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GC2009: The 76th General Convention of TEC Winds Down

GC2009: The 76th General Convention of TEC Winds Down

by Mary Ann Mueller in Anaheim
Special Correspondent
July 17, 2009

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA---For more than a week the 76th Episcopal General Convention has been running full tilt. Lights and colors and smells and motion were all woven into a patchwork of activity that became the expensive grandiose show known as General Convention.

The Anaheim Convention Center has been a beehive of activity. Bishops, priests, deacons and laity, some in clerical garb, others in a wide variety of attire, hurried thither and yon each headed to their perspective legislative houses. Yellow-tagged visitors explore all that General Convention had to offer. The various displays and legislative sessions where the mechanics of The Episcopal Church are hammered out and set into stone through the adoption of changes to the Constitution and Canons of the Church, drew multiple visitors.

The cuisine and drink available by the various food carts were enticing. The interaction of deputies and gold-aproned volunteers with purple-shirted bishops intrigued the numerous visitors who came from nearly every corner of TEC. Sights, sound and smells filled the Exhibit Hall where buttons, bows and booklets were offered to one and all. In the daily worship opportunities, men and women raise their hearts, hands and voices in song, prayer and praise while admiring the Presiding Bishop in her $6,000 liturgical flame red and shimmering gold finery.

Laughter filled the Convention Center halls as people bantered with each other or brought their companions up on the antics of their latest grandchild. Clusters of Deputies could be seen huddled together discussing the latest Resolution on their floor, or bishops could be seen button holing their brother or sister bishops to get a clarification on unified episcopal thinking.

Then of course, there is the media. Anyone and everyone was fair game for the television cameras. Any good sound bite makes good late night news in Southern California. Bishop Vicky Gene Robinson was the media favorite and, try as he might, he could not dodge the cameras or microphones.

The sound of hymns could be heard floating out of the House of Deputies as President Bonnie Anderson's frequent hymn breaks gave the Deputies a well-deserved musical rest from their grueling church affairs legislative sessions.

Outside, conventioneers gathered under the elusive shade of swaying palms trees to chit chat about the day's activities and plan for the evening's festivities, make arrangements for dinner, or to get away from the flurry of constant activity to grab a few moments of relative peace and quiet or speak on their cell phones in some sort of solitude.

Now as Friday dawns, all of that is changed. This is the last day of General Convention, and already the change in mood is evident. People are tired and getting snippy and short tempered. People look worn out. The throng of excited visitors has thinned. One by one, the press corps is leaving and the number of stories flowing from the press room has lessened. Virtueonline's House of Deputies reporter Michael Heidt has already returned to Fort Worth to perform a wedding. David leaves this morning and I leave this afternoon.

Yesterday at 2 p.m., the Exhibit Hall closed. Immediately, the sound of hammering and drilling could be heard as the 160 various exhibitions were hastily dismantled, packed and prepared for shipping. A long line formed outside of the Convention Hall Fed Ex counter. Boxes and cartons and shipping crates filled the side hallway leading to the shipping location.

Everyone is tired as the Convention winds down. The excitement, newness and novelty of Convention have worn off. It is now work. It is very apparent there will be way more Resolutions to be acted on than there will be time to deal with them. When the final gavel falls, late this afternoon, what is left on the floor of either House will just experience an immediate death. Already, some deputies and bishops have taken an early out, thus leaving their alternates on the floor or leaving their deputations empty. Home fires beckon.

Meanwhile, as the hours and minutes count down in both Houses, the legislative process drones on. Each House has a closed circuit TV feed to the press room. The easiest way to figure out which House is being viewed is that in the House of Bishops there is a proliferation of purple shirts sitting at a round table.

Late yesterday, David Virtue moved a major breaking story about the "Anaheim Statement" which was being cobbled together during the lunch hour at an undisclosed location. David was tipped off to the "Anaheim Statement" by a twittering bishop from the floor of the House of Bishops.

Outside of that, media center traffic has slowed to a crawl. Only a few people are using the escalators, which throughout the week were jam packed with people going in both directions. The massive emptying Convention Center has become cavernous with sounds starting to echo off the front wall of windows.

For the most part, the Anaheim Convention Center is slowly becoming a ghost town. Fewer and fewer people are seen aimlessly roaming the halls seeking something to attract their attention. There is less left to attract their attention. People have gone, displays have been removed, and external activities have ceased. The walkways are empty and devoid of people and activities.

The only action left now is on the floor of both houses as the deputies and bishops rush to get as much legislation completed before the final gavel falls this evening. But for the most part the damage has been done. The Genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back in again - even if they wanted. There is not enough time.

---Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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