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INDIANAPOLIS, IN: 77th General Convention gets underway

INDIANAPOLIS, IN: 77th General Convention gets underway
Convention adopts Jefferts Schori's template for Budget Discussions

By David W. Virtue in Indianapolis and Mary Ann Mueller
July 4, 2012

All eyes are turned to Indiana and all roads lead to Indianapolis as The Episcopal General Convention meets here for the second time in its 77-year history. Things are slowly gearing up. By tomorrow GC2012 will be in full swing.

For several days, convention delegates, Episcopal Church staff members, volunteers and vendors have been flocking to Indianapolis by car, plane and train to put the finishing touches on this year's massive church legislative gathering before the first gavel falls at 7 a.m. tomorrow, calling the 77th Episcopal General Convention into order.

Twitter is alive with tweets comparing notes, dispensing information, and developing networks and delegation connections.

E-mails are flying with information on how to maneuver the Indianapolis city bus system to get from the airport into downtown and the Convention hotels, and where to find the best parking rate for those who drove in. Amtrak is basically within walking distance of the Convention Center and most Convention hotels.

Monday preconvention activity included the orientation of volunteers who help keep the Convention running. They are the hidden backbone of the Convention. It is the volunteer who is in the know and can answer most questions concerning the layout of the Indiana Convention Center. They know where the committee meetings are being held, when the doors to the Exhibit Hall are being opened, where is the nearest restroom, and the best place to charge the laptop.

Registration and delegate certification officially began 8 a.m. on Tuesday. The Exhibit Hall opened its doors three hours later.

Tuesday evening the Union of Black Episcopalians hosted a gala Event celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Women's Ordination in the Episcopal Church at the Downtown Marriott. At the same time, the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church was holding its annual meeting and banquet in Christ Church Cathedral's parish hall. The task of the Historical Society is to preserve the history and legacy of The Episcopal Church from when the Anglican Church first set foot on colonial soil. Through the years, the Historical Society has filed a lot of records as The Episcopal Church has broken ground in so many nontraditional and liberal ways. This General Convention should be no different.

An example of The Episcopal Church's nontraditional liberal bent came when out-going House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson opened her sermon to the commissioning service for Officers, Dispatch Liaisons and Legislative Aides with: "In the Name of the Creator, Sanctifier and Redeemer. Amen," using the attributes of the Persons of the Trinity rather than addressing their Divine Personhoods.

She likened the 77th General Convention to the famed Indy 500. This year's Indianapolis 500 was held over Memorial Day weekend. Scottish driver Dario Franchitti took the checkered flag.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Start your engines. This is it. Here we are in the land of the Indy 500," she said in giving her pep talk. "Even though our General Convention really is not located on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway those of us in this room, plus many others who will be along shortly, could metaphorically be referred to as the drivers, the pit crew, the sponsors, the bearers of the checkered flags, and the infield population of some really fast, sometimes deafening, exciting, unpredictable and possibly dangerous event."

This "possibly dangerous event" is on a collision course with spiritual reality The Episcopal Church hangs in the balance. Will The Episcopal Church survive the actions of this Convention? Each Convention charts a new course through unmapped lands and uncharted waters. The casualties could be high with the bodies and souls of the people in the pews leaping off the careening denomination.

July 4

I flew in on the fourth of July where no holiday is being observed at this Episcopal General Convention. The bishops and the members of the House of Deputies are spending time in this Convention's orientation session. The Presiding Bishop and the House of Deputies' President have just made their Convention presentations. (We will post them both shortly.) Meanwhile, bishops' spouses or partners are taking in a live baseball game at Victory Field. The Indianapolis Indians are hosting their rivals, the Louisville Bats. The Indians are a farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates while the Bats are in the Cincinnati Reds farm system. Victory Field is an easy walk from the Convention Center.

Integrity is celebrating the Fourth of July at Convention by hosting a double feature: "Voices of Witness: Out Of The Box" a short documentary about transgendered Episcopalians and "Love Free or Die", the Sundance Film Festival featuring retiring Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson. Earlier this week, the New Hampshire bishop visited the More Light Presbyterians, the Presbyterian Church's counterpart to Integrity, encouraging them to embrace full inclusion. The Presbyterian Church USA is currently holding its General Assembly, which runs through July 7, in Pittsburgh.

Even before the first gavel falls, Convention is making breaking news. Early Wednesday afternoon, the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance announced plans to scuttle the Executive Council's draft budget in favor of the Presiding Bishop's version embracing the Five Marks of Mission. Twitter erupted with fast and furious tweets following the blow-by-blow budget action.

Lelande Lee tweeted: "Last spkr done. PB&F issued statement. Being read to overflowing room, released while in session here. Will utilize 5 Marks template."

Sharon Ely Person tweeted: "Pb&f. Our work will be transparent. We will listen."

Lelanda Lee added: "PB&F - does not mean commitment to specific line dollars. More realistic revenue numbers."

Sharon Ely Pearson added: "Pb&f statement. Will utilize 5 Mark's of Mission as it's template for constructing budget."

Pamela RW Kandt noted: "PB&F chooses Presiding Bishop's 5 Marks of Mission budget as its starting point."

The Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky tweeted: "PB&F hearing 'Campus ministry is a vital place where people can grow'."

Maryann Philbrook sits back comparing notes: "drinking coffee and reading both budget proposals."

Fr. Timothy Fountain notes: "Church convention endorses budget of leader who is sanctioning convention members for their views."

Amy Real Coultas commented: "Ha, came out of budget hearing to 'Don't Fear the Reaper' playing in hotel lobby."


Just as suddenly as the PB&F budget tweeting started, it stopped.

Rick P tweeted: ‏"The House of Deputies is gathering for the presentations by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies."

This may perhaps be the most open General Convention to date. Anyone with a smart phone or laptop can break open the closed-door secrecy and let the sunshine in exposing every jot, tittle, wart and blemish about what is happening during the cumbersome legislative process in which more than 300 resolutions will have to chug their way through the system.

Thursday the live streaming for all House of Bishops and House of Deputies legislative sessions will begin as well as the streaming of main Convention Eucharists. Tweeters and bloggers should have a field day.

Not to get lost in the mix, the Episcopal Church Women 47th Triennial Meeting begins on Thursday and will run a week. The much-anticipated UTO ingathering will be on Sunday.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline and is following the convention from her computer

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