the use of a provisional rite for the blessing of same sex couples. (“Provisional” means it is permitted but not mandatory.) You, your friends, and your neighbors are sure to have questions, so I wish to offer some context and clarifications.

ABOUT THE RITE

  • It is not mandatory. No bishop, priest, or congregation has to adopt or use this rite. In fact, clergy may only use it with the permission of their bishops and, in some dioceses, in consultation with their vestries.
  • It is not marriage. The rite technically avoids the language of marriage and is supposed to be understood only as a sort of blessing. (It does, however, have several elements that make it “feel” like a marriage–such as an exchange of vows and rings–which is my primary hangup with it.)
  • Georgia voted “no”. Bishop Benhase and the Georgia lay and clergy deputations registered their votes as no’s. My reason for voting no is that I felt the rite too closely and confusingly approximates Holy Matrimony, and based on months of discernment, conversation, and prayer, I did not feel the whole Church is prepared for what will appear to some as a significantly new understanding of marriage.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR ST. ANNE’S

  • Though many, we are one. There are many varying opinions on this topic at St. Anne’s. We will continue to be the kind of place where folks can worship together even while holding differing viewpoints. We will each do so with gentleness and humility.
  • Will we use it? The short answer is no. I don’t believe we as a congregation are ready for it, and besides, we don’t yet know Bishop Benhase’s ruling on its use in Georgia, which may render the question moot anyway. It’s important to know that at St. Anne’s, we only perform marriages for members and children of members, so even if you could conceive of a scenario far in the distant future where this rite might be used, the same rule would apply. St. Anne’s has never and will never serve as a rent-a-church or a drive-thru wedding chapel, and the same would be true of this.

HOW SHOULD WE FEEL & REACT TO THIS?

  • Keep the main thing the main thing. St. Anne’s stands for reason, hope, forgiveness, forbearance, wisdom, mission, healing, grace, and most of all the transformative love of Jesus Christ. We experience that every week. This does not change that. Let’s stay focussed on these things, and the rest will sort itself out.
  • Be good to one another, especially those with whom you disagree.
  • Be patient with those who misunderstand or misrepresent the facts.
  • Keep calm, carry on, come to church, and bring a friend.
  • Strive hard to have the mind of Christ.

I will, of course, address all of this much further in my sermon this Sunday, July 15. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to be in touch with me. I return from Convention this Friday, July 13, and am looking forward to being home.

Grace and peace,
The Rev. Lonnie Lacy

 

Legislation – Baptism and Communion


Canon Logue speaks in favor of an amendment to remove a sentence on “pastoral sensitivity” from a resolution. Below, the Very Rev. Ted Clarkson calls for a vote by orders.

Convention considered two resolutions (C029 and C040) related to allowing the unbaptized to receive communion. Canon Logue spoke in the hearing on the resolutions against the resolutions and in favor of keeping to the historic practice of baptism preceeding receiving communion.

The Evangelism Committee decided to handle the two resolutions by adopting a substitute for C029 Access to Holy Baptism and Communion which initially called for a study on the underlying theology. The substitute was a two sentence resolution, the first of which affirmed baptism as the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion. The second sentence acknowledged “that in various local contexts there is the exercise of pastoral sensitivity with those who are not yet baptized.” Your deputation considered this a significant step toward regularizing the practice of communing the unbaptized and so took action. Working with the deputations from Southwest Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, whose support of our effort was largely gathered by the Rev. Lonnie Lacy’s efforts, the Rev. Ted Clarkson moved for a vote by orders. This more conservative measure moves a simple majority decision to a system that usually takes a two-thirds majority to prevail. In addition, Canon Logue stood to offer an amendment striking the second sentence. When a deputy from Dallas made this amendment first, he spoke in favor of the amendment which subsequently failed. The vote by orders on the resolution then passed the House of Deputies with 77% of lay deputies and 64% of the clergy in favor of the resolution.

View the resolutions here: C029 and C040

This resolution must be approved by the House of Bishops to become an act of Convention. They will take it up on Friday, July 12.

