There will be many reports from Columbus. They will focus on the exciting - or, more accurately, the tittilating - and the potentially scandalous. Even that is problematic: for some, things may be scandalous that are for others reasons for pride. In any case, those things seen in the news media will be those that seem to create the most problems. Remember how often the theme in news media, any news media is, "If it bleeds, it leads."
All of which is belied by the actual tone and environment of Convention. Built around daily Eucharist, focused on prayer for the presence and guidance of the Spirit, the mood here is one of waiting. Some are a bit anxious, perhaps; but most are simply patient, waiting to see what actually happens, and not what will create the most excitement.
Now, there will be time and space for people to express themselves on those issues - especially around the Report of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and around our relations with the larger Anglican Communion. I have heard some question - at least once, anyway - as to why we would have those open forums - fora? After all, we've been chewing on this for some time. Many, if not most, have come to some preliminary conclusion. So, why not just get on with voting?
But, while I understand procedurally how we might jump to that, pastorally I have a different perspective. We must, I think, have these discussions, in public and out loud. I will admit that I love well stated rhetoric, and there will certainly be some of that. However, I think there is a more important reason. People feel uncomfortable and angry about these issues, and they interpret discomfort and anger as injury and pain. And pastorally they need to feel their pain has been heard and acknowledged. There is something cathartic going on, and it needs to be allowed to happen. Pastorally, I understand this well.
Now, it won't be fully satisfactory. One can be heard without being convincing, and I think that will happen a lot. The Spirit will be moving, and some hearts might be changed. But we are almost (almost?) as stiff-necked as Israel in the desert, and there will be many at both ends of the spectrum who will not be moved. However, it is necessary to allow the cry, to hear the pain, even when we can't do anything about it, or when what we can do about it will address only the symptom and not the cause. We are first and foremost a worshipping community, a pastoral people. We need to have a place to allow that cry.
And so the Convention will have those opportunities - committee hearings, public fora, and floor debate. Parts of this will be no fun at all. But our willingness to set aside political efficiency and expediency to allow all those who feel injured to express their pain - our willingness to hear that pain and acknowledge the humanity of the person who feels it - is fundamental to who we are as a church. We proclaim that God has come for all people. We need to be prepared, even if sometimes we don't look forward to it, to hear all people, each person, out.