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.