Friday, July 13, 2012

Reflections After the Close of General Convention

I still have several more posts to make about General Convention at this site and some opinion pieces on specific legislation to post on my personal blog at So, stay tuned. ~ from Lelanda Lee, Lay Deputy 3

Bishop Rob O'Neill with the Colorado deputation on the floor of the House of Deputies on
July 10th, the sixth legislative day of General Convention, when the House of
Bishops joined the Deputies to hear a presentation of the budget from
Legislative Committee 25-Program, Budget and Finance.
(back row, L to R) Deputies Andrew Cooley, Larry Hitt, Brooks Keith and Jack Finlaw
(front row, L to R) Deputies Zoe Cole, Lelanda Lee, Christy Shain-Hendricks, and Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

The Rev. John Floberg
This photo was taken during an
Anti-Racism Training conducted by me
in North Dakota in March 2012. The
paper hat is part of an exercise on being
grounded in our baptismal identity.

Anti-Racism Training was re-emphasized
as a necessary part of our ongoing work
in the church through several GC
resolutions that passed resoundingly.
General Convention (GC) may be officially over with the closing gavel going down in the late afternoon of July 12th, but the work is just beginning in this 2012-2015 triennium. I continue for another three years as the Lay Representative from Province VI to Executive Council (the interim governing body and board of directors of The Episcopal Church during the three years when GC is not in session). 

I will be joined by the Rev. John Floberg of North Dakota, who was elected as the provincial clergy rep at our Province VI Synod in Omaha in April. We covet your prayers for the work of Executive Council, the welfare of The Episcopal Church, the Dioceses of Colorado and North Dakota, and our spiritual, mental, and physical well-being as we strive to serve you faithfully, with generous and open hearts.


4th of July fireworks over baseball stadium, Victory Field
There were fireworks, but they were the 4th of July variety, on the day before the first legislative day of GC. Even though we call it an 8-day GC, it really is ten days if you count the day of orientation for legislative committee chairs, vice chairs, secretaries, and aides, and the first day of legislative committee meetings, both of which precede GC's "official" start. 

For the most part, what I saw of GC, which was mostly the action in the House of Deputies (HoD), the proceedings of Legislative Committee 18-Ecumenical Relations (to which I was assigned as vice chair), a couple of evening hearings for other legislative committees, some caucus meetings, and a quick couple of turns through the Exhibit Hall, this 77th GC was civil, welcoming, and mutually respectful. 

There were a few instances of barbed comments from HoD microphones during debate, when deputies challenged the words and characterizations of contexts spoken by other deputies, but they did not typically rise to the level of ad hominem attacks. There was a widely reported point of personal privilege that Bishop Gene Robinson raised in the House of Bishops (HoB), in which he reported personal attacks on his character behind the scenes of the HoB. 

The South Carolina deputation made a pointed statement about some key pieces of legislation passed by GC when five of their seven deputies left the floor of the HoD. Their bishop raised a point of personal privilege in the HoB, and South Carolina released statements. The Episcopal News Service (ENS) article may be found here, and The Diocese of South Carolina's Facebook page contains its statement in full. That statement indicates: "He [South Carolina's Bishop Mark Lawrence] also expressed his 'grievous concern' with changes to the canons through resolutions D002 and D019, which have to do with transgender identity and expression, as well as with resolution A049, which authorized a provisional rite for the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions."

Participation and Testifying

Five of Colorado's deputies spent time at the microphones, with Deputy Zoe Cole rising in the ranks of the players in Bonnie Ball and Deputy and Co-Chair Andrew Cooley making a last session effort to gain Bonnie Ball points. The ENS article Game Over: Bonnie Ball Closes Out Inaugural One-Game Season and Episcopal Cafe's Some fun at General Convention report on both Bonnie Ball and Bingo, which interjected community-wide fun into GC and invited all, including the Official Youth Presence and visitors to join in.

Deputy Andrew Cooley at microphone 5, with ski googles on,
getting ready to testify in the last legislative session of GC.
Andrew is trying to win Bonnie Ball points by wearing
something strange while testifying, earning 5 points.
From the Colorado deputation, several of our deputies gave testimony at the microphones. 

Deputy Zoe Cole, a lawyer, testified on both substance and rules of order, as one of the canon geeks of the GC. Deputy Larry Hitt, also a lawyer and Colorado's chancellor, is another one of those canon geeks. GC and the Diocese would be poorer without their knowledge of our constitution and canons and their ability to interpret and articulate them for us. Zoe served as secretary of Legislative Committee 5-Canons at this GC and was kept busy into the last legislative session with secretarial paperwork to file the actions of her committee. Incidentally, Bishop Rob O'Neill was the bishop chair of the Canons legislative committee.

