I have been trying to follow without following too closely the discussions at General Convention. I generally apply the same measured interest in considering these sorts of things that C.S. Lewis offered about demons. He said there are two strains that are dangerous, “One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
However, I have to say that there have been some healthy and encouraging developments in this convention thusfar.
First, we have an opportunity to elect someone as President of the House of Deputies that, I believe, has some experience that makes him a very attractive candidate. The Revd Frank Logue announced that he will accept nomination to run for the post. I love the idea of having someone with church planting experience in our leadership. At a time when our focus is too often on failure and decay, Frank has planted a successful and thriving congregation, King of Peace. Not long ago I wrote on how understanding the Episcopal Church as needing replanting could be beneficial to our dialogue and mission. This is an opportunity to elect a leader that brings that real life experience to bear as we face daunting challenges and questions. He seems forward looking, grounded, and capable.
The other development I was heartened by was the rejection the call to change our Church’s canons to allow Communion without Baptism. Now that the wider Church has spoken on this, I am sure we can expect a wave of parishes and priests to change their practice so as to obey the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church. Or not. Regardless, I think it is a vital affirmation of both the Reformed and Catholic strains of our heritage and a demonstration that we remain marked by our baptisms as heirs of the Kingdom. By this vote we can continue to teach, as a Church, that Baptism is not suggested or encouraged but is vital to our life in Christ – a life nourished ever after by the Eucharist.
Other developments are of interest. For example, the call to sell 815 Second Avenue as our Church headquarters is one that will stir lots of conversation about how we serve God’s mission in the future at the general Church level. I continue to wonder if sharing the space in Chicago that the ELCA uses as its headquarters makes sense as we seek new ways to live into our Full Communion relationship. Holy Women, Holy Men will continue to be revised and used on a trial basis. The issues with it are manifold and I hope they can be ironed out over time.
Finally, of interest to me, has been the proposal of a resolution to require that any new body created to look at restructuring the Church should have no fewer than 1/3 of its membership comprised of those under 40 years of age. I think this is a hugely important step for the Church. As we are talking about creating the Church of the future, those voices are critical to understanding the faith lives of those we seek to draw to Christ. The overall tenor of the convention seems to be marked by a commitment to change and new life and a recognition that we need to get creative and draw on new voices.
There are other signs that are less encouraging (the shift in our understanding of Confirmation, the generally anti-clerical tone of some of the deliberations, and of course very real budget woes) and yet I remain hopeful that we are reaching a moment in the life of the Church in which we seek not just survival but to thrive by blending that which is richest in our tradition with innovation and flexibility. A sign of this might be the Acts 8 movement. As I listened to some of its participants talk about their dreams for the Church, I was encouraged. Now the task is to not simply dream but to make sure we awake and bring those dreams to life.