[Episcopal News Service – Indianapolis] The House of Bishops greeted international and ecumenical visitors, seated eight new bishops-elect and made it clear they weren’t about to conduct “business as usual” during a second day of deliberations at the 77th General Convention in Indianapolis.
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani was among more than a dozen international guests visiting the bishops. He said that although funding to the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, Gaza’s only Christian medical center, had been cut, the diocese has no intention of closing it (see related story).
Later in the morning, the bishops broke into applause, whistles and laughter when greeted via telephone by the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno, bishop of Los Angeles, who has been undergoing treatment for acute monocytic leukemia and was unable to attend convention.
Bruno said he missed General Convention, “and I never thought I would say that.” He thanked the presiding bishop and the bishops for their many expressions of support, adding, “The truth is, you haven’t gotten rid of me. I’m coming back with vigor.”
He said that one of the most touching notes he received was from someone “who disagrees with me on everything, yet stood with me in prayer and love.
“We have a family, an evolving church that is growing and becoming a stronger place because we understand the great gift of God and power of grace in our lives.”
Some of those family disagreements emerged during business sessions later in the morning.
Bishop Michael G. Smith of North Dakota told other bishops that “inspired by our committee work in Structure, I’m going to start voting no on a lot of things,” including Resolution A078. He added that he didn’t oppose the issue the measure addressed but was rejecting the legislation “because it’s business as usual and it bogs us down in General Convention.”
The resolution called for dioceses to adopt a statement acknowledging the fundamental human right to know one’s historical heritage, medical history and genetic derivation.
Bishops also rejected an amended version of Resolution A023, after stripping the measure of $60,000 suggested funding. The Social and Urban Affairs committee had proposed rerouting the legislation, which dealt with the development of federal prison chaplaincies, to a church commission.
The resolution sparked a flurry of questions and discussions about protocol for funding, and prompted Bishop Suffragan James Curry of Connecticut to raise “a point of personal privilege. I’m concerned we’re using now resolutions about specific things to argue about the elephant in the room, which is the organization and budget. It seems to me we have to have that conversation before we start making decisions about policy and how we want to do God’s mission in the future.”
There was lively debate before bishops rejected Resolution A063, from the Prayer Book Liturgy and Church Music committee, which asked Program, Budget and Finance (PBF) to consider allocating $105,000 for meetings of the standing commission on liturgy and music during the next triennium.
“I’m not clear about what proposed budget we’re talking about and if this is an item that appeared in the several different proposed budgets,” said the Rt. Rev Cathy Roskam, retired bishop suffragan of New York. “I have the same concern (heard before) that we haven’t had the budget discussion … that we’ll vote that decision simply by doing it line by line without having considered the whole thing. Is it the same in the several proposed budgets we’ve had or is there a significant difference?”
PBF Bishop Chair Steve Lane of Maine told the bishops, “We are witnessing the normal process of this convention of enabling resolutions, and directing things to PBF for their consideration. This is an enabling resolution to affirm that we think that this is important and to request that PB&F consider it in building the budget.”
But Bishop Andrew Doyle of Texas said he was rejecting the resolution because “this is an example of how our system does not work.
“PB&F is already making decisions on this,” he said. “We spend time in a committee now on this. We sent it through a secretariat; now it’s come to us. We’re going to spend time debating it and at the end of the day they (PB&F) are already making decisions about it.”
He added, “The system needs to change. The majority of the blue book is from this committee. I’m not against doing liturgical work,” he added. “But the amount of time and energy and money we spend on this particular thing is completely spent on ourselves primarily and not on mission. So I will vote no on this and will vote no on many of the others.”
Lane reassured the house “that although PB&F is working on the budget and is considering many, many items and receiving regularly a notification about pending legislation, we have not yet concluded our conversation.”
There is a July 7 hearing on spending “and I would not want the impression to be left that we’ve already decided about this item,” he said. “It is currently in the draft but we’re still doing our work. I do not want to leave the impression that PB&F is deciding about the budget line items apart from this convention.”
— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.