Presiding Bishop Curry encourages voting as “a Christian obligation”

“Voting and participation in our government is a way of participating in our common life,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry said in a video election message.  “And that is a Christian obligation.  Indeed, we who follow in the Way of Jesus of Nazareth are summoned to participate actively as reflections of our faith in the civil process.”

The Presiding Bishop’s video election message is here. The video is closed-captioned and is subtitled in Spanish. The text of the Presiding Bishop’s message in English and Spanish is located at the end of this note.

The video is ideal for conversation, adult forums and group gatherings, Sunday School, youth groups, conventions, and meetings, etc.

Election Toolkit and resources
The Episcopal Church online toolkit with webpage outlines how individual Episcopalians and congregations can participate in the electoral process through nonpartisan activities. Among the possible non-partisan activities offered are: engaging young adults who are eligible to vote for the first time; hosting a candidate forum; advocating for voting rights legislation; and hosting Get Out The Vote campaigns. Through the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN), information is also available on an important initiative, the Episcopal Pledge to Vote

• Election engagement resources, including the downloadable Episcopal Election Engagement Toolkit, are available here. 

• Bulletin inserts are available here.

• A Facebook/Twitter social media campaign highlighting: state-by-state registration deadlines; information on voting rights; ways to support civil discourse; and historical fun facts of Episcopal political engagement through the centuries of our country. Facebook here and Twitter here. 

• Hashtag #EpiscopaliansVote

The Presiding Bishop’s message in English follows:

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
Election Message

This November we will gather together as a nation to vote not only to elect a new president but to elect governmental leaders on a variety of levels. 

We are blessed.  We are blessed as a nation to be able to do so as citizens of this country.  This is a right, an obligation, and a duty.  And indeed the right and the privilege to be able to vote is something that was won through an American revolution.  Something that was won even more through civil rights and women’s suffrage.  A right and a privilege that was won for all.  So I encourage you to please go and vote.  Vote your conscience.  Vote your perspective.  But vote.

But it’s not just simply a civil obligation and duty.  Voting and participation in our government is a way of participating in our common life.  And that is a Christian obligation.  Indeed, we who follow in the Way of Jesus of Nazareth are summoned to participate actively as reflections of our faith in the civil process. 

In the thirteenth chapter of Romans, sometimes a chapter that is debated among scholars and among Christians, St. Paul reminds us that we have a duty and an obligation to participate in the process of government, “For that is how our common life is ordered and structured.”  And at one point he actually says, “For the same reason,” going on, he’s expanding, he says, “For the same reason you also pay taxes for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with everything.”  That’s probably very true.  “Pay to all them that is due them.  Taxes to whom taxes are due.  Revenue to whom revenue is due.  Respect to whom respect is due.  Honor to whom honor is due.”  Now he’s talking about the role of government as helping to order our common life.  But here’s what I want you to really hear.  He continues and says: 

“So owe no-one anything except to love one another.  For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  The commandments ‘You shall not commit adultery’, ‘You shall not murder’, ‘You shall not steal’, ‘You shall not covet’, any other commandment, they are all summed up in this word:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.  Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” 

For St. Paul, the way of love, the love of neighbor, is the fulfilling not only of the moral law of God, but the way to fulfill the civil law. 

Go and vote.  Vote your conscience.  Your conscience informed by what it means to love your neighbor.  To participate in the process of seeking the common good.  To participate in the process of making this a better world.  However you vote, go and vote.  And do that as a follower of Jesus. 

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

 

Seminar: Understanding the Impact of Addiction and Supporting Recovery

On Thursday, September 15, from 8:30 am to 3 pm, HOPE for NH Recovery and the New Hampshire Council of Churches are co-hosting a free seminar for clergy and other congregational leaders to receive the latest information, resources and strategies on how to educate and give hope to individuals and families suffering from the impact of substance use disorders. The event, Understanding the Impact of Addiction and Supporting Recovery: Strategies and Tools for Clergy and other Congregational Leaders,  is at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester at 700 Elm Street.

Presenters include The Rev. Fred L. Smoot, M.Div., Ph.D., C.P.E. Supervisor, Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, CA and Sis Wenger, President/CEO - National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA).

