How We See It

Reflections on Convention by the Bishop and Deputies of the Diocese of Northwest Texas

 

June 11-Laura Deaderick June 15-Kelsey Kemp June 19-Bishop Ohl
June 12-Cliff Craig June 16-Jim Liggett June 20-Pat Russell
June 13-Jackie Batjer June 17-Jack Link June 21-Steve Sellers
June 14-Mike Ehmer June 18-Scott Mayer Special Report, the Rev. Rich Nelson

 

Be Sure to visit our pages of Snapshots from General Convention


 I will try to update this page, and the "Snapshots From General Convention" page, daily during Convention. It is my prayer that these pages will help our Diocese share with its Deputies in the experience of General Convention, and that they will enrich all of us as we grow in appreciation of, and service through, this wonderful Church God has blessed us with.




June 11

Greetings from Columbus!  Here, the temperature is decidedly cooler than in West Texas (today’s high was 67F) and in ways great and small we feel the welcome of a General Convention Host City.  Since my luck of the draw is to write before all of the stuff you want to read about happens, let me offer this context:

 “The diocese of Southern Ohio stretches from the foothills of Appalachia to the verdant fields of corn and soybeans, from the vigor and hustle of metropolitan cities to small Ohio river towns where everybody is family.  Before Southern Ohio came to be, its mother, the Diocese of Ohio, shared in our nation’s founding.  Born in 1818 in the aftermath that tore English and American Anglicans apart, the Diocese of Ohio was the first to be organized beyond the original 13 colonies.  Within a century, in 1875, the witness of its daughter diocese, Southern Ohio, would vividly express the yearning more formally stated in 1886 by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral ‘to heal the wounds in the body of Christ.’”  (Convention publication 2006). Throughout its history, the diocese of Southern Ohio has been a forerunner in the Episcopal Church – focusing its gifts and ministry outward in the spirit of One who came not to be served but to serve. Outreach in urban areas and in rural Appalachia, leadership in the Church’s inclusion of women in all orders of ministry, and initiating spiritual renewal through Forward Movement, Southern Ohio is a fitting context for the 75th General Convention and ECW Triennial.  Columbus, situated in the eastern quadrant of the diocese, is where golf legend Jack Nicklaus grew up and where Ohio State Buckeyes rule.  The 15th largest city in our country with a population of 730,000, Columbus is a no-frills town, clean and neat, having the feel of a grassroots Midwestern city. 

 Today I felt glad to be part of the welcoming work of General Convention, largely supported by clergy and lay volunteers from throughout Episcopal Churches of the Southern Ohio.  I could feel their excitement and joy in extending the welcome of Christ to all who came, and I learned a lot in joining them.  Sitting at the Credentials desk for nine hours with clergy and laity from throughout the Episcopal Church, I was reminded of the gift of the Body of Christ to embrace polarities, even at such seemingly trivial connecting points as a registration desk.  And seeing the most sported pin (it simply has in large blue print “.7%”) that expressing the  Millennium Development Goals to eradicate global poverty was for me a sign of sacred hope for a convention of which some portend only doom and gloom. 

While the legislation that takes place in coming days is significant, I come to convention knowing that our work grows out of worship (a fact at best understated by the media).  I really look forward to worship with the visitors, bishops, deputies and Episcopal Church Women who gather as one body in Christ.  As President of the House of Deputies George Werner states “the corporate worship of convention life is very different from that of the congregation.  Tradition and familiarity are mainstays of congregational worship.  We tend to know people we pray for and who lead us in prayer.  The worship life of General Convention stretches us with the unfamiliar and rewards us with diversities well beyond the scope of most congregations and dioceses.  It moves us with the sound of a thousand Amens or the murmur of a hundred Bible studies.  . . It is a remarkable experience.”  (President, House of Deputies Paper Volume I, #4).  When I attended General Convention as an Alternate in Minneapolis, that’s what I gained from the experience: the knowledge that what happens in legislation cannot be separated from worship and Bible study, guided by the prayerful listening of hundreds of bishops and deputies, and governed by movements of the Holy Spirit beyond human control. 

This is a day of beginning and expectation, when we ready ourselves for the work that awaits us, enhanced by a surrounding culture of appreciation and hospitality.  As a first time deputy, I am poised to do a lot of listening and learning.  I have no doubt in the entire experience that it is God who knows where we go before we arrive.  May we all be humbled enough to trust in that God, really, as the Church has taught us to do.     

