I have just returned from the Annual Convention of the Diocese of New Jersey. I attended as an observer as I am not canonically resident. It was held in an ideal facility; a convention center in Wildwood, New Jersey.
I had a grand time. Their voting process here is rather complex, requiring 6 ballots. I didn't mind. As I couldn't vote, each ballot allowed me ample opportunity to browse through the numerous exhibits.
Near the end of the convention, there was about 45 minutes of discussion regarding a resolution (2004-4), and an amendment to the resolution (2004-5), having to do with human sexuality issues. To keep this in perspective, this was 45 minutes out of about 8 hours over two days in session. About 10 people spoke, the amended resolution passed by what sounded like a large majority, and the business session moved on. No shouting, no new information, simply a fairly civil disagreement. Those wanting us to condemn the actions of the last General Convention voiced the same points heard numerous times; that homosexuals needed healing, that homosexuality was against the created order as described in Genesis, that "the vast majority of the Anglican Communion has broken communion with us" (I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I've heard this gross exaggeration). One speaker even suggested that we should consider homosexuality the same way we view alcoholism. As I said, nothing new.
What I did notice was that those making these comments, (with the exception of one pompous rear posterior who will remain unidentified), appeared quite sincere. I honestly think they believed that they were telling us something we didn't already know. I can respect that, even while I sincerely believe that they are quite mistaken.
However, there were a few delegates at this convention, both clergy and lay, who I know to be gay, and I could not help but wince when I heard some of these statements. They were quite hurtful. That may not have been the intention of the speakers, but it was the result just the same. If the way to unity requires us to scapegoat even one of our brothers or sisters, I think the cost of such unity is too high.
These speakers were held accountable for their words. A number of people spoke quite eloquently for the amendment. It seemed to me that as the words got more hurtful, more and more people moved quietly to the microphone to respond. This didn't take away the sting of the words, but something good came out of it; more voices were offered to counter the pain, and the amendment passed.
Seen in its entirety, it was a brief moment within the whole of the convention. I have chosen to comment on it because this morning, when I arrived at the parish, I was greeted with, "Have you seen the papers?"
It appears the press decided to put their own spin on what happened in Wildwood over the weekend. How lovely.
Tonight I decided to check out what some of the other spin doctors had to say. Kendall Harmon mentioned it, with no commentary, but those making comments could not resist the smell of fresh blood, it appears. (How can you read that stuff, Karen? My blood pressure can't take it!)
That was more than enough for me. Instead of taking the bait, I'm saying just a bit about it here instead, for my own sake as much as for anyone who may be reading these words.
Let me close with a quote from Bishop George Counsell from his sermon during our Eucharist on Friday;
Listening is a profound act of service. I hope that, when we come away from our consideration of these resolutions tomorrow, we will be built up by extraordinary care, lavish respect, and sacrificial love. "You know the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you;..." (Mark 10:42-43). Let us conduct our debates so as to show ourselves and our world that the Servant Church still serves, even when in disagreement with itself; and especially as we strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.
From my perspective, I feel that, for the most part, the Bishop's hopes were realized, regardless of what the spin doctors say. This is a fine diocese; a Servant Church indeed. I may just decide to stick around for awhile.