As noted by Bishop Lee in his latest video blog, we have just returned from the Spring 2012 meeting of the House of Bishops in Texas. It was a well-balanced agenda, consisting of retreat times in the morning and business sessions in the afternoon.
It is always humbling and encouraging to hear colleagues in the House take leadership and provide meditations and sermons at these meetings. This time Tom Shaw spoke of spiritual discipline; Michael Curry on the proclamation of the Gospel; Porter Taylor on pastoral care; Katharine Jefferts Schori on governance and leadership; Julio Holguin on mission.
In each case, these bishops wove their own stories, as a kind of personal testimony, into a presentation of their insights on each topic. Deeply moving and powerfully done.
In the “business” sessions, we considered a new canon on accountability for bishops — a canon on the reconciliation or ultimate dissolution of a pastoral relationship between bishop and diocese. This is a long overdue addition based on a similar canon dealing with the relationship of priest and congregation.
We put some restrictions on ourselves in the use of social media in the midst of our meetings. No “tweeting’ or ‘blogging’ in the midst of debates or executive sessions. No use of pictures or direct quotes outside the meeting without expressed written consent of those being photgraphed or quoted. “New occasions teach new duties” with respect to new technology.
We discussed a possible way forward with the proposed Anglican Covenant, particularly with the difficulty it seems to be running into in the Church of England and with Rowan Williams’ announced retirement. There may be a way for us to signal our ongoing commitment to relationships within the Anglican Communion short of either unreservedly endorsing or dismissing the proposed Covenant. We shall see.
With the exception of guidelines for our own internal work as a House of Bishops we, of course, can make no ultimate decisions on these matters on our own. This must wait until General Convention when both Houses are gathered together for the exercise of business. This church values the voices of all her people — lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons.
We made some modest changes in the so-called “Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight” agreement which allows diocesan bishops to invite colleages in to serve as bishop “visitors” to congregations which may be in serious disagreement with the diocesan on some particular matter. There is an attempt here to assure “theological minorities” within the Episcopal Church that they have a valued place within it and that their voices are necessary as part of the life of this church an its ongoing discernment.
In all cases, the conversations and debate were held with a minimum of rancor and a maximum of careful listening and valuing of one another. We have come a long way from the days when some defined the House of Bishops as “dysfunctional.” I am mightily impressed with the younger and newer leadership in the House (including our own diocesan!).
Keep General Convention 2012 in your prayers. July 4 will be here before you know it!