Here's what we're going to do:
Our task will be to consult with representative deputies (two from each diocese; one lay/one clergy) on the resources we (the task forces charged with the task by the SCLM) have been gathering and developing in response to Resolution C056 ... passed in 2009 by General Convention and calling for "an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships."
That work has been delegated to four different task groups:
● Teaching & Pastoral Care
● Canonical Implications
And in a VERY packed day-and-a-half we will meet in plenary sessions to hear updates on the process and context of the task groups and their work; break into small groups for conversation and feedback; and then charge the deputies to go back to their deputations and continue the conversation.
Here's what we're NOT going to do:
We're not going to debate whether or not we should be gathering these resources. That conversation already happened. In Anaheim.
And we're not going to debate how we should use the resources we've gathered. That conversation is yet to happen. In Indianapolis.
Why I think what we're doing matters
Whether or not to take the resources we've gathered and authorize their use for the blessing of same-gender relationships is an important step for the Episcopal Church. Obviously I think it's the right step to take and it's one I will be working hard to see that we take in Indianapolis. But as important as I think that is, what we're doing together in Atlanta is even more important.
Resolution C056 specifically asked that
"... the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion"... and this work we are doing together in Atlanta was described by my colleague Heidi Clark as "the holy privilege ... of being in this particular moment of the life of the church. listening deeply, and reflecting together on what the SCLM is developing to bring to the whole church."
Does everybody think that's the best idea they've ever heard of? A great way to spend the time of a couple of hundred deputies and other church leaders? Heck no.
One correspondent wrote that "there isn't a lot -- not a lot that's important anyway -- for the deputies to do." And yesterday I had a phone conversation with a diocesan colleague who declared the whole process a misguided effort to create second class liturgies for gay people -- and until we have marriage equality in the prayer book we're not "there."
My answer to the first was "I guess 'important' is in the eye of the beholder" ... and my answer to the second was ... "You're absolutely right ... and that's not the conversation C056 charged us to have."
I think ... I hope and I believe ... that what we're doing together in Atlanta both can and will be a new model for how the whole church comes together for consultation and reflection in an intentional way in preparation for the legislative work we do together when we gather for General Convention.
Make no mistake about it ... I consider the political work we will do in Indianapolis as holy as I do the consultative work we will do in Atlanta -- because I think it is all part of how we live out our call to continue to discern God's will and the Holy Spirit's direction in community. And I think we have a chance to break new ground in Atlanta by modeling a transparent collaborative process involving the whole church in creating these resources in response to the church's request for them via C056.
So prayers invited -- for good travel karma. For a productive time together. For ears to hear and hearts to listen not only to each other but to the One who calls us together to do this work. And most of all in thanksgiving for the love that calls us into community and into relationships -- and then sends us out into the world to love it as God loved it.
Film -- as they say! -- "at eleven!"