The session has the following objectives:

● To raise awareness of how addiction to alcohol and other drugs impacts individuals and their families;

● To discuss the role of clergy and congregations in offering information, hope and recovery support for individuals and family members (especially children and youth) affected by alcohol and drug abuse;

● To review core competencies for clergy and other pastoral ministers and learn of practical strategies for implementation of community and faith prevention and recovery support programs;

● To connect with local prevention, treatment, and recovery support organizations to address substance use disorders and the faith community's role in prevention, screening and brief intervention to arrest the problem and recovery support.

This seminar is provided by The Clergy Education and Training Project® of NACoA in collaboration with theAmerican Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) and the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (AAPC).

For more information or to register for this space-limited session, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/understanding-the-impact-of-addiction-supporting-recovery-faith-leaders-tickets-26668224377

Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation offers Report to Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation offers a report of its work following a recent meeting.

The Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation met in New York City July 20-22 to discern the Church’s ongoing response to environmental issues.  The Advisory Council members were appointed by the presiding officers as called for by Resolution A030 adopted at the 78th General Convention. A list of the members of the Advisory Council can be found here. 

Resolution A030 calls for the council to form Regional Consultative Groups (RCG’s) for local technical support and networking of environmental ministries and initiatives.  Each RCG will includeindividuals who can support needs in education, theology and liturgy as well asecological experts to equip dioceses and congregations as they live into the Church’s mission to join in the reconciliation of all God’s creation. The council is developing a plan for forming the RCGs and expects to announce the process later this year.

The Advisory Council will also oversee $300,000 in grant funding for environmental ministries that focus on the intersection of social and environmental needs, faith and eco-justice, and congregational engagement. Funds for the grants will come from monies allocated to the Fifth Mark of Mission as approved by the 78th General Convention in 2015. The council is currently developing the granting process, which it expects to announce publicly later this year.

During the meeting, the Advisory Council had the opportunity to meet with the two presiding officers of the Episcopal Church: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, and with Executive Officer of theGeneral Convention the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe. The presiding officers expressed their commitment to continue embracing and embodying the spirit of Jesus by caring for creation. From the Presiding Bishop, the Council heard a commitment to three major ways the church can live into the Jesus Movement: evangelism, the work of racial reconciliation, and care for creation. These issues are the work of the Church and are intimately connected to each other.

The Advisory Council issued a statement to the wider Church: “Grace and peace to you in Jesus’ name. We rejoice that our church’s officers affirm that eco-justice work is core to God’s mission. We commit to develop a church-wide network and grant making process to resource this ministry. We ask your prayers and we offer ours for you.”

For more information contact Advisory Council member Kelly Phelan, Diocese of Olympia, kphelan@saintmarks.org.

 

NH Parishes Invited to Sing to End Gun Violence on September 25

A National Concert Across America to End Gun Violence will be held on Sunday, September 25.  This concert, the first ever of its kind, is organized by a group of gun violence prevention organizations who are encouraging Americans, especially churches, to hold a live musical event, “be it humble or humungous,” to remember the victims of the gun violence epidemic and to “raise the volume on the national effort to save lives from gun violence” on September 25. This day was chosen because, in 2007, Congress designated September 25 as the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.

You can find more information here (http://faithsunited.org/join-the-national-concert-across-america-to-end-gun-violence/)  and here (http://concert.faithsunited.org/). Parishes who are already gathering and singing on Sunday, September 25, are encouraged to lift their voices against gun violence by participating in this event.

Congregations can publicize concerts by using the "Add your Concert" link on this page http://concert.faithsunited.org/. You can also find ready-made bulletin-style announcements, graphics and flyer-templates  by clicking on the “Resources” link on the same page. Please consider sharing this video to promote the event on your parish websites and in your social media channels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIKDx4fUXNs&feature=youtu.be.

If you decide to participate, please contact Laura Simoes at lsimoes@nhepiscopal.org to be added to a national listing of Episcopal churches, being gathered by Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

From Bishop Hirschfeld--on Nice and the Passing of Bishop Browning

July 15, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"Donne-nous le courage de ne pas céder à la peur, et la déraison qu'elle inspire. Amen."

"Oh, God, give us the courage not to cede to fear and the madness it inspires. Amen."

In these dark days of violence, let this prayer from my friend, the Rt. Rev Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Europe, hold us back from fear, lead us away from violence, inspire us with hope, and compel us to loving service. My prayers, and I beg yours, are with the lost, the dead, the injured and the grieving souls in Nice. May our loving Christ uphold them in peaceful repose.

