Woke up this morning to a soaring temperature of 105 degrees!
It was an exciting day, though, beginning with Eucharist and hearing Bishop Curry give an uplifting sermon. This was followed by ECW honoring Sara Brownlowe (from All Saints Frederick) as a distinguished woman by the National Episcopal Church Women. She was escorted by both Bishops Sutton and Burnett. It was a moment she will never forget.
Next came the introduction of the “Youth Presence” at our convention. There were 18 young people from around the country including Isabelle Locke, from St. Anne’s Annapolis.
In the afternoon Joy Shigaki, from the Episcopal Relief and Development Committee spoke about the Nets For Life program. This program has helped to stop malaria in Africa’s many children and adults .
The theme for the Triennial is “Many Paths, One Journey.” The Rev. David Gartner from VTS (Virginia Theological Seminary) spoke with us about evangelism and importance of having conversations about our courageous witness for faith, making a connection with The Great Story. He stressed the importance of meeting, sharing, and listening to all we meet everyday and everywhere.
Death sometimes appears in our lives after a time of long illness. And other times, death is an unexpected and unwelcome guest.
Yesterday, the Rev. Dion Thompson, one of our deputies to general convention received the information that his mother, Jessie Lee Wilson, died unexpectedly at her home in Sun Valley, CA. Dion+ was shocked and saddened as his mother, aged 75, had not been ill.
We ask your prayers for Dion+ and his family as they gather in California to mourn her death and celebrate the life that she lived.
Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Deal graciously with Dion Thompson and his family in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Yesterday afternoon, the Committee for National and International Concerns heard testimony on about 12 resolutions encouraging the church to act in support of the Palestinian people. Even our own Diocese of Maryland put forth a resolution on this complex issue. After reading the resolutions and listening to the testimony, here is my distillation of the arguments at hand.
No one disagrees that Palestine and the minority community of Palestinian Christians are being oppressed, persecuted, and denied basic human rights. Everyone also agrees that in the United States, the story of the Palestinian Christian people is not widely known and they feel forgotten by their brothers and sisters in the West.
But how do you fight the oppression and discrimination of a people?
Some resolutions called for only taking action that was in support of Palestine: building relationships, supporting education, making pilgrimage, investing in their economy, telling their story and being very careful not to paint a negative picture of Israel. These resolutions were endorsed by the presiding bishop and others as a way to move towards justice with our Palestinian brothers and sisters without alienating our relationship with Israel. Presiding Bishop Katharine wrote, “The process towards peace is often unbearably and indefensibly slow…” But this is the path that keeps us faithful to all of our relationships in the Middle East.
Other resolutions called for more aggressive measures, calling for all the same action of the more conservative resolutions and pressure for the divestment of the Israeli settlements, economic boycott of Israel, and endorsing materials for education about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict that criticize the unjust policies of Israel. The two controversial materials are “Kairos”, a document written by the Palestinian people about their situation and “Steadfast Hope”, a teaching resource adopted from the original publication by the Presbyterian Church that criticizes Israel for their treatment of the Palestinian people.
One man testified, “One side does not hold all the blame, but one side holds all the power.” He continued to describe how “behind the scenes work towards peace and justice is no longer working. Putting pressure on unjust policies of the Israeli government is not anti-semitism, it is the only faithful thing we can do.”
Another man testified that the education materials being recommended told a one-sided and false account of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He criticized Kairos and Steadfast Hope as unhelpful and vilifying the people of Israel, “this is not the kind of education we need to be promoting.”
When I first entered the room for the hearing I quickly noticed a few people with yarmulke’s and I wondered what kind of testimony they would be giving. Serving a parish in Pikesville, MD – a predominately Jewish community – and having been part of conversations between Christian and Jewish clergy about Israel and Palestine, I am very sensitive to the way the Jewish community refuses to publicly criticize Israel. I was surprised and moved by what they had to say because of their passion and their unusual willingness to speak critically of Israel.
One woman, an 80 year old survivor of the holocaust who escaped as a child. Her entire family was killed in Auschwitz. Her parents had been anti-Zionist. She spoke passionately about the need to support the Palestinian people. She saw their persecution in the light of her own experience of persecution and had spent her life traveling and speaking out in defense of them, even though it caused her much criticism from the Jewish community.
A man who was raised in a Jewish settlement, served in the Israeli military, and was now a Cantor in a reform synagogue said that the only faithful response was to criticize Israel so that they might move towards respectful relationships with Palestine and benefit from a peace with their neighbors instead of constant fear of terrorism from an enemy.
After listening to all of the testimony offered, I was even more convinced that this issue is terribly complicated and even with the best of intentions, it is unclear what is a faithful path forward. The only thing I am clear about is the need to stay in relationship. Be in honest communication with everyone about the injustices that have been witnessed and proclaim the hope for reconciliation that will bring healing for all involved.
Our meeting began with the traditional presentation of pewter crosses with the ECW symbol. The cross represents Christ, the circle stands for hope of wholeness in our lives and others, and the outflowing lines depict the many works of ECW in the world the intertwined lines are our lives centered in Christ. Once the crosses were blessed, the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave each member a cross.
The Bishop of Indianapolis, the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, welcomed us all to her city. The highlight was the keynote speech, the Rev. Lindsay Harden Freeman, who gave a humerous talk on women in the Bible, women in the church, and women in our lives and the gift and support we have all received from them.
It was announced then, 285 voting members were in attendance and Province III had all 13 dioceses represented.
There is a committee at General Convention that is so important to the functioning of the church that is both courted and cursed by everyone. Truly, a Love-Hate relationship exists with the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee – affectionately knows as PB&F. We all know that funding is necessary for the work of the church and everyone is vying for a their share of the available funds.
At the very start of convention a hearing was held with PB&F where people could speak about the importance of their ministry, their mission, their heartfelt vocation to do God’s will in the world. People stood before PB&F and said, “Here is where my heart is…” and the response that everyone desires is – The Episcopal Church’s will put its treasure where my heart is.
Many wonderful resolutions come before the convention, even get voted in the affirmative, but unless PB&F decides to allocate funding in that line item, the resolution can lie dormant, unable to be acted on. Our hearts may be there, but our treasure is not. Here is where hearts break and we struggle not to curse PB&F. No one envies their job, and everyone wants to be tucked under the wing of the budget.
Two heartfelt missions were repeated over and over during the hearing with PB&F
1. Ministry with and for Indigenous Peoples
2. Ministry with Youth and Young Adults
The testimony was impassioned, heartfelt, and all of our hearts went out for more youth ministry, funding for the Episcopal Youth Event, money for campus ministries, money for Episcopal ministry on reservations, Asset Based Community Development to empower the “Native” Americans who have had so much taken from them since this land was taken over and colonized.
It remains to be seen where our treasure will be allocated. But every day people are sharing more and more of their hearts with each other in the hopes that the church’s treasure will find its way into our heartfelt ministries.