Written by the Rev. Canon Terri Bays, July 4, 2018
As a new deputy, I wasn't assigned to a particular committee. That left me free to choose what committee hearing I was going to sit in on, so I spent my morning in a hearing for Committee 3—Racial Justice and Reconciliation. We were considering a funding request for an extension of training and capacity building over the next three years, so that people in all dioceses might have access to the kinds of training the canons require. Questions focused on how such funding might be most effectively spent for the greatest impact.
We were also considering resolutions that focus on the importance of naming and another resolution that begins the work of clarifying some of the mandates around Racial Justice and Reconciliation. One part of this is a call for credentialing individuals at a variety of levels. The committee will discuss credentialing questions in more detail tomorrow!
After that (and a lovely lunch with my fellow delegates) it was off to the Floor of the House of Deputies for a joint Session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies (Do we make the bishops come to us, since we're the senior house, or just because we have more chairs?). The Presiding Bishop gave a rousing "non-sermon" urging us to help the world find its soul again. The President of the House of Deputies followed up with a reminder that, as deputies, we can choose how we inhabit the legislative process. What an amazing way to prepare us for the busy weeks ahead!
And then, after some logistical orientation sessions in separate houses, we came back together for a deeply moving Liturgy of Listening. Prepared by the House of Bishops as a response to the #MeToo movement, this litugy engaged us in collective lament—songs, prayers, readings—as we heard testimonies of different forms of sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment. These testimonies were read by the bishops, with other bishops standing by their sides, without the names or other identifying features attached. The hope was not to take us deeply into the pain of any one experience, but "to open [ourselves] to the idea that sexual harassment and exploitation happen 'because we aren’t seeing the image of Christ in one another.'” In that sense, the liturgy was highly effective, and it was a more somber group of people who flowed out into the night. May this first step lead us to a safer and more loving church.