Monday, March 19, 2012

St Joseph

I'm not by nature a "morning person." But this being St Joseph's Day, and the first anniversary of my consecration, I got up for the 7:30 Eucharist in a side chapel of the chapel (All Saints' Chapel is larger than many cathedrals). I can only be grateful for my first year as a bishop. It has been several degrees happier and more effective than I had anticipated. God is good.

After breakfast, and following Morning Prayer, the retreat meditation was given by the Presiding Bishop on the vows bishops take to "guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church" and to participate in the governance of the whole church. During the reflection/prayer time afterward, I took a long walk through the piney woods (staying on Camp Allen property) and had ample opportunity to think about how I understand "guarding" to begin with acknowledging the given-ness of the Catholic Christian faith. It's not mine to make up; it's mine to hand along. Intact. This is both a responsibility and a relief. Just before lunch we reassembled at our table groups to briefly "process" the PB's meditation and our own reflections.

After lunch, I had a wonderful visit with Justin Welby, the newish Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. We operate, of course, in vastly different contexts, yet we were both amazed at what similar visions we have of the larger missional environment of western culture--a culture that is substantially post-Christian--and of the necessity not to deny or resist the new secular age, but to embrace it, to say "bring it on", and then learn how to be the church in that environment. It was a thoroughly refreshing and encouraging conversation.

The afternoon was free. I processed a bunch of emails, which always takes longer than I expect, and spent some quality time on the treadmill before dinner.

After dinner, we came back together at our tables for two presentations and brief discussions. The first was by Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut, on possible responses to the Anglican Covenant. He and two colleagues have prepared a resolution, which we saw tonight for the first time, that would affirm the spirit of the Covenant and the text of the first three sections, and call for continued study of all the implications that Section 4 would have on the Episcopal Church, including and especially our constitution and canons. There was brief plenary discussion. The intent of this resolution is to not "just say No" to the Covenant, but to not say Yes either, the end being keeping a place for TEC's delegation at the next meeting the Anglican Consultative Council this fall. My sense is that, even so, it will meet heavy resistance.

The other topic was a proposal from a working group of five bishops, chaired by Ed Little of Northern Indiana (and including Rivera of Eastern Oregon, Fitzpatrick of Hawaii, Doyle of Texas, and Smith of North Dakota), to revise the 2004 document adopted by the HoB, "Caring for All the Churches," which institutes Delegated Episcopal Oversight (DEPO), an arrangement by which parishes that consider themselves to be theological minorities in their dioceses to come under the pastoral care of a bishop other than their who whose theological views are more compatible than their own. DEPO has worked well in a number of cases, though they tend to stay quietly under the radar. The proposed revisions are by way of strengthening the document and taking a longer view. It makes provisions for DEPO to extend to the ordination process, such that a "theological minority" candidate who suffers from discrimination in one diocese and  is a member of a DEPO parish, can be "processed" by the diocese of the DEPO bishop. This proposal will be debated and voted on tomorrow. It will be controversial, and I am making no predictions. I will support it, of course. The few theological conservatives left in the Episcopal Church need some sort of good faith signal that we are not being just tolerated for the moment in the hope that we will die off and become a speck in the corporate memory, but that there will be a place for us indefinitely. Stay tuned.

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