And, let us also pray for the soul of the Rt. Rev. Edmond Lee Browning, the 24th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who died on July 11, 2016 and who has risen in glory to be with the God he so well loved and served. Now, more than ever, let us honor him by heeding his call that "there are no outcasts in the church." 

For more information about the Rt. Rev. Edmond Lee Browning from the Episcopal Church, click here. For an article about him in the New York Times, click here. For his obituary, click here

Yours in Christ, +Rob

Mind, Body & Tea: The Rev. Becca Stevens Makes a Return Visit to the Seacoast

A special event, Mind, Body & Tea, featuring author, humanitarian and nationally-acclaimed speaker, The Rev. Becca Stevens, will be held at the First United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 31 at 4:30 pm at 129 Miller Avenue in Portsmouth. St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea, in Rye Beach, is hosting the event.  It is free and open to the public. Seating is limited. Please register at www.standrews-by-the-sea.org.

This is a unique opportunity to discover how the dynamic founder of Thistle Farms, the Magdalene Program, and Chaplain of Vanderbilt University’s experiences and transformational stories of human trafficking, oppression, and abuse affect the growing movement of women’s freedom and our own spiritual lives.  

The Rev. Becca Stevens will explore how tea is connected to love, justice, and healing in the world. The afternoon’s participants will experience how the sharing of tea helps us dream of justice for women globally while proclaiming love is the most powerful force for social change.

Rev. Stevens is a nationally-acclaimed speaker having been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, ABC, and The New York Times. CNN just named Becca a 2016 Hero. CNN Heroes honor ‘everyday leaders’ who have made extraordinary contributions to helping others. She is the author of 9 books, been recognized by the White House as a 2011 Champion of Change to End Domestic Violence, and was awarded the TJ Martell, Lifetime Humanitarian Award, 2015.

The Magdalene program is a residential community for women, survivors of human trafficking, sexual & domestic abuse, addiction, and prostitution.

Thistle Farms is the largest self-supporting program of human trafficked survivors in the US, which employs 70 Magdalene graduates and residents to help survivors gain skills, work experience, and earn an income with a line of natural body care products, a paper and sewing studio, the Thistle Stop Café, and the Shared Trade initiative linking 23 women’s social enterprises around the globe in 10 countries and five continents.

Thistle Farms offers monthly educational workshops and has welcomed over 1,200 people from over 100 cities in the last two years interested in learning about their social enterprise and residential program. Currently Thistle Farms along with other countries works with women’s cooperatives in Rwanda, Ecuador, Kenya & Ghana. 

Thistle Farms products will be available to purchase at the event and tax-deductible donations are appreciated to help fund the work at Thistle Farms that operates without government funding, and a “Housing First For Women” initiative in NH for women survivors of human trafficking.

Hosted by St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea, Mind, Body & Tea will be held at the First United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 31 at 4:30 pm, 129 Miller Avenue in Portsmouth, NH. It is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and is confirmed by registering at www.standrews-by-the-sea.org.

Presiding Bishop and House of Deputies issue a Joint Letter on Civil Rights for Transgender People

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, have issued a joint letter condemning discrimination against transgender people in law and practice.

Legislation in states, such as North Carolina’s HB2, impacts those "most vulnerable in society to discrimination and abuse," including those targeted in the Orlando attack. They cite the need for urgent action, saying, "There’s no confusion about what Jesus is telling us, but it often requires courage to embody it in the real world."

The full text of the letter follows:

June 28, 2016

Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:

We all know that some things in holy Scripture can be confusing, hard to understand, or open to various ways of understanding. But some essential teachings are clear and incontrovertible. Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, and he tells us over and over again not to be afraid (Matthew 10:31, Mark 5:36, Luke 8:50, John 14:27).

There’s no confusion about what Jesus is telling us, but it often requires courage to embody it in the real world. Again and again, we become afraid, and mired in that fear, we turn against Jesus and one another.

This age-old cycle of fear and hatred plays out again and again in our broken world, in sickening and shocking events like the massacre targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Orlando, but also in the rules we make and the laws we pass. Most recently, we’ve seen fear at work in North Carolina, a state dear to both of our hearts, where a law called the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act” has decimated the civil rights and God-given dignity of transgender people and, by extension, drastically curtailed protections against discrimination for women, people of color, and many others. We are thankful for the prayerful and pastoral public leadership of the North Carolina bishops on this law, which is known as House Bill 2.

