Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Daily Diary from the House of Bishops Meeting at Kanuga 2011

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Friday, March 25, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.

Thursday was a travel day to Kanuga Camp and Conference Center in North Carolina. I arrived late in the evening and moved into my room. I enjoyed passing the evening with friends from Dallas, Kansas, and Utah. On Friday morning I had several meetings, and went into town to purchase my share of hospitality supplies.

Each day we have a different emcee. Bishop Nedi Rivera was our MC for our first session. Bishop Katharine opened us with prayer and introductions. We began with introductions to our new bishops across the Episcopal Church Martin Field of West Missouri; Scott Hayashi of Utah; Dan Martins from Springfield.; Michael Milliken of Western Kansas; Michael Vono of Rio Grande; Terry White of Kentucky. We also had with us the new Bishops-Elect: William Franklin of Western New York; Rayford Ray of Northern Michigan.

The House of Bishops always has a number of visitors. This session we were blessed to be joined by Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada; Archbishop Henri Isingoma, Primate of Congo; and Archbishop Bishop Paul Kim, Primate of South Korea.

We sit in table groups in the house. There are seven bishops assigned to my table: Bishops Neil Alexander, Georgia, Gene Robinson, New Hampshire, David Bowan, resigned Ohio, Luis Ruiz, Central Ecuador, Sean Rowe, Northwest Pennsylvania, and Wayne Smith of Missouri. I was a table facilitator so I led our table in a time of checking in and reconnecting.

Our theme for the week was "Proclaiming the Gospel in the World."

The Presiding Bishop then spoke to us about the connections between the HOB meeting schedule and the announced topics: Proclamation of the Gospel to Young Adults, Islam and Christianity, The Proposed Anglican Covenant, Recruiting and Preparing Young People for Church Leadership. She focused on leadership in a changing world, urging the Church to raise up leaders to be agents of change for the sake of God's mission.

HOB Vice President Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas talked about the seven core values of HOB. Following that, there were discussions about the use of Facebook, texting and tweeting during the HOB meetings, and a consensus was reached among us that while we would communicate public news we would keep conversations between the bishops private in order to provide a safe place where we might be in relationship and speak freely and openly with one another.

During a Town Hall meeting, the bishops discussed various topics of interest. This tends to be a list of short announcements on committee/commission and task forces from around the church. It also includes a time for us to speak with one another openly in guiding the work that is constantly before us.

The session concluded with Eucharist; the Presiding Bishop celebrated and preached. The Town Hall session will continue after dinner. That night I made my way to the back porch during the hospitality hour and visited casually with many friends while we rocked our conversations into the evening. This is very important time for us and helps to build our communion through fellowship.

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Saturday, March 26, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.
Today our Emcee of the Day was Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts. Following Morning Prayer and Bible Study, the bishops surprised Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on her birthday by singing Las Mananitas.

The topics and focus for the day was Proclamation of the Gospel to/with Young Adults: How can we be church in the 21st Century. Presenters were Lisa Kimball of Virginia Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Arrington Chambliss and Jason Long from the Diocese of Massachusetts. They are doing very good work in these places and I thought of how proud I am of the Diocese of Texas and the varieties of ways we accept the leadership of young adults. There is much we can offer the wider church AND there is much we can learn from the rest of the church around the country regarding mission and ministry to and with young adults. Please look at my facebook page for this day to see the online conversation and the resources that I shared during the conversation in the House of Bishops.

Lisa shared personal vignettes which illustrated work needed to be done with the Episcopal Church and young adults. Defining "young adults" is very complex and depends on context, but she focused on 19 -35 years old. She shared stats and facts about this age group.

Lisa presented discussion questions for the bishops: What are the challenges facing the young adults you know? What are their strengths? To what extent is the Church in your diocese reaching people like this? The bishops shared reactions and comments.

