Each day a group of bishops report on their meeting which is closed to visitors and the press. These reports can be read at Episcopal Life Online. Some blogging bishops are offering their own reflections on the discussions and presentations.
+Dan Thomas Edwards, Nevada, tells of a controversy on the first day:
Today, we had a series of presentations on evangelism that actually turned controversial --though this controversy will never make it into the popular press or the Foxy blogs. On the one side we had the Missioner for Congregational Vitality and the Communications Officer for The Episcopal Church. They presented the first edition of the new Evangelism Tool Kit, complete with all sorts of sociological data about what the unchurched are seeking, what they cherish and what they despise from their previous religous experiences, what they think of us before we meet, how they perceive us on first impression, and if they stay, what makes them stay. It was full of surprises and practical, helpful information.....
Then came the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA who was one of the most powerful and persuasive preachers I've heard in a long time. He didn't have any use for the tool kit or sociology or marketing or any of that. He also thought the seekers were seeking the wrong thing and the finders (folks who stayed in the chruch) had found the wrong thing. He insisted that we need to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ which is the best news ever -- but it turns our lives upside down instead of patching them up as many of the seekers would prefer.
So there it was: one group proposing a medium; the other, proposing a message.
My mind was filled with the images, sights and sounds from the previous days. My thoughts went to the wonderful congregation where I serve. My heart was seeking ways to put the pieces together of our common life as a church and how God was speaking in the midst of us. I still don't have any answers but I can't help thinking about the children I watched in Naco, Sonora, who were preparing for Mexican Independence Day. Children from five to 16 were marching in formation in preparation for a huge celebration, as this year marks the bi-centennial. They were laughing and smiling, serious and proud of who they were and their country. Despite all of the challenges they live with they were putting their all into their practice. They were living as active children of light. They were rejoicing in the light and life they have.
More reflections from bishops on their trip to the border in the following video.
Media Briefers for Friday, September 17, 2010 report below
Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan
Bishop James Mathes of San Diego
Episcopal News Service] The following Daily Account, issued by the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs, offers an overview of the second day of conversations and activities of the House of Bishops, which is meeting Sept. 16-21 in Phoenix, Arizona. The sessions are closed to the media and the general public.
House of Bishops Daily Account for Friday, September 17, 2010
The House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church is meeting in Phoenix, AZ (Diocese of AZ) from September 16 to September 21. The following is an account of the activities for Friday, September 17, 2010
Bishop John Rabb of Maryland introduced a guest, Bishop Samson Das of the Church of North India. Rabb added this was the first time a bishop from the Church of North India attended a HOB meeting.
Bishop Kirk Smith of Diocese of Arizona presented a video depicting an overview of the recent border trip. He talked about undocumented Episcopalians who participate in church life. He called Arizona "the epicenter of discussion in this country about immigration," naming it the human rights issue of our time. Smith shared statistics: In 2020 one-third of the United States population will be Hispanic, and in some states it will be 50%. The United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, surpassed only by Mexico. He pointed out that the church has been slow to respond, and doing Hispanic ministry requires understanding a whole new concept. "These people are our people," he said. "They are God's people." Bishop Smith emphasized that immigration is THE civil rights issue of our time.
Joe Rubio, senior organizer of the Valley Interfaith Program, presented an overview of political and economic issues. "This country deals with this issue every 25-30 years," he said. "The last time was 1986 with the Immigration Control act signed by President Reagan." While it provided amnesty, it did not provide a means for people to come into this country. Arizona is the main way into this country from Mexico and Rubio noted that frustration is on all sides. Arizona Bill 1070 was the flashpoint and he predicts the situation will get more dangerous. He pointed out: "There is no way we are going to be able to deport 12 million people," which would cost an estimated $240 billion. Immigrants pay $2.4 billion in taxes. Immigrants work mainly in construction, hospitality, and agricultural industries. Underscoring the complexity of the issue of immigration, he pointed out, is that there is a benefit to a younger immigrant population balancing the aging population of the United States. His suggestions for the future: "We need to work on comprehensive immigration reform. We need to bring 12 million people out of the shadows. It needs to be bipartisan." He said the passage of the Dream Act would be significant if it passed. The story needs to be changed to show that "people are willing to come here, work hard and educate their children. Immigration has always changed the way this country worked, but in a positive way."
