2017 Report of the Episcopal-Presbyterian Dialogue
The Episcopal – Presbyterian Dialogue met in Baltimore, Maryland at the offices of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland on April 3-5, 2017. Members present from the Episcopal Church: the Right Rev. Dr. Eugene Sutton (co-chair), the Rev. Dr. Timothy Mulder, the Honorable Joanne O’Donnell, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Wolyniak, and the Rev. Canon Elise Johnstone. The Rev. Margaret Rose served as staff. From the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Teaching elders, the Rev. Dr. Christian Boyd (co-chair), the Rev. Kamal Hassan, the Rev. Dr. Robert Foltz-Morrison, and Ruling Elders, Dr. Anne Bond and Mr. Gordon Zerkel. The Rev. Robina Winbush joined the meeting at several points by telephone as staff from the PC(U.S.A.).
The committee welcomed Rev. Boyd as the new co-chair for the PC(U.S.A.) and devoted time to honoring the service of Rev. Dr. Dennis Hughes, former co-chair, now nearing the end of life. The committee shared in updates on the two denominations and personal concerns and joys.
The committee received and discussed reports related to joint ministries of the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church. Joseph Wolyniak shared the results of conversations with pastoral leaders at several joint ministries, mostly worshiping communities of Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Anne Bond and Eugene Sutton shared a presentation about joint ministries from the perspective of the judicatory leadership. Most reporters were positive, but the organization, governance and denominational connections for the many dual ministries were varied. The committee agreed to continue such research and try to compile information about successful initiatives and best practices.
The Dialogue team participated in the weekly meal and worship of the SLATE project, led by ministers from the Episcopal, Presbyterian and Lutheran traditions. Following dinner and worship, the committee met with the SLATE leadership to discuss the ministry origins, management, sense of ministry, and vision for this multi-denominational endeavor.
The committee heard a presentation from Rev. Hassan about “How Do We Witness in the Public Square?” with specific connections to the Accra Confession from 2004. The focus of the workshop was the church’s need to focus upon and hear the voices of the Global South as it addresses issues of empire, racism and justice.
Traveling to Washington, DC, the committee participated in a 50th Anniversary marking of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Speech “Beyond Vietnam” sermon at the New York’s Riverside Church.
The committee met to de-brief the SLATE experience, continue conversations about the COCU relationships and propose possible support structures for joint ministries. The group continued conversations about the final product of this dialogue (report, website with examples of joint ministries and contact information, expanded social media access to the information we have gathered, and suggestions for potential joint work), the recent action by the PC(U.S.A.) regarding the open table of the Lord’s Supper and final preparation for the committee reports to our denominational meetings in 2018.
Addendum: In Memoriam
The Reverend Dennis James Hughes, Ph.D., entered into the joy of God’s kingdom on Easter morning, Sunday, April 16, 2017, at his home in Edmonds, WA. He was 73.
Dennis was born in Chicago, IL, on September 1, 1943 to Mary Jane (Bakkers) and James Hughes and was raised in Pomona, CA, where he met his future wife, Ann, in third grade. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Pomona College, M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology from the University of Notre Dame.
Dennis had a long and varied career in ministry serving pastorates in New York, Colorado, and Washington, including Newport Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Northminster Presbyterian Church in Ballard, and most recently as interim minister in Port Townsend and Quilcene. He also served as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Seattle for 16 years and taught at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry as an adjunct faculty member. He was the Associate for Worship at the national office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and served for eight years on the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly. For the last six years, he was co-chair with Eugene Sutton, Episcopal Bishop of Maryland, of the Episcopal-PC(U.S.A.) Dialogue Committee.
Although his true calling was ministry, over the course of his life he was devoted to many activities and interests including spending time with his family and his dogs, cooking, traveling, camping, fishing, and cycling. Suffice it to say, if he enjoyed something he became an expert, and he enjoyed many, many things.
For us, his sisters and brothers on the Episcopal-Presbyterian dialogue committee, Dennis was an embodiment of the ecumenical movement, and passionate about Christ’s prayer that all churches be one. Dennis’ life experiences — personal, academic and pastoral — constantly informed and enlightened our work together. His stories and words of wisdom many times brought us back to our common theology and liturgical expressions in regard to baptism and holy communion, and what were the practical implications in regard to our unified witness to our Lord. In his perspective, our two churches were already but not yet one; for in Christ we are one. However, we obscure the visible reality constantly by putting other things as more important above Christ and the mission of God that we are to incarnate as Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. It is in Dennis’ persistence in the Gospel that continues on with us as he has fulfilled his baptism and now joins the great cloud of witnesses, and encourages us in our next steps to make God’s reality our own.