 

Legislation – Restructuring the Church


A spontaneous standing ovation followed passage of the unanimous passage of the restructuring resolution.

The only resolution of any significance to unanimously gain the approval of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops was C095, a resolution which said “This General Convention believes the Holy Spirit is urging The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself.” The resolution calls for a 24-person Task Force to be named jointly by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, asking especially for the group to have some critical distance from present centers of power in our church in order to best assess the situation and offer constructive steps forward. We were pleased to lend our support to this work.

View the resolution here: C095

 

Legislation – Rite for Blessing Same Sex Relationships

The Deputies of the Diocese of Georgia voted 3-1 against provisional adoption of this rite in both clergy and lay deputations. This, by the rules of the House, is registered as a “No” vote by both the clergy and laity. This vote may be deeply painful to both those who wished we had spoken with one voice in favor of this rite as well as those who wish we had unanimously rejected the blessing liturgy. Having listened to those who spoke at the Listening Sessions around the Diocese, two of our deputies felt that while a no vote would represent the Diocese, it was a more accurate representation of the Diocese we were elected to represent if the vote registered that the Diocese is not of one mind in disapproving of this rite. The lay person and priest who voted in favor of this rite willingly represented those in the Diocese who spoke in favor of a rite of blessing same sex relationships.

View the resolution here: A049

 

Legislation – Transgender-Related Resolutions


Sarah and Kay Riggle of St. Barnabas, Valdosta, are pictured volunteering at the General Convention.

The General Convention approved resolution A029 to amend the Canons of The Episcopal Church to add to a non-discrimination clause naming those who shall be offered equal place in the life, worship and governance of the church the words “gender identity and expression” to a list including “race and color” in order to say explicitly that our congregations will not discriminate against transgender persons. This was approved by a voice vote with the support of the Deputies of the Diocese of Georgia. We see this as putting in language what we already see lived into in practice in our Diocese. There are some transgender persons who are actively involved members in congregations in our Diocese. We appreciate that it may not always be easy for a congregation to welcome transgendered persons, but we have not understood our Diocese to discriminate against church participation for any categorical reason and found this resolution not controversial, though it has been written as such in some reports on the convention. Similarly, resolution D002 added this same clause with regard to access to the discernment process for ministry. As that same resolution states “No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established” we likewise considered a vote of support in keeping with the practice of the Diocese of Georgia. The clergy were unanimous in support of this resolution with a majority of the lay deputies in favor.

View the resolutions here: A029 and D002

 

Legislation – The Budget


The Diocese of Georgia Deputation on the floor with the Bishop after the budget was presented.

As your deputation, we wrote in advance of the General Convention our serious concerns about both the budget process and the budget proposed to this convention. While the budget passed was far from perfect, we saw very hard work on the part of the committee on Program, Budget and Finance to listen to input and adapt the budget in helpful ways. While we wished for a less administratively heavy budget, we gave our approval to the amended budget even as we look forward to a more mission-focused denomination to be incarnated in the budget thanks to the work on the restructuring effort soon to get underway.

You can Download the budget by clicking this link

 

Legislation – The Anglican Covenant

In recent years, there has been much work and discussion on the proposed Anglican Covenant which seeks to put a framework around the relationships among the provinces of the Anglican Communion. It was clear that the General Convention was not prepared to endorse the covenant at this time because of concerns about the fourth section of that document which outlines a disciplinary method for resolving disputes in the communion. Although there were many present who wanted to reject the Covenant, the only resolutions offered were to keep The Episcopal Church in that process, and the deputation endorsed both of those resolutions as we value our connections to other provinces of the Anglican Communion and did not wish to end that process at this time.

 

A Note from the ECW Triennial Meeting


Our delegates to the ECW Triennial Meeting in Indianapolis.