North Carolina is not the only place where fear has gotten the better of us. Lawmakers in other jurisdictions have also threatened to introduce legislation that would have us believe that protecting the rights of transgender people—even a right as basic as going to the bathroom—somehow puts the rest of us at risk.

This is not the first time that the segregation of bathrooms and public facilities has been used to discriminate unjustly against minority groups. And just as in our painful racial past, it is even being claimed that the “bathroom bills,” as they are sometimes called, ensure the safety of women and children—the same reason so often given to justify Jim Crow racial segregation.

But we believe that, as the New Testament says, “perfect love casts out fear.” On June 10, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church stood against fear and for God’s love by passing a resolution that reaffirms the Episcopal Church’s support of local, state and federal laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression and voices our opposition to all legislation that seeks to deny the God-given dignity, the legal equality, and the civil rights of transgender people.

The need is urgent, because laws like the one in North Carolina prey on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities—some of the very same people who were targeted in the Orlando attack. In a 2011 survey, 78 percent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed in childhood; 41 percent said they had attempted suicide; 35 percent had been assaulted, and 12 percent had suffered a sexual assault. Almost half of transgender people who responded to the survey said they had suffered job discrimination, and almost a fifth had lost housing or been denied health care due to their gender identity or expression.

In keeping with Executive Council’s resolution, we are sending a letter to the governor and members of the North Carolina General Assembly calling on them to repeal the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.” When legislation that discriminates against transgender people arises in other places, we will also voice our opposition and ask Episcopalians to join us. We will also support legislation, like a bill recently passed in the Massachusetts state legislature, that prevents discrimination of all kinds based on gender identity or gender expression.

As Christians, we bear a particular responsibility to speak out in these situations, because attempts to deny transgender people their dignity and humanity as children of God are too often being made in the name of God. This way of fear is not the way of Jesus Christ, and at these times, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our belief that Christianity is not a way of judgment, but a way of following Jesus in casting out fear.

In the face of the violence and injustice we see all around us, what can we do? We can start by choosing to get to know one another. TransEpiscopal, an organization of transgender Episcopalians and their allies, has posted on their website a video called “Voices of Witness:  Out of the Box” that can help you get to know some transgender Episcopalians and hear their stories. Integrity USA, which produced the video, and the Chicago Consultation are two other organizations working for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. Their websites also have online materials that you can use to learn more about the stories of transgender Christians and our church’s long journey to understand that they are children of God and created in God’s image.

When we are born anew through baptism, we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Today, transgender people and, indeed, the entire LGBT community, need us to keep that promise. By doing so, we can bear witness to the world that Jesus has shown us another way—the way of love.

Faithfully,

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies

 

GUEST BLOG: Thanks to EPF from The Rev. William Exner

This is a  Note of Thanks from outgoing EPF-NEC Vice Chair The Rev. Wm. Exner, former Rector, St. Matthew's Goffstown

"Gratitude, Appreciation and a deeper understanding of what it means and what it takes to be a peacemaker are my take-a-ways from two decades serving on the National Executive Council of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. It has been quite a ride! From the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Jerusalem to Central America and virtually every corner of our nation (rural and urban) the call for social justice and active faithful nonviolence remains an imperative for Christian response. EPF has been a constant sane and prophetic asset to the Church and peace making partners worldwide. The hours and days of prayer, study, program development and coalition building, plus the incredible souls with whom I have had the honor of serving the Prince of Peace have been fulfilling and inspiring.

Looking back over the last couple of decades EPF has upheld human labor, called for a stop to endless regional warfare, questioned the ethics of drone strikes and high-tech warfare, upheld the need for a just and peaceful resolution to the occupation of Palestine (come on House of Bishops!), advocated for Selective Conscientious Objection Status in the military along with better support for the families of those serving in the armed forces. We have also called for universal single payer health care in our nation, an end to human trafficking and more humane immigration policies and environmental responsibility.

Looking ahead the recent NEC gathering in Dallas generated promise and commitment as the new Chair Rev. Bob Davidson, of the Diocese of Colorado, and the new EPF Chaplain Bishop Gene Robinson, of the Diocese of Washington joined with Executive Director Rev. Allison Liles, of the Diocese of Virginia, to encourage the current Council to move forward fearlessly with the prophetic witness of peacemaking in 2016 and beyond.