Lisa noted: there is a deep need in the church for faith formation in the home; "sadly" young adults are missing from our worship service; and those in 20s and 30s want to be in relation with the Episcopal Church.

The morning was a very long session of listening and digesting information. It was interesting to listen and speak with members of the House about how we think about and relate with those who are younger than ourselves.

Noon Eucharist was celebrated by Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan. Preacher was the Rev. Stephanie Spellers of the Diocese of Massachusetts and one of the chaplains for HOB. Stephanie is our new chaplain to the House and did a wonderful job. She is a fine preacher and has been well received within the wider House.

In the afternoon session, Jason spoke about the Episcopal Service Corps. He shared his story of being evangelized, which was a transformational experience that also transformed the worshiping community. In speaking about Episcopal Service Corps he identified programs that will exist in Massachusetts and 16 other dioceses by this fall.

Arrington spoke about evangelism, and believes that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are poised to be the most transformative institutions in the 21st century. Arrington stated that evangelism is not a program, it's a spiritual practice; it's not institutional but individual; it doesn't start with telling but starts with listening.

She led a meditation on remembering a time when someone took you and your gifts seriously. As facilitator I lead our small group discussions exploring themes and needs, and to brainstorm on what might occur in the next year to partner with young adults in creating fresh expressions of Church.

Our sabbath time began after dinner. I spent the evening with Gary Lillibridge and David Reed of West Texas.

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Sunday, March 27, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.

I spent my time off with Bishop Wimberly and Harrison, read, and visited with a number of different bishops. I had a number of meetings (despite that this was supposed to be a time of rest). The meetings were good and I was able to catch up with a number of bishops and our common work on different work.

As some of you know we are now in full communion with the Moravian Church.

So we ended our sabbath time by gathering for Moravian Service of Holy Communion in the Kanuga Chapel. The Liturgy for Christian Unity was taken from the Moravian Book of Worship. The Bishops of the Moravian Church participating in the service were: The Rt. Rev. Dr. D. Wayne Burkette, who welcomed HOB to the service, thanking HOB "for the invitation to be part of the meeting of HOB and for the opportunity to worship," noting that he looks forward to "future times of worship and fellowship and common mission as expressions of our full communion."

He was joined by The Rt. Rev. Graham H. Rights, who provided the meditation. "I hope you will seek out Moravian partnership wherever you are," he said, bringing greetings from the 17 Moravian bishops (10 bishops in the Northern Province and 7 in the Southern Province).

He continued, "The Eucharist is a service of thanksgiving and tonight our thanksgiving is for this coming together. We have taken a step to answer the Lord's prayer that we all may be one."

He talked about an early bishop of the Unitas Fratrum, John Comenius, whose birthday was March 28, 1592. Comenius proposed a world assembly, and his early writings included those about the Anglican Church.

Bishop Rights pointed out that now, three different reformation churches are in communion with each other: the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "It is an exciting time in the history of our communions," he said. "It is an exciting time for the universal church." The Rt. Rev. Lane A. Sapp also presided at the service.

We sang quite a bit which was a lot of fun, as you know I love to sing and there are many good voices in the House. For this particular service the music was prepared by the Director of Moravian Service Foundation Nola Knouse; organist was Paul F. Knouse.

I stayed up way to late enjoying the company of friends.

****From the Office of Public Affairs: Full communion between the Episcopal Church and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America was celebrated in February. The relationship of full communion was approved by the Episcopal Church General Convention in 2009 and by the 2010 Provincial Synods of the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America.

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Monday, March 28, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.

Most mornings I met with the other table facilitators. Lunches typically were for meetings of Province VII or some such group. Following Morning Prayer and Bible study, the session was opened by Emcee for the Day Bishop Julio Holguin of Dominican Republic. He did this in Spanish.

Today our topic was: Who is my neighbor? Islam and Christianity.

