This is the actual airplane flown by the third Bishop of Alaska, the legendary "flying bishop" Bill Gordon, who was elected in 1948 at the age of 29 and served until his retirement in 1974. The aircraft is on display at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, a museum in downtown Fairbanks about a dozen blocks from the hotel where the House of Bishops is meeting through next Tuesday. Most of the bishops and spouses made a stop there as part of their afternoon activities. I found it an intensely interesting place.
Our day began with Morning Prayer at our tables in the main meeting room. We were then welcomed by Bishop of Alaska Mark Lattime, who, in turn, introduced two gentlemen from the indigenous peoples of the area, who addressed us at some length. I was particularly impressed by the first one, who maintains a profound sense of connection with the people who have inhabited this land for 10,000 years alongside an uncommonly rich, articulate, and well-formed Christian faith. He had some insights into the story of Melchizedek in Genesis that I had never heard before.
After a break, and the usual "check in" time with our table groups, we heard from Bishop of Central Florida Greg Brewer, speaking on behalf of the Task Force for Communion Across Differences. How can we as a House do a better job of making sure we hear--and actively listen to--all the voices in the room, including those which, for one reason or another, may be soft or silent? Bishop Brewer was speaking particularly of those who represent what has become a minority position on issues of sexuality and marriage, but which has been long held in our church and continues to be mainstream in global Anglicanism. Personally, I found his remarks to be the highlight of my nearly seven years in the House of Bishops. He spoke truth that has desperately needed to be spoken, but which has been either so unwelcome or so inaudible that it has been accorded no venue. I felt light a huge weight was beginning to be lifted.
We continued with discussion at our tables around these questions. As we face a General Convention next year at which there will be a proposal for a surgical revision of the Prayer Book that would articulate an understanding of marriage for which maleness and femaleness are irrelevant, it is essential that the bishops arrive in Austin already having had deep and prolonged listening to one another about the issues in general and the proposal in particular. Our first public conversation about it should not be when we are debating a question that is about to be resolved by means of a vote. In fact, it might behoove us--and I felt some energy in this direction--for us to think of ways of making decisions that do not involve voting of the sort that creates winners and losers. It is, of course, a huge challenge for democratically-conditioned Americans to even conceive of such a thing.
We got back together late in the afternoon for Eucharist in celebration of St Matthew's Day. The Presiding Bishop served as celebrant, and Todd Ousley, lately Bishop of Eastern Michigan and now the Bishop for Pastoral Development, a member of the Presiding Bishop's staff, preached. We then adjourned for a cocktail hour and returned to the same room and table for a banquet-style dinner.