Gay and lesbian friends now are beginning to sense that perhaps this Church really does think that they live in a state no more sinful or blessed than that of heterosexual couples. In some ways this vote, and the likely vote of the House of Bishops tomorrow, is an affirmation, not only of Gene Robinson, but also an affirmation of every other gay or lesbian Christian couple who hope for a future in the Church.

Walking down the street in the early evening, passing Minneapolis' many eateries on the downtown mall, people from the Convention were gathered as usual over food and drink. Everything seemed normal. But there were knowing smiles, and sometimes sadness. It will take a while for things to sink in.

The next few days will see first the Bishop's decision about Gene Robinson, and then a vote on liturgies for same-sex blessings and the national budget. We will also see the beginnings of what the traditionalists have claimed will be a `re-alignment' of the Anglican Communion. What we had here this afternoon has been a deciding moment; it will be completed tomorrow. What happens beyond that will be at least surprising, perhaps startling.

I was struck by an argument raised this afternoon in the debate on the floor. The argument was that Anglicanism has thrived on division, which forced change. We were divided by loyalty to the English monarch, by the role of Bishops in this country, by slavery, by the place of women in the church, by Prayer Book change. Each time the division meant change, and the change in turn made us more inclusive, less monarchical, less a church of privilege and more a community of engagement. And, said the speaker, that is the way we should see the action begun by the Deputies today. May it be so.

Sunday, August 3

Saturday morning began with legislative hearings on matters both optimistic and fearful. I attended one that dealt with remarkable new efforts at reaching out to the rest of the world--but I also and visited one that was still fretful about approving Canon Gene Robinson as bishop.

Optimism and fear rise and fall in this convention on our perceptions of matters at hand, and it is hard not to be guided by our own emotions. And all the more so because how this Convention feels about its votes on same-sex blessings and homosexuals as church leaders will have an effect on other matters as well.

So at 10 a.m. yesterday, as we do every day, we prayed together. Over 1,200 strong, we filled the worship space to sing, pray, hear a sermon, and receive Communion. Everything was normal, and then the sermon came. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina preached. It was a remarkable, wonderful, empowering sermon, the sort of sermon heard too seldom in this church. The preacher is African-American, and his style was not the staid and bland presentation we were used to. His voice rose and fell to great heights and low whispers. And what he told us was that we could be a people of hope.

We needed to hear this. Today is Sunday, and in the early afternoon the House of Deputies (clergy and lay representatives) will debate and then vote on the matter of approving Robinson's election as bishop. If it passes there, the matter will go to the House of Bishops; but if it fails, there is no approval possible at this Convention and the Presiding Bishop declares the election null and void.

It is not at all clear Robinson' s election will be approved. Matters are very close. Hopeful people point to the good showing of Louie Crew, a gay English professor and activist at Rutgers University, yesterday in the election as the new President of the House of Deputies. He lost, as expected, but had more votes than expected. Opponents have continually said that voting in favor of gay rights will split the Church, and that argument is working in some wings of the church.

I have the sense that those who support same-sex blessings and Canon Robinson's election are now prepared, as prepared as possible, to win or lose both. But today it is all in the hands of the voters, men and women of good will trying to do what we believe God is calling us to do. That it goes one way or the other is not nearly as important in my mind as that it is our best effort to be true to God's calling.Friday, August 1, 2003

The people to watch are those in the Dispatch of Business Committees of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies (made up of clergy and lay representatives). There the decisions about the order in which legislation is taken up are made, and they subtly affect all manner of events in Convention.

The timing of decisions on Gene Robinson's confirmation, of presentation of legislation on same sex blessings, of the election of a new president of the House of Deputies, and the presentation of budget all are determined by dispatch of business committees.


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