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More on General Convention

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Dear Friends,

One week before my consecration to the episcopate I was invited to the March meeting of the House of Bishops at Kanuga in North Carolina. At this meeting we were privileged to hear from arguably the most important Old Testament scholar of our time – Walter Brueggemann. Brueggemann possesses perhaps the most prophetic voice on the American religious scene of the past two decades; always preaching truth to power; always challenging “the empire.” He has a commanding voice and an equally commanding presence – imagine George C. Scott in the pulpit.

This current day prophet lead us through two Old Testament stories to demonstrate (surprisingly, considering the speaker) that there is a time in life for the prophet, and there is a time for the scribe. And he suggested that for the Episcopal Church it was time for the scribe. In other words, it is time to do theological work, rather than prophetic work; time, as he said, “to quit being prophetic at each other.” He even went so far as to suggest that it was “time to turn the volume down.” This “pedal to the metal” prophet – who, incidentally, does believe in full inclusion – suggested that it was time to “ease off the gas.”

Even before the meeting at Kanuga, a number of bishops told of their experience at Lambeth, and how they learned at an even deeper level the importance and value of the Anglican Communion. Relationships between bishops from all over the globe were strengthened at Lambeth, and sentiment was growing that caution should be exercised at the meeting of General Convention in Anaheim.

So, given the Lambeth experience and Brueggemann’s remarks, I came away from Kanuga expecting that this General Convention would exercise restraint in crafting resolutions regarding human sexuality.

And despite what the headlines say, I believe we did exercise restraint. A careful reading of the two resolutions shows that nothing was passed that was not in place already. As our Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies write together: “Nothing in the Resolution goes beyond what has already been provided under the Constitution and Canons for many years.” Nothing repeals the moratoria of the previous General Convention.

For the record, I voted for one resolution and against the other. It was my preference (and my vote) to discharge both, as I was concerned that these resolutions would cause confusion – which they have. Undoubtedly, dioceses will interpret these resolutions differently. Admittedly, the resolutions appear to take steps. Having said that, I am confident of the intent of the House of Bishops to craft compassionate resolutions which serve to describe our current reality.

These are challenging times for the Episcopal Church. As one resolution acknowledges, we “are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters.” I believe, along with Walter Brueggemann, that it is time for the scribe. I am hopeful that these resolutions provide space for such theological work. And, I remain proud to be part of a tradition which engages the difficult ethical challenges of our day with compassion and transparency.



July, 2009

So Here We Go

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I would like to express my deep gratitude to you for your prayers, support, and hard work toward making the consecration and the entire weekend of March 21st such a glorious event.  Everything about it revealed what is true and beautiful about our tradition and our corner of the world.  Northwest Texas is alive, vibrant, and like the big sky above us, open and expansive.  Your hospitality was an outward, visible sign of your love for Christ and His Church.

Hardly a day passes without someone telling me about their experience of the consecration liturgy, and their sense of God’s presence and power within it.  Perhaps Celia Ellery of Good Shepherd in San Angelo expresses what many of us felt, when she writes: “The consecration service on Saturday was beautifully organized and visually stunning. … The moment for me in which the presence of the Holy Spirit was most profoundly tangible was when the bishops gathered around Rev. Mayer and laid hands on him.”

I am grateful for Celia’s reflections, and I am hesitant to add much to her thoughts, as I find words to be inadequate.  Nothing I can say with words can describe the indescribable.  Like any profound experience of God’s presence, the event is beyond words.

That’s why we are blessed with poets, artists, musicians, and yes, liturgists.  Poetry does not “describe;” it evokes something within us which is beyond words – beyond rational thought – as does art, music, and liturgy.  Our sacred text, the inspired Word of God, points to the presence and power of God beyond the words.

So, some of us traveled to the mountaintop on March 21st, and like our ancestors we might be inclined to make three dwelling places and rest in the experience beyond words.  But as the story goes, the way to abundant life is the way of the cross.  So along with Peter, and John, and James we travel down the mountain and take the road to Jerusalem – interestingly enough, this week.

So here we go.  Crucifixion.  Resurrection. Ascension. Pentecost.  All of it is beyond words.  The four evangelists will portray the event differently, not as contradictory descriptions of an event (like four perspectives of a crash), but rather, as an evocative religious experience of death and resurrection – an experience which finds words inadequate.
May your Holy Week experience of our Lord’s death and resurrection be beyond words.