A post from Massachusetts alternate deputy Kathy McAdams:
If you were wearing a seersucker suit and carrying an iPad at this convention, you were in the seeming majority. I’m not one to ooh and ahh over movie stars or sports figures, but there are a couple of Episcopal Church celebs who catch my attention – people like our own Bishop Barbara Harris (the first woman consecrated to the episcopate in the Anglican Communion); Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire (the first openly gay bishop); Bishop Mary Glasspool (the first openly lesbian bishop); and of course Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (the first woman to serve as presiding bishop). There has been a lot of talk at this convention about the people upon whose shoulders we stand. These are certainly solid foundations upon whom I want the Episcopal Church to continue to climb.
While working my shift in the exhibit hall at the booth for the Episcopal Church Office of Diversity, Social Ministry and Environmental Concerns, my friend Daniel Velez-Rivera (formerly of DioMass) was here conducting interviews for EpiscopalRadio.com. Soon after I arrived at the booth, so did the PB for her interview…in Spanish! I found myself watching her intently from only four feet away, as if to discover the secret to her leadership. While she was trying to concentrate on the questions and preparing her answers, both in a non-native tongue, many more people than me were snapping pictures, standing behind her so that others could snap pictures of them and simply staring. She kept her composure and completed the interview with finesse.
I was privileged to have some time with Bishop Gene Robinson, as he served on the committee that I was assisting. We walked together to the Integrity Eucharist, where he preached and Bishop Glasspool was celebrant. There was so much to celebrate with the passage of resolutions that protect transgender people from discrimination in the church, including in the ordination process. It was a grand celebration with innovative liturgy and music. My friend Lisa Gray from Michigan (and Church Divinity School of the Pacific) sang a rousing offertory anthem, backed up by a pick-up choir. I was chocked up almost immediately when the canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of Indianapolis offered his welcome. He spoke of his daughter growing up with two parents who are priests, and dreaming of having her wedding in a cathedral. Then he said that when his daughter came out as a lesbian, she didn’t need to give up that dream. And, indeed, the convention has proved that her dreams can come true by authorizing provisional liturgical resources for same-sex blessings.
This is such a different convention than the one I attended in 2000 in Denver. At that time I was working for Oasis/California (the LGBT ministry of the Diocese of California), and convention was struggling with affirming the rights of gay and lesbian people. I had just finished seminary and was anticipating ordination that December, but the General Convention failed to pass a resolution that would assure me access to the ordination process (fortunately, my bishop was willing to step out on a limb, as he had already done for other LGB folks). The LGB community’s strategy at that time was that including trans issues in our advocacy would ensure that none of our concerns would be considered by the church. We wanted to get the LGB concerns taken care of before tackling the trans issues (we were even unsure if including bisexuals might muddy the waters and slow the process). We asked that segment of our community to wait for their rights. Whether that strategy was right or wrong, their day has come, and I never anticipated it would be so soon, nor did I anticipate 12 years ago that our church would authorize the blessing of our relationships.
The other big differences I noticed in this convention are civility and technology. The debate in this convention seemed significantly more civil and respectful than did the one in Denver. In addition, the technological advancements have made it much easier to follow legislative activities. In the laundry room, Saturday night, I met David from Easton, the man who is responsible for the software interface that allows me to check online from my hotel room which resolutions will be heard by which committees, as well as the matters before each house on the next day. In 2000, the only way to get that information was to consult a bulletin board in the convention center.
In addition to legislative sessions, committees and hearings, there were plenty of fabulous events to attend. I saw three movies in the Integrity suite – “Bullied” (co-sponsored with the org. for Episcopal schools) about a young man who was bullied throughout middle and high school, then was able to fight back through the courts; “Out of the Box” about the journey of several trans clergy; and “Love Free or Die” about Bishop Gene, and featuring our own Bishop Tom Shaw. The Episcopal Women’s Caucus breakfast featured the president of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson. On Sunday, after a festival Eucharist, presided over and preached by Bishop Jefferts Schori, the Diocese of Indianapolis hosted a “generosity event” at Victory Field. They offered free food and beverage, as well as entertainment and amusements, and asked that we make free will offerings to their mission programs oversees.
I was able to gather a few street ministers at 9 p.m. on Sunday. One of them was Lee Anne Reat from Columbus, OH. Lee Anne was invited here by the Episcopal Church Women who have their own triennial gathering in parallel with GC (seems more than a little anachronistic!). In any case, Lee Anne hosted a wonderful workshop on Monday about her sabbatical journey last year to visit 26 street ministries around the country. She posed provocative questions about what it means to be church, who is a member and what that says about our programming.
Tuesday night all the seminaries hosted events for their alumni. I stopped by to the CDSP reception, but didn’t stay long, as I wanted to be at the Lament over the Doctrine of Discovery to support my indigenous brothers and sisters. They told powerful stories about the abuse that their communities have experienced, and the destruction that has been done to their traditions, language and families, resulting in a rampant epidemic of continued abuse, addiction and suicide. The Episcopal Church in these communities is working hard to bring healing, as are the tribal leaders.
Wednesday morning I look forward to breakfast with seminary classmates (we call ourselves the class of 2000-ish), then a less demanding day than I’ve had in the past 10. I’m really tired of living in a hotel and going from 7:30 a.m. till 10 or 11 p.m., so am thrilled to be flying home on Thursday night. Boston, here I come!