[Episcopal News Service – Austin, Texas] Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen continued July 6 to call critical attention to what he said was a lack of complete access to translation and interpretation services during General Convention.
His two points of personal privilege in the House of Bishops prompted Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to appoint a small committee to identify “specifically the issues and concerns that are being raised both short term and long term,” and how they can be addressed and by whom.
Full ENS coverage of the 79th meeting of General Convention is available here.
The day before, Allen told the legislative committee charged with considering changes to the Book of Common Prayer that the lack of an official translator for the hearing was symptomatic of the constant feeling he has of being unwelcome in the church. He criticized the fact that one of the resolutions the committee was considering had not yet been translated.
When the House of Bishops convened for its legislative session July 6, Allen went to a microphone to object to the fact that the proposed “Covenant for the Practice of Equity and Justice for All in The Episcopal Church” had not be translated. His objection came after the bishops had discussed the document at their tables. The covenant was proposed in response to the July 4 “Liturgy of Listening.”
Many non-English-speaking participants do not understand what is happening at convention because “there are legislative bodies where no one is translating,” said Allen, who is fully bilingual.
“It’s not fair what’s going on at convention with the Province IX delegation,” he said, despite its having “gone through thick and thin to get here because we considered ourselves as part to this church.” Allen asked why provisions were not made for “proper translation,” rather than what he said have been word-for-word translations.
All legislative sessions in both houses have interpreters, as does the daily worship, joint sessions and some but not all committee meetings. The two-volume set of reports to General Convention, known as the Blue Book, is available in Spanish. The Virtual Binder, with which anyone can track legislation, is available in English and Spanish. In the Spanish version, the resolution names are in English and some but not all resolutions have been translated. Those in English say “Por ahora no hay traducción al español,” meaning translation is pending.
During the July 5 hearing, Allen threatened to leave the Episcopal Church if it “continues to change the prayer book and to play with Scripture.” During the House of Bishops’ session, Allen said that if action were not taken to correct what he called an ongoing situation, “I will ask my delegation to get up and exit the convention.”
Diocese of Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith then moved to postpone the covenant pending translation.
The House of Bishops began to debate Resolution B014 on compensating the president of the House of Deputies when Allen again came to the microphone, this time calling on his fellow Province IX bishops, his Latino brothers and the bishops of African descent to stand with him. About 20 bishops did so.
“Tabling the matter is just brushing it off again,” he said. “Something needs to be done. No more.”
Other bishops slowly began to stand, and Allen then led the house in a long prayer in English and Spanish.
After a long time of silence, Curry asked for a recess for him, Allen and a few others to “put our heads and hearts together.”
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.