We cannot receive new life — we cannot experience transformation — without becoming vulnerable. In his remarks to the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold (who served as our 25th Presiding Bishop) called for each of us to have a “heart that is open and undefended in the face of different perspectives.” These are wise words.
It is unrealistic to imagine that we will ever agree on everything as a Church and a community of faith. Nonetheless, we are called to do God’s work of justice and mercy together – to be One in Christ. And, as our new Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry would be quick to remind us, we can agree on Jesus.
For the most part, the tenor of our conversations during convention has been respectful, inviting and loving. We start each day with Eucharist and worship, and our chaplain leads us in prayer multiple times each day as the House of Deputies and House of Bishops convene to do their work. This rhythm of prayerful worship, reflection and work as a community of faith, will inform my work when I return home.
Something that has surprised me – even to the point of awe – is the care and persistence of the legislative committees as they do the hard work of crafting and refining resolutions to be considered. Their meetings are open to observers and allow, at times, for testimony from those who care deeply about the issues under consideration.
Because the subject is near and dear to my heart, I sat in on the working meetings and open hearings of the special committee on “alcohol and other drug abuse.” This committee was formed very recently in part in response to the tragic hit-and-run accident in Maryland last December, for which Heather Cook (former bishop) has been charged with DUI manslaughter. The Church has not revisited its policy on substance abuse since 1983, so, even without such motivation, this work is well overdue.
This committee had only 4 weeks to do its work and, at convention worked tirelessly to craft three resolutions, which have all been passed by the House of Deputies, without opposition. Included in the resolutions is a call for dioceses and parishes to examine their own complicity in a culture of alcohol and to develop policies and mechanisms for promoting the health and wholeness of all parishioners, including those in recovery and those who may need help in addressing issues of addiction.
The effectiveness of this committee speaks not only to the persistence, openness and love of its members but also to the grace and movement of the Holy Spirit.
There is much work yet to be done on myriad issues as we continue to gather and consider hundreds of resolutions. We can all be encouraged by the love, generosity and sacrifice of these bishops, and lay and clergy deputies, and by the certain presence of a loving God in our midst.
Know that your prayers — regardless of your faith background – are desired and make a world of difference.