Please keep us in prayer as you can be assured the bishop and deputies of NWT remember the clergy and people of our diocese with heartfelt thanksgiving in this gathering.

In Christ,

Laura Deaderick

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June 12

Day 2 marked the beginning of our first complete day starting with an 8:00am committee meeting (Stewardship & Development) and ending with an evening committee meeting beginning at 7:00pm this evening and adjourning at 8:30pm.

At its early session, the committee considered at some length the linkage between “debt” and “stewardship” with the recognition that debt in this country, particularly amongst the young, has mounted to an alarming level.  It is not only evident at the consumer level but it is also affecting the choices of those carrying student loans.  The final resolution issued by the committee calls for the church to implement programs that can positively address this issue through education at the diocese/parish level.

Kelsey Kemp and I enjoyed a quick lunch at an outdoor café and then returned to the Convention Center for a 2:00pm deputy orientation that included introductory remarks from the Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold and George Werner, President of the House of Deputies.  We were reminded of, and maybe even challenged by, the mission of the church to restore all people to unity with God, and to one another in Christ.  As we move forward with the agenda of GC2006, we know that our considered actions need always to be mindful of that mission.

The introductory remarks were followed by a session in which we explored within our daily prayer/reflection groups the following:  1)  What are we passionate about in our life and work in the Episcopal Church and how is Christ’s love reflected in our actions?  2)  What do we like best about the Episcopal Church?  3)  Post-Convention what would we like to be able to report to others about what was accomplished at GC2006?  As you would imagine, responses were varied amongst the participants but you could individually identify with many, if not all, of them.

As we move forward in the days ahead we are reminded of one of the traditional strengths of the Episcopal Church and that is to embrace and celebrate diversity within our unity.  It will be important for us all to remind ourselves of that tradition and to love one another as Christ loves us.  By and through his love we can find our way through these un-charted waters within which we find ourselves.

 As stated earlier, the this day concluded with the hearing session of the Stewardship and Development Committee, at which we were reminded of the need to financially support many of our Seminary students who find themselves with horrendous and unmanageable student loan balances following the completion of their studies.  A clear and present case can and is being made for the need for the establishment of a seminary loan fund if the church hopes to maintain its corps of qualified clergy in the years to come.

 As always, General Convention challenges your deputation to:  study, pray, listen, inwardly digest, and pray some more for the wisdom and insight to make their best decisions in this council of the church.  As we give thanks for the opportunity to join hands with our brothers and sisters in the wider church, we pray:  Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. Amen.  

Cliff Craig

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June 13

 

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June 14

Wow!  Over the years, I’ve heard a number of amazing things about our General Convention, so I thought I knew what to expect as a first-time attendee.  But I was not prepared for this astounding event.  The shear number of Episcopalians is incredible in itself.  In our part of the world it’s often times difficult to find many other Episcopalians – or sometimes even people who know of the existence of the Episcopal Church.  Here, at least during this convention, almost everyone I see is an Episcopalian. Certainly that’s true in the convention center, but it’s also true in the hotel, in restaurants and even in the streets. 

 According to an Episcopal News Service press release, as of 3 p.m. on June 13 the registration totals were:

- 839 registered Deputies
- 306 registered Alternates 
- 230 registered Bishops (including guests) 
- 365 ECW Triennial participants
- 27 Youth Deputies

Of course, that doesn’t count the hundreds and hundreds of other people here:  guests of all sorts from a myriad of organizations within and supporting our Church, vendors and volunteers (without whom such an event would not be possible).  When you throw in the accompanying spouses and families of many of the participants you have a massive group of Episcopalians.  While the vast majority of them come from across the United States, there are also representatives from across the globe.  It is truly an amazing event, and I am honored to be a participant.

I also feel honored to be a part of the Diocese of Northwest Texas as I watch with great joy our participation in the life of this Convention.  In our worship space (a huge hall that can accommodate the many thousands of us) there are two massive screens on either side of the raised altar. Each morning prior to and after the service, and while communion is being distributed, pictures of various forms of art by Episcopalian artists are projected on the screens while a variety of musical groups plays/sings live music. This morning I was delighted to see displayed “Gabriel at Golgotha”, the work of Noland Kelley, a member of the Church of the Heavenly Rest, Abilene. 

