March 27, 2013
Presiding Bishop's Easter Message 2013
Rejoice, rejoice and sing, rejoice and be glad… for earth and heaven are joined and humanity is reconciled to God! 
As the Lenten season ends in Easter rejoicing, note what has been wrought in you this year. A remarkable cross-section of America has been practicing Lenten disciplines, even some who are not active Christians. 
There is a deep hunger in our collective psyche to re-orient our lives toward life and light, healing and peace. We share a holy hunger for clarity about what is good and life-giving, and we yearn to re-focus on what is most central and important in life.
Easter celebrates the victory of light and life over darkness and death. God re-creates and redeems all life from dead, dry, and destroyed bones. We are released from the bonds of self-obsession, addiction, and whatever would steal away the radical freedom of God-with-us. Our lives re-center in what is most holy and creative, the new thing God is continually doing in our midst. Practicing vulnerability toward the need and hunger of others around us, we have cultivated compassionate hearts. We join in baptismal rebirth in the midst of Jesus' own passing-over.
The wonder of the resurrection is upon us once more. May we embrace God's ever-new life with every cell of our being, every yearning of our soul, and every muscle of our will. Christ is risen, death is vanquished, humanity is restored to holy and creative relationship with God's ongoing and eternal liveliness. Praise God who brings light out of darkness, life out of death, and newness out of the stale and moribund.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate The Episcopal Church
Photo of snowdrops on Iona, by Fr. Bob Towner
 From the Exsultet, Book of Common Prayer pp 286-7
March 20, 2013
[March 8, 2013] The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) is soliciting comments to specific questions prior to its next meeting. JNCPB will hold its second meeting in Greenfield, NH, March 18-20. The agenda includes developing a timeline and methodology for soliciting vision and feedback about what the church of the future will look like and what qualities the next Presiding Bishop should possess to help get there.
JNCPB invites reflections, especially before its March 18 meeting, on any or all of the following questions:
• Whether searching for a rector or a bishop, what was the best thing you did in your process?
• Whether searching for a rector or a bishop, what was your best communications tool? To candidates or to constituents?
• What would you recommend we avoid?
• Anything else you want to share with the committee about your search process?
Also, the members of JNCPB request prayers for this next phase of their process.
To submit comments: email@example.com.
The members are listed here.
On Twitter at: PB27Nominations or #JNCPB
--Neva Rae Fox, Public Affairs Officer for the Episcopal Church.
February 13, 2013
In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori participated in the Fourth Annual Ash Wednesday Prayer Service at Liberty State Park, which focuses on immigration discrimination and detainees.
"We share a dream of peace," the Presiding Bishop said to the interreligious group of religious leaders, families of detainees, and immigrants. "O God, vindicate us, give us peace, save us from any who would destroy, diminish, or degrade any human being. We are all brothers and sisters in your sight, O Lord. Hold up your mirror to every face, let your face shine upon us all, and bring us peace." Full text.
February 06, 2013
Presiding Bishop Katharine's message for this season of Lent (video and text): Lent is the ancient season of preparation. Preparation for Baptism at the Easter Vigil and it’s a season of solidarity with those who are being formed to be disciples of Jesus and missionaries in God’s mission.
We form people in a sense that God dreams of a healed world, a world restored to peace with justice, and some of the ancient images of that healed world are those of the prophets. One of the famous ones from Isaiah is an image of people having a picnic on a mountainside, enjoying rich food and well-aged wine. That image of being well-fed is particularly poignant in a world like ours where so many go hungry.
Lent is a time when we pray, when we fast, when we study, when we give alms. It’s a time of solidarity and it is particularly a time to be in solidarity with the least of these. continued...
February 06, 2013
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will host an hour-long exploration into the church's work in human trafficking on Wednesday, March 6. Human Trafficking: A Churchwide Conversation will originate from the Chapel of Christ the Lord in the Church Center in New York City beginning at 2 pm Eastern. "The focus of this forum is to uncover this ubiquitous issue in our midst and to share the ministries of the church devoted to human trafficking,"
The 2013 priority theme of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is the elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls. Bishop Katherine's address will focus on "What Is Human Trafficking and How Does It Link With Violence Against Women and Girls." and participating panelists include:
Participation is limited; advance registration is mandatory. To register contact firstname.lastname@example.org The forum will be available on-demand following the event.
An encompassing list of resources on this topic is being compiled and will be available on the Episcopal Church website. "We are appealing to the entire church to forward any resources of actions and activities that may be occurring," Main stressed. "Links, files, photos, downloadable documents, and any other information about trafficking, Episcopal Church ministries, or other agencies involved in this work, along with basic materials on this topic for sharing are greatly appreciated." To submit resources, email email@example.com.
December 19, 2012
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined. Isaiah 9:2
These words were spoken long ago to people living in anxiety, fear, and despair, people feeling bereft of security, safety, and any sense of God's presence. We hear them early on Christmas, forgetting that they were first spoken hundreds of years before the birth we celebrate. Human beings across this planet still yearn to know that a more gracious and divine reality is active and evident in our lives.
The birth we celebrate is meant for this world mired in darkness and fear, yet it also becomes easier to discover in a tiny voice crying in protest over being cold and wet and hungry. We hear that cry in the midst of war's ravages in Congo and Afghanistan, in the rubble of hurricane and earthquake, in the demeaning of chronic poverty, behind prison bars. That flickering of hope surges as the world turns to investigate this surprising new life, one heart at a time. The light grows as hearts catch fire with the same light that illumines the stars, pulsing hope and new life, even out of black holes.
Those who search in dark and despair, in dank dungeon and deep devastation, will find divine light given for the world. Light that will not be put out, so long as any creature remains to receive it, until and beyond the end of time. The darkness will never put it out.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5
Go and look--and discover the love of God poured into our world in human form. Hope reigns abroad, in the cosmos and in human hearts. And rejoice, for a child of the light is born in our midst!
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
November 28, 2012
June 20, 2012
Order of St. John: Festival Evensong and Service of Rededication
The Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Thursday, June 28, 2012, 6 PM
Christ Church Cathedral
You are cordially invited to this 20th Annual Festival Evensong, which features a newly commissioned choral work by Bruce Neswick. Frank Griswold, the 25th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, returns to the cathedral to preach at the Evensong.
A benefit reception will be held after the Evensong in the St. Louis home of Dwight Davis, founder of the Davis Cup for tennis, and more information on that event is available from Sheryl Meyering at 314-440-6782 or the Order of St. John national office in Washington, DC at 202-510-9691.
Choral composition commissioned for occasion. Bruce Neswick, Professor of Music at Indiana University, composed the anthem "Yes! It was Well" for the Evensong. He will conduct the Cathedral Choir in singing the anthem, and will also play the closing organ voluntary. The anthem text is from "The Knight of St. John" by Frederick Faber (1814-63), best known for the hymn texts "Faith of Our Fathers" and "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy."
