The View from the outskirts of BWI Airport: A Report from the Interim Bodies Meeting of The Episcopal Church
The last few days your Rector has been dutifully taking his part in the councils of the church, by serving as a member of the Standing Commission for World Mission, one of many ‘interim bodies’ that continue on the work of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church during the ‘triennium’ - the three year period between General Convention meetings. The President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, jokingly referred to this meeting as the culmination of thousands and thousands of spread sheets. And while the joke was well received, it was true! The bureaucracy of the Church had worked very hard with names and dates and backgrounds, data points in a never ending stream of excel spreadsheets to produce this meeting; a gathering of close to 200 Episcopalians, lay and religious, priests and deacons, and even a few bishops, to do the work of the Church for the next three years. But it was an amazing gathering of Christians! The full diversity of the Church was on display, and the fervor and excitement of the gathered body was palpable by all in attendance.
I won’t go into too many details, as there is much work to be done, but I can say that we all recognize we are part of a two million person denomination in the Episcopal Church and part of an even larger 165M Anglican Communion and the work we do gathered together informs and connects with all of that.
As Secretary for the Standing Commission on World Mission, it is my duty to keep records of the work of the group, keep us on task, and report out to the broader church about where we see Jesus calling the Episcopal Church in our work in the wider world going forward. It is inspiring and taxing work, but also an important reminder that we don’t do this work alone. We may be 100 or so on Sunday morning, but we are one small part of the Body of Christ working in the world - and we trust that the other parts are doing the same Godly inspired work we are, even if it looks and sounds different than what we do.
This is, perhaps, the most important takeaway for me personally from these last few days. Part of being a Christian is recognizing that we are part of something much greater than the sum of what the Church is doing. We are, as the Blues Brothers said ‘on a Mission from God’ - and we don’t understand even a little bit what that mission is. We can only trust that the work we do is part of that broader plan and will somehow make sense in the end.
This means we also have to have the humility and patience to trust that other Christians, other Episcopalians, other Anglicans are also part of that broader plan and even if we don’t agree with them on everything, or even most things, we are able to see that Jesus may be working through them just as much as Jesus is working through us. Further, that as Christians we can find unlikely partners in the work of the Gospel - ecumenical and interreligious partners - who may not share our politics but do share our desire to make the world better.
It is my hope that that small bit of inspiration can filter out from this rather bureacratic gathering not only to Memorial,but to the whole Episcopal Church - and together we can begin to make the Kingdom of God a little more real.