The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41
It was a strange experience, but our delegation left the Diocese of South Dakota Convention feeling peace and joy about our witness.
We left after both of our resolutions were defeated - although we were pleasantly surprised by the number of folks who voted for them and who listened to what we had to say.
The first resolution called for detailed accounting of the Episcopal Church's lawsuits against Christians. As debate went on, a motion was made to remove any specific dates as to when the information should be requested and provided. That amendment passed on a close vote, 62 - 51.
This left a weakened resolution - but even so one that had sparked the interest of the people. At this point, the Chancellor of the Diocese asked to speak, but not as a parliamentarian. He opined that budget info can be "extrapolated" from national church figures, and that asking the Presiding Bishop for such information would be taken as "disrespect."
Bishop Robertson, the chair, then asked for a point of personal privilege and made two points. 1) He announced that some of the funds that had been cut from Native American ministry had been temporarily restored - "So what Tim says about the National Church taking away funds is false." 2) He said that he'd spoken with Helen Leonard of the Church Pension Group, and that no CPG money had been used for lawsuits. He then implied that I'd made up the well-documented quote from Bp. Stacy Sauls about having CPG funds available for the lawsuits.
It was a classic sandbag. Bp. Robertson had this info, and simply chose not to reveal it when I had written him about the funding issues and and then submitted the resolutions when he didn't respond. In other words, rather than communicate and answer questions when asked, he held info in order to imply that the arguments for the resolutions were based on falsehood. It was manipulative and untrue (the Sauls quote is still on record, and the bishop couldn't rebut other documented facts about budget cuts that impacted SD), but it was effective, especially for those who wanted some excuse to hide the national church budget from the people.
After raising the specter of national church displeasure (e.g. more funding cuts) and branding me a liar, the Bp. called for the vote, and the amended resolution was defeated, 87 - 37 (some voted "no" because of the weakened language). The Bishop then called for a 15 minute break.
The second resolution called for the national church to use negotiation and/or mediation rather than litigation to resolve disputes. There were no comments after I presented it - the bishop opined that the debate on the first resolution had gone on too long - and the resolution was defeated, 79 - 47.
At this point, our delegation decided that a vote against the Biblical model of reconciliation was enough. Some other trivial resolutions - the usual busy work about how many priests, deacons and laity to put on committees and designating a Sunday for this or that special collection - did not need our participation.
So, yeah, we got outmaneuvered, although it took two lawyers (+Robertson is one of those diocese-shrinking "lawyer bishops" of which TEC is so enamored these days) and a gossip campaign to do it.
In the days preceding convention, at least three priests began spreading rumors about me. Mainly, they said that the resolutions were "cut and pasted, word for word, from some Anglican site." I called them on it in my opening remarks. Interestingly, none of the three came to microphones to debate.
A couple of female clergy argued against the first resolution (I'm still processing that dynamic - revisionist women are able to stand up and speak - the male revisionist clergy gossip and hide.) Here were some of their arguments:
"We are a church of hierarchy - we have to trust our leaders and believe that they had no other choice but to sue." (Ah, the "thinking person's church" of democracy and empowerment! We now have an infallible Presiding Bishop.)
"We are tied together as a family of Episcopalians. I don't know what's going on in California or Virginia. It doesn't matter here." (???)
One speaker argued for the Matthew 18 conflict resolution model (although she said it was from "Paul") - only to conclude that the final step is to sue the other party!
Another argued that I was asking the Convention to look "only at the fourth act of a play", and that the first act was the parishes who wanted to withdraw. It was all their fault and the only reason our budget was cut was because of these Anglican troublemakers. (N0, the bishop didn't speak up here to imply that our budget wasn't really cut).
So, there ya go, sports fans. We failed... but we actually made contact with folks and outed some of the corruption, not only in TEC's lawsuit mania but in Bishop Robertson's uncanonical shunning of parishes. Met other delegates who haven't had an Episcopal visitation in ten years because the bishop is mad at their rector. So, the next step is to see which folks are willing to look soberly and honestly at some of these issues. Those of you who were praying for evil to be exposed did well - more than we expected got pulled into the light of day.
I was so grateful for some prayer warriors and AAC witnesses who came and supported our delegation. Our preconvention reading included Ezekiel 2:4-8
The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says.' And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you. So we had a good day of prophetic witness and obedience to the Lord in an uncomfortable setting.
Another benefit was that some of my lay folks got their first up close & personal look at "Episcopalianism." One of them leaned over and said to me, "Have they mentioned the Lord's name at all today?"
And God got in a couple of good ones - the Morning Prayer service before the business session included Luke 6:29, If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. There's God's vote about suing departing congregations.
And there was a rainbow across the sky as we drove home.
Today we take part in a pro-life witness in Sioux Falls.