Alongside the General Convention the Episcopal Church Women gather for their triennial meeting. The following is a report from Cristy Jordan of St. Patrick’s Pooler who is one of five women representing the Diocese of Georgia at the ECW meeting:

General Convention and the Triennial are an awe inspiring experience, and it’s difficult to put it into words. Morning Eucharist is shared with hundreds of people from all over the U.S. and beyond. Prayers and Readings are spoken in multiple languages and hearing hundreds of voices singing and breaking bread together is soul touching.

The love of The Episcopal Church reaches beyond places that I could have imagined. The first night here I attended the Overseas Bishops dinner. Some of the Bishops traveled as many as 20 hours just to be here. There is a female Bishop of Cuba, which is a very special occurrence. The Bishops were from Taiwan, Africa, Uganda, Dominican Republic, Canada (they joked his was the Bishop from over the lakes, not seas) and several other countries were represented. They all spoke of the love and generosity of the Episcopal Church and their own personal experiences. Some spoke in English and others in their native language and had translators, their message was loud and clear even without the translators.

Of course, there is also the business aspect of both Convention and Triennial. The schedule is tight, if you come thinking you’re going to see the City sights -ha! We all go from meeting, to voting, listening to reports committees, eating and sleeping a little bit (I laid down thinking for only a minute between breaks -feel asleep for 20 minutes with my shoes on). Discussions are respectful but can become very heated at times. There is talk of change and restructure on both sides, Convention and Triennial. Change is sometimes hard to accept and many discussions are still to be had.

This is all overwhelming at times but it’s opened my thought about the Episcopal Church and the reaches we have around the world. At the end of the day, what country or state, your native language or your age, our overall mission is to share God’s love with the world and that’s what this experience is teaching me.

God’s Peace from Indy,
Cristy

 

Nomination Made, Legislation Updates


Deputy Matt Hall from Arizona nominates Canon Frank Logue for President of the House of Deputies.

Yesterday in the House of Deputies, the Chair of the Georgia Deputation was nominated for President of the House of Deputies. This was accomplished in a 2-minute speach by the nominator. Two others are nominated: The Rev. Gay Jennings of Ohio and Martha Bedell Alexander of North Carolina. At the close of the legislative session at 6:30 p.m., a two hour long session was held for the nominees to briefly introduce themselves and then take questions from the deputies gathered. The election will be July 10 at 12:30 p.m. EDT. The results will be published as an update to this post.

Election Results for President of the House of Deputies
The Rev. Gay Jennings of the Diocese of Ohio was elected on the first ballot. Canon Frank Logue came in second of three nominees.

Legislation Updates
Perhaps the most widely watched resolution has passed the House of Bishops. The proposed rite for the Blessing of Same Sex Relationships passed the House of Bishops 111 yes, 41 no and 3 abstentions. As the rite still reflected more closely a marriage liturgy, as promised to the Diocese in advance of the Convention, Bishop Benhase voted no to the rite. The resolution will now make its way to the House of Deputies calendar for voting. Resolutions must be approved in the same form by both houses of the convention to be an act of the General Convention.

The resolution the Diocese of Georgia passed unanimously in 2012 to call for restructuring of the General Convention was received by the structure committee with 47 other resolutions calling for change. They have created from those a single omnibus resolution on structure that is headed for a vote.

The resolution calling on The Episcopal Church to acknowledge Deaconess Alexander as a saint of the Church through inclusion in Holy Women, Holy Men is being referred to the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music for study during the coming three years. The resolution was unanimously passed by the Docese of Georgia convention in 2011. This is the same action taken on the four proposed additions to the calendar. This is not surprising as it usually takes persistence for someone to be added to those honored and this action means that the committee will not drop the proposal until the next convention, but will make room to hear more about the work of the Deaconess as they prepare for the General Convention in 2015.

 

Convention now hard at work on resolutions


The Rev. Joe Bowden MD addresses the chair to ask that every session begin with prayer, rather than only beginning and ending the day with meditations and prayer.

