FROM THE RECTOR:
In this KneeMail, I continue to address this summer’s General Convention (GC) of the Episcopal Church, which will meet in Austin for the first two weeks of July. GC is bicameral, comprised of a House of Bishops (active bishops and retired) and a House of Deputies (clergy and lay delegates elected by each diocese). These are analogous to the House of Representatives and Senate in Congress. And like Congress, any legislation must be passed by both Houses.
Because GC is so geographically near to us, and the summer is often slow when it comes to news, we should expect disproportionate coverage of GC in the secular press, especially when it comes issues of sexuality, which although a very small part of the GC’s business, will take up the most ink and air time.
We should also expect the media to be less-than-accurate in its reporting. Secular reportage of religion is often so, though not deliberately. Even twenty years ago, many press agencies and papers had dedicated religion reporters, who could write intelligently on this topic. But because of budget cuts in newsrooms, the Religion Newswriters Association reports that are now much fewer such journalists, and accuracy and precision has suffered as a result.
One often sees headlines such as “Pope changes teaching on α” or “Baptists decide ß” when in fact the Pope was only musing aloud about α (something he would be better not doing!) or a small group of Baptist preachers on the lunatic fringe proposed ß at some meeting.
Permit me another analogy. Delegates and even some bishops at GC are not unlike a drug company which proposes a new drug to treat a particular disease. The media may run with this with a breathless headline such as “New drug may cure twengies,” when in fact it may equally not cure twengies, and thus not be approved by the FDA. Sometimes delegates or bishops (=the drug company) will propose that the Episcopal Church do ß, even though the resolution might not be approved by the GC (=FDA), failing in either the House of Bishops or the House of Deputies, or the proposition might be substantially amended, watered down, referred to committee or, as often the case, passed with the caveat that given legislation may only take effect in a diocese if the bishop gives consent. And yet the take-away will be “General Convention does ß,” when the reality is much more nuanced.
To complicate things further, some resolutions are in fact a “Memorial” which express the “mind of the Convention,” and call for no particular action, while other resolutions rise to the level of legislation, and yet have no enforcement mechanism. It’s complex for those of us who even pretend to understand the “inside baseball” of the Episcopal Church. Like I said last week, my experience of the Church on the ground—faithful people giving, praying, working for the extension of the Kingdom—is very far removed from the dealings of CG.
So, we need to be discerning about the way we read reports about GC in the media. I will make sure that at the conclusion of GC, you have an accurate summary of what the Convention actually accomplished and what it means in practical terms—if anything.
If you are interested in the internal machinations of GC, I refer you to this article: http://edod.org/resources/articles/primer-on-general-convention-legislative-process/
Yours with every blessing,
Rev. Douglas Anderson, Rector