Episcopal Church House of Bishops Spring 2016 retreat meeting: Daily Account for Saturday, March 12
The emcee for the day was Bishop John Smylie of Wyoming.
The first activity of the second day of the spring House of Bishops meeting was Holy Eucharist. The presider was Bishop Don Johnson, Diocese of West Tennessee and the preacher was Jeannie Johnson, spouse of Bishop Johnson. She asked us to consider how our abundance is challenged by our trust in God’s thoroughgoing care for God’s people.
After our worship, the bishops devoted their time to being quiet and on retreat. For the next two hours throughout the vast Camp Allen complex the bishops could be found walking, sitting and reflecting upon how the words they heard at the Eucharist had bearing upon their lives.
They moved from a period of quiet reflection to a working lunch in which the bishops gathered in provincial groups. In addition to doing some of the work of each somewhat unique province, significant discussions were conducted to examine the actual functionality of the provincial structure within The Episcopal Church.
The main event of the afternoon was a plenary gathering which began with a time of prayer. Afterward Presiding Bishop Michael Curry urged us to connect the call to racial reconciliation that is found within the gospel message. After citing a relevant passage from Maya Angelou’s On the coming of Morning, he made reference to one of the primary reconciliation New Testament scriptures from the epistle of Paul to the church at Corinth: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NRSV).
Next we listened to a series of personal reconciliation reflections from Bishops Mark Beckwith (Newark), Jeff Fisher (Texas), Prince Singh (Rochester) and Wendell Gibbs (Michigan). Particularly poignant was Bishop Singh’s reflection that while growing up as a child in India that he learned to internalize the maxim that all people are not created as equals. His challenge was to go deeply within ourselves to do self-examination of our own racial attitudes. Then our table groups of 6-8 persons were seeded with a question to consider: “How does it feel for you as a bishop, for this House, and for the Episcopal Church to engage issues and experiences of power, privilege and race at this time?”
The House indicated it was not inclined to write another letter on racism and racial reconciliation. In contrast, the House is inclined to do what work that we have been asked to do in the two previous letters on racism. In terms of racial reconciliation we are inclined encourage one another to live into our baptismal vow to respect the dignity of every person.
In the Presiding Bishop’s closing of the afternoon session, he pointed to a letter that was issued by the Presiding Officers of the church. In particular, he referenced Resolution C019, a resolution on racial justice and reconciliation. One part of the resolution encouraged us that, “Rather than proceed with quick fixes or instant program, we adopt two essential practices: deep listening to stories and patient commitment to mutual transformation over the long haul.”
The concluding event of the day was Evening Prayer followed by group dinners of the bishops as separated by the year in which each was ordained.
Briefers – written
Bishop Jay Magness, Federal Ministries
Bishop Brian Prior, Minnesota
Briefers – video
Bishop Gayle Harris, Massachusetts
Bishop Jim Mathes, San Diego
Be sure to check the Presiding Bishop’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PBMBCurry/?fref=ts for the video account of today’s activities.
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