From noon until 1:00 pm today the Rev. Kelly Schneider Conkling, Assistant Rector at Emmanuel, San Angelo was in the exhibit area signing her brand new book Prayer of the HeART, published by Morehouse Publishing, which is now a part of Church Publishing Incorporated.  Her book explores how art is a meaningful way to open up a deep conversation with God. As I was talking with Kelly I looked up and saw the Rev. Rich Nelson, Associated Rector at St. Stephen’s, Lubbock working the booth for “Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.” 

Rich was also involved in a wonderfully successful event last night called the U2chairst.  He told me the group originally expected about 100 people for this service, but the size kept growing.  So about 700 people squeezed into a small hotel ballroom, including seven Deputies from Northwest Texas, to “experience” this very exciting way of celebrating the Holy Eucharist.  It’s aimed at younger Episcopalians (though I saw lots of grey hair in the room as well) with plenty of modern music (much of which comes from the rock group U2, led by Bono). As you might expect, the music was played at a loud volume and the congregation was quite energized, clapping their hands and dancing. The preacher was the Bishop of North Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry. Bishop Curry is an African American noted for his outstanding preaching, and he did not let us down. The main purpose of the service was to raise awareness and support among Episcopalians, especially young Episcopalians, of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):  to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, ensure environmental sustainability and create a global partnership for development.  

In this early part of our nine-day convention, our morning and late afternoon legislative sessions have dealt mainly with routine, non-controversial items; while most of the more difficult issues are being worked in the numerous legislative committees that meet early in the morning, just after lunch and in the evening.  As committees begin to wrap up their work over the next few days they will bring recommendations to each of the houses for debate and voting. 

I’m looking forward to seeing our wonderful Episcopal Church in action at this level.  And I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Mike Ehmer

 

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June 15

Thursday, June 15th

Well, today is the third day of business at the 75th Annual General Convention. Thus far, very little has happened on the floor in legislation. My days personally have been composed of meetings, meetings...and yet more meetings. This convention is my second General Convention, and I am honored to serve as the 1st Alternate deputy for the Diocese, as we have, as you may know, a fantastic deputation. We are all very busy with various committee meetings and obligations, and it seems even more so this year because Convention has been shortened by a day.

Because I am a young adult deputy, I have been participating in legislation concerning youth and young adults, and although it is not my only priority at this convention, it is one of my main concerns because I believe children, youth and young adults are the most unlimited resource we have a Church, from the parish level to the international level. I have spoken in the House of Deputies concerning the budgeting priorities of the General Convention. In 2003, they designated the youth and young adults as the number one priority. However, at this convention, it was brought down to number two, although it was mandated that the program initiatives would take four to five years to take effect for the ministries of the Youth and Young Adults. I do think that the Convention is supportive of Youth and Young Adults, and I am more than appreciative to find the Diocese of Northwest Texas so supportive of these same goals.

Tonight, the Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold held a forum on Global Reconciliation. With several keynote speakers, my favorite was the Rev. John Danforth, who called for a "Higher calling" of reconciliation, pointing out that over 99% of Americans are not Episcopalian, and that we should spend much of our time healing the church and finding venues to better reconciliation and relations with the international and national communities. He spoke of the power of reconciliation and what the true centerpiece of the Church really is. We have the power to continue in the life of Christ and do his work here on Earth. We are a stronger body than we think. He encouraged us to remember this as the Convention goes on, and it truly was an honor to listen to during convention. Upon my return, I am planning to write an article based on his speech here at Convention. I took copious notes, and I feel as though it is part of my duty to share his brilliance with the Diocese.

Concerning the business end of things, we are all running to and fro with much hurriedness. In 2003, we voted to shorten the convention by a day. However, I have come to find that it seems to have been a poor choice due to the overwhelming scheduling conflicts and the looming election of the Presiding Bishop. I feel as though a triennium in which we are electing a new Primate should not be rushed any more than necessary, yet it seems to me there is less time for community and reflection at this 2006 convention. I will report back with my final analysis upon completion of my work here.

Again, it is my privilege and utmost honor to serve for you, the Diocese of Northwest Texas as a Young Adult in the Church. I appreciate your understanding that while I must be in college at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner), I have a wonderful diocese to call home. Please continue to pray for our deputation, the rest of the General Convention, Pat Russell’s new grandbaby, and for the Spirit of Christ to continue His work through all of us.

In Christ,

Kelsey A. Kemp

 

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June 16

This is an odd time to write about Convention. We are really waiting, as the Church has been waiting for many months, to see what General Convention will have to say about the Windsor Report. But it isn’t time to do that yet. The Special Legislative Committee of this Convention continues to work on the Resolutions that will come before Convention within the next day or two. So we wait for that to happen. I have all sorts of hopes and fears, but no real knowledge, and no specific predictions, about what all of that will look like.

