It is through disaster that doors of the human heart and of social structures are opened, said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Sept. 15 during the opening, bilingual Eucharist of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops fall meeting here.
In a sermon referencing recent natural disasters, like Hurricane Irene and devastating floods in the Northeast and the raging wildfires in Texas, the presiding bishop said:
"The labor of a new age began at September 11th. We saw new beginnings during [Hurricane] Katrina five years ago, and in Haiti 20 months ago. The destruction of Irene opened the people of the East Coast to something new -- and Tom Ely [bishop of Vermont] and Bill Love [bishop of Albany, New York] will tell us something about the beginnings in their dioceses, particularly among the poorest and the weakest. Andy Doyle [bishop of Texas] can share something about the beginnings in the aftermath of fires in a state where the governor still thinks climate change is a fairly tale."
One hundred and sixteen bishops, some joined by their spouses and/or partners, are gathered at the Hilton Colon Hotel in downtown Quito for the Sept. 15-20 meeting.
Throughout the meeting, attention will be given to the "scriptural foundation for prophetic proclamation to the least"; the scriptural and theological foundation for liberation theology; and issues related to migration, poverty, indebtedness and the environment in Ecuador and Province IX.
On Sept. 17 bishops, spouses and partners, are scheduled to experience different missions and ministries of the diocese firsthand, including a trip to the border between Ecuador and Colombia, which each year thousands of Colombians cross over fleeing violence and persecution associated with that country's half-century-long armed conflict; and a day care center in Quito through which the church serves children of the poorest of the poor, not only from Ecuador, but children of migrants from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Visiting bishops from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion present for the meeting include, the Rt. Rev. Naudal Gomes, bishop of Curitiba in the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil; the Rt. Rev. Peter Price, bishop of Bath and Wells in the Church of England; and Archbishop Nathaniel Uematsu, primate of Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Church in Japan). Archbishop Albert Chama, primate of the Province of Central Africa, is scheduled to arrive later in the meeting.
During the first session, the Rt. Rev. Nedi Rivera, the provisional bishop of Eastern Oregon and the day's master of ceremonies, instructed the bishops on use of social media during both the private and public session, asking that before using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to post photos or distribute quotes from their fellow bishops, that they first ask their permission.
Also during her sermon, the presiding bishop referenced the current tensions in the Diocese of Central Ecuador, which includes Quito, where the Standing Committee and Bishop Luis Fernando Ruiz, continue to be at odds.
"You'll learn more about this diocese on Saturday afternoon, but there are several here who can help to tell the story. I urge you to find appropriate ways of engaging the people here, and their leaders, most of whom are afraid of losing something, angry at others, and in a fog about what to do next. A fever has been running through this place for years, yet I also believe we are finding a new beginning," she said.