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News from the bishops’ spring retreat

News from the bishops’ spring retreat

Using the hashtag #HOBLent2015 bishops are reporting on their spring meeting, designated as a retreat. The main focus has been leadership in a multicultural society including how they might be leaders against systemic racism. They have had presentations on Ferguson, Indian reservations, prisons, and the legacy and continuing benefits of the era of slavery. The “Dan” bishops (Bp Dan Martins of Springfield and Bp Dan Edwards of Nevada) have blogged about the meetings. Interesting, sometimes one wonders if they are at the same meeting!

The Office of Public Affairs has issued a press release each day detailing what was on the agenda. Martins and Edwards fill in the blanks with differing perspectives. From today:

Elected to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops were Bishop Dorsey Henderson (reelected), Bishop Cate Waynick of Indianapolis (reelected), Bishop Rob O’Neill of Colorado, and Bishop Nick Knisely of Rhode Island.

The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop (JNCPB) presented a resolution mandating that candidates nominated by petition undergo the same background check procedures as those nominated by the JNCPB. The resolution was approved.

The HOB Pastoral Development presented a resolution of understanding on Commitments and Core Values for General Convention 2015, which was approved.

The House approved a resolution calling for the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the President of the House of Deputies, to appoint an independent commission to explore the canonical, environment, behavioral and procedural dimensions of matters involving the serious impairment of individuals serving as leaders in the church, with special attention to issues of addiction and substance abuse. The resolution requests that appointments to this commission include individuals with professional or personal experience with varieties of impairment, members of Full-Communion partner churches, and members of this Church. Recommendations for both action and further review, as appropriate, in order to clarify lines of authority, to ensure mutual accountability, and to promote justice, well-being, and safety within both the Church and the world were included.

The Bishops agreed to prepare a new Pastoral Letter on Racism, to be promulgated in 2016.

The HOB received the report of the Ecclesiology committee, entitled Re-membering and Re-imagining, a set of draft documents for further study.

Mindful of tragic events in Pakistan, the bishops approved a resolution in support of and in gratitude for the witness of Christians in that country.

As I work in a church, +Edwards thoughts about church growth and evangelism and offering resources for building up members for this work were most interesting:

The first question was: how do we bishops promote discipleship in our congregations? I was particularly excited by Bishop Scott Barker’s promotion of The Restoration Project by Fr. Christopher Martins. It is a book and a short adaptable course for discipleship based on a user-friendly Benedictine model for busy people of today. It is a simple way to form people as disciples of Jesus. I think this may be the program one of our rectors presented to his congregation recently and the lay leadership wrestled seriously over the threshold question of whether the church should be trying to form people as disciples. On the one hand I am stunned that anyone could doubt that. On the other hand, it is refreshingly honest to say, “we don’t really know whether we are interested in following Jesus or not.” If they do become disciples, they will mean it.

I am convinced that all the church growth marketing and charismatic clergy we can buy will not enliven the Church. Our deadness comes from our lack of belief we have anything to offer that the world wants or needs. The problem is we don’t have Jesus in our hearts. We are not being transformed ourselves so that we can in the power of the Spirit transform the world. Cosmetics won’t help if our heart is not beating. For our heart to beat, there is one and only one way: we have to follow Jesus.

The Restoration Project is not the only discipleship program. It may not be the best discipleship program. But it is shaking things up in California and it is getting a start in Nebraska. I hope Nevada will give it a try. But then we began to wonder about motivation. It is a proven matter of social psychology that negative motivators will not work. If I say to a congregation, engage in discipleship or you will die (which is true), they will choose to die. In order to inspire a congregation to follow Jesus, I have to show them that he is offering something positive that they want. What do our people want? What do they hunger for? It is the bedrock of my faith that the deepest desire of every human heart can be satisfied in Jesus. But what form does that desire take in the hearts of our people?

Last day report from Episcopal News Service 



Posted by Ann Fontaine

Photo by +Kirk Smith


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Michelle Boomgaard

At the risk of stating the obvious – if I strain my eyes, I can make out what appears to be two persons of color in the photo above, and possibly as many as three women. I wonder if perhaps the bishops should begin by examining how they have benefited from systemic racism (and sexism), before they sign yet another resolution to combat it.

Richard Warren

Touché, kiddo. You’re spot on with your observation.

Sherman Hesselgrave

“Our deadness comes from our lack of belief we have anything to offer that the world wants or needs. The problem is we don’t have Jesus in our hearts. We are not being transformed ourselves so that we can in the power of the Spirit transform the world. Cosmetics won’t help if our heart is not beating. For our heart to beat, there is one and only one way: we have to follow Jesus.”

Thank you for jump starting my Easter sermon!

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