A few days ago on twitter I retweeted a post that said, “Supporting the Gunn Rule for General Convention. Political resolutions must say what we will do, not what others should do.
#GC77” Deputy Gunn (@scottagunn) is a friend and colleague of mine. I deeply value is insights and work in The Episcopal Church. Without too much thought, I supported what some are calling “The Gunn Rule.” Well, another friend and colleague called me out for it. Shortly after my post, The Rev’d Susan Russell (@revsusanrussell) retorted, “ @deetavolaro re: “Gunn Rule” — Seriously? You don’t want TEC advocating for an inclusive ENDA? Or against DADT? Or for marriage equality?” This is a somewhat long way of introducing the fact that I had some thinking to do, and my response in no way could be in a tweet. So here it is, my thoughts on The Gunn Rule.
The Gunn Rule is: Let us tell the world what we are going to do about political problems, rather than telling the world what they should do about political problems. I encourage you to go over to Seven Whole Days and read Scott’s comments on the political resolutions of General Convention. Are you back? Good?
I find it rather discouraging when the General Convention passes a resolution saying something along the lines of, “Resolved, that the secretary of the Convention send a message to (The President, Congress, the Attorney General, etc.) urging them to consider (fill in the blank) about (issue xyz).” To be totally honest, I think this is a bit of a cop-out. We’ve sent a memo to whomever is in power and then we’ve done out bit for this issue. Some of these resolutions cause a great deal of tension and their overall effectiveness and outcome is virtually nonexistent. Do I think we need to be taking a stand on these issue? Of course. Are these General Convention resolutions the best way to do it? I don’t think so.
Let us tell the world what we are going to do about political problems, rather than telling the world what they should do about political problems. Let’s start lifting up leaders of the Church – on local levels – to step up and work for justice, freedom, and peace in real concrete ways. Look at what Bishop Curry helped lead the Diocese of CT to do in their state. Look at the work of Sara Miles and the people of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco. I’m sure you can think of the great work your diocese, parish, and individuals have done. I think these are the things we should be lifting up. Let’s craft resolutions for General Convention, to aid the Episcopal Public Policy Network to travel to Diocese and lead workshops on political advocacy. Instead of telling others how to treat people financially, let’s work so that all lay employees are given just compensation. What we’ve already done there is not enough. Now parishes are hiring for 15 hours instead of more so they can avoid having to pay benefits. Let’s work to make our parishes accessible for people regardless of ability. General Convention did not need to write a resolution to say that hunger is unacceptable for the Diocese of RI to make feeding the hungry a priority.
As to Susan Russell’s comments about ENDA, DADT, and Marriage Equality. Yes, I want TEC to keep advocating for these issues, but I think there are better ways for this to happen than General Convention. Let’s support the work of organizations like Integrity and TransEpiscopal. I rejoice when I see my clergy colleagues at the RI Statehouse in support of Marriage Equality – even more when they testify at hearings. However, General Convention can not afford to spend its time passing resolutions on everyone’s favorite issue. Let’s focus on doing work that will enable us to form Disciples. Then those Disciples can go out and work for social justice and change in ways that will be far more effective than Gregory Straub sending a letting to President Obama.