Almost all of the more than 400 resolutions to be considered by the General Convention have been through hearings to garner input into the work of the committees. Now the committees are perfecting the resolutions based on that input. The House of Deputies had passed 111 resolutions as of this morning. Some of the most watched work of the Convention will soon land with either the House of Deputies or the House of Bishops (whichever is the “house of initial action” for the matter). These matters include the proposed budget which we hear blends the Executive Council budget first distributed, the Presiding Bishop’s proposed budget and work by Program, Budget & Finance on aligning their budget with the Five Marks of Mission. Also soon to come for consideration are the resolutions on a Proposed Rite of Same Sex Blessings and an omnibus resolution packaging the ideas of 49 restructuring proposals brought forward in resolutions, includimg one for the Diocese of Georgia.

 

Georgia Night

A General Convention tradition for our Diocese is that on one night all of those from the Diocese of Georgia who are at the Convention, gather together for dinner. This includes Deputies and Alternates to the General Convention, but also those like the Sisters of the Order of St. Helena in Augusta who have an exhibit booth, the owmen attending the Episcopal Church Women Trienniel Meeting (which meets alongside the convention) as well as volunteers for the convention and interest groups. The group of 30 gathered at Buca di Bepo on Sunday night to enjoy time together apart from the busy-ness of Convention. Bishop Benhase’s sharing another Bishop teaching him “Everything you need to know about the House of Bishops is in the movie the Godfather” complete with impersonations was a hit with the group.

 

The video above by Canon Frank Logue was quickly put together after a time of discernment led to his agreeing to be nominated for President of the House of Deputies. The official nomination will take place in a special order of business Sunday afternoon, July 8. This nomination is with the strong support of Bishop Benhase and the Georgia deputation.

 

Legislation begins moving through the two Houses

Once out of commitee, resolutions are sent to either the House of Deputies or the House of Bishops as a “house of initial action.” Just like with the Federal government with House of Representatives and Senate which must both approve of the same form of a bill, the General Convention has only acted when both bishops and deputies approve of an identical resolution.

Today, both houses were organized for business and jumped in to considering legislation. In the House of Deputies, the Georgia Deputation was unanimous in its support of telling the committee on Program, Budget and Finance (which is working to finalize a budget for the coming 3 years) to restore $300,000 to fund the Episcopal Youth Event.

This evening, the main event is a meeting of the Structure Committee, which is considering proposals to significantly change The Episcopal Church. Most everyone agrees this should happen, though there is little agreement on specifics yet to emerge. That meeting finished, the last meeting of the day starts at 9:30 p.m. as many consider An Acts 8 Moment, which intends to encourage a prayerful discernment as part of Convention.

Above, the Rev. Cheryl Parris, Rector of St. Matthew’s Savannah, volunteers as a greeter (and therefore bouncer as well) for te House of Deputies.

 

Deaconess Alexander Resolution


The Very Rev. Ted Clarkson testifies to the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music in favor of adding Deaconess Alexander to the calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts through inclusion in the next edition of Holy Women, Holy Men.

Today at 11:15 a.m., the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music held a hearing on the resolutions concerning the calendar of observances in the book Holy Women, Holy Men the trial-use possible successor to Lesser Feasts and Fasts. As a part of this hearing, four priests from the Diocese of Georgia testified to the committee and the large body of visitors present in support of Resolution C112 Add Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander HWHM. They spoke to the committee on the life, ministry and Christian witness of Deaconess A.E.B. Alexander.

Canon Frank Logue testified to three Bishops of the Diocese speaking of her as a prime example of a Christ-like life during her life and shortly after she died. He also told of the widespread acceptance of her feast day since she was named a Saint of Georgua by Bishop Louttit in 1999. The Very Rev. Ted Clarkson spoke as a priest in a church where the Deaconess served and the living testimony he has seen to her life and work. The Rev. Jason Haddox spoke to the process he went through to write the proposed Collect for the observance and how it spoke to her as an example of one way of doing Christian work, but actually speaks to her saintly life. Finally, the Rev. Cheryl Parris spoke passionately about the importance of the Deaconess image in icon and stained glass around the Docese and how it has inspired her as a black female rector in the Diocese of Georgia. These brief outlines don’t quite do justice to the testimony in the meeting by the four priests as they endorsed passage of the resolution by the committee and this convention. We will keep readers posted on the progress of that resolution, which was unanimously passed by the Diocese of Georgia Convention in 2011 The Rev. Jason Haddox is shown testifying to the SCLM.

