Saturday, July 4, 2015

Reflection on General Convention 78

It’s been a big week for the Episcopal Church! In addition to electing Michael Curry as our new Presiding Bishop (thanks be to God!), our bishops and deputies at General Convention have prayerfully and thoughtfully discussed hundreds of resolutions. Although we’re a relatively small denomination, our process (which confounds many other denominations) and our decisions continue to make national news. I think that’s because when we manifest our Episcopal identity, the via media – the middle way - it is attractive somehow to
those outside looking in.

As Episcopal priest and theologian Urban T. (Terry) Holmes once said, “I have never known two Episcopalians to totally agree, and the fact that we can admit our disagreements is only indicative or our Anglican freedom to acknowledge the polymorphous nature of all human knowing, something not every Christian body is comfortable admitting… with all its irritating nonsense, I know of no place in which I could have more freedom to be that Catholic Christian which we are called to be.” (“What is Anglicanism?” Morehouse Publishing, vii, ix.) Our bishop, +Porter, said the discussions at convention were intense and respectful.

Living into the freedom Holmes described, here are a few of the most discussed decisions made at our General Convention: we approved changes to the sacramental rite of marriage and the church canons about marriage. This is a big deal as it will change the content of our Book of Common Prayer, the symbol of our unity as a denomination. As most of you know - especially those who have attended our Inquirer’s Class where we discuss this – our Episcopal identity is primarily shaped by our prayers and worship, not by doctrine. Our theology is found in our Prayer Book, so any changes to it come about only after much communal thought, prayer, and consensus.

The TEC’s (The Episcopal Church) budget was framed around mission, something our Presiding Bishop, Katherine, accomplished earlier in her tenure. Praying the budget discussion into session this year, ++Katherine said, “We are gathered here to consider how best to use the resources you have given us for the work of your healed world. Keep us open in heart and mind and spirit that we may discern the leading of your spirit.” I hope all of our churches pray this as we consider our own budgets. TEC budget resolutions were passed restructuring our assets in the service of God’s mission including divesting in fossil fuels and investing in clean energy; money directed a new initiative on racial justice and reconciliation; and new money appropriated for evangelism, including digital evangelism via social media.

The TEC also reaffirmed the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, supported handgun purchaser licensing as a means to address rampant gun violence, opposed conversion therapy perpetrated on our LGBT sisters and brothers, and started a very honest discussion about alcohol use, abuse, and our church’s response to it. A resolution to establish a task force on climate change is still to be decided. (Update: this was accomplished.)

For more information on these and the many other decisions made at General Convention, The Diocese of Western North Carolina website has links to the Bishop’s and deputies’ blogs from convention (; or go to The Episcopal Church website (, or this link for the General Convention website (, or the news outlet, Episcopal News Service (

I close with another quote from Terry Holmes - a favorite theologian of mine - who said: “we see our lives as interconnected… Our spirit, mind, emotions, and body are inseparably united, as are our personal, interpersonal, historic, social and cosmic lives. We cannot postpone the issue of justice to a future date; we cannot ignore the hungry at our doorstep, and we cannot pretend that what we do in our business has no effect upon the state of our soul…. Ultimately, the authenticity of faith and belief is measured at the bar of justice… To love God is to relieve the burden of suffering. The rest is a question of tactics.” (Holmes, 95)

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