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General Convention–Day Two

  • Posted on Jul 5, 2012

On earth as it is in heaven….

July 4th marked the opening general session of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.  We were treated to opening addresses by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori and the President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson. We all gathered in the cavernous convention hall in our diocesan deputations—each Episcopal diocese in this country and several other countries.  The Diocese of Maryland is seated in the middle towards the back–next to the Diocese of Montana and the European Convocation.  Just in front of me is a deputy from the one Episcopal Church in Rome, Italy!

Our Presiding Bishop–good scientist that she is–spoke about our mission as the Episcopal Church as synchronizing our hearts with the heart of God.  She asked us to first take a deep breath and feel God’s heart beating among us.  She then talked about how there are many kinds of breathing:  the rescue breathing of CPR, the end-of-life breathing of a hospice patient, and the first breath of a newborn child after a resolute whack on the bottom.  She implored us as the Episcopal Church to keep our breath going, and, as we breathe, to build living bridges in the world.  She asked us most particularly to build bridges with those who we think we have little in common or disagree strongly.  Noting that the word “politics” is roughly translated as “living together in community” (from the Greek polis or city-state), she called us to live together and breathe in God’s Spirit as we build the reign of God–always seeking God’s creative presence at work in our lives and world.

President Anderson followed up the Presiding Bishop’s address with a call to the diversity of leadership that is the hallmark of the Episcopal Church.  All four orders of ministry–laity, deacons, priests and bishops–are essential parts of the leadership of the Episcopal Church and have been from our very beginnings at the time of our Independence as a country.  She quoted from Frederick Douglass’ words spoken on a July 4th back in the mid-1800s when he pointed out that not everyone in the United States was able to partake of the liberation of our country.  So, on July 4th, he could not celebrate until all Americans could be a part of our democratic process.  President Anderson brought us around to the biblical story that the road to liberation is full of complaining.  Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we often want to go back to Egypt when there is no going back.  In the desert, we think we’ll die and we create golden calves to pass the time.  

At this General Convention, the Episcopal Church is looking at its structure seriously.  Like parishes all over the country,  structure and budgets that have served us well for decades are no longer working.  What is next?  Are we afraid we will die in this wilderness and so clutch our golden calves even tighter?  Great lay leader Verna Dozier once said that the church is a sleeping giant.  The institutional church can be transformed to the people of God if we know our biblical story, our history, and then step out into the wilderness for the promised land.  This General Convention is about the church doing that very work.  

What might we learn if we can trust God’s Spirit to guide us?  Can we breathe deeply and look for signs of creativity in our brothers and sisters in Christ and in the world?  What golden calves do we need to leave behind?  What diversity of voice is missing from our conversation and how can we invite that voice into our midst?  I’ll be thinking on these things both here in Indy but also about life at Memorial Church back home.  What winds of change are blowing for you?  How can you synchronize your heart with God?