I believe one of the reasons the parish I serve had a relatively calm reaction to the events of the 2003 General Convention was that the staff and I worked hard in advance to talk about what was happening and the possible consequences of any decisions made might be. It helped that we had two deputies to Convention in the parish (myself and Hillary Dowling) and that as we were prepping for convention, we had the material we needed at our fingertips when asked a question.
When I came back from Convention I was repeatedly approached by my fellow clergy and told story after story about how they and their parishes felt blind-sided by the votes to consent to Gene Robinson’s election as Bishop of New Hampshire and the vote to “de-criminalize” the creation of liturgies for blessing same-gender relationships. I asked them what they had done to prepare their folks. The answer was almost always “nothing”. They and their parishioners had been suddenly confronted with live coverage of Convention on CNN – and they had no context or background to either understand what was happening or explain it to their friends and neighbors.
That’s why I’m so excited to see that the Episcopal News Service has created bulletin inserts for each of the coming weeks leading up to June’s General Convention. The inserts explain what Convention is, how it works, and try to explain something about what might happen. It will be up to the clergy and parish to talk about the consequences of what actions General Convention either takes or does not take.
Please. Use our experience as a guide. Make your life easier if you’re part of an Episcopal parish. Download and distribute these inserts. People are going to be talking about what is going on anyhow. These can help to fairly frame the conversation.
I would love to be able to claim some credit for this idea – being as I’m a member of the Standing Commission on Communication. But I had nothing to do with it. This is proof for those who might have doubted it about the quality and talent of the folks working in the Communication Department of the Episcopal Church Center right now. Way to go folks!