Spouses of Bishops Meet in Indianapolis

I was privileged to attend General Convention as the spouse of your Assistant Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Joe G. Burnett.  I enjoyed meeting the members of the Maryland deputation and participating in a variety of activities.

Programs are scheduled throughout the week for spouses/partners of bishops, including a luncheon where new members of the community are welcomed and retiring members are honored.  This year’s luncheon was held at the Eiteljorg Museum, which features a fine collection of western and Native American art. 

As a church musician, I always enjoy the worship at General Convention.  We were graced with inspiring music from local parish musicians, organ and brass, a 200-voice diocesan choir, a marvelous Native American flutist from Idaho, and a gifted Latino guitarist and cantor from California.  Singing hymns in harmony with several thousand Episcopalians is great fun!  The Integrity Eucharist is another high point of every Convention with vibrant singing and excellent preaching. 

In addition to legislative sessions, General Convention is part family reunion and part marketplace.  Wandering through exhibit hall each day provides an opportunity to greet friends from across the USA and around the world.  In addition to booths promoting church-related organizations and causes, there are vendors selling vestments, books, art, jewelry, and crafts.  Many of these merchants promote fair trade and support various charities.  Purchases this year included a wall hanging and shawls from Jerusalem, pottery from Louisiana, a pendant from China, books, and an Episcopal dog collar.  In addition, everyone leaves General Convention with a collection of “freebies” – pens, pencils, buttons, tote bags, water bottles, and hats. 

There are opportunities to volunteer throughout Convention, and visitors’ galleries are available in both the House of Deputies and House of Bishops.  It is fascinating to observe the legislative process at work and to witness historic votes on important issues.

If you have never been to General Convention, I encourage you to consider attending.  Anyone can register as a visitor, and volunteers are always needed.  The energy and vitality of the Episcopal Church will astound you, and you will leave with a renewed vision for mission and ministry. 

Marty Wheeler Burnett

July 7 – Evangelism

I was asked to serve as the bishop vice-chair of the Evangelism and Mission Legislative Committee at this convention – and happily so, as I requested this assignment of the presiding bishop.  I chose this particular committee out of my personal interest and calling as the chief evangelist in the Diocese of Maryland, but also because of the Diocese’s commitment to evangelism as expressed in our Horizons 2015 priorities.

Of the several resolutions the committee is dealing with, two especially have some impact on the Diocese.  Today, I want to discuss one of them, and write about the other one tomorrow.

The first one is the proposal (Resolution A073) that calls for the development and funding of  “Mission Enterprise Zones” within dioceses wherein creative initiatives are launched to evangelize under-represented groups in the Episcopal Church.  These groups included youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement.

This is a very fine proposal which I think can result in much evangelism being incubated across our Church.  As many have well-documented, these have not been good years for evangelization and church growth for the Episcopal Church.  We – as all but a very few denominations in the United States – have been faced with steady declines in church attendance and membership, and we need to find ways to tell our faith stories as Anglicans to many more people. Young people especially are not going to our churches in droves, and those who are not white, relatively affluent and well-educated are not well represented in our pews in the Diocese of Maryland given their numbers in our State.

These Mission Enterprise Zones will be initiated, developed, monitored and mostly funded on the local levels, i.e. dioceses.  What the General Convention is being asked is to establish a denomination-wide “Mission Enterprise Fund” of $1 million over the next three years able to make $20,000 grants to the local mission enterprise zones.

I enthusiastically support this proposal.  This is exactly the kind of thing that many of us have been wanting our national church’s mission units to do.  What could $20,000 do?  A lot, I think.  Such a grant could seed initiatives in the Diocese of Maryland to, say:

  • Start neighborhood youth choirs
  • Fix up houses in low-income areas to be used for creative ministries
  • Provide foreign language training for clergy and lay missioners
  • Set up a coffeehouse ministry
  • Fund a new campus ministry
  • A thousand other ideas…

What could your parish or community do with a $20,000 grant to spread the gospel to more people?


July 4 Reflection from Bishop Sutton

One of the joys in my daily routine is to read some words of spiritual wisdom from several sources.  One such resource is the “Daily Faith” brief reflection sent from Well for the Journey, a non-profit center offering spiritual nourishment for daily living. (Visit their website at www.wellforjourney.org)

Today’s quote is especially well-suited for our national Independence Day holiday when we reflect on the meaning of freedom for our nation and our own lives.  The quote is:

“Resolve to live in the kingdom where God lives within you and you live within God.  That is the kingdom of freedom.  That is God’s kingdom, the world of grace.”

These wise words from M. R. Bawa Muhalyaddeen, a Sufi master, remind me that true freedom can only be fully realized in God, when I give myself totally to God’s reign in my life and in my relationships with others.  That kingdom is ruled by grace – not by my insatiable drives to satisfy my own desires, my own aspirations, my own will to seek power, control, security and success.

As The Episcopal Church gathers in its triennial national meeting in Indianapolis, I wonder what it would mean for our Church to seek this kind of freedom?  How would it increase our witness in the midst of this national day of reflection to model a way of “independence” that knows that our freedom is based on our being dependent on God and on one another?