Neswick has a distinguished career as a church organist, most recently at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and earlier at St. Philip's Cathedral, Atlanta, and the Washington National Cathedral. He is also a prolific composer and recording artist. A number of his performances are on YouTube.
Cathedral organist and choirmaster Pat Partridge will also play and conduct the choir in the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in F Major by Harold Friedell (1905-1958).
History and works of the Order. The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem traces its origins back to the knights who served the Hospice in Jerusalem that cared for pilgrims in the twelfth century. Over the centuries, the order became an international institution, contributing to the care of the sick and to the defense of Christendom.
An American Society of the Order of St. John was founded in 1958. This Society became the Priory of the United States in 1996 and enjoys an equal status with the branches of the Order in the British Commonwealth. The St. Louis Region of the Order is led by a council chaired by John Kilgore, Canon Minor of the Cathedral.
The American branch of the Order has devoted most of its efforts to supporting the St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, but also aides the sick and poor by assisting St. John Ambulance. During the 2005 tsunami, for example, the American Priory provided both funding and five fully-equipped ambulances to St. John in Sri Lanka.
Membership in the order is a decorated honor bestowed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A prerequisite to membership is a demonstrated commitment to local and/or national charitable work. Although a Christian Order of Chivalry, membership is open to persons of all faiths who can promise to support the order’s work in aid of the poor and the sick, in addition to continuing ongoing charitable responsibilities.
Photo: Bishop Griswold at June 2009 Order of St. John Evensong at the cathedral [flickr set]; History notes from the Evensong service leaflet; More info on the Order in the US, the Order in England and the world, and the Order's Museum.
November 19, 2011
Missouri Diocesan Convention
18 Nov 2011
Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
Well, the Occupy-ers have been thrown out of one park after another. They were evicted from Zuccotti Park near Wall Street Monday night and from Kiener Plaza here in St. Louis last weekend. Oakland tired of them quite a while ago, and London hasn’t been able to make up its mind about whether or not to let them stay at St. Paul’s. Our city governments and even churches have been mightily conflicted about this movement. I am profoundly struck, however, by the parallels between the Occupy movement and Jesus’ band of homeless wanderers.
“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’” It seems to me that most of these bands of campers have done just that. “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.” The Occupiers have shared food, cared for each other, and challenged the rest of us about justice in the size of paychecks. Now those who have been evicted are struggling with how to continue their global demonstration.
The group at Kiener Plaza has dwindled to a small fraction of its earlier strength. One of the leaders said that without tents they no longer have access to food, medical supplies, or the media. Their witness has been subverted, and now Occupy is going to have to find another way to make its presence known and its message heard.
We have the same challenge in the Church – both in presenting the good news we have to share, and in how best to do it. Our old settled tradition of staying put in church and waiting for others to come to us doesn’t work so well with younger generations or the unchurched. Our message remains the same as it always has, but we need new ways of telling it and showing an effective response to the hungry outside our doors.
What does Jesus tell his band of wanderers? He sends the 70 out two by two to every city where he plans to go himself. He SENDS them OUT. That’s where our word “mission” comes from. When they arrive in the mission field, they’re supposed to find some place that’s interested in hearing what they have to say, and then stay long enough to build some community and have an effective conversation. They’re supposed to start with good news of peace, and then share food, heal the sick, and tell about the coming reign of God.
Our fall-back habits are rather different. For centuries we’ve depended on an established pattern of building beautiful churches and expecting that people will know where to find good news. That’s not quite the same as what Jesus told those 70 missionaries. Nor is the news that’s always proclaimed. We’ve often heard supposed Christians start out with words of damnation rather than peace – listen up, believe right, or you’re going to hell! And most of us still tend to think that a bit of bread and a sip of wine is the only meal that’s really needed, and that an hour on Sunday morning is enough to build the reign of God.
Well it is and it isn’t.
Einstein defined insanity as continuing to do the same thing but expecting different results. The Occupy-ers aren’t going to be able to expect the same results now that they’re faced with doing things differently. The challenge is how to communicate their urgent message without access to former methods.
We are experiencing a slow-motion version of being occupiers ousted from their camps. You’ve heard the familiar lament about buildings being albatrosses. At this convention you’re dealing with the challenge of affording health insurance for everyone who works for pay in the church. As long as we understand our primary mission as preserving buildings, maybe we ought to welcome being tossed out. The shelters in which we gather to worship are meant to be aid stations, like those tents here in Kiener Plaza. We come together here to be fed for service in the world, to share a meal and be healed and remember the great dream of God, and then go out into the city or the countryside and do the same for others. And all across this Church we’re beginning to learn new ways of gathering and of serving.
How many of you have met somebody who’s been camping in the Plaza or talked with a young adult about his or her hopes for the future? The society around us is hungry for good news, they’re hungry for healing, and they’re hungry for a nutritious community meal. How is The Episcopal Church in Missouri going to renew our covenant to proclaim and be the kind of good news that responds to those hungers? There was a lovely piece on Episcopal News Service yesterday about a priest in Seattle who went down to the Occupy camp, celebrated Eucharist for a tiny handful and then sat down and welcomed large numbers who wanted to talk and reflect.
There is an emerging wave of response across this Church that’s providing shelters for young adults to ask challenging questions, particularly about what it means to be a faithful human being. There are Episcopal Service Corps groups that invite a few 20-somethings to spend a year living in intentional community and working in service agencies, much like what your Bishop talked about yesterday afternoon. They eat, pray, and live together in a way that feeds and heals them and others, and bears witness to what it means to be a fellow traveler with Jesus.
I see other communities that take names like Theology on Tap, gathered in a pub or pizza parlor to share sustenance and reflect on life’s big questions. I’ve seen gatherings that might be called “messy church,” where parents and small children gather for an act of worship that feeds body and soul, at a level that teaches all ages. There are dinner churches gathered first of all to eat together, from which worship is growing. Gardens are being planted on former church lawns or new green roofs, and community supported agriculture initiatives are bringing healthy food into the midst of food deserts.
There are a growing number of community meals that invite the poor and homeless to dine, and then insist that others in the community who think of themselves as servers also join the meal. Out of those meals begins to grow a community that breaks down some of those dividing walls Paul talks about – the same kind of dividing walls that Occupy is tackling. Most of our cities have become far more economically segregated than they were just a couple of decades ago. The most scandalous divisions in our Church are probably economic ones. It’s not unknown for the wealthier parts of the church to gravitate to theological positions that keep them focused inwardly on preserving beautiful buildings, rather than giving away the gift that has been given to us all.
