Tag: House of Bishops

The “aliveness” of God is much with us: Report from the House of Bishops

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March 15, 2015

Here are a few reflections from the House of Bishops’ gathering at the Kanuga Conference Center in North Carolina.

 

 

  • This is my fifth House of Bishops’ meeting. Although I always look forward to getting the work of the Church done, the best part of these gatherings are the friendships.

There are many deep conversations but most start with catching up on family news. Since Betsy leads a thriving parish, Caragh just got a great new job, Geoff is getting married, and Grace is graduating college, I have a LOT to talk about. And many bishops talk to me about my pilgrimage, the walk through the Diocese. This is a “good news” story and I enjoy talking about it. But more importantly I get to “walk the talk” again this spring. That is not possible for many of our bishops. Imagine walking Nevada!

Often times the topic turns to the weather. Not in a superficial way but in a “how are you getting through this winter?” way. Having Worcester in our diocese I get to claim the city with the most snow of any city in the USA. This gives me the opportunity to bring attention to climate change. And that leads to an invitation to read a remarkable article written called “The Financial Advantages of Divestment,” by Gregory H. Kats. See, we do get to the “work of the Church” eventually.

  • Speaking of Climate Change, Kanuga now gets all their energy through solar power.

solar panels at Kanuga

  • Another blessing of the HOB is coming together in smaller communities. I meet with my classmates, our Province One bishops, Bishops Against Gun Violence and that remarkable group of bishops who all come from WMA.
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WMA School for Leaders

 

  • The agenda for this House of Bishops has been the most intense of any in my time. We are looking at the big issues of our time and what will be coming before General Convention this June. I’ll offer a brief reflection on just one of those issues for now.
  • On Friday, my classmate Rob Wright, the Bishop of Atlanta, gave an extraordinary meditation on race. Rob’s talk will be available online in a few days. Watch for it on our social media feeds. Here are two points about the work of a bishop that will always stay with me.

The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, X Bishop of Atlanta

 

One, Rob told us the insight of Archimedes, the ancient Greek mathematician and physicist. Archimedes discovered the power of the “lever” and said that a lever could “move the earth” if a person were given “a place to stand.” Rob said bishops have power. We have been given a lever. And we have been given a place to stand: the gospel. Do we have the courage – and “real courage is never abstract” in Rob’s words – to move the world toward justice?

Two, again looking at the power that bishops have: “People take cues from us as bishops. They pay attention to things we pay attention to. And they notice what we refuse to be curious about.”

Quotation-Archimedes-earth-teacher-long-Meetville-Quotes-136108Rob seems to be giving bishops a lot of influence in society. Maybe he is overstating the case. But if he is right, I feel the challenge. Even while engaging the issues of our time (because courage is never abstract), I always question myself if I am using my “lever” well and “standing in the right place” on casinos, climate change, gun violence and immigration. I am blessed to have a prayerful, wise and truth-telling staff, and our dedicated Social Justice Commission, so that I might make those decisions in community.

Not everyone has agreed with me on these issues. As it will always be, because these are complex issues. “We are not the Body of Christ because we agree with each other. We are the Body of Christ because we care about each other.” But I hope, to Rob’s second point, that we all have paid attention to these issues, that we have all been curious about them.

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The Rev. Stephanie Spellars, Chaplain to the House of Bishops

I have not paid enough attention to race relations in our country, but I hope to now, inspired by Rob’s meditation and by a sermon given here by The Rev. Stephanie Spellers. Stephanie preached about the complicity of the Episcopal Church in slavery. She told the story of a priest in 1844, just a few miles from where we are gathered in North Carolina, who preached sermon about the biblical argument for slavery. A week later his bishop sent him a letter praising him for his sermon and urging him to have it published as a “tract.” That priest later became the first missionary bishop to the Diocese of Texas.

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It was not just the Church in the South that benefited from slavery. We viewed a documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. It is the story of the DeWolf family, a prominent Episcopal family from Rhode Island, coming to terms with the discovery in recent years of the fact that the foundation of their wealth came from the slave trade.  Their ancestors built and sailed the ships that went from Rhode Island to Africa and then on to Cuba and back home. They contributed significant financial resources to the church throughout New England.

One of the many things I appreciate about our Church is that we almost always point out the ways we have failed to live up to the Gospel in the issues we address. May that truth lead to awareness and to action about an issue that plagues America now as it has since our inception: race.

