The days here all begin to look alike and run together. I am going to switch from the rehearsal of that, you get it by now. I did see yet another Olympian here today, the Rev. Martin Yabroff, Rector of St. Andrew’s, Tacoma.
One of the highlight moments of the day, and one I shall not leave out, was a joint meeting of both Houses and a discussion of the Five Marks of Mission. I wish we would do a lot more of this at our General Conventions. After that, still in joint session, we honored and celebrated the leadership of Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefforts-Schori. Ray Saurez, reporter and member of St. Columba’s, Washington D.C., was the MC of this moment, during which a wonderful film which chronicled the Presiding Bishop’s time in office was shown. A great moment was the meeting of the 25th Presiding Bishop, and the 26th Presiding Bishop, and the “to-be” 27th Presiding Bishop.
Now, in the waning days of this convention, themes begin to emerge. As in all General Conventions, some better and more commendable than others.
Discerning those is a bit more difficult this time as it seems to me a meeting of “whiplash,” from the heights of hope, an almost delusional euphoria which says the church is just fine (and we need that from time to time, especially at events like this) to the legislative process which sometimes seems to border on the underlying theme that no one can be trusted. Clearly, no one seems to want to totally come out and say it, but there is an underlying anti-bishop anti-leadership movement, one suggesting that that none of us are to be trusted, and that in turn breeds a whole lot of distrust in the system as a whole. There come to be many conspiracy theories, speculation of sinister intent, talking about others rather than to them. Our human brokenness does make it to convention too.
The restructuring legislation that is now being debated on the floor of the House of Deputies is laden with a lot of this. I listen to much of what is said about the need for these changes and have to wonder if we are changing our structures based on personalities and mistrust which is never the climate in which to do so. I have to wonder about the timing now in particular.
I would not be the first to suggest that the minute we elect our first African-American Presiding Bishop is an odd moment indeed to begin to strip the office down. As I have said before, there is a lot of this based on fear, and I am not sure we have totally named, or maybe even know, of that which we fear. We would do well to get honest with one another about that.
As in our country and our churches, most of the people here, engaging in this process are oblivious to most of this, they came to do just what they were asked, to do their best and to love this church and its people in the process. I am praying for them to carry the day. As in our country and our churches, there are only a few that cannot trust that good, assume the best instead of the worst, seek power instead of focus and unity. I believe it was Gregory Straub who addressed the House of Deputies in the last few days and said something like, “the ship will take on barnacles and barnacles will slow it down and they should be removed, but you must take care not to remove the rivets, which are vitally necessary, and keep the boat afloat.” I ask forgiveness since I do not have the full or exact quote but it is well said.
So, that has become one of the underlying themes, who or what are the barnacles, and who are what are the rivets? I am not sure if any of those lie in the structure of the church as much as they do inside each of us. A book that I need to get out again, entitled, “Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers” once suggested that when we get off track in the church, and I would suggest any human organization, we usually do it when we find ourselves worshiping at the altar of control, instead of the altar of God.
Whatever the answer to these questions, only Jesus Christ can keep this boat sailing. So, I am leaning toward Him and his Way, and trusting, with a great assurance, that will prevail.