Bishop Skip Adams of Central New York set the tone for the day and spoke about the realities of Muslims living in our society. He referred to practical, theological and religious aspects. The Rev. William L. Sachs, Ph.D, Executive Director of the Center for Interfaith Reconciliation in Richmond, VA, author and parish priest was our moderator. He introduced our guest speaker, author and leading authority on Islam in America, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington DC. He was fantastic and really challenged us to stand against prejudice and to recognize our own fear and realize the breast of Islamic expressions around the gold. The conversation from the House with Ambassador Ahmed was very interesting. He was followed by Eliza Griswold, author of the book The Tenth Parallel, an examination of Christianity and Islam in Africa and Asia. She was very captivating and I have ordered the book. I read the article in the New York Times and was interested. I thought she did a wonderful job and had a few minutes to walk with her in the afternoon. She offers us an interesting world view and challenges us to see our neighbor differently.

Sachs talked about the global clash of religions and way of life, referring to the "Clash of Civilizations" that has occurred since 9-11-01. He noted that the day's goal was to examine the complexities between Islam and Christianity occurring throughout the world, and to see who is our neighbor today

Among the points that Ahmed cited was that most converts to Islam are women. In talking about Islam, he said, "We share Jesus. We look at him differently but we share Jesus." He presented an overview of stats and info about Muslims in the USA and the rest of the world.

Griswold has travelled to areas "where Christianity and Islam meet." She said much of the divide of the "Christian south and Muslim north" is based on weather patterns, land, and trade routes, noting that "Islam spread through trade and marriage." She noted that faith and foreign policy are often intertwined in other countries. Local identity and global identity are interlinked.

The noon Spanish Eucharist, in commemoration of Bishop James Theodore Holley, the first bishop of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was celebrated by Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico. Preacher was the Rev. Simone Bautista of the diocese of Washington and chaplain for HOB.

In the afternoon, the conversation about Islam and Christianity continued with Bishops Joe Burnett of Nebraska and Tom Shaw of Massachusetts telling of activities in their dioceses.

Burnett presented a film and spoke about the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, NE, a five-year initiative calling for the sharing of a campus for an Episcopal Church, a Muslim mosque, a Jewish synagogue and a shared, multi-service educational building. The project is "on the verge of taking giant steps forward."

Shaw talked about the Boston cathedral opening its basement to allow space for Muslims to adhere to their prayer order. He shared that he met a Muslim man who has prayed at the Cathedral since before September 11, 2001, and how the community felt protected in the aftermath.

The bishops discussed three questions:
- The last two promises of the baptismal covenant ask us to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves; and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. How might these promises be fulfilled in efforts to deepen relationships with members of other faith traditions, particularly Islam?
- Given the fact that polls show a sharp increase in prejudice toward Islam and persons of Islamic faith in this country, what specific steps might you take in your diocese to combat this prejudice, and also to support, affirm and partner with other faith traditions, especially Islam, in a way that would further God's mission in the world?
- How can we "seek and serve Christ in all persons" in such ways that would lead us to understand increasing religious diversity as a gift and a promise, rather than as a threat or a challenge?

Various bishops shared experiences in this own dioceses. I am speaking at the Abrahamic Faiths dinner in Houston this next week on the need for virtuous citizenship among our faith family. I was also mindful of the immigration work, the compassion work, and the interfaith dialogs we are having throughout the Diocese.

I went out for dinner with the bishops of my class. We had a lovely night in a little town called Saluda, North Carolina.

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Tuesday, March 29, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.