Racial injustice, or the “dignity violations” as Rob calls it, has my attention. May it have yours. And may we find out how to use the lever that moves the world toward mercy, compassion and hope.

  • My last reflection for this blog: The worship here has been outstanding. We have a church jazz group that is leading us in praise of the Living God. That and the fervent prayers of my brother and sister bishops have moved my soul. The “aliveness” of God is much with us.

+Doug

Taiwan, Climate Change and Derek Jeter

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Why is the House of Bishops meeting in Taiwan? Why didn’t we choose a city in the United States? Worcester or Springfield would be ideal. To understand why Betsy and I are getting on a plane on Sunday and travelling halfway around the world to meet with bishops who are mostly from North and Latin America, read on.

Episcopalians commonly think of themselves as being part of a “national Church” – meaning the United States. But the fact is that The Episcopal Church includes far more than the United States. You might be thinking “Oh, you mean the world-wide Anglican Communion.” But that is different. The Anglican Communion comprises 38 self-governing Member Churches or Provinces that share much in common including doctrine, ways of worshipping, mission and a focus of unity in the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Episcopal Church is “in” the Anglican Communion. The churches that are “in” The Episcopal Church (TEC) include Haiti (which is the biggest diocese in TEC, with 80,000 members), the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and about twenty others. They are in TEC because Episcopal missionaries from the USA helped to found them. The Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan was established by Chinese Anglicans escaping mainland China, and since much of the early Anglican leadership in Taiwan was provided by American military chaplains, Taiwan became linked to the worldwide Anglican Communion through the Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops (HOB) meets twice a year – in March and September. The bishops from all those dioceses in The Episcopal Church outside the United States join us. A few years ago, the HOB made the decision that we would meet outside the USA once every three years. In 2011, the HOB met in Ecuador. The Bishop of Taiwan, David Jung-Hsin Lai, a wonderfully warm and wise gentleman who has come to 27 gatherings of the HOB, invited us for this year and we said yes.

I’m happy we are making this trip. As an international Church, we should not expect everyone to come to us every time. This is a right and good and joyful thing. And it is meaningful for at least two other reasons.

When I was at a Spanish “intensive” in Texas a few months ago, the leaders stressed that more important than being bilingual is being “multicultural.” That is the ability to understand, appreciate and celebrate other cultures. Our time as bishops in Taiwan should broaden our viewpoints and give us new ways of thinking. Perhaps even new ways of praying.

This will be the first time the House of Bishops has met in a country where the majority religion is NOT Christianity. Taiwan is very diverse in religious practice. Government statistics show that 35% are Buddhists and 33% practice Taoism. Christians are less than 2% of the population. I’m sure this experience of belonging to a minority will have something to teach me.

I joyfully embrace this trip but I am disappointed to miss out on two big events here. September 21 is the People’s Climate March in New York City. It promises to be the biggest demonstration ever calling for a fair, just and vigorous response to climate change. There are busloads of people coming from Western Massachusetts. This is history making and I’m sorry to miss it. But I will be there in prayer.

And I will miss watching on television Derek Jeter’s last game. It will be in Boston on September 28, so be kind to him, Sox fans. He played the game the right way for twenty years.

When Mariano Rivera pitched his last game, I wrote a blog that garnered more replies than any of my other blogs. I won’t have time to write one about Jeter this year, but humor me for one brief story. On Mother’s Day, 1998 I took our family to Yankee Stadium (because what better gift to give the mother of our children than a baseball game?). We drove to the Cathedral of Baseball right after church. I was at Holy Innocents (Highland Falls/West Point) at the time and everyone understood when I skipped coffee hour. I think I might have made the sermon a little shorter, too. Even so, we were late, entering the Stadium in the bottom of the first inning with Derek Jeter at the plate. I said to Betsy and the kids, “Stop here. We can go to our seats after Jeter hits. This kid is special.” On the next pitch he hit a home run just a few feet away from us in the left field seats. My children became Jeter fans from that moment on. My prediction was right. Derek Jeter was special. And I’m confident in this prediction- the House of Bishops in Taiwan will be special.

I’ll write a blog from Taiwan, telling you how the Holy Spirit is working among this gathering of church leaders and what is being revealed to us on this adventure into another part of God’s world.

+Doug