Moving toward convention

Moving toward convention

Church will examine its identity and mission as part of a whole
January 6, 2009

All the governance machinery of the Episcopal Church is preparing for General Convention -- oiling the gears, testing the tire pressure, checking the (electronic) connections, updating the service manuals. The pace is increasing, and it is quite surprising to see the depth and breadth of preparation for our triennial gathering.

Some have compared General Convention to a family reunion, as upwards of 10,000 Episcopalians (and some friends who are not Episcopalians) gather for more than 10 days to meet, greet, talk, worship, consult, connect, pray, strategize and legislate.


It is our opportunity to take the pulse of the wider church and set the course for the coming years.


Decisions made at a General Convention guide the mission and ministry of this church in significant ways. At the last convention, we made a clear and firm commitment to shape our common mission internationally around the Millennium Development Goals. That made
us a leader among other faith groups in the United States and abroad.


In earlier conventions, we made decisions to adopt new prayer books, hymnals and teaching materials. All of those shape our faith, for we are a people who become what we pray.


The baptismal covenant is a marked example -- the regular prayer that we might "respect the dignity of every human being" has challenged us to take up conversations about the dignity of different language groups, races, national origins and sexual orientations.


Those conversations have been so challenging that some have decided to follow their spiritual journeys in other communities of faith. Yet we as a body continue to affirm that there is room here for a very wide diversity of opinion and position -- that is characteristic of our Anglican heritage and healthy vitality.


The way in which this church sets policy and direction, by conjoint decision making of a house of bishops and a house of deputies,
also is challenging to some of our Anglican Communion partners.


While all Anglicans affirm a polity that is "episcopally led and synodically governed," there is a very wide range of practical application. In some parts of the communion, bishops lead with very little synodical input. In parts like this church and the Anglican Church of Canada, the synodical governance system is very well-developed and direction-setting is shared more equally
among all the baptized. The Episcopal Church has long believed that wide consultation among laity, clergy and bishops is essential to its governance. That community-based form of decision making is an example of what our convention theme is all about.


The Zulu-Xhosa word ubuntu often is translated as "I am because we are" and offers another way of looking at the Pauline theology of the body of Christ. No one person or part of the body is the whole; we find our identity and our mission as members of the
larger whole. This General Convention will take significant time and opportunity to enter more deeply into a conversation about the identity and mission of this church as part of a larger whole.


I ask your prayers for those who prepare for this summer's convention, for those who will participate and deliberate and for the many thousands who will support all of this work. May it be done to the greater glory of God, that we may grow in our capacity to serve God's world in the name of Jesus Christ.

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