At the same time, we are waiting for the election Sunday of a new Presiding Bishop. The Bishops will do the electing, and the Deputies will be asked to confirm the election. I have all sorts of ideas, but neither predictions nor, to tell the truth, even vague ideas, about who our next Presiding Bishop will be.

So we wait for that, too.

As we wait, there is also work to do—and it really is work. We have done several things, most all of them good. We have elected a new President for the House of Deputies, we have approved a new Lectionary—so the readings from Scripture we hear on Sundays will be somewhat different in the future, although not immediately. We have committed funds to developing what I hope will be a substantial program of new church start-ups over the next several years. Also, we have talked and heard much about world mission, about the Millennium Development Goals, and about the Church’s vocation of reconciliation. In fact, it is my deepest hope that the most abiding legacy of this Convention will be our Church’s full-scale and total commitment to world mission and reconciliation as the defining characteristics of our common life. This is exciting, and hopeful, and possible, and important.

But a lot of the work we do while we wait is simply hard and dull. Too many people seem compelled to say the same things over and over on the Floor of Convention; and too much of our time is spent falling behind the schedule of a huge calendar while we tweak the amendment to the amendment of the Resolution to concur with the House of Bishops on referring said Resolution to a Standing Committee of Convention for study over the next three years. Really. Not much glamour or excitement here.

But it remains work that has to be done (albeit done better with more speed and fewer words). And well over 1,100 lay folks, Priests, Deacons, and Bishops have committed ten days of their lives this month to the doing of this, boring and frustrating as it is—as well as to the more anticipated matters.

There is a simple, humble holiness in all of this, if we can but see and celebrate it. Most of our work as Christian people in the world is of this sort—ordinary stuff, not glamorous, not noteworthy—characterized perhaps by more tedium than excitement. But it is by this, the drawing of water, the chopping of wood (or our own variations of these), frustrated by the foibles of others and hindered even more by our own impatience, that we, most of the time, live out the wonderful and sacred Vows that mark our Baptism and our sacred calling. Sometimes there are the grand moments, the big events, the decisions that seem, at least at the time, to be almost momentous. But those don’t happen very often, and when they do they are often of far less import than our own imaginations, and our own grandiosity, paint them to be. And be that as it may, at the end of the day these big things, if they are to matter, must be lived out in small, daily ways, trying to live faithfully, and to serve humbly, a step at a time.

Wonderfully, though, even a vague sense of this can not only give hope to the waiting, but can also put the focus where it belongs, on whatever present moment God has given us, and the duties, opportunities, and occasions for service and growth that are part of that moment. Such a sense is, at best, elusive, but it is none the less vital if we are to find meaning in more than just a very few of the hours of our lives.

I have every confidence that our beloved Church will discern a wise and strong leader for our next Presiding Bishop, and I have deep hope that the center will hold, and that we will speak both humbly and creatively to the Windsor Report. I have even more hope and confidence that God, and God’s unfailing love, will continue to surround us and to guide us. Meanwhile, and afterwards, we wait, and while we wait we have the duties, opportunities, and occasions for service and growth that are part of every moment we are so graciously given. I pray that neither the waiting nor what follows after will blind us to the gift of these moments.

In Christ,

Jim Liggett

 

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June 17

The Convention city of Columbus, Ohio, is fantastic. The Convention Center is huge, comfortable, and accessible from all the areas of the city where we are lodged.

I have always thought that we Episcopalians didn’t sing very loud. I now know better. The opening service in the Deputy Chamber was fantastic. There were at least 1,500 plus voices, and the roof must have been jarred loose! We are greeted each morning as we arrive with some rousing Mexican tunes. A group from the South keeps the deputations swinging. Have you ever been to a U2charist? Young and old alike took in the experience and walked away with a new outlook on the music of our young people. Rich Nelson was active with the group sponsoring the service. The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, had all of us clapping, cheering, and hearing God’s word in a brand new way—for me at least.

Our first real day of work in the Deputies’ Chamber was a disaster. I have always thought we Episcopalians were pretty smart. Electronic voting was introduced and the Chamber could not get the hang of it. We reverted to the paper ballot! Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Jackie Batjer, Cliff Craig, and Dick Davis have provided excellent leadership for us first-timers. I am amazed at the volume of work that has been outlined for us and at the snail’s pace it moves along. I fear we will never get everything addressed. Our deputation works well together and—as the days go by–our friendship and respect for each other grows.