The covenant renewal possibilities around here are mostly about breaking down dividing walls – dividing walls between ourselves and God, between us and all sorts and conditions of fellow human beings, and between ourselves and the rest of creation. Once again live in right relationship, well fed, healed, and at peace, the reign of God will indeed be here in its fullness.
The harvest is plentiful. Pray that God will send laborers out into that harvest – to leave the shelter of the places we settle in, whether they are in parks, tents, or beautiful buildings. It’s time to break up any movement called Occupy the Pews.
November 10, 2011
Presiding Bishop Katharine will preach at convention Eucharist, 9 AM, Saturday, Nov. 19. This service is open to the public, there is no charge. Space is very limited because of an exhibit of icons in the cathedral nave. There will be reserved seating in the nave for clergy and delegates, and it is hoped that there will be a few seats for the general public in the cathedral. A video link and overflow seating will be available on the fourth floor of the (connected) Bishop Tuttle building, in Schuyler Hall. We will have communion stations on the 4th floor. Cathedral doors open at 8 AM. General public, enter through the main 13th Street doors.
Presiding Bishop Katharine will preach Sunday, Nov. 20, at Christ Church in Cape Girardeau, schedule TBA. Open to the public, with the caveat that there is limited seating in the sanctuary.
Presiding Bishop Katharine will attend convention reception Friday, Nov. 19, held in the cathedral nave. This reception is scheduled from 6-8 PM. It is possible for diocesan members to attend: there is a charge of $35 and you must RSVP by Friday, Nov. 4. Use the convention registration form to RSVP. General public, with an RSVP, enter through the main 13th Street doors, which will open at 6 PM.
Presiding Bishop Katharine will attend some of convention, but will not attend the business parts of the meeting. She is not addressing convention, other than preaching at the Saturday Eucharist. Space is limited on the 4th floor where convention plenarys take place. Seating priority must be given to the voting members of convention, with a very reduced gallery for non-voting members, registered guests, and convention staff.
Last minute questions to convention coordinator Michael Reiser, firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-753-0418 or diocesan communications director Beth Felice, email@example.com or 314-398-2209.
October 05, 2011
October 03, 2011
On the holy mountain stands the city he has founded;
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Of Zion it shall be said, “Everyone was born in her,
And the Most High himself shall sustain her.”
-- Psalm 87 (page 711, Book of Common Prayer)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The events of recent weeks have drawn the minds of many around the world once again to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. New violence and hostility directed against the State of Israel from other neighbor states in the region, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements into the Palestinian territories, and the United Nations’ expected consideration of the matter of Palestinian statehood all are reflections of the untenable nature of the present reality. While optimism for meaningful and constructive negotiation between the two parties dimmed over the past year, the events of recent weeks – and the new opportunities they may present -- invite us to reflect prayerfully on what each might do to bring new hope to those who live, move, and have their being within the daily reality of this conflict in the land called holy by all the children of Abraham.
I. The Present Moment
At the outset, it bears noting what The Episcopal Church has said repeatedly over the course of multiple decades: a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians can be achieved only by bilateral negotiations between the two parties themselves. This important principle was reaffirmed just last month by a joint communiqué of the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem. The contours of what such negotiations must produce are as clear as ever: a two-state solution that provides for the security and universal recognition of Israel and the safety of all its people, the viability and territorial integrity of a state for the Palestinian people, and a sharing of the holy city of Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, the gulf between this outcome and the political and moral will needed to achieve it has proven wide. Only a year ago, hope existed that negotiations would commence, and that – particularly with the involvement of the President of the United States – the moment for a peaceful solution might finally have arrived. Tragically, the events of the past year have driven the parties further apart rather than closer together, leading some to question whether international efforts to support the peace process have lost credibility, and whether there is any meaningful path toward negotiations.
Yet even in the midst of such complexity and crisis, one can note two very powerful reasons to remain engaged. First, people on each side share a common dream for a future of peace and a common political support for the compromises necessary to achieve it. Second, even though each side is frustrated and believes that the present moment is untenable, nearly all agree that a future without peace is more untenable still. New discussions by Israelis and Palestinians over this past weekend about a resumption of negotiations in the near future are a reminder that we must maintain hope and actively support those seeking to make peace.
If we can agree that a future without peace is no future at all, and that negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves are the only way to bring about peace, we must ask what each of us can do to support the parties in beginning the journey toward peace together.
II. Palestinian Statehood and the United Nations
As our Church’s Executive Council noted in a resolution passed in June, the Palestinian Authority’s efforts toward recognition of statehood at the United Nations are a response to the impasse of the present moment. They are not a repudiation of the need for negotiations but a response to the absence of negotiations. Palestinians share with Israelis the pain and frustration of a conflict that has now entered its seventh decade but lack the political right of self-determination to which all people are entitled.
The question of how the community of nations should handle the bid for Palestinian recognition at the United Nations is more complex than whether a statehood resolution should be affirmed or rejected. What is clear is that the diplomatic isolation of Israel that could result from a vote in which only a handful of nations refuse recognition of Palestinian statehood would not be productive to achieving peace. At the same time, it is also clear that a vote in which the United States, as a principal international agent in the peace process, votes – either by itself or with other members of the Security Council – against even symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood would be deeply unproductive.
The most responsible course for the United Nations would be for member states to think beyond the question of symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood and instead offer a new, creative, and consequential proposal for a negotiations process that can produce durable and meaningful results. If the negotiations process is broken or has lost credibility – as indicated by nearly all present evidence – it is not only appropriate but imperative that world leaders, including Israeli and Palestinian leaders, work to fix it. The time for symbolic statements has passed. As the heads of local Churches in Jerusalem said in their recent statement, “negotiations are the best way to resolve all outstanding issues between the two sides,” and the moment to “intensify the prayers and diplomatic efforts for peace” is here.
I am encouraged by the actions of the Quartet for Middle East Peace – the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia – to respond to the Palestinian statehood resolution by putting forward a clear plan for the parties to come back to the negotiating table immediately. I am encouraged that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have voiced openness to this course, and I am hopeful that the coming weeks will provide meaningful opportunities for each of us to support the parties in coming to the table.
III. What We Can Do
The question for each of us, then, is what we can do to contribute to the creation of peace in the Holy Land. How, in this case, do we live into our baptismal covenant to strive for justice and peace and promote the dignity of every human being?
We will ultimately need to address how to advocate with our own political leaders. But first I want to emphasize the particular responsibility we have as Christians to stand in solidarity with the Christian communities of the Holy Land who suffer the pains of the conflict and consistently act as agents of peacemaking. Bishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, at a recent conference in London on Holy Land Christians, put it this way, “As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers, to continue to provide hope where it is dim, to be voices of the voiceless, and to be advocates for a just and durable peace. We must work together with people of other faiths to encourage the politicians to put politics aside and meet midway, where all people are equal; the marginalized and the powerful, the poor and the wealthy, men and women, children and the elderly, regardless of faith or social status.”
