Thursday, September 18, 2014

Far East Daily Blog #5

September 17, 2014 Today was the "official" first day of the House of Bishops meeting in Taipei, Taiwan. As is our usual custom, we began with the opening Eucharist at which at which Presiding Bishop Katharine (Jefferts Schori) was the celebrant and preacher. Since this was the feast of Hildegard of Bingen, Abbess and Mystic (1179), Bishop Katharine's sermon was based upon the historic place of women in the church as they have increasingly been placed in positions of leadership. A central part of her message was that it was not always easy, but that women of fortitude such as Hildegard were the forerunners of those who lead today. After a photo shoot to take pictures of the bishops and spouses, and lunch, the bishops engaged in their first executive session to check in with one another. Let me describe a bit of how this is done. Every three years the bishops at the General Convention the bishops are assigned to table groups of 8-9 bishops. The bishop will stay in his/her table group for the next three years. For all purposes, this is our small group, reference group and extended family. Today in this our extended family we spent time updating one another on the professional and personal events of our lives. While certainly each six-months at these semi-annual meetings I hear stories of successes and achievements, additionally I hear expressions of heart felt statements of family needs. It is humbling, just humbling. Reflecting upon the table group, I have been asking myself a central question: Why would I, as a member of the House of Bishops, want to travel through 13 time zones and half the way around to the globe to be at this meeting? I can think of several reasons not to attend. Had I not attended this meeting my annual budget would have not been decremented for the trip. The time away would have been negated. I could have kept up better with my daily tasks such as real-time correspondence with you. So why would (Carolyn and) I make this trip? The answer is elusively simple. I needed to make this trip to fulfill my ordination vows to participate in the counsels of the church. Additionally, there is another reason, which possibly trumps the first reason. I attend these HoB meetings to represent you and to insure that always your bishops diocesan are reminded of your sacrificial service for the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ. In short, the only way these two tasks can be accomplished is through my attendance at the HoB meetings with my colleague bishops. The evening ended in grand style with a semi-formal a welcome reception hosted by the Diocese of Taiwan. Much to our great surprise, Bishop David Lai, the bishop diocesan, had invited the president of the Republic of China to be the central speaker. I had been told ahead of time that the Mayor of Taipei might be with us. However, we were somewhat stunned to have President Ma Ying-jeou with us. For reasons that many of you, especially our Armed Forces chaplains, will understand, this is a particularly sensitive time in Taiwan. Currently US Pacific Command is engaged with operational units in a huge annual exercise known as Operation Valiant Shield. It is my understanding that a major purpose of this operation is to send a message to the Peoples Republic of China that the United States stands by and will defend the Republic of China/Taiwan and its democratic principles. I have it on good authority that this region of the world, to include the Taiwanese Straights, may be the most sensitive military and political area of the world. According to the "Taipei Times" newspaper, earlier in the day President Ma had been at sea aboard a Perry-class Taiwan Navy frigate to view parts of the maritime operation components. This has been a big day for both the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church and for the Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan. +Jay

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