The Episcopal Church extends from Taiwan, 100 miles from mainland China, to Tbilisi, Georgia, 500 yards from Russian occupation troops. When we 133 bishops met March 14-21 in the piney woods of Camp Allen, an hour’s drive from Houston, while we may have felt removed from our vital diocesan ministries at home, we felt the Holy Spirit inviting us to more intimate engagement with a world galvanized by global crisis and the never-ending struggle to respect the dignity of every human being.
In an expeditious business session on Friday, we passed resolutions condemning Putin’s criminal war and opposing laws in any state or locality that victimize our trans siblings. I introduced the pastoral letter on the holy city of Jerusalem that General Convention invited bishops to write back in 2018 in Austin. The work of eight bishops, ably assisted by Archdeacon Paul Feheley, our church’s Middle East partnership officer, it was our third attempt to offer language that would sound the right note about the fraught contemporary scene as well as the need for richer collaborations with those in Israel and Palestine who are working each day for peace, justice, and reconciliation. All three resolutions passed unanimously.
Along the way, five bishops shared bracing stories about reckoning and reconciliation in their lives and ministries. Cynthia Bourgeault gave us a brush-up on centering prayer and her theory of everything, which is that new things, good or bad, are always opposed and denied, then superseded by something unexpected and often astonishing.
So many rich conversations this week. So many people and experiences in common in our far-flung church. After college, Shannon MacVean-Brown, bishop of Vermont, lived in a building two doors down from mine on Van Dyke in Detroit (many years after me, of course). William Franklin and I bonded over our mutual affection for Angelinos Harry Bosch and Michael A Bamberger. Too many bishops to list have Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles roots or experiences to share. They send everyone their love! Ogé Beauvoir, bishop suffragan of Haiti, sent love to Canon Serena Evans Beeks (“She’s Haitian!” he said with a smile, referring to her scores of visits) and invited our prayers for his efforts to keep lines of communication open in his embattled, beloved country. My colleagues from Spanish-speaking countries were mis pacientes maestros en español.
Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry took us to the mountaintop of hope at our opening Holy Eucharist service and was gracious and approachable the whole time, offering ready support to one and all. You could always hear him laughing at mealtime. At our closing service Monday afternoon, he called up the seven bishops he’d consecrated and ordained during the pandemic for a special word of encouragement for episcopal ministries that began as none other in history.
The house’s deepening diversity, including along gender lines, has made it, among other things, in the words of some veterans, more fun. It was clear organizers wanted us make the most of our time — for the collegiality, the learning, the sharing, the sabbath. We had time for playing poker and watching March madness, pickleball and walks in the woods, plumbing Putin over dinner. Andy Doyle, bishop of Texas, our gracious host, hired a trio one night who played everything from the Beatles and Chuck Berry to Lyle Lovett and Bob Dylan. The PB’s adjutant, Sharon Jones, taught bishops the electric slide. Diane Jardine Bruce, thriving as bishop of West Missouri, made videos of me dancing that I’ll keep to myself. It was wonderful to catch up with her and Mary Douglas Glasspool.
It’s not free. Our dioceses make it possible for us to go. I am deeply grateful. Planners picked us up at the airport, took us back, and took loving care for us the seven days in between, including three squares a day and hot snacks each night.
These weeks and months ahead will be difficult for our nation and world, as they always are in one way or another. I feel refueled and inspired by my week in the palm of God’s almighty hand, as the PB likes to say. I pray that you too will find some sabbath where you can. Because we’re all going to need it — and need one another. It’s so good to be home!