Saturday, July 11, 2009

"All will be well" in the Anglican Communion

Another amazing day yesterday. At noon, I had lunch with three primates, thanks to the Chicago Consultation. Along with Bishop Tom Ely, of Vermont, I broke bread with the Primates of Korea (and his translator), Scotland and Australia. It was a delightful and meaningful exchange between those of us who minister in radically different contexts. After my inquiries about his ministry in Korea, relations with North Korea and the nuclear threat posed there, Bishop Solomon of Korea spoke of a young gay man who came to him, wanting to know if he was going to hell, and his attempts to minister to him. He talked about the fact that 25% of Koreans are Christian -- and among those, the Anglican Church of Korea is a progressive and liberal alternative to the mostly conservative Churches available to Koreans. He expressed his disappointment that I had not come to Korea in my sabbatical journey around the Pacific rim. Perhaps that will happen some day, and I would be honored to do so.

My sense is that the place of the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion is not in danger. Strained and tense, sometimes, yes. But actually threatened, no. Are we in the same place regarding the issue of homosexuality -- of course not. But the bonds of affection are strong and deep, and God will see us through this difficult time. This is a strong belief exhibited by all the primates and bishops visiting this Convention from across the Anglican Communion. It confirms my own belief that it is time for us to stand up and be the Church God is calling us to be, and trust that the Anglican Communion will not only survive, but be a blessing to all.

It was a long and tedious legislative day in the House of Bishops, dealing with mission funding, additions to the saints calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts (including the need for everything we do to be published also in Spanish and French, the other two languages of The Episcopal Church), the ethical treatment of animals and endangered species, a possible capital campaign for The Episcopal Church, and our methods of organizing and funding for a 21st century church. Our time was lightened by the settling of bets between the provisional Bishop of Pittsburgh and the Bishops of Arizona and Michigan: Pittsburgh won both the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup, and the Bishops of Arizona and Michigan were sentenced to wearing Pittsburgh team hats for the rest of the day.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, one of the most inspiring things about this Convention is the presence of new deputies from the continuing dioceses of Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy. After years of being purposely distanced from the Episcopal Church by their Bishops, they are visibly joyful in being back in the church. They are fully present, testifying at hearings and making themselves heard on the floor of Convention. Everyone is offering a welcoming word to them, and they are so grateful for our prayers.

Last night was the Integrity eucharist, always a highlight of General Convention. It was my honor to be the celebrant at this amazing and lively service. If the energy in that room could be harnassed (who says it isn't?!), the world and the Church would be a different place. Over 1600 people, many standing along the walls, did what Christians always do -- gather to express our love of God and thanksgiving for God's love for all of God's children. This is what liberation and freedom in Christ looks like! As I followed the Gospel procession, asperging (throwing sprinkles of holy water) the crowd, people extending their arms to be bathed in the water of their baptism, the joy on their faces, buoyed my spirits and lightened my heart. Then, as is the tradition at this service, all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clergy were invited to the altar, to share in the final blessing. What was once a small and brave group is now a joyous throng -- both those who have been doing this work for oh so long, and those who have recently joined the ranks. It was a stunning visual image of the gifts brought to this church by its gay clergy. Tears streamed down the faces of these clergy who are serving God in God's Church despite the slings and arrows of discrimination and hatred -- and tears of joy and appreciation filled the eyes of the congregants who honored them with sustained applause. A joyous moment of celebration that will carry us through these next days.

Today, in the House of Bishops, we will have a private conversation around the sexuality issues that face us, followed by the always-public discussion of legislation. Today, we are scheduled to deal with the legislation proposed by those bishops serving in states where marriage equality is already a reality -- asking for pastoral generosity and flexibility for responding to the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian members of our congregations. That discussion will be an early signal of how all this might go. Pray for us!!

I'm off to a 6:30 AM meeting (who said we're only here to play?!), with joy and resolve in my heart to be the Church God is calling us to be.