The big issues are in front of us, election of a Presiding Bishop and the issues of sexuality. I’m sure a great deal of debate will be necessary. I really haven’t heard much from the Lay deputation as to what direction our Church might move, but am sure God is in our corner and we’ll come out banged-up but united.

Peace,

Jack Link
 

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June 18

 

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June 19

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June 20

Sixth Legislative Day

Sunday, June 18, 2006

11:00 AM

I awake to a beautiful day in Columbus, Ohio. I arrived on Thursday, following the birth of my new granddaughter, Elizabeth. This is the start of my third Legislative Day, and I’m already tired. Those who have been here all week are really tired. The days are long and every surface on which we walk is concrete. Old bones are aching and old bodies are weary.

We have reviewed and voted on many items of Legislation. Today, however, is full of important issues. The House of Bishops is currently in session to elect a new Presiding Bishop. The House of Deputies will receive their recommendation later today. We will also receive the first Resolution from the Special Commission charged with writing our response to the Windsor Report. I’d like to assure you the news reports you are hearing about the actions we have taken are incorrect—we haven’t taken any action on the Windsor Report.

2:00 PM

We’ve returned to session for the next four hours. It was announced that the first vote on a recommendation from the Special Commission was approved. This Resolution (A 163) provides for the use of Delegated Episcopal Oversight (DEPO), by Bishops who are approached for pastoral care when there are differences of opinion and reconciliation is needed. This Resolution also urged respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of diocesan bishops.

3:00 PM

We had a ripple of excitement that perhaps we would receive the recommendations about the Presiding Bishop. It was not true–the smoke was grey.

3:30 PM

Debate on Legislation has been deferred to hear the report the house of Bishops. The Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, the Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada was elected by the House of Bishops on the 5th ballot. After a long session of statements supporting the concurrence (with only one negative comment) the first female Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA was confirmed as Presiding Bishop by the House of Deputies.

Lay                                             Clerical

Yes        94                                    98

No           8                                      9

Divided    7                                       4

 

Pat Russell

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June 21

 

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Special Report, a sermon by Fr. Rich Nelson

Reflections on General Convention 2006

Rev. Richard L. Nelson, Associate Rector

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church; Lubbock, TX

Drawing on the Propers for the Second Sunday of Pentecost

This past week I spent four days in Columbus, Ohio as a visitor to General Convention. It was an awe-inspiring thing to behold. Over 10,000 people have traveled to Columbus for this meeting, making it the single largest convention in the United States, larger than conventions of either major political party. There are four main areas of activity at General Convention; there is the bi-cameral House of Bishops and House of Deputies which, much like the United States Congress, hears, debates and votes on legislation; there is the exhibits area with hundreds of groups and retailers with widely divergent causes and services; there is the triennial meeting of Episcopal Church Women and there is the Young Adult Festival. It truly changes one’s view of our Church to see so many people from so many places, of so many ages and colors of skin assembled in one place, as one body. It has forever altered for the better my view of the Episcopal Church.

I attended two significant events in my four days in Columbus. The first was on Tuesday evening, when I participated in what, thus far, has been the talk of General Convention. Hundreds of people gathered for a special Eucharist featuring the music of my favorite rock band, U2. We called it a U2charist, and the central message of the evening was focusing our church’s missionary efforts on the Millennium Development Goals. (See the story at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_75779_ENG_HTM.htm and watch a news report and clip of the service in the General Convention Nightly broadcast for Wednesday, June 14th at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/75164_ENG_HTM.htm .) I served as a Eucharistic minister during this glorious service and I’m happy to report that General Convention is set to adopt the Millennium Development Goals as our mission priority for the next three years.

The second significant event I attended was a public hearing on the Windsor Report, which focuses on the major uproar in the Anglican Communion following our last General Convention and how the Episcopal Church will now respond. Over 1,000 people filled that hearing, each with their own passionate, and widely divergent, ideas about where God is calling our church. Following this hearing I truly enjoyed a fun dinner with several members of our diocese’s deputation. I likewise enjoyed the random encounters I had with Bishop Ohl, Sheila, and the other members of our diocese.

