This summer has brought two (pandemic postponed) chances for church leaders to gather – General Convention in Baltimore, and the 15th Lambeth Conference in London. At General Convention, our Diocese was very well represented by our hardworking Deputation. Their unity in spirit as they discussed and debated upcoming resolutions was so inspiring. And catching an Orioles game in the middle of a seven game winning streak was a well deserved break!
There are two moments that stood out to me out of a very good General Convention. The first was about developing new liturgies for the church–Resolution A059. A subcommittee did good work on the complex issues, but instead of jumping right into debate, the House of Bishops engaged in an in depth discussion as a Committee of the Whole. Many people rose to speak, some were very experienced and some were entirely new to the House. As we spoke I could observe a common mind beginning to form. In the end we discerned a multi step process by which we could create the structure that could shepherd new liturgies and yet not loose the gains we had made in marriage equality. Afterwards I heard comments about how unusual and welcome it was for the discussion to move forward in this new manner. It looked like a serious win for both the worshiping life fo the Church and the fellowship among the Bishops themselves.
The second moment I want to share was the prayer walk we took to a place where a shooting had happened less than 24 hours before. An altercation at an intersection near the Convention Center and the pleasant tourist area of the Inner Harbor ended in gun violence and death. I had passed by that spot only minutes before the shooting as I returned from a meeting. The Bishops against Gun Violence issued a call to prayer, on that spot, and all of our Deputation and most of General Convention, made our way down the street together.
We wore no vestments. Our single sheet of prayers wilted around our hands as the humidity struck us. We sang Down by the Riverside, we poured over the sidewalk and were protected through the intersections by the Baltimore Police. It took almost ten minutes for the whole ordinary crowd of us to pass by. We gathered in an open space, near the harbor with of Tall Ships, where there had once been slave auctions, and we prayed together. We could not change what had happened, but we know the power of the prayers of the faithful. We raised up to Christ our sorrow for both men in the violence, for the circumstances that feed violence and for the gun violence that pervades us on a daily basis. The Presiding Bishop climbed onto the bench with the other leaders and preached the Good News, and told us not to get weary in doing good. I left encouraged on that steamy afternoon.
I have genuine hope that at Lambeth, bishops from across the world will move in similar steps toward a good and holy fellowship in Christ. Our focus is to be be God’s Church for God’s World – just as it is, with its joys and its profound sorrows. The Lambeth Conference has never functioned as a legislative session for the world wide communion, but a time of joint worship, study and learning. Already there are Bishops from across the world that I hope to see again. I am looking forward to touching base in this historic gathering. I come to the Conference with hope, curiosity and a steady trust that God will bring good to us all from this time of connection and learning.
With gratitude for your faithfulness and hope in Christ,