Speaking in Spanish, translated by the Rev. Canon Carmen Guerroro, "La Senora," an undocumented worker who wished to stay anonymous, told her story with deep heartfelt emotions. When her mother died, she needed to return to Mexico. In order to return to the United States and family, she walked with 45 others for two days with no water in the desert. She asked HOB, "Please say to President Obama, just because we are Hispanic, it does not mean we are criminals. We just want a better life for our children." She wants her children to say in the future, "Because my mother took humiliation from the Americans, my mother is taking all of this to give us a better life. The only reason I am here is because I want something important for my children. They are not criminals." When the law was signed by the governor of Arizona, her eight-year-old son asked what happens if she is taken away. "It was a very hard thing to hear," she said, adding that he fears coming home from school and her not being there. Through tears she told of her husband's recent heart attack, and asked for prayers. "He is a very good man, a very good father, a very good husband." Her presentation was concluded with a standing ovation by HOB.
The Rev. Seth Polley shared vignettes of life that have made an impact since he because border missioner, including people leaving the church as a result of immigration issues, the understanding that the border patrol provides humane service and should not be demonized, and the death of a rancher by drug dealers in the desert, which prompted him to note: "This country's insatiable appetite for drugs killed the rancher as much as the drug trafficker. Illegal drugs are killing people in the desert."
The Rev. Mark Adams spoke of being asked, "Do you support illegal immigration?" Calling it "a divine moment when the spirit speaks something beyond what you are saying," he replied, "I don't want to support illegal immigration, but I support illegal immigration every day: anytime I buy oranges, or eat in a restaurant, or when I travel and stay a hotel, if I play golf, or go into a building that has been built in the last 10 years, I am supporting illegal immigration," naming this situation "the complexities of our lives and how they are intertwined." He also said that words are part of the demonization: illegal aliens, vigilantes.
The Rev. Canon Carmen Guerroro addressed Popular Religiosity, specifically Latin American Popular Religiosity, and offered an understanding on "why we do certain things in our church as Episcopalians and as Hispanics/Latinos." She provided the history and importance of many cultural customs and holidays. She impressed upon the bishops the need for the church to value and find ways to preserve and honor such traditions, Dia de los Reyes (Day of the Kings) on Epiphany; Dia de los Muertos on the Feast of the Faithful Departed, and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, to name a few.
The Rev. Enrique Cadena, Vicar of San Pablo in Phoenix, AZ shared cultural experiences in the Hispanic/Latino community, with a focus on pastoral ministry and leadership development.
Facilitated by Bishop Leo Frade, Diocese of Southeast Florida, an eight-member panel discussed three key points: what are the unique challenges of ministry in the Hispanic context; what do bishops need to know about the Latino/Hispanic population; what is needed to understand for Latino/Hispanic ministry. Among their points: they announced the formation of Coalition of Episcopal Latinos; in the 2010 census there were 35 million Latino/Hispanics, with an estimate of 80 million by 2050; family is the most important value in Latino/Hispanic culture, and ministry to one group includes ministry to all family members. Among the panel members were: Miguel Carmona, lay youth ministry of the Diocese of Arizona; Dulce Carmona, lay children's minister; Bishop Francisco Duque of Colombia; Canon Guerrero; Cathedral Dean Nicholas Knisely of Arizona; Manuel Meza, Diocese of Southeast Florida; the Rev. Isaias Rodriguez, Diocese of Atlanta; Enrique Ruiz, lay leader of Arizona.