O God, you called Anna Alexander as a deaconess in your Church, and sent her as teacher and evangelist to the people of Georgia: Grant us the humility to go wherever you send, and the wisdom to teach the word of Christ to whoever we meet, that all may come to the enlightenment which you intend for your people; through Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Savior. Amen.


The Rev. Cheryl Parris closes out the testimony heard today by the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music in favor of adding Deaconess Alexander to the calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts through inclusion in the next edition of Holy Women, Holy Men.

 

Committee Meetings Underway


A hearing on a resolution being considered by the Evangelism Committee.

The work of the General Convention is well underway through the work of committees. These meetings started in meeting rooms scattered among several Indianapolis hotels all close to the main meeting site of the Indianapolis Convention Center. These 24 committees are getting their arms around the hundreds of resolutions submitted so far to the Convention. 

Each resolution proposed to Convention is assigned to one of these committees which works on the resolution, eventually sending it to either the House of Bishops or the House of Deputies. The committe sends resoltuions with a recommendation. The recommendations are limited to: 1) adopt, 2) adopt with ammendment, 3) adopt with a substitute, 4) reject, 5) re-refer to a different committee, or 6) discharged as either having been dealt with by a previous convention or by other action at this convention.

Bishop Benhase is serving on the Pension Fund committee. Canon Logue serves for the second time on Dispatch of Business, which functions in an “air traffic control” role for legislation, and on behalf of that group serves the Evangelism Committee to ensure their resolutions get due consideration in the flow of the Convention. Bill Steinhauser is on the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Mission where he is also on the subcommittee on the proposed Blessing of Same Gender Relationships. The Rev. Lonnie Lacy serves on the Committee on Small Congregations.

The committees hold hearings on resolutions to permit anyone in the Church (not limited to elected Deputies) to sign up to speak to the resolution to inform the committees’ work. Some of these meetings are immense with hundreds of people in a large ballroom, while other resolutions are looked at in smaller gatherings with a small gallery present in addition to the two dozen or so committee members. The hard work of considering and perfecting resolutions takes place most fully in these many dispersed meetings.

Deputies not assigned to a committee are sitting in on committee meetings to track legislation on behalf of the Diocese, especially the work on the budget and restructuring the church.


Deputies stand as Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefforts Schori and President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson shake hands after Bishop Katherine made a presentation to Anderson.Z

 

Keeping up with the Convention

The Bishop and Deputies for the Diocese of Georgia are en route today to Indianapolis. Some will begin their duties today, all will begin their work by tomorrow. As the work of the General Convention is underway, there are two great ways to keep up with what is going on. For a Diocese of Georgia perspective, stop in here to this Journal, which wil be updated at least daily during the Convention.

The Episcopal Curch has also set up a media hub which brings together a lot of information on the Convention to one location. That site is online here: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/gc2012/

Pictured here is the front entrance of the Indianapolis Convention Center where the General Convention of The Episcopal Church will be meeting.

 

An Acts 8 Moment

A video by Canon Logue on hopes for this Convention. Of the many things considered, it should all remain mission focused and Jesus centered.

 

Deputies Concerned After Synod


The Georgia Deputation at the Province IV Synod

This article originally appeared in the June 12 issue of the Diocese of Georgia’s enewsletter From the Field.

Bishop Benhase and four clergy and two lay deputies to the General Convention took part in the Province IV Synod held at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. The Synod is comprised of the 20 dioceses of The Episcopal Church in the Southeastern United States. At the provincial meeting, the group heard from Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefforts Schori, President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson and others about the upcoming convention. Sessions were held on the proposed rite of blessing of same gender relationships, proposals to restructure The Episcopal Church and the Denominational Health Plan.

