One of the things that I am finding powerful about General Convention is a willingness to enter into a time of truth-telling. Before I arrived, the House of Bishops hosted a listening session of stories from women who have been sexually harassed or abused in the context of the church. From what I hear it was a powerful experience of honesty and vulnerability, and I believe many of the bishops (most of whom are male) were moved by the experience.
Last night, I sat in on a hearing for people to offer their testimonies about a couple of resolutions involving marriage rights, particularly same-sex marriages. Much of the conversation was about a resolution put forth involving a compromise (B012). According to the resolution, bishops can still make decisions with their conscious for their priests and diocese, but would give permission for any priests who feel called to celebrate same-sex marriages to do so with the oversight of another bishop of the Church. The testimonies lasted for almost two hours (not including the two hours earlier in the day), and many things became abundantly clear. Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are hurting and longing to be treated as equal children of God. And our more conservative brothers and sisters are fearful about not being able to be faithful to their understanding of Scripture and tradition. The tension was high. But also present was a spirit of graciousness. People of opposing views were sitting beside one another, able to make eye contact and stay in the room. I came away realizing that what I was seeing was what compromise looks like – no one fully happy, but a path forward for now. And in a county that seems incapable of compromise, it was a gift to see the Church moving in that direction.
And then today, we spent time together talking about Racial Reconciliation – a topic that my conversation partner said has been a topic for twenty years of General Conventions – which means we haven’t gotten there yet. It was an inspiring, beautiful, hard time, but a time I was glad to see us have. One of my favorite speakers, the Rev. Nancy Frausto, had this to say, “This society has been contaminated by the plague of apathy.” In other words, in a political environment where injustice is rampant, we cannot afford to let apathy infect us.
I do not know where these conversations will lead. I suspect we will not solve the world’s ills at this Convention. But what we are starting to do is show the world what it means to be a diverse people who stay together, find a compromise, and love and lead together. It is not easy. In fact, it’s pretty uncomfortable. But following Jesus is pretty uncomfortable too. If the Church can’t do it, I’m not sure we can ask anyone else to do that work. I’m proud of the Episcopal Church tonight. And I will continue to hold her in my prayers.