Much as I will miss NEC there is no question that EPF is in very good hands and deserving of renewed support and prayers from the Presiding Bishop to people in the pews on Sundays. I feel the Spirit moving us ever closer to being an instrument of God’s reconciliation and peace in the world.

At every Eucharist we pray that there may be justice and peace on the earth. I am blessed beyond measure to have had the opportunity to serve on NEC. I look forward to relying on EPF to continue to equip all Episcopalians to make that prayer a reality. Thank you, Thank you. Thank God!"

Faithfully, Rev. Wm. Exner

NH Council of Churches Releases Stewardship of Creation Policy Statement

Leaders of the New Hampshire Council of Churches released Stewardship of Creation, the Council’s pro-climate action policy statement with the full support of all 10 Member-Denominations. Partnering with Climate Action New Hampshire, this important announcement and policy discussion held at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Concord capped the end of the 11 stop “Stand Up for Climate” New Hampshire tour by the League of Conservation Voters.

“I think the New Hampshire Council of Churches statement on the environment - Stewardship of Creation - captures the awesomeness of God’s world, and commits all of us in member denominations to take actions needed to be good stewards.  In the words of St. Theresa of Avila, ‘we are God’s hand and feet in the world.’” ~ Marti Hunt, representing the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire.

“Christian churches are now waking up to our new call to care for the earth, looking at scripture with new eyes.  God trusted humans to develop a right relationship with the planet.  The Pope reminds us in the Encyclical LAUDATO SI – Care for Our Common Home - of the integrity of Christianity and the importance of earth care.”~ The Rev. Dr. Mary Westfall, Durham Community Church, United Church of Christ.

“The Stewardship of Creation statement empowers the Council of Churches to take action on environmental issues, including action on climate change.  Testimony can provide to our political leaders and say that I not only speak for myself, but for ten denominations in New Hampshire.  It’s as if we are saying “Thus saith the Lord.” (Is.45) We hope that New Hampshire citizens cast votes in the upcoming election that are environmentally sensitive.” ~ The Rev. Richard Slater, Associate Conference Minister of the United Church of Christ.

“The New Hampshire Council of Churches is proud to stand with the League of Conservation Voters as an ally in promoting earth stewardship and action on climate change.  It is critical that we support solutions that significantly reduce carbon pollution on both the state and federal levels.”~ The Rev. Jonathan Hopkins, Pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church and President of the NH Council of Churches.

The League of Conservation Voters is committed to working with the faith community to incorporate a moral dimension to our efforts on improving the health of our planet and reducing the effects of carbon pollution.  The New Hampshire Council of Churches, with faith filled witness and action, mutual respect, and understanding unites for “Prayer, Learning, Justice, Peace and Stewardship of God’s Creation.”  The ten denominations of the council are the American Baptist Churches (VT/NH), the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbytery of Northern New England - Presbyterian Church , the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, the New Hampshire Conference - United Church of Christ, New England Conference - United Methodist Church and the NH/VT District Unitarian-Universalist Societies. More information at http://nhchurches.org.

 

Presiding Bishop Curry Addresses Executive Council of the Church

The Presiding Bishop addressed The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. During his remarks, he mentions his recent visit to New Hampshire. The transcript is as follows:

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
Executive Council
June 8, 2016

I really believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ matters, and that its presentation by the Episcopal Church matters, profoundly and critically, in these times in which we’re living. Let me show you what I mean.

Someone recently asked me, “All right, what’s this Jesus Movement talk really about?”  The question and conversation pushed me to step back and ask, “What’s really going on here?  What’s this about?”

The Jesus Movement language is a metaphor, an image. Images, metaphors, Marilou’s forms of symbolic speech are a way of helping you get at some more deep and sometimes complex things in accessible and memorable ways.  This Jesus Movement isn’t a 21st-Century invention or a Michael Curry rhetorical concoction. We’re really talking about going forward as a church by going back to our deepest roots as disciples of Jesus Christ. And in the run we will find our true strength, vitality, and integrity for faithful, authentic and effective witness to the way of Jesus in our time.

