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The Presiding Bishop gives sermon at General Seminary’s Baccalaureate Evensong

The Presiding Bishop gives sermon at General Seminary’s Baccalaureate Evensong

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori gave the sermon last night for the commencement-eve Baccalaureate Evensong at General Seminary, beginning with the Psalm, 94:

O God of vengeance, show yourself. Rise up, O Judge of the world; give the arrogant their just deserts…
He who admonishes the nations, will he not punish? He who teaches all the world, has he no knowledge? …
Happy are they whom you instruct, O Lord! …the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my trust.

Following is an excerpt of the sermon; the Episcopal News Service has published it in its entirety.

This community has had a challenging year, n’est-ce pas? I found myself wondering who chose the psalm for this service. It certainly sounds like someone felt duty-bound to have the last word…

This has been a year of dying and rising. It’s not the first such year and it won’t be the last, though I know many are praying for some respite. Those of you who have been active participants in this year of transformation have received a great blessing, though I know it hasn’t always felt that way. For many of you, it’s probably felt more like David being dragged in from his blessedly free-range life with the sheep. What do you suppose he had to say when Samuel summoned him? “Oh no, not me, leave me alone, I didn’t ask for this.”…

God seems to be asking all of us to get over some of our boundary issues and to let go of some of the church’s hereditary ways. We can’t go on choosing leaders “the way we’ve always done it.” We need to be looking for leaders’ hearts – people who are courageous and maybe even a bit reckless, not risk-averse. God will work with the reckless, if they’re willing to die a little. But there isn’t much hope for growth toward the Reign of God if someone is constitutionally opposed to changing direction or meeting a different neighbor…

Episcopalians will always treasure what we have loved about tradition and ancient ways, but the Good Shepherd is leading us out into the deserts and byways and cities to discover where the Spirit is working new creation. Jesus sent the 70 out to the same kinds of profane territory – and remember that at its root profane means “outside the Temple.” The risen Christ sends his disciples to Galilee in order to find him.

The Presiding Bishop encouraged the graduates to be adaptable, to welcome diversity and evolution, to “risk who you are,” to “travel light and open, and at each stop declare ‘peace to this house,’ whatever sort and condition of human life it contains.”

 

photo credit Episcopal News Service

Posted by Cara Ellen Modisett

 

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John Donnelly

Dear David Allen, I think it is possible to find this a distressingly smug homily by a very powerful (woman) bishop who has intimate knowledge of the trauma at GTS without inherently disrespecting the person or her high office. If all agree, who needs conversation? And, in today's church, I expect very few understand the Daily Office's appointed readings.

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Chuck Messer

Although I would've played solitaire on my phone listening to thhe PB's sermon if I had to be there, I am nonplussed at the manuscript and disappointed that there wasn't more encouragement to graduates and those preparing for ordination to meet the genuine and deep disappointments they will face as pastors and evangelists of Jesus. I am a fan of our PB. I just needed more.

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Cynthia Katsarelis

I generally appreciate our PB, but this particular sermon is not to my taste. I hate it when there is conflict and the people holding the power dismiss the objectors as impediments to necessary change, disrespectfully (and probably disingenuously) dismissing them people who cling to "tradition and ancient ways." I've seen this very thing with power holders who were disrespectful, mean-spirited, and wildly irrational, ignorant, and destructive. But the non power holders saying "this isn't OK" are the problem. Apparently the job of the non power holders is blind obedience to the genius's running things and the non power holders can just get the heck out of the way. Most certainly these pesky non power holders must dismiss the idea that they have any right to be heard and respected. Be cog or get out. The only choices. Sad.

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Mary Sheeran

Thank you. Very well put. Our bishops on the whole are gutless wonders. The PB so disappointed me, as I had thought she was a breath of fresh air. But somehow, the imagined power of the mitre affect one. Yes, she was probably cautious, but she was even cautious about being cautious. The only ones with courage are the ones who see an injustice and speak to the point. The sermon was politic.

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Thomas Dudley Hurwitz

The issue should not be the psalm appointed, nor should it be defending the PB from attack -- many of us have been doing that regularly over the years. The issue is that she is trying to bless the wretched, divisive, and ultimately destructive leadership of the Dean and Board at GTS this year. Saying it is all behind us means not learning from the terrible errors that have been committed. How can that be God's work?

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Jeremy Bates

The Presiding Bishop was studiously neutral in this sermon. And that was probably wise.

After all, General Convention may act on GTS matters. Until GC has voted, perhaps the Presiding Bishop should not take sides.

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Jeremy Bates

Cynthia, I agree with your general point, but I'm not sure it's valid as applied to this sermon. I don't read it as dismissing anyone as a "cog"; indeed I am having real trouble finding anything like that. Where do you see the PB saying any such thing?

Likewise, for the outgoing PB to take the Dean and Board to task at the baccalaureate service would have been inappropriate. Another preacher gave something like that kind of sermon at GTS this week. I'm sure she said what many of the students have felt all year. But a seminarian has latitude that the outgoing PB does not.

This summer, GC may decide to express its views. If nothing else, the HoB will elect a new PB. The new PB will regard rebuilding GTS as among his greatest challenges.

The Dean's latest letter recognizes this. Reading between the lines, the letter also suggests that GTS is looking to TWS for financial support. Query whether much support would be wise, given that reaccreditation has been postponed, and the Dean and Board on whose watch this occurred remain in place.

I'm sure that many GTS alumni will not give until its leadership has been reconstituted. The alumni surely think that when an institution has a crackup like this, the "housecleaning" should not be confined to the faculty.

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John Chilton

Ann, would this be an example where she takes the side of the dean and BOT?

We can’t go on choosing leaders “the way we’ve always done it.” We need to be looking for leaders’ hearts – people who are courageous and maybe even a bit reckless, not risk-averse. God will work with the reckless, if they’re willing to die a little. But there isn’t much hope for growth toward the Reign of God if someone is constitutionally opposed to changing direction or meeting a different neighbor…

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Ann Fontaine

But she did take sides. Dean and BoT. It would have been better to stick to saying blessings and prayers on your ministries - leaving the accusations out.

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Andrew Irving

For the avoidance of any further doubt about whether or not the psalm to which the Presiding Bishop referred in the opening of her homily was simply appointed or specially selected, please know that psalms 94 and 95 are appointed for Evening Prayer on Tuesday of Week 7 of Easter in Year One of the Daily Office Lectionary (see BCP, p. 964). The homily was preached at the conclusion of the Baccalaureate evensong, and therefore the Eucharistic lectionary was not applicable. It is the Seminary's custom to follow the Daily Office Lectionary strictly with respect to psalmody and lections.

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Jeremy Bates

In that case I stand corrected -- along with the author of the post, who described it as a Eucharist service twice, in both the title and the first sentence.

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