Senior Deputy Andrew Cooley sat in the first row and coordinated our deputation's votes by order, which came up on all canonical matters and frequently by request. Voting by order allows the official record to reflect how the clergy and lay order of each deputation voted on specific resolutions. In addition to the information of how deputations voted, voting by order is sometimes used as a legislative strategy. Andrew's leadership role on the C056-Same Sex Blessings Task Group informed his testimony. Also, as a senior deputy with broad experience of the wider church and his membership on Legislative Committee 1-Dispatch of Business, Andrew had a wealth of information and understanding of numerous pieces of legislation.

Deputy Lelanda Lee testified several times, referencing the work done by Executive Council in a couple of instances. Lelanda's testimony on Resolution B005-Ongoing Commitment to the Anglican Covenant Process can be found at her blog. Since Lelanda's term on Executive Council extends until the end of the 78th GC in 2015, many deputies lobbied her during GC, asking her to carry their concerns about pieces and nuances of legislation that didn't make it to the HoD floor.

Deputy Brooks Keith testifying on the last day
of GC, in the last legislative session of the HoD.
First-time Deputy Ruth Woodliff-Stanley gave her first testimony in the HoD at this GC on an important social justice issue, reflecting her leadership in her parish church where the Gospel gets lived into in a variety of peace and justice initiatives. Ruth has many friends from her previous Diocese of Mississippi with whom she spent time in addition to being with our deputation. Ruth's recent walk-about experience in the Diocese of Pittsburgh as one of their bishop nominees and her many consultations as a church consultant meant that many deputies know her. Ruth has served as the deputation's chaplain in 2006 and 2003, and she followed Legislative Committee 5-Structure, reporting to the deputation's daily caucus. 

Deputy Brooks Keith finally got his chance at the microphone in the last legislative session. Brooks had stood in line before, but time ran out for testimony before he was called on. It's especially frustrating when you have something of substance that is both relevant and perhaps even timely to offer, and you're shut out by the clock running out. This happened to Lelanda when she tried to offer testimony which would have saved a piece of legislation from her legislative committee being referred back to committee, because she knew the answers that her chair couldn't access while at the podium. Too bad we didn't take a photo of Lelanda practically jumping up and down with both her red and green cards waving in the air! (To help the President of the HoD from her view of the entire floor from the dais, deputies are often asked to hold up green cards to signify a Yes vote or agreement with the motion and red cards to signify No or opposition to the motion.)

Deputies Jack Finlaw and Larry Hitt had also been active in the leadership of the C056-Same Sex Blessings Task Group along with Andrew. Jack served on the sub-committee on Pastoral and Teaching Responses, Larry on Canonical and Legal Considerations, and Andrew on Liturgical Resources. Their insights helped the deputation follow C056 through the legislative process knowledgeably. Jack served on Legislative Committee 14-Ministry, after having served on the Standing Commission on Ministry Development. Larry served on Legislative Committee 4-Constitution and had been on the Board of the Archives of The Episcopal Church, to which he was reappointed for another 6-year term at this GC. 

Alternate Janet Farmer was kept busy throughout GC in her capacity as Aide to Legislative Committee 13-Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music, which handled 36 pieces of legislation, including Resolution A049-Authorize Liturgical Resources for Same Sex Blessings. Janet recently moved from Galveston, TX, and is a transplant from Province IV, and she also spent time visiting with her friends from other dioceses. The Legislative Aides do the running to and from the committee to the Secretariats of each house and the GC Secretariat, and they share responsibility with the committee secretaries and liaisons to the Legislative Committee 1-Dispatch of Business for ensuring that the resolutions follow their proper paths in sequence, with the current language, in order to reach the floors of both houses to be acted upon. It takes a lot of dedicated, knowledgeable people to make GC work effectively, and aides and secretaries are equally as important as chairs and vice chairs.

Structure and Budget

On the left, Deputy Christy Shain-Hendricks in conversation with
Deputy Zoe Cole. That's Deputy Larry Cole in the white shirt.
Deputy Christy Shain-Hendricks helped track the myriad pieces of legislation on structure along with Ruth and Alternate Erica Hein. Legislative Committee 6-Structure handled 92 resolutions, almost twice as many as the 54 resolutions handled by Legislative Committee 9-National and International Concerns. Of particular interest was watching how the many interrelated structure resolutions were compiled into an omnibus substitute Resolution C095-Structural Reform, which was passed by both the HoD and HoB; however, the budget passed by GC only has $200,000 in it for the work of the proposed structure task force versus the $400,000 requested in Resolution C095.

The Joint Standing Commission on Program, Budget, and Finance and Legislative Committee 25-Program, Budget, and Finance were both led by the very capable, hard-working, and patient Deputy Diane Pollard and Bishop Steve Lane. Their committee's final budget, prepared on the template of the proposed budget of the Presiding Bishop and populated by dollars reflecting the formal and informal testimony of the entire church and GC over many months resulted in Resolution A005-Adoption of the Budget, which passed in both houses. [See ENS article Convention Approves Triennial Budget for more details and a link to the budget here.] As a member of Executive Council, I can say without reservation that this is a budget that the church can work with. 

I'll post more as soon as I catch up with life at home, probably in the next day or two. ~ Lelanda

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