Tag: People’s Climate March

Taiwan, Climate Change and Derek Jeter


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.


Pray and get into the game…


A couple of weeks ago Betsy and I had the enjoyable experience of watching the World Cup final in a pub in Ireland with rabid soccer fans. It led me to remember our oldest daughter’s first soccer game. (Don’t worry. This is leading somewhere.)

When Caragh was very little, we would kick a soccer ball back and forth to one another. When we signed her up for the league for five year olds, she loved it. The practices again had children lining up opposite one another and kicking the ball back and forth. But now there were drills too, like spreading out across the field and kicking the ball from one player to another down the field until the one closest to the goal would shoot. But no one played defense.

Now the day of the first game arrived. All the players went to their positions. Then the whistle blew and almost everyone (certainly all the boys in this co-ed league) converged on the ball, all trying to kick it in a jumble of bodies. This was not what Caragh was expecting. She came off the field, walked right up to Betsy and me, and with her hands on her hips she said, “Children are kicking out there. Someone could get hurt. And that someone could be ME. Do something about this!” (Caragh later become a fierce competitor and an outstanding basketball player known for playing with reckless abandon.)

Ok, now for the point. It is so important that we pray for God’s creation, for the poor, for refugees, for peace in a violent world. It is vital that we pray often (“always” recommends Jesus) and fervently. Prayer shapes who we are. But sometimes that can feel like gently kicking the ball back and forth in the safety of our own backyard. People of faith also need to act – to get out and get into the game. Jesus got into a “game” in which someone could get hurt and that someone was him. He gave his life for the life of the world – he took on the emptiness of death and filled it with life. He took on the cruelty of the world and offered a new possibility of compassion – a possibility that could not be killed because the Holy Spirit would not let it.

Earlier this summer, the Social Justice Commission of our diocese put out a study document titled “Not Only With Our Lips, But In Our Lives: The Church and Social Justice”. It can be found here. I invite you to read it. It is a foundational document as to why we must engage the issues of our time.

And I invite you to consider these opportunities for action, among many, to witness to God’s saving mission in this world. On Sunday September 21 there will be the People’s Climate March in New York City. This will be a hugely significant, history-making event. Join with our Missioner for Creation Care, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, and march behind a diocesan banner that reads: “Love God, Love your neighbor: Stop Climate Change.” Details can be found here.

As you know, casinos are on the ballot in Massachusetts in November. There will be a lot of discussion (and kicking) about this for the next three months. Our document A Theology of Casino Gambling has been used in dioceses throughout the country. You can find it here. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. Casinos are bad news for the poor. We follow Jesus.

Activists and church leaders are gathering to address the issue of violence in the city of Springfield. I will get you more information as it becomes available. Consider joining Episcopalians Against Gun Violence. They have a Facebook page you can visit for more information.

Governor Deval Patrick gave a passionate speech the other day calling for Massachusetts to help in the housing of the refugee children now in Texas. We are involved in a dialogue about this and will get you more information when plans become finalized.

And finally, thank you to everyone “out on the field” – to all who work for Jesus’ mission of mercy, compassion and hope. You are witnesses to the dream God has for this world.