On Friday I posted a statement on the House of Bishops / House of Deputies list. While I read the posting there regularly I don't often contribute, but a rather wide ranging harangue was going on about matters arising from referencing and then publishing of emails and a paper "in progress." It seemed to me that what ever the merits of this or that position, the conversation was taking a turn for the worse. Remembering that in few weeks the people on that list, and perhaps many of the people reading Preludium, are going to General Convention, I wrote the following:
I am reluctant to say anything much at this point and have no intention of addressing the specifics of the exchanges on the HoB/D list these past few days regarding emails, conduct and cyber fingers. I have read all of the exchanges, of course, but have mostly tried to focus these past two days on work on a sermon for Pentecost, one that might help draw people toward "God's deeds of power," and might address matters of forgiveness and retention. It has been hard to read the list exchanges, see my own falling short of the call to find full pentecostal fire and keep free from death's dark power that works against the Spirit. They have been a considerable distraction to the sermon! But maybe they aren't distractions, but reminders.
Mostly I am reminded that we who write on this list will become a community of believers in close proximity in just a few weeks. We will go to General Convention together. I am looking forward to this time.
We are an Episcopal Church and we put some of our community at a focal point of the working of the Holy Spirit and at the same time the powers of death. We call them bishops. We give them honor because we, God willing, have put them positions that are filled with trouble. Our respect for the office of bishop and of the persons who occupy that office must be evident and part of our common life. Some bishops may find me, or any one of us, a bother, and I, or any one of us, can find them individually or collectively unnerving, but I hope it is clear that our respect for the office and for the difficult roles we put bishops in is such that they are aware, individually and collectively of our prayers for them. I look forward to seeing and working with Bishops Howe, MacPherson and Lawrence, just as I do with Bishops Robinson, Chane and Bruno, and of course with my own bishop Wayne Wright. There will be contentions, of course. But there is at the core the belief held by Episcopalians that the office and role of Bishop is central to our common life.
At the same time a whole lot of us will be there in other orders within the church gathered as deputies, lobbyists, exhibitors, friends, general Episcopalians. In some ways not available to bishops, deputies are brought to General Convention to exercise participant oversight of the Church and its mission efforts. We gather as a community across a wide spectrum of theological opinion and our respect for the office and person of every deputy and all of the gathered faithful must also be evident and part of our common life. It will be a pleasure to see again friends from across the spectrum(s) in the Church, and it will be a source of sadness to notice those missing from the ranks.
We need also to remind ourselves that in THIS church we gather in synod as a community of Christians first and not partisans. Who knows what the Holy Spirit has in mind... violent winds (always a possibility at General Convention) or quiet greetings of Peace? Both will have their place.
I'm putting my prayers on the whole miserable lot of us, this band of sisters and brothers, etc, redeemed by the Lord Jesus in ways that we cannot even imagine. General Convention is and becomes a community of faith.
Whatever our disagreements or disagreeable actions, I am hoping and praying that I we remember who and Whose we are. I am looking forward with real joy to reconnecting with this community in a few weeks, and hope that across the various 'gaps' we can mind, and that we can close them in moments that are both pentecostal and peaceful.
As a good friend says, "that's my story and I'm sticking to it."
I received four responses, all positive, all off the list. I was grateful for the responses and for the friends that sent them. The on-list response was that the conversation moved in a different direction, but the comment itself was not mentioned at all. So I suppose the note served some end related to peaceful exchange.
In an entirely different mode of "minding the gap" Baby Blue posted a note on her weekend retreat experience with the Daughters of the King in Virginia. Read it HERE.
She writes, "One of the major themes of this weekend was "Standing in the Gap," a call to the Daughters of the King - Anglican and Episcopalian - to stand in the gap in what was called our "spiritual" Gettysburgs, conflicts so fierce they seem insurmountable, but that Christ calls us to stand in the gap in the power of the cross. The Daughters were commissioned this weekend to do just that."
The title of her post presents some of the awkwardness of these times: "Province Three of the Daughters of the King hold annual retreat: Episcopalian and Anglican women join together for extraordinary weekend." It is perhaps more accurate to say "Anglican women join together..." The distinction between being Episcopalian and being Anglican is not what the "gap" is about, at least from my perspective. The women who came together came from different churches. The Daughters of the King states, "Today our membership includes women in the Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA) and Roman Catholic churches." Again, the distinction between Anglican and Episcopal is unhelpful, since it implies that being Episcopalian is not being Anglican.
Be that as it may, the gathering of women with the Cross of Christ central, and not all the madness of our disagreements, is a spiritually significant event. They will try to bridge the gap, but they must mind it as well, for it is real.
It appears that members of various churches working in the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church and claiming to be the voice of North American Anglicanism will be at General Convention. In particular the American Anglican Council will be there. They will be established in the exhibit area where sellers of Amish Fudge, icon painters from the East, amazing amounts of cloth both secular and ecclesiastical, and various organizations will be found. A number of these organizations will be touting distinctly minority interests. But very few will be there maintaining that they are the true voice of Anglicanism and that the Episcopal Church has lost its way and is not that church.