Yesterday was a historic day for The Episcopal Church. The House of Bishops elected Michael Curry as Presiding Bishop Elect on the FIRST ballot. He will be the first African American Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and this is the first time a PB has been elected on the first ballot. A 2/3 majority of bishops is required to elect, and it usually takes several votes for the required support to coalesce around one candidate. This is a tremendous show of unity and hope for our church.
So what’s next?
I hope the events of today, Sunday, June 28, are an indicator of more to come.
1. About 80 bishops and over a thousand attendees gathered at 7:15 this morning for Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence. They acknowledged that gun owners and gun opponents are all seeking the same thing – safety in our homes, neighborhoods, and schools. They affirmed responsible gun ownership and asked for background checks and reasonable gun laws. Bishop Sutton of Maryland and Presiding Bishop-Elect Curry spoke against the “unholy Trinity” of poverty, racism, and violence and reminded us to trust in the Holy Trinity who loves every human being and mourns the death of any of God’s children. These bishops took the Church outside to address a challenge in our world seeking common ground among different groups. This is holy, reconciling work. I hope our Church will continue to gather outside our worship and meeting spaces, speak to the challenges of our time, and seek common ground with all people so that hurts may be healed
2. After the march, a small group of women clergy gathered with a few women in the House of Bishops to discuss our church’s mournful lack of women as rectors of large parishes, cathedral deans, and bishops. Networks are forming (look up Beautiful Authority, Lydia’s List, Cast Wide the Net). Michael Kinman wrote about this challenge here. Our current bishops are gifted, faithful servants of God and the Church, and we are blessed by their ministry, but only 19 are women (174 voted in yesterday’s election). I hope our Church will seek to reflect the beautiful diversity of the world around us and become a leader in the full inclusion of women and people of color in all parts of our life together.
3. Worship was glorious this morning – full choir, loud brass and organ, a long procession, and a completely packed house. Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori preached an inspiring sermon. She compared the Episcopal Church to both Jairus’ daughter (to whom Jesus is saying, “Girl, get up!”) and to the woman with the hemorrhage (“The life of this old girl is being revived by the work of reaching out. This venerable dame is surprisingly fertile!”). The UTO ingathering celebrated over $5 million in Thank Offering gifts over the past triennium to support mission and ministry in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. I hope our Church will always worship the Lord with great beauty and thanksgiving, and respond with the generous offering of our lives for the life of the world.
4. I attended a screening of Traces of the Trade, a film shown at General Convention before. The film follows the story of the DeWolfs, an Episcopal family from Rhode Island. In the late 1990s, the family began to come to terms with the reality that their ancestors were slave traders. Members of the family followed their ancestors’ trade routes to Ghana and Cuba and discussed together how to respond to this history. Guests who watched the film then discussed how the legacy of slavery and racism still haunts us. I hope our Church will continue to create a place for hard conversations about race and injustice that lead to truth and healing.
5. At the afternoon legislative session, after a LENGTHY discussion, Bishops voted to adopt C045 calling the Episcopal Church to divest of fossil fuels in a fiscally responsible manner. This proposal now goes to the House of Deputies. I hope our Church will do even more to care for creation.
6. The Special Legislative Committee on Marriage started to explain their work to the House of Bishops and invited them to a time of table conversation, but their time was cut short by Provincial Gatherings. This conversation will resume tomorrow. Conversation in committee meetings on this subject that I have attended has been remarkably positive and gracious, even among those who struggle with this issue. I hope our Church will find a way to solemnize and bless all legal marriages, and I hope everyone will remain at the table and in conversation as we work through this time of change.
Violence, equality, worship, reconciliation, environment, and family. That’s a pretty good day. Let’s keep up the work.
Bishop Curry’s photo by StarHeal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons