An Overview of the 2019 House of Bishops' Meeting
The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from September 17 - 20 for a four-day meeting, studying, discussing, and grappling with many challenging issues facing the Episcopal Church. Bishop Waldo was 1 of approximately 130 bishops who registered to attended this meeting for all or some of the four days. In this video, Bishop Waldo gives us an overview of the purpose of the House of Bishops and reflects on the upcoming Lambeth Conference in 2020, same-sex marriage, evangelism, racial reconciliation, and congregational vitality.
I’m Andrew Waldo, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. I returned a couple of weeks ago from the fall House of Bishops meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and wanted to make a report to you on some of the things we discussed.
I thought first, however, it might be good to say a couple of words about what the House of Bishops is, what it does, when it meets, who goes, and that sort of thing. The House of Bishops is one of two legislative bodies for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Because of our regular contact with the people in each of Dioceses, the bishops meet twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring as a full body – to discuss important matters before the Church, to connect with each other on various issues, sometimes about transitions and congregations, identifying clergy who are particularly promising, sometimes we simply gather to get to know each other better so we can be more effective partners in mission.
The Province IV bishops, who are the bishops of the Southeastern United States, actually gather two more times a year -- Once usually in June and once in December -- to deal with matters that have more to do with provincial issues. The bishops who go to a full House of Bishops meeting include all active bishops and many of our retired bishops. Our conference in the fall also includes spouses.
As I mentioned, we discuss various matters of importance. This time those included the upcoming Lambeth Conference in 2020; I’ll say more about that in a moment. We talked about congregational development. We talked about the rise of white supremacist theology in the Church, each of which, I’ll say a little bit more about.
The Lambeth 2020 conference will occur in July and the beginning of August next summer. Lambeth is a conference that occurs, on average, every 10 years and includes active bishops from across the global Anglican communion – the 38 provinces of the Anglican communion. This particular conference is going to be somewhat unusual in that as we meet to discuss matters of global importance, the programmers and the Archbishop of Canterbury have decided to fully integrate bishop spouses in to our conversations that will include Bible study, focusing on the first letter of Peter, will include work about our common mission across the globe and on other theological matters that are important to us. We will also be doing important reconciliation work.
An exception to that integration of spouses into the conference is the subject of substantive conversation at our House of Bishops meeting in Minneapolis. Spouses of gay and lesbian bishops were not invited to accompany their bishop spouses for this conference. While a few bishops and spouses within the American Church and in Canada as well, and New Zealand have, as a consequence, decided not to attend Lambeth. Most active bishops within the House of Bishops will participate in what we acknowledge is one among a number of difficult subjects within the Anglican Communion. The prevailing sense was of a need for us to go to Lambeth, and to listen – even as we articulate clearly who we are as the Episcopal Church. There’s an optimism, a real sense of hope, across the Communion that our conversations will be both fruitful and generative on this and some of the other difficult and important subjects that we face. So, I, for one, am very much looking forward to being a part of those conversations, whether they are joyful and engaging or challenging.
Another one of our important subjects at this House of Bishops meeting was a full day on congregational development with Pastor Adam Hamilton, who leads the largest United Methodist Church, located in Kansas City, Missouri. We discussed evangelism, pastoral leadership, disciple practices that characterize vibrant and growing congregations. And I think we all left with a sense of renewed energy on building our congregations according to many of the principles that we discussed that day.
We had a difficult and challenging discussion about the rise of white supremacist theology in this country. It was a conversation that began with many dioceses reporting on things that had happened in their dioceses, and it was a conversation we’ll continue in terms of a response from us. But we are troubled, deeply troubled, by this rise of a violent and exclusionary theology.
By and large, these meetings, and this one in particular, also are times when we come together in fellowship, in collaboration, in sharing in what is a very particular and unique ministry in our Church and one that calls upon us to be friends, to be able to listen to one another -- even in disagreement. We study the Bible together around our tables, and in each case, we find ourselves invigorated by conversations among ourselves and with our spouses that fill each of us with new life and energy for God’s mission in the world, and help us feel connected in a way that always helps us to recognize that we are part of a much larger body than any local parish, any Diocese, and even the whole province of the Episcopal Church and its connections across the globe. Because we always have visitors at the House of Bishops from other parts of the globe. This time, we had a visiting bishop and spouse from Tanzania, and it’s always an opportunity for important dialogue.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to the next installment and report on activities within the Diocese and in the Church beyond.
God bless and keep you.
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