A different sort of July 4th Fireworks?

Most Episcopalians could care less about how their national church is structured. And that may be a very bad thing. 

On July 4th two diverging views of the Episcopal Church were set forth in the opening speeches of Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies, Dr. Bonnie Anderson. Their remarks produced muted fireworks – the kind we often see to close a foggy San Francisco Independence Day. 

Our Presiding Bishop spoke of breathing deeply, not being afraid, building bridges, the realm of God, the mission of God, and a call to reframe our view to look for places where God is already at work. Her view of change seemed set in a context of letting go of things we have done in our common live to make way for structural change. Measured by the number of resolutions proposed for this General Convention, change – both structural and budgetary – is one of the most popular issues on the agenda.

Our President of the House of Deputies spoke of the importance of the voice of the laity in our church. She traced how the way lay leaders and clergy share decision making and power in our church. She warned how history shows that people in power don't always do what's right. And she suggested the way we share power in this church reflects the American way of democratic decision making. 

“I am a bit concerned that this recent round of wandering in the wilderness has put at risk our central identity as a people whose democratic decision-making has led us time and time again to take prophetic actions on issues of justice and peace and build strong mission relationships with one another and with our sisters and brothers across the Anglican Communion. I am worried that a false choice between mission and governance will keep us from hearing the voices of all the baptized as we restructure the church and create a budget for it,” she warned.

In our political life we have seen how some conservatives have used economic hard times as cover to enact radical changes in our governments and loves. Some of the changes are beginning to affect our lives: our fragile economy may yet be sent back into recession by the refusal of some politicians to raise taxes of America’s richest taxpayers – you know, those how can afford to drop $1 million in support of candidates who will limit taxes on the rich. 

These are challenging times for church and state. The question is which vision this General Convention will follow – or perhaps how they will find the via media (middle of the road) response to the challenges we now face.