Unfortunately, the Christian presence in the Holy Land has declined precipitously over the course of the past several decades. The causes of this are complex and varied, and relate in many ways to the realities of the conflict that have afflicted the area and the surrounding communities. If we are to help sustain the Christian presence, the “living stones” in the land in which Our Lord walked and in which the Church was born, we must energetically support the Christian communities in their varied witness.
The Diocese of Jerusalem is involved in multiple critical initiatives to improve the life of all persons in the Holy Land, particularly through education, healthcare, and the creation of religious dialogue between people of each of the three great Abrahamic traditions. I encourage all Episcopalians to read Bishop Dawani’s address(1) to the London conference this summer, to learn more about the ministries of the Diocese of Jerusalem, and to prayerfully consider what you might do to support those ministries through partners like Episcopal Relief and Development(2) and the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.(3)
Not only does financial investment in these ministries support the mission of the Church in the place of its birth, but it also helps the development of economic and social infrastructure in the Palestinian territories. In 2006 our Church affirmed this as key to the creation of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
As Bishop Dawani reminds us, Christians also have a responsibility for advocacy with their governments, calling politicians into new and creative solutions midway between the old and stubborn positions that divide them.
As our government has the potential to be the single-largest external force in the resolution of the conflict, Americans have several clear steps we can take. In view of the Quartet’s proposal for immediate resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, I am asking our Church’s Office of Government Relations in Washington to spearhead advocacy campaigns in the coming weeks around several key actions:
These acts of advocacy should be carried forth not only by our Church’s representatives in Washington, but by each of us in the United States, and so I urge all U.S. Episcopalians to join the Episcopal Public Policy Network,(4) which will, in the coming weeks, lead grassroots advocacy actions around these important issues.
For Episcopalians who do not live in the United States, advocacy with their governments is no less important, and I encourage several additional advocacy responses:
Finally, and most fundamentally, I urge all Episcopalians to pray regularly for all of the people of the Holy Land, for peace between the children of Abraham, and for a shared future that reflects the Psalmist’s vision of Jerusalem as “a city at unity with itself,” having peace within its walls and quiet in its citadels. (Psalm 122)
IV. A Closing Word
There is little doubt that the impasse of the present moment has brought frustrations in all quarters to new highs. For Palestinians, the challenges and burdens of life under occupation, and a shrinking footprint for a future Palestinian state, are untenable. For Israelis, the fear that changes in the region will lead to increased violence and hostility from all directions after a decade of relative harmony is equally untenable. For those of us who love both Israel and the Palestinian people, the frustration of continual advocacy for political solutions that don’t come to fruition is disempowering and demoralizing. It is fair to say that we are not just at an impasse, but a real crisis.
The greatest risk in such moments of crisis is that frustration leads to further retrenchment, to further polarization masquerading as righteous anger, and to the creation of hearts of stone rather than hearts of flesh. The faith shared by the children of Abraham, however, demands a different response. It demands that we see that retrenchment itself, in all quarters, is precisely what has created the crisis of the present moment, the crisis of generation upon generation of conflict. If we are serious about the Scriptural vision of Jerusalem as the possession of God, standing as a signal to the nations of God’s peace and justice, we must be the messengers who proclaim peace in the moments it seems most elusive. We must, as Bishop Dawani reminds us, grasp the hands of politicians and draw them to a meeting point midway, to compromises they may find uncomfortable or even previously unthinkable, to real and meaningful peace.
Some may ask why we should remain hopeful when each passing year feels like a further closing of the window for peace and each new fact on the ground seems to be a new impediment to peace rather than an incentive. Let us be reminded of what the engagement of millions of people of good will in this conflict has accomplished. The past decade alone has brought Palestinians economic and social infrastructure where it did not exist before, and effective governance in the West Bank that is demonstrably serious about peace and held in high regard by international partners. For Israelis, the past decade has brought security and safety that, while far from perfect, nevertheless is as firm as it has been at any point since 1948. These things would not have been possible without the engagement, advocacy, and friendship of millions of people around the world. It is precisely because these gains now seem at risk that frustrations run so high, but it is precisely the fact that these gains are at risk that should inspire us to continue.
People of faith are called to be people of hope, even when it seems darkest. Join me in hoping beyond hope for a fruitful resolution to this crisis. Let our motivation arise from Isaiah’s vision of crying aloud to Jerusalem that her warfare truly is ended. I remain
Your servant in Christ,
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
-- For more info contact:
Neva Rae Fox
Public Affairs Officer
The Episcopal Church
212-716-6080 Mobile: 917-478-5659
June 12, 2010
Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit, rather than a limitation or quenching of that Spirit.
The recent statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the struggles within the Anglican Communion seems to equate Pentecost with a single understanding of gospel realities. Those who received the gift of the Spirit on that day all heard good news. The crowd reported, “in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11).
The Spirit does seem to be saying to many within The Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God’s good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones. The Spirit also seems to be saying the same thing in other parts of the Anglican Communion, and among some of our Christian partners, including Lutheran churches in North America and Europe, the Old Catholic churches of Europe, and a number of others.
That growing awareness does not deny the reality that many Anglicans and not a few Episcopalians still fervently hold traditional views about human sexuality. This Episcopal Church is a broad and inclusive enough tent to hold that variety. The willingness to live in tension is a hallmark of Anglicanism, beginning from its roots in Celtic Christianity pushing up against Roman Christianity in the centuries of the first millennium. That diversity in community was solidified in the Elizabethan Settlement, which really marks the beginning of Anglican Christianity as a distinct movement. Above all, it recognizes that the Spirit may be speaking to all of us, in ways that do not at present seem to cohere or agree. It also recognizes what Jesus says about the Spirit to his followers, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:12-13).
The Episcopal Church has spent nearly 50 years listening to and for the Spirit in these matters. While it is clear that not all within this Church have heard the same message, the current developments do represent a widening understanding. Our canons reflected this shift as long ago as 1985, when sexual orientation was first protected from discrimination in access to the ordination process. At the request of other bodies in the Anglican Communion, this Church held an effective moratorium on the election and consecration of a partnered gay or lesbian priest as bishop from 2003 to 2010. When a diocese elected such a person in late 2009, the ensuing consent process indicated that a majority of the laity, clergy, and bishops responsible for validating that election agreed that there was no substantive bar to the consecration.
The Episcopal Church recognizes that these decisions are problematic to a number of other Anglicans. We have not made these decisions lightly. We recognize that the Spirit has not been widely heard in the same way in other parts of the Communion. In all humility, we recognize that we may be wrong, yet we have proceeded in the belief that the Spirit permeates our decisions.
