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“No thank you” to booze at General Convention

“No thank you” to booze at General Convention

Bishop J. Scott Barker, Nebraska has written a letter about his decision to abstain from alcohol at General Convention 2015.

“NO THANK YOU” TO BOOZE at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

I’ve made a small decision for which I ask your support. I’ve decided not to consume alcohol of any kind or at any time during our church’s General Convention in Salt Lake City this summer. I’m mindful of the recent tragedy in Maryland, and the chance to make a small witness for delight in sobriety as a bishop of the Church. I note that in the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska so many wonderful disciples are in recovery and could use some support – and so many parish churches are hobbled by alcoholic family systems long in place. I am aware that at convention we will be talking and praying about major restructuring in our denomination to face the challenges of faithfully following Jesus in this new millennium. I want to be fully present to all that, even and especially the informal and late night conversations where some of the most important work may be done. I’m a little bummed. I’m sure there will be some fun opportunities for celebration that I’ll miss. Seems right anyway. Surely this is the right time to try doing things a little differently. Amen?

Faithfully yours,

+ Bishop Barker

I wonder what it would be like if everyone abstained, though I don’t hear the bishop asking for that.


posted by Ann Fontaine


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Charles Scheid

Alcohol was only one part of the reason that Heather Cook killed Tom Palermo. There was also texting involved and there was driving. Giving up drinking for a while isn’t going to keep that many bicyclists alive. Giving up texting might save a few. But if you really want to do something useful then give up driving. No, seriously. Bicyclists get killed all the time by sober drivers and drivers who aren’t texting. And nothing destroys the planet and deadens the soul like driving an automobile.

Nancy Bennett

Possibly. But that doesn’t account for the millions and millions of people who are dependent on alcohol for their social life. Or to relax every weekend.

Janice Garvin

There is evidence that some people are biolgically predisposed to becoming alcohalics. For some of them, the first few drinks, often taken during adolescence when the brain is particularly vulnerable and judgement is notoriously lacking, activates the addiction. From that point the only hope for them to reliably exercise “self control” is to never drink at all. I have an adopted son in this position.

Nancy Bennett

A huge portion of the population simply cannot imagine how to have a good time without drinking. They cannot imagine New Years Eve or their High School Prom or their corporate Christmas party, or even just getting together with friends without alcohol.

I’m not a drinker. I drank in college on occasions because my friends did. I got drunk a few times because it seemed like fun — in the same way that getting totally stoned and walking around the quad in the moonlight at 4 am with your friends laughing like maniacs seems like fun when you’re 19 years old. But the truth is — I’ve never particularly enjoyed having my brain function abnormally, which is actually all that alcohol does for you. So eventually I stopped even pretending to drink at social events. Probably everybody thinks I’m a recovering alcoholic when they see me drinking my Pepsi. 🙂 But I’ve noticed that a LOT of people depend on alcohol to be able to have a good time and/or to have pleasant social interactions with other. And if you want to check that hypothesis, remove the alcohol and see who keeps on having fun and who is unable to enjoy themselves. Lots of organizations now seem to have woken up to this and have started to plan events that are NOT centered around alcohol — like alcohol-less New Year’s Eve parties.

BTW, four years ago I was hired to write an online course (that’s what I do for a living) on the physiological effects and social costs of alcohol in the US. What an eye opener that was for me!


I hope its alright if I keep my name anonymous. I am public about my alcoholism in my own community, which I think is a key part of sobriety, but since I’m being a bit critical of the Bishop here, I’d rather be on the safe side!
The Bishop writes: “I’m a little bummed. I’m sure there will be some fun opportunities for celebration that I’ll miss. Seems right anyway.” This is a sentiment that troubles me and shows how difficult it truly is for folks to understand alcoholism. The idea that not drinking means missing out on the celebration tells me the bishop has never been to a well-run AA meeting! There is tremendous joy when one has been liberated from the denials, lies, and drunken disasters that active alcoholism causes. I for one never miss a chance to celebrate and party my sobriety–and I know many other friends of Bill who do the same. Some of us have worked our programs well enough and for enough years that we are, by the grace of God, able to be around alcohol without lapsing into the darkening pall of an all night bender. I’ve been accused of being a bit too loud, a bit too happy, even at times, I suspect, of being drunk. This is what the Holy Spirit promises us, and this is what AA is all about at its core.
So please, don’t cry for me, Bishop Barker. I’ve got my dancing shoes on and am giving thanks every day that i don’t need to take a single sip to have the joy in my heart. And if I can have a blast without alcohol, I am sure non-alcoholics like the Bishop can do it too!

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