Day Four of the regular 2019 fall meeting of the House of Bishops.
The available morning time was devoted to a presentation from, and interaction with, members of the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. Although this committee has been in existence since 1821, we were told, the President of the House of Deputies intentionally constituted this particular iteration solely with members of Generation X and Millennials. The oldest member is 51. After introducing themselves, they spread themselves out amongst the tables of bishops to ask a series of open-ended questions and invite responses. What excites us in our ministries? What discourages or challenges us? What is our most ambitious aspiration for TEC? What’s holding us back from fulfilling that aspiration? You get the idea. My contributions included what I said the other day about the perils of using the Eucharist as a tool for evangelism, and an observation that the biggest obstacles holding us back are sheer intertial momentum and lack of a critical mass of members who are fully converted to Christ. Oh … and that Sunday visitation are the highest joy of my work.
The afternoon began with what has become a customary feature of HOB meetings, known as the Fireside Chat. (It began many years ago when Presiding Bishop Griswold gathered members of the house around a literal fireplace at Kanuga.) It’s a chance for the PB to informally share various things that are on his mind. Today’s items included recent developments in the dioceses of South Carolina and Venezuela.
We then moved into the single formal business meeting of our time together. The principal item on the agenda was consideration of a draft “message” from the HOB to the entire Episcopal Church about the Lambeth Conference, particularly in light of widespread dismay over the fact that Archbishop Welby declined to invite the same-sex spouses of our three LGBT active bishops (along with one in Canada). I’ve already expressed my views about the drama around this subject in general, so I won’t cover the same ground here, except to mention that I did stand up and point out that the language of the document, in several places, indicates a degree of unanimity that is simply not present. There was lengthy debate, and several amendments offered, and many accepted, that attempted to address in various ways the issue I raised. In the end, it passed, of course, with 60 Aye votes, 17 Nays, and three abstentions. So, roughly one-quarter of the house did not support the statement, which is, I think, noteworthy.
The afternoon, and the the entire meeting, concluded with more “self-organized” groups. I attended the one featuring the task force on “communion across difference.” It was appointed by the Presiding Bishop, and the PHOD, in response to a 2018 General Convention resolution, and its purpose is to seek ways by which those who hold opposing views around sexuality and marriage can all flourish in the same church, in equally sustainable ways. To that end, it is equally weighted between supporters of the historic understanding of marriage and supporters of marriage redefinition. It is a daunting task, but it is critical that its mission be accomplished–from my perspective, so that those who hold an orthodox position don’t have to consider every General Convention a potential existential threat.
At 5:00pm, I headed immediately over to the home our our daughter’s family in St Paul, where we had pizza delivered and enjoyed one another’s company. We’ll head toward home in the morning.