Thursday, September 22, 2011

Report on the House of Bishops Meeting

September 21, 2011 St. Matthew the Evangelist Dear colleagues and friends, As I write this I am aboard a flight from Miami returning to Washington, DC. Early this morning Carolyn and I left Quito, Ecuador where for the last seven days I've been attending the Fall House of Bishops meeting. The 9000+ feet altitude takes a little bit of getting used to. However, we found Quito to be a charming Latin American city. Perhaps the most impressive attribute of the city is the people who live there. We found them to be gracious in ways that far exceeded any of our expectations. There are many things I could tell you about our HOB meeting. Since I am aware that you can get the most of this information from the Episcopal News Service where Ms. Neva Rae Fox, our Public Affairs Officer has posted daily stories, I'll limit myself in this brief missive to a description of three particular things. Some of you may be wondering why in the world we decided to meet in Ecuador. Quite honestly, I found myself asking the same question. What I have come to realize, some of which I already knew, is that in going to Quito we never left the confines of The Episcopal Church (TEC). Quito is in Province IX of TEC and consists of these dioceses: Ecuador Central, Ecuador Litoral, Columbia, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. On occasion I hear some of my colleagues refer to TEC as the "national church." Quite literally, because our church borders stretch far beyond the confines of the continental United States, it has been ages since TEC has been a "national church." If anything, we are we are an international communion of Anglican provinces and dioceses in the Americas, and not the "national church." One of the most significant benefits of being in Quito was to have an opportunity to be a witness to the mission of the Diocese of Ecuador Central. Last Saturday Carolyn and I, and many other bishops and spouses, boarded a bus early in the morning and took a day trip to the town of Tulcan on the Ecuadorian-Columbian border. While there we learned that for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the ongoing armed civil conflict in Columbia, the refugee population moving from Columbia to Ecuador is one of the largest in the world. On that Saturday the bishops and spouses gathered on the bridge that connects Ecuador to Columbia and engaged in prayers for the people who were literally leaving all they had, sometimes to include beloved family members, to escape the instability and violence of Columbia. Later in the day we spent time at the border Episcopal mission congregation people as they bore witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. The work of our Episcopal mission is to use word and deed to tell the refugees how important they are in the sight of God. My final observation has to do with a speech I made on your behalf to the entire HOB. I made a request to work with bishops diocesan when a chaplain from another Christian faith tradition wants to become an Episcopal priest and a chaplain of this church. Currently there at least five chaplains, in five different dioceses, who are engaged in discernment about becoming a priest of this church. I spoke to the bishops about our efforts to recruit women and men to become chaplains in each of the three federal entities of this episcopacy. I told my colleagues that in order to become a federal chaplain the applicant needs to be agile, flexible, healthy, smart and missionally committed. In other words, we are looking for the best of the best. Finally, I issued a request for invitations to the diocesan councils and conventions of TEC in order to bear witness to the excellent work you will do. It is greatly important to me that the people of our church know what you do for the women and men whom you serve. Upon leaving I had numerous invitations. Though I estimate that it will take four to five years to visit the majority of our dioceses, I am committed to making these visits for one very simple reason: my pride in who you are and what you do. Sisters and brothers, you are some of the hardest working and most dedicated front-line missionaries of this church working in the most difficult settings that anyone could ever imagine. Be faithful and know that I pray for all of you each day. +Jay

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