We also recognize that the attempts to impose a singular understanding in such matters represent the same kind of cultural excesses practiced by many of our colonial forebears in their missionizing activity. Native Hawaiians were forced to abandon their traditional dress in favor of missionaries’ standards of modesty. Native Americans were forced to abandon many of their cultural practices, even though they were fully congruent with orthodox Christianity, because the missionaries did not understand or consider those practices exemplary of the Spirit. The uniformity imposed at the Synod of Whitby did similar violence to a developing, contextual Christianity in the British Isles. In their search for uniformity, our forebears in the faith have repeatedly done much spiritual violence in the name of Christianity.
We do not seek to impose our understanding on others. We do earnestly hope for continued dialogue with those who disagree, for we believe that the Spirit is always calling us to greater understanding.
We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures. We note that the cultural contexts in which The Episcopal Church’s decisions have generated the greatest objection and reaction are also often the same contexts where women are barred from full ordained leadership, including the Church of England.
As Episcopalians, we note the troubling push toward centralized authority exemplified in many of the statements of the recent Pentecost letter. Anglicanism as a body began in the repudiation of the control of the Bishop of Rome within an otherwise sovereign nation. Similar concerns over self-determination in the face of colonial control led the Church of Scotland to consecrate Samuel Seabury for The Episcopal Church in the nascent United States – and so began the Anglican Communion.
We have been repeatedly assured that the Anglican Covenant is not an instrument of control, yet we note that the fourth section seems to be just that to Anglicans in many parts of the Communion. So much so, that there are voices calling for stronger sanctions in that fourth section, as well as voices repudiating it as un-Anglican in nature. Unitary control does not characterize Anglicanism; rather, diversity in fellowship and communion does.
We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the Communion. We note that these seem to be limited to those which “have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion.” We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard? In our context bowing to anxiety by ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a “failure of nerve.” Through many decades of wrestling with our own discomfort about recognizing the full humanity of persons who seem to differ from us, we continue to work at open and transparent communication as well as congruence between word and behavior. We openly admit our failure to achieve perfection!
The baptismal covenant prayed in this Church for more than 30 years calls us to respect the dignity of all other persons and charges us with ongoing labor toward a holy society of justice and peace. That fundamental understanding of Christian vocation underlies our hearing of the Spirit in this context and around these issues of human sexuality. That same understanding of Christian vocation encourages us to hold our convictions with sufficient humility that we can affirm the image of God in the person who disagrees with us. We believe that the Body of Christ is only found when such diversity is welcomed with abundant and radical hospitality.
As a Church of many nations, languages, and peoples, we will continue to seek every opportunity to increase our partnership in God’s mission for a healed creation and holy community. We look forward to the ongoing growth in partnership possible in the Listening Process, Continuing Indaba, Bible in the Life of the Church, Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, and the myriad of less formal and more local partnerships across the Communion – efforts in mission and ministry that inform and transform individuals and communities toward the vision of the Gospel – a healed world, loving God and neighbor, in the love and friendship shown us in God Incarnate.
May God’s peace dwell in your hearts,
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
The Presiding Bishop’s Pastoral Letter to The Episcopal Church is also available in audio on the home page of the Episcopal Church website: www.episcopalchurch.org
St. Mary's Church at Rakovnik, Ljubljana. Stained glass window, Photo by Oliver-Bonjoch, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.
May 26, 2010
This article published on the Huffington Post Religion Blog, May 26, 2010, by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
The original peoples of the North American continent understand that we are all connected, and that harm to one part of the sacred circle of life harms the whole. Scientists, both the ecological and physical sorts, know the same reality, expressed in different terms. The Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) also charge human beings with care for the whole of creation, because it is God's good gift to humanity. Another way of saying this is that we are all connected and there is no escape; our common future depends on how we care for the rest of the natural world, not just the square feet of soil we may call "our own." We breathe the same air, our food comes from the same ground and seas, and the water we have to share cycles through the same airshed, watershed, and terra firma.
The still-unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is good evidence of the interconnectedness of the whole. It has its origins in this nation's addiction to oil, uninhibited growth, and consumerism, as well as old-fashioned greed and what my tradition calls hubris and idolatry. Our collective sins are being visited on those who have had little or no part in them: birds, marine mammals, the tiny plants and animals that constitute the base of the vast food chain in the Gulf, and on which a major part of the seafood production of the United States depends. Our sins are being visited on the fishers of southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, who seek to feed their families with the proceeds of what they catch each day. Our sins will expose New Orleans and other coastal cities to the increased likelihood of devastating floods, as the marshes that constitute the shrinking margin of storm protection continue to disappear, fouled and killed by oil.
The oil that continues to vent from the sea floor has spread through hundreds of cubic miles of ocean, poisoning creatures of all sizes and forms, from birds, turtles, and whales to the shrimp, fish, oysters, and crabs that human beings so value, and the plankton, whose life supports the whole biological system -- the very kind of creatures whose dead and decomposed tissues began the process of producing that oil so many millions of years ago.
We know, at least intellectually, that that oil is a limited resource, yet we continue to extract and use it at increasing rates and with apparently decreasing care. The great scandal of this disaster is the one related to all kinds of "commons," resources held by the whole community. Like tropical forests in Madagascar and Brazil, and the gold and silver deposits of the American West, "commons" have in human history too often been greedily exploited by a few, with the aftermath left for others to deal with, or suffer with.
Yet the reality is that this disaster just may show us as a nation how interconnected we really are. The waste of this oil -- both its unusability and the mess it is making -- will be visited on all of us, for years and even generations to come. The hydrocarbons in those coastal marshes and at the base of the food chain leading to marketable seafood resources will taint us all, eventually. That oil is already frightening away vacationers who form the economic base for countless coastal communities, whose livelihoods have something to do with the economic health of this nation. The workers in those communities, even when they have employment, are some of the poorest among us. That oil will move beyond the immediate environs of a broken wellhead, spreading around the coasts of Florida and northward along the east coast of the U.S. That oil will foul the coastal marshes that also constitute a major nursery for coastal fauna, again a vital part of the food chain. That oil will further stress and poison the coral reefs of Florida, already much endangered from warming and ocean acidification. Those reefs have historically provided significant storm protection to the coastal communities behind them.
The dispersants that are being so wantonly deployed will have consequences we're not yet cognizant of, and the experience of gold and silver mining in the West is instructive. The methods used in those old mining operations liberated plenty of arsenic, mercury, other heavy metals, left cyanide and acids, all of which have significant health effects on those who live in the immediate area of mines and tailings, as well as those who use water downstream and breathe downwind air.
