Day 1 of House of Bishops began exceedingly well with presentations by Bishop Katharine and the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Jennings. It was so good to see the leaders of the two houses relating well and working cooperatively. It gave me hope that some of the divisions that have previously hindered us in the mission are behind us and we can get on with the work.
After that, the 1st day was frustrating for me on a couple of counts. First, a lot of time went into yet another presentation on emergent ministries. While I support the idea, believe in the theology, and approve of the particular program, we had heard all this before. It also included disparagement of the institutional church, which certainly needs some work, but is not remotely as bad as our presenter was saying. The second frustration was entirely my fault. I lost my file that contained my notes for a presentation I am to give as part of an upcoming panel on loss and transformation. I was unable to find my flash drive so I could get my notes off my computer and onto paper. Finally, I found my flash drive and got the notes reprinted. I start today with a much better attitude.
I began Day 2 with a better attitude. Day 2 kicked off with presentations by Christian and Jewish leaders on the Middle East. The big names are Bishop Suheil Duwani of the Diocese of Jerusalem and David Proctor, the Canon For Reconciliation for the Anglican Communion. Rabbi Steve Gutow truly spoke to my heart as he laid out principles for relationship building that can help us work together to address seemingly intractable matters:
Get to know each other personally. (Make a friend)
Speak with integrity and consistency.
Act together in joint action on concerns where we agree. (Interfaith social
Be sensitive to the fears and pressures that weigh on the other.
Be present when the other requests or is in need.
Say together what you can say together even when there are differences
It gives me hope to see that there are such good people working for the Kingdom Mission. It also shows that our community organizing work in Nevada is building the skills and connections that are the road to peace not just locally but internationally.
Canon David Proctor works out of Coventry Cathedral on Archbishop Welby’s central project of reconciliation. He is a veteran of the peace process in Ireland from back in the bad old days. They start with reconciliation within the Church of England as they find way to make room for their deep differences over issues of sexuality and the new authorization for women bishops. (The first woman Bishop in the UK was appointed today in Ireland.) I am struck by how Archbishop Welby is practicing the principles that Rabbi Gutow recommends including one on one meetings with each of the primates around the Communion. The reconciliation project however goes from local to global. It looks for ways that Anglicans can contribute to reconciliation in the world.
Canon Proctor speaks of “conflict resilience.” It takes strong pastoral presence but the clergy often do not receive necessary support to preserve their own balance in the midst of widespread trauma. It is hard for churches to resist colluding in conflict such as the stress of the long hard conflict in Northern Ireland or the brutal violence in the Congo. This is very serious stuff indeed. It makes me look at the things we Episcopalians take so seriously – and I know they are serious to us – but the hardships others face put our conflicts in a different perspective.
The Archbishop’s focus, after the Church of England, is on conflict in:
The Middle East
Nigeria (on verge of being a failed state)
Pakistan (major migration ties to the UK)
Sri Lanka (Hindu vs. Buddhist violence broadens conversation about religion and violence outside the bounds of the Abrahamic faiths)
In the Middle East: How do we make sure religious ideas do not block a healthy political process? I would add: how might our religious ideas support a healthy political process? If our religious ideas perpetuate violence instead of fostering peace and reconciliation, do our religious ideas need rethinking?
Reconciliation, Proctor says, is not a soft and cuddly word. “Peace is offensive. Justice is a tease.” How do we make peace when retributive justice is denied? Peace with justice is good in theory. But the justice is illusive. Our offense at peace is ameliorated by the truth that we are all sinners. Acknowledging that we have been complicit in the conflicts and violence is at the heart of what makes us uncomfortable with making peace. “Reconciliation is a bastard. It says see those people who have bombed your people for 40 years. They are now your friends.”
I have been slow to form an opinion on the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. But if David Proctor represents his priorities, I am an enthusiastic supporter!!!
Over lunch, Province 8 bishops met. Navajoland is making great progress with developing lay and ordained ministries to revitalize that seriously challenged part of our Church. There is great hope, but money is a problem. Recently a building needed all its leaky gas pipes replaced at a cost of $40,000. So Province 8 (the money comes from the diocese, whose money comes from the parishes, whose money comes from the members) presented a $40,000 check to Bishop David Bailey of Navajoland. Our tears. God’s money from your pockets. There was also talk of positive developments in San Joaquin. More on that later.
Returning to plenary session: We had table discussion and with report-outs on the process of reimagining the Episcopal Church of the future. We then heard about the process of gathering more input from the grass roots on restructuring of the church.
We then had a report from the Ecclesiology Committee and reviewed a paper on Episcopal Ecclesiology (doctrine of the nature of the Church). Probably not a hot issue in Twitter-world. But I actually thought there are some important questions here – just not the one the paper is about. It is pretty focused on governance. What I want to ask is what we think God calls the Church to be and do. On the one hand, what do we say when the young adult says “I know Jesus. Why do I need the Church?” On the other hand, when a deacon asks a congregation to do research to discover the needs of the surrounding community because a Church is not a club, what do we say when congregants say, “But a club is exactly what I want,” what then do we say. What does it mean to be the Body of Christ or is that a model of the Church that we still embrace? If we understand ourselves as the Body of Christ, what are we called to be and do? The answers to those questions ought to be Twitter material.