Let me give a few examples. During the first week - and, for some committees, through the whole convention, - there have been early morning and late evening meetings of the legislative committees to discuss resolutions submitted by individuals, dioceses or committees. I requested to follow the work of Social Justice/ International Policy (committee 07) and Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation (committee 16). The committees heard testimony from both deputies and guests - anyone who signed up before the meeting to speak for 3 minutes. The hearings have been riveting. In committee 16, six different resolutions dealing with climate change attracted witnesses from inside and outside the Church and from both the environmental movement and the oil industry. The speakers were eloquent, well-informed and passionate. The same was true at committee 07 when it came to resolutions around Middle East policy: should we divest from or engage with companies when we want to express our disagreement with the policies that they are enabling? How can we effect change without closing down communication? Where can we find a place to disagree without erecting walls? There are no easy answers, but the conversations have consistently been enlightening and respectful.
My occasional bewilderment comes largely from the next step in the process. All of these hundreds and hundreds of resolutions crafted in committee make their way through a labyrinthine journey to the floors of both Houses (Bishops and Deputies) where they must pass with identical wording to be implemented. Church polity and Roberts' rules of orders are not part of my skill set, so it's all I can do sitting in the "cheap seats" of the alternates' section to follow such phenomena as parliamentary inquiries, primary and secondary amendments, points of personal privilege and votes by order. All too often it feels like a convoluted and painfully slow process. And yet - so much is at stake that anything less than this complex yet scrupulously fair process would not do justice to the time and passion invested in the legislation. Passing the Church budget, a topic I would have considered yawn-worthy just 2 weeks ago, was anything but dry and boring as deputy after deputy rose to plead, often tearfully , for money for a Racial Justice Commission, for new church starts, and for many other causes dear to the hearts of the speakers.
One of the last resolutions we considered this afternoon was the fossil fuel divestment legislation whose progress through committee I had followed since last week. It was also a document made up of six different resolutions - one of which came from our diocese. So I was delighted when Robin Carlo offered to let me take her place on the floor for the afternoon. When a matter before the house seems to be contentious (as this one did), we are asked to vote electronically rather than just shouting "aye" or "nay". After the debate had gone on about 20 minutes and someone mercifully moved to end debate, it was a thrill to be one of 618 deputies to enter 1 for "yes" on our handheld voting machines. Only 204 entered 2 for "no". I left the convention hall this evening feeling very powerfully the hand of the Holy Spirit in what we had just done.