But I would like to make special note of one significant event that I missed as it occurred on Thursday night as I was flying back to Lubbock. I later watched it on the web thanks to the Episcopal News Service (see the General Convention Nightly broadcast for Saturday, June 17th at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/75164_ENG_HTM.htm ). It was the keynote address to this year’s convention, titled "Toward a Reconciled World." It was delivered by the Rev. John Danforth, an Episcopal priest who was formerly the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations following many years of service as the Republican U.S. Senator of my home state of Missouri. In his address, Rev. Danforth recounted the many divisions among the people of the world, the people of our nation, and the people of our church and he asked this simple question, "Do we intend to be part of the problem, or [do] we intend to be part of the answer?"

You see the truly amazing thing about the Episcopal Church is that we’ve always claimed to be the via media, the middle way. We’ve always sought to be the place where widely divergent people can still gather together around one table and worship the one God. We’ve always sought the middle ground between Roman Catholics and Protestants, between the North and the South, and between conservatives and liberals, on any given issue. There are so few places in our world today where people on either side of any particular wedge issue still gather for fellowship, to care for one another, and to acknowledge our common bond as sisters and brothers in Christ. The Episcopal Church, Danforth noted, is still such a place.

The Episcopal Church is still such a place. And thus you and I participate in a true and special rarity. We continue to be a place where all are welcomed and judgment is reserved for the one, true judge. As Paul puts it in this past Sunday’s epistle lesson, "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please [God]. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:9-10a). This statement caps off Paul’s discourse about the inherent duality of the Christian life. We are at once both housed in this earthly tent, our bodies, a place where we groan under our burden and yet we also have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here Paul is saying that while there is no doubt that we are earthly beings, we yet must remember that in our true essence we are heavenly beings, made by God and for God to do God’s service while on earth. By acknowledging our duality, Paul says, we are able to live not only the life destiny’s hand has dealt us, that life that we see, but also the true life we have in God’s kingdom, that life we live by faith in what is unseen.

Paul goes on to say later in this same chapter, "From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view . . . So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation . . . All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:16-18). Given us! What an exhilarating mission, to bring the world together with God just as Christ did for us. This one word, Danforth said in his address, reconciliation, is the higher calling of the Episcopal Church in our country today. We can be that place where people on every side of every issue can still come together to work for the higher purposes of God’s kingdom, a shining example of civility and love for all others to see.

And I believe this is likewise the higher calling of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Northwest Texas. This can and should be central to our own identity. There should be no social or political litmus test to set foot through our doors so that all may know that they are at home. There should be no division between us that can overcome the unity we hold in serving the higher calling as reconcilers in the same way of Christ. You and I must be people who hold fast in generous hospitality for all God’s children as we together seek to understand God’s will for our lives. In short, we should bring people together and never, never tear them apart.

We do a very good job of that already. And yet we continue to seek to fit more comfortably into the heavenly clothes God fashions for us. Because just like any person or group of people that ever has been or ever will be, we continue to succumb to the one true sin. The sin of selfishness. This was my other major revelation from this week as I read a book a friend gave me titled Father Joe: the man who saved my soul. Father Joe said selfishness is the one and only real sin and the more I thought about it, the more I realized it to be true. All human sin comes from our selfishness, our lack of willingness to share God’s love and work with others. This too I saw at General Convention this week. The group I was volunteering with, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (www.e4gr.org) , has for years rallied the church around the Millennium Development Goals. But now that the Church has formally adopted these goals as our central mission, two other groups that are more a part of the formal church structure are taking the goals as their own cause as well. And already I saw the bitter seeds of selfishness, mistrust, and pride beginning to sow discord where there should only be unity.

It was a sad thing to witness. And yet, it was also humorous. For no matter how lofty our purpose, how closely we seek to walk with God, we are still humans, clothed in our tents, groaning against one another and God. It makes me laugh on one level. We are truly a people of dual natures, always have been, always will be.

Whatever may yet come from General Convention, hold these two visions of human nature in tension. Know that we will both do God’s will and we will also err. But now is ultimately a time of incredible promise for the Episcopal Church and concurrently for our diocese. We are God’s middle way people, doing God’s middle way work of reconciliation in the world. Pray that we may always be so. Pray for Bishop Ohl and all our lay and clergy deputies to General Convention. Pray also for our newly elected Presiding Bishop that he/she will be a faithful shepherd of the Episcopal Church for the next nine years. Pray that this person may be a true leader of reconciliation not only for our church, but also for our nation and our world. And pray that we each may similarly be a model of self-giving and a sign of the peace of God in the midst of a chaotic world. Amen.

The Rev. Rich Nelson, St. Stephen's Church, Lubbock
 

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