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INDIANAPOLIS, IN: Less committee time, more legislative time, says bishop

INDIANAPOLIS, IN: Less committee time, more legislative time. That's the point we've reached in this convention

A Bishop's Reflection

By Bishop Daniel Martins
July 7, 2012

Less committee time, more legislative time. That's the point we've reached in this convention.

Committee 13 heard testimony on B009, Authorize Use of the 1979 Lectionary. There was one "expert" witness who showed up to testify against it. He was given five minutes--more than double the usual allotment. All he did was put forward a rationale for the Revised Common Lectionary, but this seemed pointless, as B009 does nothing to challenge the official status of the RCL. As the author of the resolution, I was given equal time. I characterized it as an act of pastoral charity. We won't have an opportunity to debate it in committee until Monday.

We then spent the rest of our time discussing the details for tonight's hearing on A049--in effect, a rite for same-sex weddings.

The House of Bishops was a legislative machine. I made my stock speech once on the folly of passing resolutions that speak to public policy on matters about which Christians of good will and an informed conscience might legitimately disagree. I then proceeded to vote No several times--on issues ranging from statehood for the District of Columbia to advocacy for the Affordable Care Act. I was, of course, on the losing side each and every time. If I were in charge, we would dissolve the Committee on Social and Urban Affairs. IMO, they just clutter the docket with a secular political agenda.

We defeated a resolution that would have restricted the votes of various categories of bishops who are not active diocesans when a matter involves the allocation of funds. I voted with the winners on this one.

We rejected funding (if my notes are correct) for the General Board of Examining Chaplains, despite the fact that their existence is canonically mandated, effectively killing the General Ordination Exams.

We agreed to a slow phase-in of the mandatory requirement that parishes and schools provide pensions plans for lay employees.

We passed a resolution that affirms our continued full-communion with the ELCA, but calls for more focused attention to two issues on which our paths diverge: lay presidency at the Eucharist and the nature of diaconal ministry.

We reaffirmed our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals

Rather to the consternation of anybody in the room who is involved with theological education, we narrowly passed a resolution that tasks the Standing Committee on Ministry Development with some rather unwieldy and intrusive oversight work in connection with the seminaries and other formation programs.

We had long debate, with several attempts to amend, of a resolution that seeks to increase the pressure on dioceses (like Springfield) that pay less than the full asking from the national church. Eventually, with a push from the Presiding Bishop, it got re-referred to committee for further work.

We passed, on second reading, a constitutional amendment that will remove the House of Deputies from the consent process for bishops elected within 120 of General Convention, and send everything to the Standing Committees. This is now in the hands of the Deputies.

These are just some of the highlights. I'll mention one more: A059 passed. This is the one that amends the Prayer Book (thus requiring passage at two successive conventions) in order to fix the discrepancy between the lectionary for Ash Wednesday and Holy Week as printed in the back of the Prayer Book since 2006, and the readings set forth on the actual pages where those rites are found. There is much confusion about this, and I fear that many of my colleagues did not understand what we were doing. I'm certain that many on Committee 13 did not. Maybe somebody would like to carry this water in the House of Deputies.

At the beginning of our afternoon session, there was another hour of private discussion regarding the complaints from the Bishops of Fort Worth and Quincy stemming from the amicus brief that I and several other bishops signed. The rules of the house prevent me from saying anything more about that here, but I believe things are headed in a positive and helpful direction.


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