Monday, September 23, 2013


Yesterday, we worshiped and rested. For worship, we divided up into three groups. My group went to Christ Cathedral. It was a beautiful old building with traditional worship, incense, great organ, first-rate choir, and all the things that it is now popular to say are passé and dead. Maybe, but the Church was packed. There were lots of young adults. Their education and community ministry programs looked strong. I was pretty impressed.

Another group of Bishops joined the Church in the Park, an outdoor Eucharist celebrated primarily for homeless people who don’t like coming inside for things. The third Group worshiped with Karen refugees from Southern Myanmar, part of the extensive network of refugee resettlement ministries of the Episcopal Church. (This link is slow but it’s worth the wait. Videographer: Bishop Brian Thom of Idaho)

As we meet each other in these gatherings and as we worship in these different settings, we learn who we are as Episcopalians. We get a better sense of our identity when we meet the rest of our family.

Maybe today was exhausting or maybe it’s the cumulative effect of the past week. But I was just tired!!! Still the morning was inspiring. We had a panel on mission, featuring:

Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms and the Magdalene Program
Mary Francis, the Evangelical Lutheran person in charge of church planting
Tom Brackett, the Episcopal person in charge of emergent ministries

I found Becca’s program serving women in recovery from trafficking and addiction to be profound and exciting. They also serve women who have endured rape as a genocidal act in civil wars. Her program does incredible work, explicitly as an expression of the gospel and without government grants.

I hope the example of Thistle Farms might teach us at Nevadans For The Common Good something about how to create and fund a sustainable safe harbor for sexually trafficked minors in Nevada. We have a good law now, but we still need a program to rehabilitate victims. Phoenix has one. Sacramento has one. But there is nothing in Nevada. 

Mary Francis urged innovation and risk taking in general but particularly in church planting. Tom spoke more abstractly and metaphorically, but was essentially promoting emergent ministries. I found all the presentations engaging, creative, and inspiring. There were a few remarks about “aging bishops” repressing new initiatives that struck me as a bit fanciful. I am an aging bishop but I don’t recall repressing any creative new initiatives. I tried to prompt people to start emergent ministries for several years, even got a grant for it once, but got no takers. This year I finally found a priest willing to give it a try.  He is now running with it at The Peace Community In Action, which the Diocese of Nevada is helping to fund. I have been hearing for several years that we Bishops are constraining the liberty of people who want to do spiritual things in a non-institutional setting. But I just don’t know of any of us who are guilty of doing that. As I said, I am tired and aging enough to be grouchy; so I was less patient with the accusation today.

Over lunch I met with Bishops Against Gun Violence. We discussed our presentation at tomorrow’s session and upcoming events, particularly, Reclaiming The Gospel Of Peace, a major rally on the broader subject of violence in our society, appropriately held in Oklahoma City on April 9-11, 2014. Both the Presiding Bishop and Archbishop of Canterbury will attend.

In the afternoon, we had a report on the Episcopal-Methodist dialogue working toward a full communion agreement such as we have the Lutherans, Moravians, and Philippine Independent Church. I am sure there will be some sticking points, but it looks promising.

We then discussed the results of a church-wide survey on the assessment paid by dioceses to 815. The main questions, which are related, are what the percentage should be and whether there should be adverse consequences for those who do not pay it. Many different views were expressed but with great openness and interest in each other’s thoughts.

I was dragging by the time of the closing Eucharist. But the service began with rousing singing of a favorite hymn from my childhood, On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand. After a rather plodding afternoon of churchiness, hearing my fellow Bishops belting out On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand with real feeling restored my hope that we truly are here for the most important truth in the world. I left the Eucharist uplifted.

Then I went to dinner at a charming Cajun restaurant with Sean Rowe of N. E. Pennsylvania, Barry Beisner of Northern California, and Andy Doyle of Texas. They are intimidatingly smart and well read, but humble, humorous, and altogether congenial. I learn so much just being around them.

Tomorrow begins with a panel presentation on loss and new possibilities.  I am one of the panelists, so I’m a little nervous about that. But the House of Bishops is a forgiving audience so I know I’ll be ok. Still tired though.

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