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INDIANAPOLIS, IN: 77th GENERAL CONVENTION OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
www.virtueonline.org
July 9, 2012

The 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is in full swing. We are midway into the eight day gabfest. Some 5500 are registered at GC2012. The attendees compromise 167 bishops, 3700 delegates, their deputies and staff, as well as 1200 exhibitors and 800 volunteers. It runs for eight days with some 300 resolutions on the table.

The cost I am told for everything is about $15 million.

We, TEAM VOL, are working from 8am till midnight every day to bring you the stories as fast as the news breaks. We have three onsite reporters, two offsite writers and a researcher. As the volume of information is rising faster than even we anticipated, I am putting out a special digest of stories today for VOL's worldwide audience in some 204 countries.

An interesting moment came at a press conference on Saturday when I asked Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, if she saw the irony in that the House of Deputies would like to see the Church Center at 815 2nd Avenue NY, NY sold (it has a $37.5 million mortgage debt and needs $8.5 million to maintain yearly) while at the same time the national church spent $18 million litigating for properties, many of which will lie fallow at the end of the day.

She got it. I saw the wheels turn, there was a smiling silence, and an audible pause before she said, "I am in favor of selling 815"...she paused and smiled again.

One former Episcopal priest wrote me, "The irony is that after all their property suits to get control of empty buildings, they now are losing their main property...I can't tell you how funny that is to me. Don't you love it...an ego blow to those whose egos are their God."

But this cost cutting measure may not be enough to salvage the long term solvency of the Episcopal Church. Stricter measures will have to be applied over time. Moving the Episcopal Church headquarters to another part of the country is just the beginning. The church is hemorrhaging money like crazy and no one seems to know how to turn off the spigot. A final budget is due out today. We will post it as soon as it becomes available.

*****

While TEC plows its way through some 300 resolutions on everything from transgenderism to recycling and Israel-Palestine issues, another battle is waging just beneath the surface of the convention.

Two Bishops, Wallis C. Ohl, of the faux Diocese of Ft. Worth and John C. Buchanan of the faux Diocese of Quincy, say that nine Episcopal bishops, four of them here, are harming the Church by officially misrepresenting the polity of the Church; invading the episcopal jurisdiction of other bishops; taking official, formal, affirmative actions directly against their own Church and sister dioceses; and even recognizing the continuing authority of breakaway former bishops over the bishops who are recognized by this Church. In doing so, they give aid and comfort to breakaway factions who would take title and control of substantially all of the real and personal property of this Church and cripple its mission and ministry. They want the Presiding Bishop to bring them up on charges, presumably to throw them out of the Episcopal Church on charges that they have abandoned the communion of the church.

Six of those nine bishops fired off a letter of their own to the HOB and the Presiding Bishop saying, in effect, that the church's hierarchical structure goes only as high as the diocesan bishop and does not extend or give sovereign power to the Presiding Bishop. "We are convinced that the venerable polity of our Church is under threat due to the temporary exigencies of secular litigation. However much we may understand and sympathize with these objectives, we consider it our greater duty to uphold our constitutional polity."

All this has yet to erupt publicly, but when it does you can expect the sparks to fly. This could possibly see these bishops being inhibited, in which case a new exodus could begin in TEC. These nine bishops now have targets on their back and it will all depend on who pulls the trigger.

One thing is clear; Ohl and Buchanan have made fools of themselves. The Title IV process will have to run its course, the HOB won't interfere. Meanwhile, Title IV is being seriously looked at by canons. When questioned by Cherie Wetzel of Anglicans United about the timing of these charges, Jefferts Schori said, "We have disciplinary process, I do not control it...it is what it is."

*****

Program, Budget and Finance statement affirms a 19% asking even as parishes grow smaller. The Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance conducted its second hearing on Friday evening on funding the budget of The Episcopal Church and heard strong support for a 19% asking over the next triennium. Strong opinions both for and against were expressed. Program, Budget and Finance was impressed by stories offered about the work of the Development Office in supporting local mission.

Following the hearing, the Committee voted to craft its proposed budget based on a 19% asking for 2013-2015. More hearings are expected.

Diane Pollard, Diocese of New York, Chair of Program, Budget and Finance, and Bishop Stephen Lane, Diocese of Maine, Vice chair, on behalf of the members of PB&F said they were skeptical of a budget based on 19% from each diocese when experience shows that doesn't happen even in robust economic times, and it won't happen here. So who makes the cuts when the income falls far below projections?

*****

In all the talk about same sex this and transgender that, there is absolutely no talk about SIN. A psychologist friend of mine opined that talk of "sin" here would be considered psychologically damaging and offensive to a lot of people, especially gays, so it is off the radar screen. "No sin, please; we're Episcopalians."

*****

CONDOMS. The national Episcopal AIDS coalition is handing out free male and female condoms to all passersby. I pocketed a few just in case some folks don't believe me.

*****

To keep funding for youth ministries alive, a 17-year-old girl stood up in the HOD to say that TEC could stay alive if it got into recycling. Poor kid hasn't got a clue.

*****

Some statistical highlights from the CHURCH PENSION GROUP make for interesting reading. The CPF is extremely well administered and there is lots of money in the CPF pot for retirees. The average pension fund benefit is $29,600 -- up a few hundred dollars over previous years. The average age of those coming into the ministry is 48.2 indicating a lot of second career types. A truly disturbing figure, however, is the number of ordinations by calendar year. It has gone from 570 in 2005 down to 369 in 2011...and is still sinking.

What this says is that if the Episcopal Church does not attract a new and younger generation of rectors into financially viable parishes, where will future dollars come from? I spoke with the president of the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) who believes that TEC will go from 7,000 parishes to 2,500 over the next decade which, if true, is bound to affect the CPF's income.

*****

Overheard in the Exhibit Hall:

"Pretty soon they'll have all the sacraments replaced by labyrinths and drum circles..."

On the now notorious open letter written by Bishops Ohl and Buchanan:

"According to Bishop Ohl et al, the accused bishops do not have recourse to CIVIL courts in his jurisdiction. One wonders, could they get a haircut, or stop for gas, in Fort Worth, without committing a canonical misdemeanor?"

"To be honest, few TEC bishops have ever even read the Constitution and Canons, and fewer still have the capacity to understand the issues at play," quipped a senior cleric.

*****

I am sending out some 20 plus stories in this digest covering almost every main resolution that has come before convention. If we have missed one or two, we apologize and hope we shall catch-up by week's end. Thank you for your patience.

I will have another digest to you all later this week.

All blessings

David, Gary and Michael

BREAKING NEWS...The push by the provisional bishops of Fort Worth and Quincy to censure nine bishops for disloyalty to the Episcopal Church has failed in the House of Bishops and has likely sunk any attempt to discipline the accused through the church’s legal system.

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