Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
By now the word is out on General Convention. The 79th gathering of The Episcopal Church in Austin has been over for a month and let me tell you, it was a successful convention. I want to highlight a couple of items that set the tone for such success.
Prior to General Convention at the Province IV meeting, the Presiding Bishop made the following statement to the bishops: “The world is not so much interested in what we produce at General Convention but how we produce it.” That is, the world wants to see how we work together to govern our church. I thought a lot about his statement before I left and while at GC. Can we tell the truth, speak passionately, disagree/agree and at the end of the day together walk to the altar and kneel for the Body and Blood of Christ? The answer was yes. The reason GC unfolded with this spirit was in part due to the Presiding Bishop’s sermons.
Bishop Curry opened the convention with a sermon that spoke of love and compassion, honesty and faithfulness. His energy and passion for following Jesus was palpable. I was so moved by his sermon I found myself saying Amen! Several days later Bishop Curry preached deeply of the loving, liberating, life-giving Word. At times people were on their feet with acclimations of yes, yes, we desire to follow Jesus in our lives and in the world we live. Having these sermons inspire us was indicative of the mood in the House of Bishops where I sat daily.
Another powerful moment of the convention was during a service in which members of the House of Bishops read letters from women and men who had been harmed by the Church. This telling unfolded in a liturgical context. Intertwined with the readings were silence and soft music. The atmosphere was somber and at times deeply moving. Bishops apologized publicly for allowing the abusive behavior to go unchecked and pledged to work towards reconciliation. Our deputation had time to talk amongst ourselves following this service.
Lastly, I must tell you about the re-entry of Cuba. A bit of history reminds us that following the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 the U.S. restricted transactions with Cuba. During the 79th Convention, the Diocese of Cuba was readmitted into The Episcopal Church. The welcoming of Cuba was an emotional event for the House of Bishops. Many of us have ties with Cuba just as our Diocese through the relationship between our dioceses.. The standing ovation that Bishop Griselda received lasted for several minutes as the Presiding Bishop welcomed her to be seated with her fellow Bishops. It was a great day for the American Church and Cuba.
I hope these reflections give you a glimpse of the tone of General Convention. I encourage you to go to the General Convention website and read about the many resolutions. As the Presiding Bishop said over and over, we are the Jesus Movement of The Episcopal Church. Our work is in telling and living the story of Jesus’ redemptive love and forgiveness. You and I share this mission. I pray we can forget some of the silly things that we think are important and remember our neighbors are watching. They don’t really want to know what we say we believe but, rather, they want to see how we live our lives.
The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson, Jr.
Bishop of Louisiana