There is no place to go "away" from these consequences; there is no ultimate escape on this planet. The effects at a distance may seem minor or tolerable, but the cumulative effect is not. We are all connected, we will all suffer the consequences of this tragic disaster in the Gulf, and we must wake up and put a stop to the kind of robber baron behavior we supposedly regulated out of existence a hundred years ago. Our lives, and the liveliness of the entire planet, depend on it.
Photo of Presiding Bishop Katharine taken May 30, 2009 on the pier of Beckwith Camp and Conference Center, Fairhope, Al. Photo taken by Cindy McCrory, communications director, Episcopal Diocese of Central Gulf Coast. Beckwith Camp is owned by the Diocese of CGC. This pier is about 1/4 mile from the opening into Mobile Bay. www.campbeckwith.org
January 07, 2010
"Our hearts are broken," the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a homily at a prayer service for Haiti on January 17. The Presiding Bishop joined Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane, Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, The Honorable Susan E. Rice, US Ambassador to the United Nations, His Excellency Raymond Alcide Joseph, Ambassador of Haiti, and others at “Strength through Unity -- L'Union fait la Force: A Service of Prayer for Haiti” at Washington National Cathedral.
Our hearts are broken, as we sit transfixed before images of devastation and ruin, the bodies of children and elders piled in the streets, buildings crushed to dust, pleading arms and voices raised to heaven. We respond in lament and grief and sorrow, we push back against the senseless mystery of life’s pain. We yield to those ancient questions: Why? What sort of a God permits destruction like this? What can I do, how can I help? Those questions can’t ever be fully answered fully, yet they are most important in times like these. The reality is that life is not safe or predictable, but what we do with our lives gives them meaning. God does not cause suffering or punish people with it, but God is present and known more intimately in the midst of suffering. Above all, we become more human through our broken hearts.
That ability to suffer with, to feel compassion, is one of the gifts of being fully human. We may only be able to be respond through being with, by standing alongside, even at a distance. We can pray with the grieving, and we can reach out.
Compassion is pouring out across this nation and across the globe, as the world feels the suffering in Haiti. Suddenly strangers have become hungry brothers and thirsty and sisters, people in pain, without a place to lay their heads, mourning the death of loved ones.
Compassion is a gift that changes the world. We have discovered and remembered our sisters and brothers in a land many of us will never see – our common humanity is staring us in the face, and we have chosen to meet the gaze of Haiti. We are changed forever, if we will only remember the terror of that gaze.
Remember and let yourself be shaken. Feel something of the terror in Haiti. Terror, the word, comes from shaking; this terror started in the shaking of the earth. It has a parallel in the fear that periodically consumes this nation. May this terror shake us out of complacency and willful ignorance. Remember the people of Haiti. Reach out to those who have lost loved ones, to those who still wait for news of the missing, to Haitian-Americans in the neighborhoods around us.
The answer to terror is solidarity. The shaking stops when we stand together, when we remember that sisters and brothers, linked across the world, are stronger than fear.
Haiti is filled with resilient and persevering people, but much of the nation’s resources and systems are lost and broken. Many nations are already moving to stand alongside. We can give thanks for the rapid and deep response from these United States. There are immense seeds of hope in the response to this disaster, seeds that must continue to be watered and nurtured for the future. We’ve seen some of the hopeful seeds in Haitians gathering in broken streets to sing and pray, even children playing with empty boxes in which food arrived. Hope abounds, but it must be answered.
Our remembering has to be long-term, it must endure, if it is going to beat back the terror of this disaster. The longer and harder task is to remember the ancient hope of humanity, that vision Isaiah proclaims as repairing the ruined cities and building up ancient ruins and devastations. The long arm of remembering will give the strength to see that the hungry and thirsty and ill and homeless are cared for. Rebuilding the infrastructure of Haiti will take years, just as it has in the aftermath of Katrina. We cannot forget.
The disaster of this earthquake is the most recent and the most devastating of a long series of terrors – hurricanes, political coups and instability, the centuries-long struggle of former slaves to make a home in a foreign land. There is some deep solidarity in praying for Haiti on the eve of our nation’s remembrance of Martin Luther King. His message was filled with the biblical vision of the prophets, that heaven on earth comes when the poor are cared for and all God’s children are treated with justice. That vision applies to the poorest here and equally to those a few hundred miles south of our borders, to all who live in abject poverty, hungry for the world’s justice.
The words of prophets also come with challenge. It’s easy to miss Isaiah’s caution – the prophet proclaims that eternal dream of a restored world, but also the day of God’s vengeance. Matthew’s version comes in the verses we didn’t read, that those who don’t feed and care for the poor will be consigned to what we usually call hell – it’s not the poor who end up there, but those who ignore them and their suffering. The ancient vision of a healed world demands that all people have decent and dignified life possibilities – clean water, adequate food, shelter, medical care, education for their children, stable government, the possibility of meaningful employment. Here in this nation we shelter that vision under the banner of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” That vision will never be possible in any nation while some live in want and fear.
Terror is not limited to Haiti. The prophets remind us that the kind of terror that leaves us shaking in our boots comes from poverty ignored and justice denied. That shaking is calmed and healed in remembering, in compassionate solidarity with the suffering of the world.
We are seeing immense generosity in the compassionate response to this earthquake. Our challenge will be to remember that suffering through the years to come, when the desperation is no longer on our screens 24 hours a day. The shaking and the terror will stop as the ruined city is rebuilt and the devastation of generations is healed. May today’s compassion be transformed into a steely will to continue caring for the least, the lost, and the left out until not one is left. May Haiti’s poor be our poor until that day dawns. May the suffering in Haiti be felt here and around the world until the oil of gladness blesses every brow, and every tear is dried, and every cry of grief is turned to joy.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Episcopal Church
July 22, 2009
“Above all else, this Convention claimed God’s mission
as the heart beat of The Episcopal Church”
My brothers and sisters in Christ:
The 76th General Convention is now history, though it will likely take some time before we are all reasonably clear about what the results are.
We gathered in Anaheim, as guests of the Diocese of Los Angeles, for eleven full days of worship, learning, and policy-making. The worship was stunning visually, musically, and liturgically, with provocative preaching and lively singing.
Our learning included training in Public Narrative, as well as news about the emergent church, in the LA Night presentation.
We we lcomed a number of visitors from other parts of the Anglican Communion, including 15 of the primates (archbishops or presiding bishops), other bishops, clergy, and laity.
You can see and hear all this and more at the Media Hub: http://gchub.episcopalchurch.org/
The budget adopted represents a significant curtailment of church-wide ministry efforts, in recognition of the economic realities of many dioceses and church endowments, which will result in the loss of a number of Church Center staff who have given long and laudable service. Yet we will continue to serve God’s mission, throughout The Episcopal Church and beyond. This budget expects that more mission work will continue or begin to take place at diocesan or congregational levels. Religious pilgrims, from the Israelites in the desert to Episcopalians in Alaska or Haiti, have always learned that times of leanness are opportunities for strengthened faith and creativity.
