General Convention Live: Getting rolling

The convention came to life today. The hotel lobbies on Convention Way were full of Episcopalians, milling about, greeting old friends, peering at message boards to find out where their committees were meeting and gradually adjusting to the notion that it was time to get down to business.

If there is a share vibe that informs these early stages of the convention, I haven’t picked up on it. The political landscape of the convention has changed with the departure of many of the members and clergy from the Church’s four most conservative dioceses. There is no absence of conservative voices in the Church—I helped prepare some of them to be media briefers yesterday.—but it isn’t clear if there is a organized right wing with a coherent political strategy, while there is most certainly an organized left, and center-left. Whether that gives the left an advantage remains to be seen. If you bring too many resources to bear against an opponent who has surrendered the field, you run the risk of appearing overly zealous, and alienating voters in the process.

Additionally, we are expecting only a smattering of mainstream media—most of it local—until next Tuesday, and not a grand contingent then. So the sense of playing on a big stage has been diminished.

In this environment, it’s possible—just possible—that the group that pursues its agenda with the greatest respect for its legislative opponents will carry the day.

The vibe-less-ness of the convention derives in some measure from the legislative uncertainty that surrounds the traditional hot button issue of human sexuality. There are no fewer than 16 resolutions aimed at repealing, superseding or in some way mitigating the effects of Resolution B033. There is another cluster of resolutions that deal in one way or another with same-sex couples (Should they be blessed? Should they be married? Should they be blessed while we figure out whether they should be married? Should the law of a state be considered when determining the policies of a diocese?). I don’t think anyone can predict at this point the nature of the legislation that will finally come before the House of Bishop and the House of Deputies. As a result, it is difficult to determine—beyond the usual suspects—how people will vote. (I mean no disrespect by the phrase “usual suspects.” Some of my best friends are usual suspects.)

I wonder whether this uncertainty will help raise the profile of other events and issues, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s appearance at an economic forum tomorrow night, the efforts to institute a denominational health plan, revise the disciplinary canons, energize a new initiative to fight domestic poverty and otherwise communicate the fact that the Church is about more than an argument over sexuality.

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