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President Bonnie Anderson’s closing remarks to the House of Deputies at the General Convention 2009

July 17, 2009
Office of Public Affairs

Deputies, Alternates, Guests, Visitors:

I have again been honored by you and elected to serve as President of the House of Deputies for the approaching triennium and through the 77th General Convention. Thank you for that honor.

During the first three years as my tenure as your president I have focused upon two things: identity and mission. Why Identity:

The reason for this choice was the growing concern that I have about the erosion of the practice of the polity of our Church.

As Deputy Wade reminded us this morning in the opening meditation, William White, upon whom shoulders we stand, was a revolutionary. His strange ideas about the ministry of all the baptized, taking their place in the counsels of the Church, caught the imagination and spirit of this fledgling Church in America. His strange ideas about the equality of the voices of all the people of God live today in our polity and in our baptismal covenant and in our Catechism. We are the ministers of the Church – the laity, the clergy and the bishops together, doing God”s work, each bringing our gifts to bear upon the reconciliation of God”s world.

The ministry of all the baptized is not the “lowest common denominator” as it were, from which we all begin and then some advance while others do not. The truth is quite the opposite. Our most unifying truth, our clearest moment of ubuntu is actually found in our baptisms and through our baptismal covenant. Each time we reaffirm our baptismal promises we are committing to ubuntu; we are pledging our life and our service to being agents of God”s love and grace by dying to self and living through Christ. It is from that place that we are one in the eyes of God and one with each other.

I have tried during this past triennium to address my growing concern about our identity as the Episcopal Church, and in particularly, the House of Deputies, in some specific ways.

First, to educate the deputies and the Church that we are deputies, not delegates. We are intentionally named deputies by our forebearers. We are elected because our dioceses trust us. Our dioceses deputize us to vote our mind. Our dioceses trust us, that, after careful prayer, listening to each other and stating our own views we will vote accordingly. I think that we have done that here. Our Church always has deputies. We are deputies when we leave here. We are deputies until we are either reelected by our diocese or another deputy is elected to take our place. There are ALWAYS deputies. We are leaders in our dioceses. We do not rise from the mist like Brigadoon. Our church ALWAYS has deputies. We are acting together in our own dioceses, in the counsels of the church, vestries, standing committees, commissions on ministry, on CCABs – where the only voice of clergy and laity in the larger church is possible through our canons.

Further, regarding identity, through the work of Kim Tucker and Cheri Salanty, my two dedicated and skilled staff assistants, I have created a tool that allows deputies and first alternates to communicate regularly during the past triennium. We have created a moderated deputy online forum to share important information leading up to General Convention. We have created and maintained a tool so that I am able to communicate regularly and effectively with the Deputies and First Alternates.

Our identity as deputies extends beyond the House of Deputies and into the Anglican Communion. At a first-ever conference in Costa Rica this year, the scope of our relationships to clergy and laity in the Anglican Church of the Americas has been extended. We have created new relationships in mission through our diocesan partnerships and mission work. We have strengthened old relationships in this same way. I believe that God is calling us to this work of reconciliation.

As your president, my focus in the areas of mission and identity have intersected at this General Convention and at the pre-General convention synods leading up to it. Our relationships, our quest for UBUNTU, our “I in you and you in me” is only possible if we KNOW each other. We are one in Jesus Christ and it is where our own stories and the story of Jesus intersect that we find our UBUNTU and our call to be a people of God”s mission. I ask you to exercise the leadership that is already yours in your diocese.

So what”s next? Believing that God speaks to us in many different ways during each day and in our dreams at night, this morning I spent time in my room thinking and praying as I do each morning. Then, if I have time, I read the paper. This morning when I opened the door of my room to get the paper, the BIG letters on the front page of USA Today, read, “WHATS OUR NEXT STEP?” The paper was talking about the space frontier. But our next step as a Church is a frontier also.

First, when you return home, meet with your deputation and design the report you are canonically required to provide to your diocese. The President”s Deputy Online Forum will be a place where resources for your reporting will be posted.

Refer to yourselves as deputy. If someone refers to you or other deputies as delegates, use it as a teaching moment to talk about the polity of our church. Don”t let it go by.

Next, in your own diocese, in your own congregation, take the leadership that is already yours and do mission. Start something, strengthen something, We can use the skills we have learned here in the art of public narrative to strengthen or and create relationships, to deepen our spirituality and Christian community. Keep it in your mind and heart there is an urgency now to our mission. Keep in mind now that we are the voices of the people of God, together, clergy, laity, bishops.

It is time for us to end chapter 76 in the book of life of the House of Deputies. It is time for us to leave this place and to take leave of each other. We go back to our loved ones. I go back to the comfortable place where I am not called “Madam President” and no one waits until I rise before they do the same.

With each other in Anaheim, we have shared a part of our lives together. We have worshipped and eaten the bread of life, we have risen to sing and lowered our heads to pray. We have breathed the air that has been in our neighbors lungs. In Jesus we are one of another. We are a Christian Community, made in the image of God.

Let us give great thanks to our senior deputies that will not be returning and for all that we have been given.