Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Conventional wisdom

It's been more than a week since I last posted. That's because a lot has been going on, including our Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida convention.

I had planned to go as an observer, just to see the spectacle and get my own feel for the politicking -- I have never attended convention. Last year, I almost went, but I was just too depressed by everything going on in this diocese. It was probably a good thing, too, as I probably would have left the church when they voted in the AAC/Network.

So, I was set to go observe this time, when my rector said why not come as an alternate delegate. One of the delegates was sick and wouldn't be able to come and another one might not be able to go. So I went as an alternate, which assured me a place to sit and see everything. (Thanks, Father.)

Bishop Howe talked a good talk of conciliation, even quoting Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. I have a trust issue here, though, since last year, he orchestrated (in my opinion) a lot of the conservative movement to join the Network, then at the last minute, played "neutral" and wouldn't vote on it to maintain this new "neutrality."

It was too much like my old rector's behavior, the one who would tell some of us what he thought we wanted to hear, while he pursued an altogether different agenda.

Anyway, I'm reserving judgment on this, pending new developments. It's encouraging that the right wing rabble-rousers are mad at the bishop. Still...

The AAC was present at the convention in full force, with a booth in the display room. Members were distributing unsolicited fliers, suggesting for whom everyone should vote. Not that it made much difference. 80 percent of those on ballots to be elected were AAC members.

A look at the delegation from my old parish fueled that feeling of disenfranchisement -- everyone in the delegation was ultraconservative, even though there is a moderate/liberal population of significant size in that parish. Or at least there used to be.

I looked with cynicism at all the conservative clergy in the convention hall, many of whom were helped into their positions by the very conservative bishop, who handpicked their very conservative delegations.

It did make me appreciate my current rector, who picked a mix to be representative of the parish. My rector was in the minority.

So, the deck is stacked in a completely conservative manner.

A look at the up-and-coming clergy in the diocese was an eye-opener, too. All the newly ordained deacons were asked to stand. They were all female. The current seminarians were asked to stand. About half were women.

The newly hired priests in the diocese were asked to stand. They were ALL male. Mostly older, conservative, white male. Retired from other dioceses to come to sunny, conservative Florida, to work part time. And vote at the conventions.

What does that tell you?

And one of the resolutions voted in was to call for a special General Convention in 2005 on the Windsor Report and related topics. I understand they were hot to press that, because after 2005, the retired bishops (mostly old, white ultraconservative) won't be eligible to vote at convention.

The best thing about going to the convention for me was getting to know fellow delegates and the clergy better.

COMING UP -- STRANGE BEDFELLOWS -- why the ties with the African churches
ALSO COMING -- meeting Bishop Spong (live, in person)


Jake said...

A special convention would cost a lot, and accomplish little. Is that good stewardship?

This is the first I've heard about retired bishops unable to vote after 2005. Is that a diocesan thing? It is a quite significant move.

Sounds like you now have a good rector.

Saint Pat said...

I think the cost of putting together such a convention and the logistics of pulling everyone together on short notice would be difficult. It would be the end of the year at the earliest, I'd think, so why not just wait until the next General Convention.

I haven't seen anything in writing about retired bishops not being able to vote after this year. It may have been hype.

Saint Pat said...

P. S. -- I'm coming to appreciate my rector more and more.