"Encountering the other" was the theme of our just-concluded House of Bishops meeting at the Kanuga Conference Center in Western North Carolina. We looked at the "other" through the lens of race, culture, Native American history and interfaith ministry – through a series of meditations offered by various bishops. Table discussions on these issues followed. They were deep and very personal, and inspired action. I was invited to give the meditation on interfaith ministry, and once I was able to work through various levels of anxiety, I was grateful for it, because it gave me the opportunity to reflect on how interfaith relationships, which have been a thread throughout my life, have deepened my relationship with the living Christ.
In preparation for General Convention in late June, an entire afternoon was given to responding to a report on marriage. These conversations among bishops had an openness and level of mutual respect that bodes well for proposals that will be coming to General Convention. While there wasn’t agreement on the proposals, there was a general recognition that bishops are able to deal with disagreement in a much more fruitful way than was the case at earlier General Conventions.
We spent a similar amount of time responding to the “TREC” report (Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church). The 73-page document opened with four pages that hold up the biblical mandate to engage in mission. Drawing on Luke 10, which has become a foundational scripture passage in congregations across our diocese, the report highlighted the fact that the church began as a movement, and only later evolved into an institution. The proposals from the TREC report have been issued with the intention of streamlining the organization of the Episcopal Church, particularly General Convention; so that we can reclaim the “movement” dimension of the church. The report contains many recommendations – and a host of constitutional and canonical changes, all of which are offered with the intent that the church at large will have more clarity and be more flexible in organization, and be better able to engage in God’s mission. There was a lot to digest, and many opinions were expressed about the consequences of the proposals; but as was the case in the conversation about marriage, the discourse was respectful and illuminating.
A significant number of bishops met independently, on a night set aside for this opportunity, to discuss plans to engage in a public witness against gun violence on Sunday morning of General Convention. “Claiming common ground against gun violence” will be the theme of the walk and liturgy. A majority of bishops have pledged to attend, and have committed to recruit people in their deputations to participate. The Salt Lake City interfaith group working to reduce gun violence is fully involved in the planning, as are local officials. The event will represent the ministry of the church in the public arena; and it is the hope of many of us that the outdoor participation of several hundred people will make an important witness as to what God is up to.