The Acts 8 BLOGFORCE has posted a new question for us to consider: “Where did you see resurrection at work at the General Convention?“
2015 was my fourth time at General Convention as a member of the deputation from the Diocese of Mississippi. Having served on the Task Force on the Study of Marriage (TFSM) during this last triennium, I was paying particular attention to the special legislative committee on marriage, as well as the debate on the marriage resolutions in the House of Bishops and as a participant in the House of Deputies.
I was ordained in 2002. The approval of the election of Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson at General Convention 2003 caused quite a stir in the Delta of Mississippi where I was serving (as well as most other parts of our diocese). There is no need for me to recap any of the battles which followed the 2003 GC, but I have been really consistent in one observation – in my humble opinion the real evil in all this was the expenditure of such an enormous amount of time, energy, financial resources and ill will between brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what “side” you may have been on. We lost our focus. We put mission on the back burner, we burned up funds as churches split, as priests left, as lawsuits were fought over church buildings. I remember saying to our bishop, Duncan Gray, III while at a packed house in the Delta for a town hall meeting with the Bishop following the 2003 GC, how I wished we could get this many Episcopalians to turn out on a weeknight to talk about Jesus, or evangelism, or outreach or even just to attend a church service.
While it may be said, with some accuracy, that many of the people most upset over our church’s decisions regarding human sexuality have long gone, the resurrection I heard, saw, and felt had to do with how we honored one another. Making doctrinal and liturgical decisions via legislative processes is always messy, with vote totals dividing folks into winners and losers. But for me, this time around it seemed there was a real effort, prayerfully attended to, to listen to each other, to pray with and for each other, and to honor sincerely those who disagree with what the majority supported. Perhaps we have learned a valuable lesson. Our church has so much to offer this world and it is high time we poured our resources of time, energy, people and money into making disciples, serving others and being the church God has called us to be. Coupled with the amazing and energetic leadership of our new Presiding Bishop, we are indeed sent out to make disciples and also to BE disciples of Christ, loving one another as He loves us. I believe we have turned a corner and I could not be more excited.
I said something to this effect in my sermon this past Sunday. Afterwards a parishioner, well into her 80’s, came up to me and said, “I kept up with it the whole time you were gone and I feel the same way. I just love that new Presiding Bishop and the good feeling I have now about the church”.