Sunday, July 12, 2009

General Convention Update from the Spokane Deputation

Received this e-mail Thursday from Bob Runkle, a lay deputy to General Convention for the Diocese of Spokane from St. Luke's Coeur d'Alene, with permission to disseminate. It's a first person account of General Convention and the LGBT discussion.

Today I had the privilege of speaking twice on behalf of two legislative sessions dealing with issues impacting our GLBT and GLBTI members. My testimony was well received by the Chicago Consultation team, in particular by Ruth Meyers, Bonnie Perry and Gene Robinson. For the afternoon session, I was seated near the front of the auditorium and just before the testimony started, Gene Robinson came in and sat next to me. I spoke early in the session, and when I returned to my seat, he congratulated me on my statements. Afterwards, several people from the Chicago Consultation congratulated my on what I said.

Then later, Bonnie Perry called me twice and told me that I had to testify this evening when the B033 testimony process happened. I confirmed that would testify and was early to sign up. I again sat near the front, and just before the session started, Gene Robinson came and sat right behind me. This time he was second to speak, and was very eloquent. I spoke maybe tenth out of the 35+ speakers. When I returned to my seat, Gene Robinson squeezed my shoulder and thanked me. After the whole session was over, several people I didn't know thanked me for my statement.

Both sessions were recorded, maybe live TV (not sure) and there were several hundred people in the audience. The committees were probably 25+ in total both sessions - totally different members. Both the afternoon and evening sessions were filled with emotions, sad stories, talks about suicides, talks about 8 year old children worried because their rector told them their gay sibling was headed to hell because they were gay, talks by both gay and lesbian couples about being denied various rights of TEC because of their sexual orientation; people talking about how the wished the TEC would openly recognize them as full members of God's community. The ratio of pro speakers to con speakers was dramatic - probably 4-5 to 1 on the pro change side of the equation.

The biggest uncertainty is where the House of Bishops will decide later in the GC process. Some question whether the House of Deputies will support the change, but many feel that the House of Deputies will eventually go for change. Much less confidence that the Bishops will support the change. We'll just have to wait and see.

Two big other developments today. In the morning, the House of Deputies met as a Committee of the Whole, and openly discussed the Windsor process and the developments behind B-033, which was passed at the very end of the 2006 General Convention. Mary Beth and I were in Columbus, OH for that convention, and were on the floor of the House of Deputies during the process that led to the passage of B-033. This was a very emotional decision, sort of crammed into the last few hours of the process on the last day. The former Presiding Bishop (Griswold) and the incoming new Presiding Bishop Katherine, came to the House of Deputies with a plea for the House to pass B033 which had been passed by the House of Bishops. The House of Deputies had just defeated all related legislation - the two Presiding Bishops essentially convinced the House of Deputies that with Lambeth in the offing, the General Convention had to give Katherine some sort of message to take to Lambeth that responded to the requests and concern over Gene Robinson's election. Following the presentation of what had happened at the 2006 GC and at Lambeth, the each diocese's delegation to the House of Deputies was instructed to leave your own delegation and to address three questions: How has B033 affected you? How has B033 impacted your congregation/diocese? And what is God calling us to do regarding B033 now? The process took almost 45 minutes and everyone honestly and quietly took the questions to heart and spoke with their counterpart from another Diocese. I shared the process from a deputy from the Diocese of Michigan, who I think expected someone from Idaho and the Diocese of Spokane to be conservative - he rapidly found the contrary - and we learned quickly that our belief structures were similar.


James said...

Excellent report. Please ask Bob to write up his "testimony" as presented. I'd like to read his story.

Nathan Empsall said...

James - here it is, from a PDF attached to that same e-mail:

Testimony 7/9/09
2:00 -4:00 pm

Combined proposed legislative hearings for House of Deputies and House of Bishops Committees:

My name is Bob Runkle, deputy from the Diocese of Spokane. I support C004 for the full participation of the LBGTI community.

I am a 73 year old straight married man, a cradle Episcopalian, and live in Post Falls, Idaho. I believe in the sanctity of God who created and blessed each and every human being.

I want my LBGTI friends to have the same benefits, priviledges and embrace in the Episcopal Church that my wife and I enjoy.

I urge passage of C004.

8:00 - 10:30 pm

Combined B033 discussions and testimony for House of Deputies and House of Bishops Committees:

My name is Bob Runkle, deputy from the Diocese of Spokane and I support D013. I am a 73 year old straight, married man, a cradle Episcopalian and I live in Post Falls, ID.

In my congregation, I am a co-leader with straight and lesbian leaders of our Jubilee Ministry Committee which has a dual focus in working to address poverty in our community, as well as making a significant investment in water-related MDG projects in Africa and other developing countries.

On the Diocese of Spokane level, I serve as Chair of the Commission on Social Justice and Outreach Ministries. We are committed to a significant support of MDG projects as well as projects that address domestic poverty issues.

I am an example of an Episcopalian who is also committed to full inclusion of LGBT members both here and abroad through our MDG and mission projects. We can do both mission and inclusion.

I urge passage of D013.