July 5, 2018
Today is not only the day after Independence Day, but it is the day that the Episcopal Church will begin its 79th General Convention –the highest legislative and moral authority of this Church. This body meets every three years. Every Bishop (hundreds active and retired) is expected to attend. 4 clergy plus 4 lay representatives from each and every diocese of our church will be present – totaling ALMOST 1000 PEOPLE when one includes alternates, youth, vendors, guests and speakers. (By contrast, both Houses of the United States Congress do not total 600 people)!
There will be hot button issues (as usual). Issues of sexuality and same sex marriage rites never go away. There is a mandate to come up with a process for possible revision of the Book of Common Prayer (currently in use since 1979), and our Hymnal (1982), and there are calls for reform but also to “leave it alone.” Other liturgical books, are in need of refinement, of examination, of possible reform – always to engender debate. There is a budget to be examined and passed. And then, how do we as a Church face the issues of racism, institutional violence and also what appears more and more a secular culture that has paid lip service to gender equality but really raised (well, actually lowered) the level abuse of women to practically an art form of “normality” in some professions! There is the thorny issue that the single most important and responsible non-bishop of our church, the President of the House of Deputies, has never been a salaried person. The demands of the office have grown over the centuries. The traveling demands in and out of NYC alone are enormous. To this date, one cannot have a full time paying “job” or a “life” while serving as President of H.D. Therefore it is forever been a person who either is retired, or crassly put, so wealthy that he or she can afford to do this job without pay. Many believe this must change. Most bishops oppose this being a salaried position and have voted down this request each and every convention it has been raised.
I am hoping that among the hundreds of proposed resolutions (most of which may not even see the light of day), among all the political and moral posturing regarding the reform of “Title IV” canons (the disciplinary procedure for clergy who have done wrong), I am hoping that instead of ecclesiastical chest bumping” over the success of our Presiding Bishop’s preaching at the last royal wedding, those who deem themselves (and whom we commission as) our leaders will in the informal gatherings, at the dinners, in walking to and fro, at times of prayer (informal and liturgical) will start to do some really serious soul searching and brain storming regarding who we are as a church and where is God calling us to be. I spoke in this past Sunday’s sermon that what the scriptures seem to make (uncomfortably) clear is that Christ never promised to accept us as we are! In fact, he seldom does that with those whom He calls. Christ always calls us to be better than we think we are capable of being. He calls us to higher and deeper and better. And I, who entered this Episcopal Church by choice so many years ago, am praying that we, as a Church, listen to what our God is calling us to do – of who and what we are meant to be in Christ Jesus. It just seems that the “Kingdom of God” that Jesus preached and calls us to be and to serve is so far away. There is so much work, in Christ’s name and empowered by His Holy Spirit, that we need to be doing.