Following Morning Prayer and Bible Study, the session was opened by Emcee of the Day Bishop Victor Scantlebury of Chicago. Victor is one of my favorite Emcees because he always tells jokes. Here were his joke for the day:

An old man lived alone in Idaho. He wanted to spade his potato garden but it was very hard work. His only son, Bubba, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and mentioned his predicament.
"Dear Bubba, I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my potato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me. Love, Dad"
A few days later he received a letter from his son.
"Dear Dad, For heaven's sake, Dad, don't dig up the garden! That's where I buried the bodies! Love, Bubba"
At 4 A.M. the next morning, a dozen FBI agents and local police officers showed up and dug up the entire area without finding no bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.
That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
"Dear Dad, Go ahead and plant the potatoes now. It's the best I could do under the circumstances. Love, Bubba"

Another fun announcement came from Bishop Russ Jacobus of the Diocese of Fond du Lac and Bishop Ken Price of the Diocese of Pittsburgh made good on their pledge from the recent Super Bowl (Green Bay won and Pittsburgh lost). They had decided to pledge aid for the shelters of each diocese no matter what the outcome of the big game. As a result: Price reported that Heinz (the Steelers play at Heinz Field) sent soup for 400 people, Eaton Park sent smiley cookies, and the Diocese of Pittsburgh sent 100 perogies to a shelter in the Diocese of Fond Du Lac. Jacobus said the Diocese of Fond Du Lac sent cases of bratwurst to a shelter in Pittsburgh. On a personal note, Jacobus presented Price with a Superbowl T-shirt; in return, Price reciprocated with a Steelers AFC Champions shirt. Both promised to wear their new attire. He did indeed wear the "attire" all day.

The topic for the day was The Anglican Covenant: A New Perspective.

Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta introduced a conversation on the Anglican Covenant which included the three Anglican Primates in attendance: Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada; Archbishop Henri Isingoma, Primate of Congo; and Archbishop Bishop Paul Kim, Primate of South Korea.

Their websites are here:
Anglican Church of Canada:

Anglican Church of Congo:

Anglican Church of South Korea:

The panelists spoke frankly about the Covenant and their provincial context. Each expressed their commitment to continued conversation internally and externally on the topic of the Covenant. Everyone affirmed their relationship with the House of Bishops as friends and fellow Anglicans. We were able to discuss the Covenant and there was a very good conversation with the primates.

I believe that both the presentation made at clergy conference in our own diocese by The Rev. Dr. Robert Pritchard on Communion and the presentation today by Bishop Niel Alexander are very good pieces to read and meditate upon as we look at he Covenant. Both are challenging reads.

It was very clear from the discussion that the wider communion is taking time in reading and discerning the reality of mission and ministry the covenant will bring.

It was very good to have the the primates with us. Their statements will be available and I will post the link to those once they are available.

I served as the media briefer today and work with Bishop Nathan Baxter and Neva Rae Fox.

Noon Eucharist was celebrated by Bishop Dena Harrison. Preacher was the Rev. Stephanie Sellers of the Diocese of Massachusetts and chaplain for HOB - another very good sermon!

Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta introduced a "historic occasion" as the deans of the seminaries joined the bishops:

Bob Bottoms. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary
The Very Rev. Joseph H. Britton, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Virginia Theological Seminary
The Very Rev. Robert S. Munday, Nashotah House
The Rev. Dr. Katherine Ragsdale, Episcopal Divinity School
The Very Rev. Joseph Britton, Bexley Hall Seminary
The Very Rev. Mark Richardson, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
The Very Rev. Dr. William S. Stafford, School of Theology – University of the South
The Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
The Very Rev. Douglas Travis, Seminary of the Southwest
Bishop Peter Lee, interim dean of General Theological Seminary, is a member of HOB

Bishop Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida introduced the topic for the evening: Selection Recruitment and Formation of Young Leadership. Again I shared with Bishop Harrison that I was proud of the work we do in the Diocese of Texas. We have a lot more work to do in shaping vocations (both lay and ordained) that reflect the ethnic and age diversity of our missionary context in Texas.

Doug Travis did a wonderful job in representing our seminary. We had a very good discussion on this topic which included very good and supportive comments about our own IONA school for ministry.

I spent the evening with a number of bishops who are on the "young" end of the age spectrum of the House for fellowship.

Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
IX Bishop of Texas
Sent from portable while out of office.

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball