Monday, March 24, 2014

2014 Spring House of Bishops, Day 4

Usual morning "retreat" routine. Following Morning Prayer, today's meditation was delivered by my good friend Bill Love, Bishop of Albany. His account of missionary activity in the diocese was invigorating--singing the Lord's song in the alien land of urban Albany/Troy.

Between the meditation and lunch, I got in another hard walk--about three miles this time, I would say. One of the blessings of this time away has been that I've been able to get significant exercise every day. Good for my health.

The afternoon session was devoted to ecumenical and religious engagement. The national church officer for such things, the Rev. Margaret Rose, called on a succession of bishops in turn to report on the bilateral ecumenical dialogues that they superintend: Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Moravians, Swedish Lutherans, Old Catholics, Roman Catholics, and probably one or two that I'm forgetting. (Though I don't think I'm forgetting the Orthodox; I think they weren't mentioned.) This was all report; no discussion. We then turned our attention to "inter-religious" activities. A seminary middler from General Theological Seminary in New York offered a reflection on the critical importance of inter-religious discourse. I have to say, I was not persuaded. But maybe that's just me. This time we did have about 20 minutes for table discussions, wherein we were to share what's going in our own dioceses with respect to this topic. I didn't have much to report, save that I had recently met three self-proclaimed Druids at a New Years Eve party, but since it was a party, didn't press them very hard to share with me what drew them (all raised Irish-American Catholics) to Druidism. While I am passionate about ecumenism, interfaith engagement is, in my mind, one of those "nice" things that will always lose any triage assessment of where to put energy and resources. And speaking of energy and resources, there were certainly more pertinent things we could have done with our plenary time this afternoon. This was a disappointment.

The session ended at 3:30, so I went back to my room to read, but first needed to grab a nap. By the time I emerged from my grogginess, I was just missing the beginning of the Eucharist, so I finally did get around to doing some reading.

After dinner, the item on the plenary agenda was a briefing on the next meeting of the House, which will take place this September ... in Taiwan. Why Taiwan, you ask? Because the Episcopal Church, in fact, has a diocese there, whose bishop faithfully attends every meeting of the House. However, I had already made the decision that I will let them have this meeting without me. I'm certain the Diocese of Springfield would come up with the funds to send me, pretty much without blinking. But I just don't think it's good stewardship of the not-unlimited money we are blessed with. Moreover, I do not wish to be complicit in furthering the narrative that "the Episcopal Church is an international church; we're in 16 countries on four continents." While technically true, that is an incidental and circumstantial reality, not the virtuous fruit of a grand missionary strategy. If anything, it is a vestige of colonialism, and we ought to find it an embarrassment and be taking more aggressive steps to spin off our overseas dioceses into self-sustaining Anglican provinces. As it happens, though, it is politically useful for TEC to have recourse to the "international church" meme. In any case, I don't need to be an accomplice. So ... I didn't go to the meeting, and spent the time in the conference center lobby (alas, no usable wifi in my room) cleaning out about a page and a half of emails. A huge weight is lifted.

I'm ready to go home, but there's one more day.


Unknown said...

Hang in there, Bishop!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sounds to me like a first world problem of assumed, unexamined privilege and affluence. I'm pretty sure Jesus has his reddened face in his hands after reading this, and he's sadly shaking his head.

Malcolm+ said...

I've been pondering your comment, 'interfaith engagement is, in my mind, one of those "nice" things that will always lose any triage assessment of where to put energy and resources.'

With respect, the more I ponder it the more it seems to me a rather Christendom way of looking at the issue. In Christendom, non Christian religions were essentially a sideshow. Thus, dialogue with them wasn't that important. But I would question the prudence of that attitude as the society in both of our countries becomes less and less overtly Christian.