As a Church, we have deepened our commitments to mission and ministry with "the least of these" (Matthew 25). We included a budgetary commitment of 0.7% to the Millennium Development Goals, through the NetsforLife program partnership of Episcopal Relief & Development. That is in addition to approximately 15% of the budget already committed to international development work.
We have committed to a domestic poverty initiative, meant to explore coherent and constructive responses to some of the worst poverty statistics in the Americas: Native American reservations and indigenous communities.
Justice is the goal, as we revised our canons (church rules) having to do with clergy discipline, both as an act of solidarity with those who may suffer at the hands of clergy and an act of pastoral concern for clergy charged with misconduct.
The General Convention adopted a health plan to serve all clergy and lay employees, which is expected to be a cost-savings across the whole of the United States portion of the Church. Work continues to ensure adequate health coverage in the non-U.S. parts of this Church. The Convention also mandated pension coverage for lay employees.
Liturgical additions were also included in the Convention’s work, from more saints on the calendar to prayers around reproductive loss.
What captured the headlines across the secular media, however, had to do with two resolutions, the consequences of which were often misinterpreted or exaggerated. One, identified as D025, is titled “Anglican Communion: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion.” It
The other resolution that received a lot of press is C056, titled “Liturgies for Blessings.” The text adopted was a substitute for the original, yet the title remains unchanged. It
The full text of both resolutions is available here: http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/
I urge you to read them for yourself. Some have insisted that these resolutions repudiate our relationships with other members of the Anglican Communion. My sense is that we have been very clear that we value our relationships within and around the Communion, and seek to deepen them. My sense as well is that we cannot do that without being honest about who and where we are. We are obviously not of one mind, and likely will not be until Jesus returns in all his glory. We are called by God to continue to wrestle with the circumstances in which we live and move and have our being, and to do it as carefully and faithfully as w e are able, in companionship with those who disagree vehemently and agree wholeheartedly. It is only in that wrestling that we, like Jacob, will begin to discern the leading of the Spirit and the blessing of relationship with God.
Above all else, this Convention claimed God’s mission as the heartbeat of The Episcopal Church. I encourage every member of this Church to enter into conversation in your own congregation or diocese about God’s mission, and where you and your faith community are being invited to enter more deeply into caring for your neighbors, the “least of these” whom Jesus befriends.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
# # # #
July 17, 2009
[July 17, 2009] A letter describing the steps taken by The Episcopal Church’s 76th General Convention and reaffirming the close relationship with the Anglican Communion was sent today to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson. A copy of the letter also was sent to the 38 Primates, and clergy and lay leaders of the Anglican Communion.
The letter to Archbishop Williams outlined Resolution D025, which was adopted at this General Convention, explaining that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and President Anderson understood Resolution D025 to be more descriptive than prescriptive in nature. It stated that some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution B033 but reiterated that is not the case. The letter continued, “This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025.”
The letter also states that the Episcopal Church “is deeply and genuinely committed to our relationships in the Anglican Communion.” It also says, “In adopting this Resolution, it is not our desire to give offense. We remain keenly aware of the concerns and sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in other Churches across the Communion. We believe also that the honesty reflected in this resolution is essential if indeed we are to live into the deep communion that we all profess and earnestly desire.”
The letter expresses the profound appreciation of the Presiding Officers that Archbishop Williams, 16 Anglican Primates, and lay and clergy leaders of the Anglican Communion attended the General Convention and stressed the importance of finding ways to communicate directly about different cultural and ecclesial contexts.
The letter to Archbishop Williams was hand-delivered. Copies of the letter were emailed to the Primates and to Anglican lay and clergy leaders on July 17, and were distributed to the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.
The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs
July 15, 2009
July 14, 2009 -- The House of Bishops and the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church today completed passage of a revised Resolution D025, Commitment and Witness to the Anglican Communion, at the Church’s triennial General Convention in Anaheim, California.
In addition, D025 affirms transparency and openness in The Episcopal Church’s ordination process. The resolution…
The Legislative Committee on World Mission was faced with legislation that ranged from asking for the repeal of 2006 Resolution B033 to restating the Church’s nondiscrimination canons, but instead discharged these resolutions in favor of the invitation to transparency in matters of ordination and ongoing commitment to the Anglican Communion.
On July 13, 2009, Resolution D025 was amended and passed by the House of Bishops 99-45, with two abstentions. It then was sent to the House of Deputies which concurred with the amended resolution on July 14, 2009.
The Episcopal Church, founded in 1785, is run by a bi-cameral legislature comprised of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, which represent the Church’s 110 dioceses in 16 countries. It is a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Full text of Resolution D025 can be found at http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/
July 12, 2009
The following is the sermon of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the Sunday, July 12 Eucharist and Triennial Ingathering of the United Thank Offering, preached at the Church’s 76th General Convention in Anaheim, California. (Video will be available on the Media Hub, http://gchub.episcopalchurch.org/)
Ubuntu and Mission
Mission of the Church
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
People get ready for General Convention in different ways. I didn’t notice any of the staff go on retreat, but two of them did drive a truck filled with electronics across the country two weeks ago. I think most of us – deputies, bishops, staff, volunteers, and our hosts here in LA – were scurrying around, trying to get all the work done before we left home. The House of Bishop/Deputies list-serve was pretty entertaining as this Convention approached, although I missed the banter of the Verbosians. Before the last General Convention that group identified themselves as the wordy ones who posted the most, and they scheduled a face to face gathering in Columbus. I’m not sure what’s happened to them, but their verbal siblings are still posting!
The list was filled with advice about what to bring. A senior deputy led off advice about lots of things, like how to get your socks dry after washing them in the hotel sink. There were many reminders about what to remember: pictures and icons for your table space, chargers for all your portable electronics, dollar bills or coins for your housekeepers, and energy bars for a speedy breakfast.
Many of us heard another version of this gospel last Sunday, when we were thinking about what to put in our suitcases: “no purse, no bag, no sandals.” We’re supposed to depend on the hospitality of those we meet. One of the list-serve posts included a reminder that Anaheim is not out in the middle of nowhere, there are stores here, and there are local deputies and volunteers, ready to help. But the gospel remains, to challenge us all – travel light.
Episcopalians are like Boy Scouts – we like to be ready, with prayer book, hymnal, and bulletin in hand, and a Swiss army knife in our back pocket to open the wine bottle. I was reminded yesterday at lunch that nineteenth century missionaries often shipped their goods out in a coffin, not expecting to return – they may have cut some ties with home, but they still took plenty of cultural baggage. This very Convention is a testimony to our love for order, our desire to process and organize and structure our lives together. The challenge is that structure or culture can become an idol, an image of our lust for control. Jesus isn’t interested in taking extra rations or all the comforts of home or in making hotel reservations for every stop on the journey.
