|The speech timer was turned off for Bishop Marc.|
Under halcyon skies we drove to Grace Cathedral
for the 165th Diocesan Convention
of the Episcopal Diocese of California.
The Diocese of California consists of 80 congregations in the greater Bay Area, and lay and clergy showed up from 71 and 68 congregations, respectively. IMHO, it was a decent turnout, though a bit shy of the perfect attendance that the Bishop desired.
Bishop Marc opened the meeting at 9 a.m. Through strict enforcement of speech cutoff limits we held to the schedule and were done a little after 5 p.m. Most of the agenda consisted of reports, elections, and resolutions. There were very few surprises, with only one of seven resolutions being defeated.
The six approved resolutions were:
1) to support Prop 47, the safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, which reduces petty theft and drug possession to misdemeanors;
2) to encourage better coordination with the other five Episcopal dioceses in California;
3) to revise the wording of the marriage ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer to include same-sex couples;
4) to redirect the church’s endowment funds to socially responsible investments;
5) to reaffirm the church’s position in support of reducing carbon emissions and against environmental racism (how power plants are often located in poor neighborhoods and harm the health of families living next to them);
6) to call for Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This last resolution was one of the most contentiously debated, though it did pass.
The measure that was defeated was entitled “Benefits Cost Sharing." It attempted to raise the premiums on medical insurance dependent coverage for all employees of the Diocese, both lay and clergy. This is in line with what is going on in the marketplace, and many clergy agreed with it. However, the no's prevailed when a few pointed out the severe harm that would have occurred to their finances as they deal with debilitating diseases in their children.
There was a resolution from the floor that concerned the actions of the Board of Trustees of General Theological Seminary
. (GTS was founded in 1817 in Manhattan and is the oldest Episcopal seminary.) A conflict between the Dean and faculty culminated in the firing of 8 of 10 faculty members. The resolution to condemn this action passed overwhelmingly.
One of the highlights of the convention was its theme, From tears to joy: Our Asian experience
. In addition to presenting the history of their communities within the Church, clergy of Asian descent led the prayers and scripture readings that were interspersed throughout the day.
The church is steadily moving into the 21st century. Most of the delegates no longer needed the over-100 page binders of materials but downloaded them to tablets and computers. Also impressive was the growing number of young people—under 30 and even teenagers—who had important roles to play.
Perhaps the church's decades-long decline in attendance has finally bottomed out, but, as I've stated before,
am not too hopeful. © 2014 Stephen Yuen