Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday (John Coleridge Patteson & His Companions)

I'm writing this a few hours earlier than usual. In a little bit, we'll go down to the closing dinner of this meeting of the House of Bishops. Then we head to the airport for an 11:30pm redeye to Atlanta, and after a five hour layover there, on to Bloomington, and a 65 mile drive home.

Today was what I wish the rest of HoB meetings were like. In the morning, we heard from Bishop Stacey Sauls, newly-appointed Chief Operating Officer of TEC, regarding the need for a major overhaul of the organizational structure of the church. The idea is that we seem to be driven by governance rather than by mission. From an iPad, I'm not going to write too much about the concrete proposals he floated. More will be made public in due course, I'm sure. But we should expect it to be a hot topic at next summer's Genera Convention. My own gut sense is that it may be too little too late. But I could be wrong.

I had lunch with my good friend and former bishop, Ed Little of Northern Indiana.

The afternoon session was a business meeting--that is, "on the record," open to the public, with the PB in the chair, and motions and seconds and discussion and debate. The major item was a proposed Pastoral Letter from the House to the whole church on the subject of protecting and restoring the environment. It was changed to a Pastoral Teaching, which makes it a study document commended to everyone, but without the expectation that it be read aloud in churches.

The motion passed on a voice voice, with one dissent: mine! I am nearly as avid a recycler as anyone, and I'm all in favor of renewable energy and sustainable growth. I've got no problem acknowledging that climate change is a reality. I am not persuaded, however, that human activity is primarily to blame, if at all. This may be true, but I'm not prepared to state it as baldly as does the document we were offered. I also don't believe most bishops are willing to make the lifestyle changes that would be consistent with what the Teaching commends. I know I am not. The gallons of jet fuel that we are helping consume just by being in Quito is just one sign of that fact.

More profoundly, perhaps, I have a deep reticence, as a church leader, to speak out on matters of public policy, particularly in very complicated areas where scientists are not of one mind. In an attempt to be prophetic, we risk ending up just looking foolish.

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