At Episcopal General Convention, we see the vast expanse of The Episcopal Church in all her diversity and grandeur.
We worshipped Saturday, July 7 at the Palmer Center in Austin with our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry leading the “revival/renewal” service. It was awesome as thousands of Episcopalians and others gathered from General Convention and many Episcopal churches in Texas. We even were picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church with their message of hate and exclusion. Quite an honor, I would say … not! Love is the message of the God and the Church, not one of hate and division as they seem to represent.
Sunday we went to a rally of the Bishop’s United Against Gun Violence where over 80 Bishops from around the US, including our Fort Worth Bishop Scott Mayer, stood tall and listened to the testimony of a Parkland, FL victim’s family. Philip and April Schentrup spoke about the loss of their daughter on Ash Wednesday, Feb 14, 2018. In their words, “we sent two daughters to school that day and had only one return home….” Can you even being to imagine ….? Carmen, their daughter, shot four times with an AR-15, was one of the 17 murdered by the gunman that day. Today they still grieve and are rebuilding their lives with their two other children.
We also heard from a Abigail Zimmerman, a ninth-grader and Episcopalian from Waco, Texas, who co-led a school walkout March 14. The walkout of over 300 fellow of students (and teachers) solemnly stood and cried as the name and ages of all the victims of the Parkland, FL Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting were read for 17 minutes (one of many nationwide such walk-outs), and then returned to class. With a passionate voice she spoke of anger, hurt, and change we need in this work. With a passion of the young, she demanded change! Can you remember when we had that passion … where did it go? WE need to be change for the world! Our voices as members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement are a start to realizing God’s Dream for ALL humanity to live in love and harmony! Love is the answer!
The 38 members of Committee 22 on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse was a last-minute committee put together by the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop to look from a wide perspective at the use of alcohol and other drugs by those in our churches – both clergy and lay, as well at as our use of alcohol within church activities.
Unlike most Committees that respond to resolutions submitted, we only had one to review but thought the moment warranted other possible resolutions. That one resolution was changed substantially with the expertise in our midst. The substitute resolution we created, along with two more, were ultimately submitted and made it through the process. All three passed the House of Deputies and moved to the House of Bishops with minimal change and good discussion on the floor of the House of Deputies. The House of Bishops also concurred.
The Bishop of Ohio, Mark Hollingsworth and the Very Rev. Steven Thomason of Olympia were most capable co-chairs, and I am honored to have been a member. The committee’s hope and desire is that each Diocese and congregation will now either begin or continue a conversation regarding our churches being a safe place for all: for those that do not use alcohol, those that may choose to do so, and those in recovery.
Since alcoholism and drug addictions all have biological, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions, how can we as a church better promote lives of wholeness and holiness and be a positive ongoing support for each person’s journey? May the conversation continue in our Diocese of Fort Worth.
Also it is our hope that the Executive Council will consider a committee to look into other issues of misuse and addiction that may arise in the future. Possible issues are E-cigarettes now as well legalized use of marijuana, as in three states. What should be and will be our response to these “legalized” drugs?
What about other areas of addiction such as gambling, food, shopping, and sexual addictions? How do we now and how can we in the future be a place of support and recovery? While these were determined not under the Committee’s charge, they remain issues.
The 78th General Convention met in worship for the first time with some 1,000-plus bishops, clergy and lay deputies, along with visitors present. The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts-Schori celebrated her last Eucharist for GC.
Voices were full and robust. The first reading was from the prophet Isaiah in Spanish calling for “preparing the way of the Lord, making straight in the desert a highway for our God.” This was followed by readings from Acts (13:14-46) and then the Gospel of Luke (1:57-80), which focused on the life and ministry of John the Baptist. The collect concerned John the Baptist and called us “to follow his teaching and holy life.”
Presiding Bishop Katharine in her homily called us all to be the “John and Jane Baptists” of the world:
“Make the road flat for all people, sharing the healing presence of forgiveness that leads to the road of the Kingdom.”
She said we live in a world full “deserts of death” reminding us that “what nature doesn’t do to us, our fellow man will do.” Yet we are challenged to help build a better road with “light bearers, not death dealers.” As Charleston AME church shared their witness of light and forgiveness in the midst of grief and anger during the arraignment hearing of Dylan Roof, she reminded the General Convention Bishops and Deputies that we, too, are gathered here to let our light shine as we are on a road building journey in the desert.
As “Jesus was a road warrior with no place to lay his head,” we are called to take the longer road with ever increasing commitment. “The gifts of Creation are at hand to share and make available to all as each had need.” Selfishness and self-centeredness are obstacles to that journey and our actions, at GC and in the world. She called us all to
“follow Jesus into the neighborhood… and travel light.”
With God’s presence and grace, may it be so in our actions at GC and in our lives as we return home!