Given the anticipated weight of these many matters, your Bishop and Deputies were surprised that an area of even greater concern for them was the draft budget for the next three years. The process used to create the proposed budget was termed “an experiment that failed” by a member of the Executive Council and “confusing” by our Presiding Bishop. The current proposed budget with annotations from the Presiding Bishop’s Staff is online here: Draft Budget for The Episcopal Church

The budget has many changes not widely discussed in the church including drastic cuts to the youth program budget and cutting completely the General Board of Examining Chaplains which creates and oversees the General Ordination Exams, while expanding staff positions for the denomination headquarters and our lobbying efforts in Washington. Your deputies present at the meeting feel strongly that these changes do not reflect the restructuring efforts our convention voted unanimously to endorse and we were vocal in the Province IV Synod about the problems. The primary issue, seen in many ways in the proposed budget, is that staff input, survey input and the guiding principles set by the last convention were not followed in creating the budget. Canon Logue, the Chair of the Deputation said, “We are committed to supporting all reasoned efforts to amend the budget prior to and during the convention to begin a leaner, mission-focused move as a Church.”

During the Synod, the deputation also voted on resolutions proposed for the General Convention and elected officers for Province IV and nominated others for election at the convention. Present for the meeting were Clergy Deputies Frank Logue, Ted Clarkson, Lonnie Lacy and first alternate Tar Drazdowski together with Lay Deputy Victoria Logue and Lay Alternate Carolyn Baker as well as Bishop Benhase.


Lined up to speak to the Synod.

 

Report from General Convention Listening Sessions

The listening session at St. Thomas’ Thomasville on April 21 is pictured above.

As your elected deputies and first alternates, we will represent the Diocese of Georgia at the 77th General Convention this summer. We are grateful for the participation of more than 100 lay persons and clergy in the listening sessions we held with the Bishop in Eastertide in Augusta, Thomasville, Albany, Brunswick, Savannah, and Dublin.

We were formed by the depth of thoughtfulness in both the comments made and the generosity of spirit with which all listened to one another. The sessions made it clear that the people of the Diocese are concerned primarily with the two issues that have been given the most advanced publicity—restructuring The Episcopal Church and the proposed rite for blessing same-gender relationships. While all present who expressed opinions on restructuring the Church are generally in favor of the proposal, we clearly are not close to being of one mind with regard to the blessing liturgy.

Many spoke in favor, to some degree, of blessing same gender relationships, while others were strongly opposed to any such action. It is impossible to reflect in a brief statement the diversity of views expressed, which truly ran across a spectrum. Many people of differing opinions expressed gratefulness for Bishop Benhase’s assurances that any such rite would not be mandatory, and would be permitted only if a.) the Bishop endorses the rite for use in the diocese, which is unlikely in its current form, and b.) the rector and vestry approve it for use in a given congregation. No priest will ever be required to officiate at the blessing of a same gender relationship.

After each session, all of the deputies, including those not present, were given full reports. Through this process, we have been formed again and again by the people of the Diocese, lay and ordained, who took the time to come be heard. Along with brief statements of support or opposition for trial use of a proposed rite of blessing, we heard many moving personal statements of how this issue impacts the lives of those with whom we worship.

The Bishop was joined at each session by as many deputies and alternates as could be present with reports on each meeting conveyed to our entire deputation. Though the listening sessions have ended, members of Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Georgia may still email the Bishop and deputies at deputies[at]georgiaepiscopal[dot]org

Clerical deputies
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Chair
The Very Rev. Ted Clarkson
The Rev. Lonnie Lacy
The Rev. Joe Bowden, MD
The Rev. Tar Drazdowski (1st alternate)

Lay deputies
Molly Stevenson
Victoria Logue
Bill Steinhauser
Jody Grant
Carolyn Baker (1st alternate)

The listening session at St. Mark’s Brunswick on May 6 is pictured above.