Those who follow this blog regularly will not be surprised to hear that a highlight for me of this 78th General Convention meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah was the March through the streets of the city early Sunday morning “Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence.” 1500 people gathered to say “no” to the public health crisis that is gun violence and “yes” to background checks. We said “no” to the “Unholy Trinity” of poverty, racism and violence and “yes” to the Holy Trinity who offers a new creation. This was a public witness to our faith and it is exactly such public witness that is at the heart of Christianity. Christianity is not about the church (although we need Church to have Christianity because we are a communal faith). Christianity is about engaging the Spirit that changes the world. Faith without action is just opinion.
Faith without action is just opinion.
I feel most alive taking the faith to the street. At the risk of sounding like a five year old, I get impatient in meetings. And General Convention is mostly meetings – from 7 am to late at night. But those meetings, as hard as it is for me to sit still during them, are a public witness of our faith as well. In those meetings we make decisions about how we will live out our faith. What will we stand up for? Because money is a resource for mission, what we choose to spend our money on is a public witness to what we value. Even in those meetings, “somebody’s talkin’ ’bout Jesus.”
In those meetings, faithful people stay united even in the midst of disagreement as to what we value and what we should do in a complex world. An example close to home for me is the issue of divestment from fossil fuels. Yesterday, to my joy, the House of Bishops voted to call churches and church organizations to divest from fossil fuels – something we have already done in Western Massachusetts as our Trustees have led the way. To my disappointment, they voted to take the Church Pension Fund out of that list of organizations we are urging to divest. I am disappointed but I am blessed to be part of a church where we can have these discussions. And I think, if we stay faithful and keep making the case, the Church Pension Fund ( led by good people ) will come around to addressing what might be the most important issue of our time.
Someone who talks about Jesus often and from the heart is Bishop Michael Curry. We just elected him to be our Presiding Bishop for the next nine years. Every time Michael preaches, my spirit soars. He is an inspirational leader who proclaims a prophetic word embodied in the Gospel. The excitement about his election runs throughout the Convention. I know he will capture the public imagination. He will be to our Church what Pope Francis is to the Roman Catholic Church. Michael radiates joy flowing from God’s love and the tough mindedness of the Prophets calling for a radical conversion of our society.
The liturgies at General Convention are incredible. The music touches the soul, the preaching inspires, the faith of those gathered is an opening to the Spirit. One day Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori preached on the Mark text where Jesus raises a twelve year old girl whom every one thought was dead. Katherine started her sermon with “Get up girl. You aren’t dead yet!”
Our Episcopal Church is not dead. It might have been asleep for a while, but now it is waking up. This is a new, exciting day. And “Everywhere I go, somebody’s talkin’ ’bout Jesus.”