Canon Chuck Robertson recently turned me on to a book that was titled The Jesus Movement and its Expansion. Now it’s not about what you might think. The author is a New Testament scholar who’s looking back at early Christian origins.  New Testament scholars and others who look at early Christian origins refer to the Christian movement in its beginnings as “The Jesus Movement.”  Rodney Stark, who is a sociologist of religion and who has done a lot ofwork on the historical sociology of early Christian origins and the expansion and growth of Christianity, has one book in particular with the suggestive title, The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion.  It’s not an adaptation of Christian triumphalism but a description of the evolution of the Jesus Movement into the Church and Christendom. So when we use the phrase The Jesus Movement, we’re actually pointing back to the earliest days of Jesus’ teaching and his followers following in his way and footsteps in the power of the spirit. And in our context this image reflects a call to return to our deepest and most authentic roots as the Jesus Movement in the 21st century.

That’s what we’re really talking about. We’re really talking about reclaiming the heritage of the Acts of the Apostles. The heritage of the movement of people who were profoundly convicted by this Jesus of Nazareth because this dude really did have something to say and really did help folks get closer to God and each other. That this Jesus of Nazareth really mattered and matters.  The first followers of the way of Jesus really believed, often in spite of themselves. They weren’t the most happy group of fisher-folk before the Lord came down like the hymn says – peaceful fishermen, yeah, peaceful!  I mean, they had conflicts, too.

I was with the folk in the Diocese of New Hampshire earlier this week. At one point in our conversation I said that the first council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem (Acts of the Apostles 15) that’s what we call it, was indeed the first council of the Church, but it was also, if we want to be real,  a church fight!  That’s really what it was, or more precisely, what occasioned it. A church fight! But the result of that church fight was that the community found a way to identify what was really essential in the Christian faith and matters that are important but not core essential.

In making that determination, they made a decision that affects probably most of the people sitting in this room today.  They made a decision that Gentiles could and should be included in the Way of Jesus if they were willing to follow the Way of Jesus in his Spirit that other things and requirements that were laid on folk were not necessarily essential. I haven’t had my DNA tested, but I don’t think I’m Jewish. I think I descend from Gentile stock. Again, I could be in for a surprise, but I doubt it. That means I’m standing here today because of that decision to include people like Michael Curry.  That Jesus was bigger than any of our religious or tribal conditions and affiliations and that the Way of Jesus creates room and space for all who truly seek.

I say all of that because I really do think that for us as The Episcopal Church that the Way of Jesus of Nazareth really is who we are, it’s who our baptism calls us to be anyway.  The final bow of holy Baptism is the promise to follow and obey Jesus Lord. The core of the baptismal covenant is pointing both to our belief in the Triune God and how we live out our relationship with God by following the way of Jesus in our lives. That’s the core.  We are followers of Jesus of Nazareth, people who seek to love and serve in His spirit and in His way. That’s not rhetorical flourish. That, I think is Christian witness, and that Christian witness is particularly needed in our time.

We are really living, at least in our political season but I think it’s reflective of where we are as a culture, in the midst of some real and deep polarizations.  We’re in an atmosphere where bigotry, rank bigotry, is often enshrined in laws – this is Jim Crow stuff again – and articulated in the public sphere as if it is legitimate discourse. That’s a problem.  And I’m not making a Republican or Democrat statement.  This has nothing to do with partisanship now.  This has to do with citizenship.

And so we need a witness that is a Christian counter-narrative because very often Christianity is seen as being complicit in that voice.  We need a witness to a way of being Christian – see, this is where evangelism does matter by this Church, and racial reconciliation does matter by this Church – a witness by a church like The Episcopal Church to a way of being Christian that is not complicit in the culture, but committed tofollowing Jesus, and looking like Jesus of Nazareth, loving and caring, and serving in the way that we see Jesus doing it in the New Testament. That is a counter-narrative to a narrative of narrowness, of bigotry and polarization. I believe that this Church and people in this Church can bear that witness.  Episcopalians who are Republicans and Episcopalians who are Democrats.  The via media.  The sensible center.  That’s who we are.  And so, the Jesus Movement embodied in The Episcopal Church and in Episcopalians in our time has profound cultural significance and may well have global significance as well.

That is the commitment our General Convention made last year when we said, or when the Spirit said through us, that the work of evangelism and racial reconciliation is the central work we are called to do in this mission moment in which we live.

Opening Remarks (excerpts from a transcription)