(This has been my abode for the week–shared with one other–Cabin #16. It is … ahem … rustic, but an upgrade from the kind of place you would put kids at a summer camp.)
The same morning routine pertained–we gathered for a plenary session, following breakfast and Eucharist, at 1015. After announcements, it was given over entirely to table discussion, with some broadly-framed leading questions that were intended to provoke reflection, synthesis, and resolve with respect to the overarching theme of the meeting, the Way of Love, which is the newest dimension to the Presiding Bishop’s leadership initiative. This builds on the Jesus Movement, which dominated the first triennium of his term. (If anything can be said of Michael Curry with certainty, it is that he is relentlessly on message; I’ve never seen a leader quite so disciplined about that.)
So … who can argue with anything called the Way of Love, right? But, what is it, exactly? As nearly as I can tell, from the way it was presented to us, it’s a set of spiritual practices (see my post from this past Tuesday) that are not at all novel, but pretty classic “rule of life” stuff. I heartily endorse all of it. Just why it’s called the Way of Love is less clear to me, but I’m not going to quibble. It’s wholesome and needful and I commend it, or something like it. (Someone at my table, while looking at some printed material that was provided to us, remarked that it looked a lot like the format for a Cursillo group reunion, so … ) If the Way of Love were to be received and practiced, throughout the Episcopal Church, we would be all the better for it. As I have already written, my only reservation is that it might come to be seen, by some, as an instrumental means to “social gospel” ends. In the Episcopal Church’s case, this would look a lot like the platform of the Democratic Party, which is not the gospel. (To be clear, neither is the platform of any other political party the gospel.)
In the afternoon, we went, for the only time during this gathering, into formal business session, with motions and seconds and all the Roberts’ Rules stuff. After dispensing with the roll call and dispensing with the reading of the minutes from the previous meeting, we passed (unanimously) a resolution offering a “robust pastoral response to allegations of sexual misconduct, no matter how old” (there is apparently a canonical anomaly that might make misbehavior from before 1996 unactionable). We passed (unanimously) a resolution of support for the Way of Love. And we gave consent to a fairly substantial batch of impending resignations (most of which are actually retirements, but we have to use the language of “resignation” in order to preserve the clergy housing allowance tax advantage).
Then we dismissed representatives of the news media (both of them) and went into executive session. I can’t say anything about its content, but, when you read the next paragraph, you can probably guess. Discussion was mostly quite passionate, sometimes very much so.
When we came out of executive session, a draft mind-of-the-house resolution was brought forward on the subject of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s non-invitation of same-sex spouses to be registered participants in the Lambeth Conference. The vast majority of the bishops in the room were going to vote for some version of a statement–that much was never in doubt–but there was a quite long and (for me, at least) tedious process of wordsmithing and “perfection.” You can read the final result here. I voted No–one of a handful, though the ENS article singles me out by name, mostly, I think, because my assigned table was at the back of the room, right in front of the press table. I pretty much offered my breakdown of the situation in my post last night, so I won’t repeat myself. There are actually some parts of the statement I could have signed on to, but I am nowhere near “aggrieved and distressed” by the Archbishop’s decision. I fear that many or most of my colleagues in the House simply lack a very sophisticated understanding of the political currents in play in the Anglican Communion, let alone any capacity to think empathetically about those with whom they disagree. Binary thinking prevails.
There was a handful of other announcement-like items on the agenda, but everyone was pretty spent, mentally and emotionally, We went right to a hospitality hour, and then to dinner–always modestly upscale on the last night, with table linens and wine. I’m ready to go home.