Jesus simply sends the crowd out, tells them to travel light, and to expect hospitality. Their job is to share their hosts’ tables, heal wherever they go, and announce peace and the reign of God.
Travel light. When you leave this place, how much more stuff will you have than when you arrived? You can ship the papers home, but are you open enough to receive what is offered here – from Verbosians, from the housekeeper in your hotel room, the deputy across the aisle, an international or ecumenical visitor, or the person who beats you to the microphone? What will you put down or leave behind in order to receive what’s being offered? Traveling light has a great deal to do with expecting to find the presence of God, expecting gracious welcome, hospitality, and the image of God in those you meet.
A few weeks ago I met a youth group from Simpsonville, SC, on a pilgrimage to New York. They told me about their interactions as they were traveling around the city. They were stopping anybody they could, giving high fives. Their interruptions actually generated loads of positive and engaging responses from the commuters and workers they met who ordinarily look straight ahead. These kids simply received whatever was offered – a smile, a question, even the few who turned away. Their plan for the next day was to put out a sign that said, “free hugs.”
Jesus sends out 70 to do just that – to interrupt the day to day lives of their hosts, to heal people who probably didn’t expect it, and to offer shocking news – the reign of God is already here. If they don’t receive peace, they’re just supposed to move on – there are other people and places where it can be offered. The 70 just GO, and they go ahead of Jesus. They’re not following him around, they’re the advance team, the roadies, like our convention manager and the band of technical gurus who have worked hard to make this a hospitable place where we can enjoy whatever is set before us, whether fellowship or resolutions.
Are you ready to be sent? Are you ready to go ahead of Jesus, to prepare the way? The advance team’s expected to find evidence of the presence of God before they begin to talk about Jesus or the reign of God. They have to test the welcome because they can’t share news of what they have not found. We aren’t strangers and aliens any more, as Paul reminds us, and it’s the task of missionaries to discover and proclaim that good news of loving welcome in Jesus.
Paul was a master at expecting hospitality, even in jail. Roland Allen was a more recent light traveler, who worked in China in the late 1800s. He read Paul carefully, and he insisted that his job was to bring the scriptures and the sacraments, and then get out of the way. His work took root, and grew and flourished, often quietly, until the church in China today has become what he suggested: self-sustaining, self-propagating, self-governing. It has even taken those principles as part of its name – the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Individual congregations may have liturgical and theological leanings that we might recognize as Anglican or Methodist or Pentecostal, but the church as a whole has traveled lightly enough to take root in a different culture and context.
How much of a burden is culture or structure? Can we receive what is offered, can we announce peace or heal, with a bit less of it? This church can not be all things to all people, except through all its members. These human faces become the living image of God to a hurting world, pronouncing peace, healing, and making one. This body can only do that work through those who are sent out, having been fed for service, now fit for mission. Traveling light includes the willingness to share ministry, and discover the gifts of others.
The offering that we receive today is a sacrament of traveling light. When we hold something lightly, we’re much more able to offer it freely, like sharing peace – if you find it, great, if not, let it go and move on. The United Thank Offering is a sacramental sign of inward gratitude for what is, turned to outward and visible mission. This sign will go to Puerto Rico and Tanzania, to Liberia and Alaska. It may even come back to the Diocese of Los Angeles, which knows something about feeding, healing, and the reign of God, like Mama’s Kitchen and Mama’s Hot Tamales, where people eager for abundant life learn cooking skills, feed others, and discover healing in the process. Claro que el reino de Dios esta muy cerca.
All over this church, and beyond, God’s people are feeding, and healing, and announcing peace and the reign of God. The First Nations Kitchen in Minneapolis welcomes Native Americans to a meal of traditional and healthy foods, in a healing community. Teaching ministries heal deprivation and hopelessness in Boston, Taiwan, and Quito. Physical illness is being healed in the clinics of la diocesis de la Republica Dominicana y la diocesis de Honduras, in the nursing school of Haiti, through elder care in Native communities in Alabama and Minnesota, in the hospitals in Oregon, Texas, Long Island, and Jerusalem. Camping ministries in the Central Gulf Coast, West Texas, California, and Mississippi teach children and adults to travel light and to eat whatever is set before them.
Mission is our life, and it is a life spent on the road, traveling light, anticipating hospitality, and sharing what we have. When we’re dismissed at the end of this service, most of us will not go very far out into the world, though some will travel to that other temple just down the road. Can you announce peace to someone wearing mouse ears? Will you heal in Disneyland? You can even enjoy a meal of junk food, although a little monastic moderation might be in order – you don’t have to eat ALL of what they set before you!
In the coming days of this convention, what welcome will you offer, and what will you receive? You’re sent to be an interrupter of the world’s “business as usual,” and you are sent to be interrupted. The reign of God, the commonwealth of God is breaking in, whether we’re ready or not. Where will you announce peace? How will you heal? Eat what is set before you this morning and then go out there and become sacrament – sacrament - of the Reign of God.
March 31, 2009
An Easter Message
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Episcopal Church
The light returns and the days lengthen, even if it remains startlingly dark as we rise these days – daylight savings time is not always a blessing so early in the year! Christians, however, look for light even in the midst of darkness, for we know that darkness will not overcome it. The rising of the Son brings light into lives filled with grief, agony, and despair. Are you searching for the light of new life?
Easter recollects us and reorients us toward God’s eternal light of truth and peace and love. The resurrection is the ultimate proclamation that nothing can separate us from that light, not despair or destruction or death. We see hints of that resurrection all around us once our eyes have learned to look, and we continue to hope for its fullness, for the blessing of a light so encompassing that there can be no darkness or separation. Lent has been a willingness to experience the darkness of our current separation and tune our yearning for that light. Carry that yearning into Eastertide, and beyond, that we and the world around us may know the blessing of the light of Christ.
January 22, 2009
Bishop Smith has recommended to us our Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori’s Epiphany letter, and the accompanying information on our Good Friday Offering 2009.
The Good Friday Offering began in 1922 after General Convention directed that offerings given that day in congregations of the Episcopal Church be designated for the church in the Middle East.
Bishop Jefferts Schori has called upon Episcopalians to continue to pray for our sisters and brothers in the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East and to support the annual Good Friday Offering as an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity with Anglicans and all Christians in the troubled region.
Bishop Jefferts Schori’s letter to all congregations is available as a pdf file at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/ELO_010809_kjsLetter.pdf
The press release on the Offering is at:
The website offers a downloadable poster and bulletin shell, and a way to order envelopes.
Contact Beth Felice, diocesan director of communications