Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Morning Reflection

Dear Friends,

Two days to go and the push to get legislation finished is growing. Into this mix came the proposed budget for the next triennium for the Church. Economic realities are that 17 staff positions at the Church Center are being eliminated, women's programs and anti-racism programs receiving the biggest cuts. But like anything else, we are urged and I believed called to view our glasses as half full, rather than half empty and to work from a theology of abundance rather that a theology of scarcity.

What probably eclipsed all of this in the news media (I have not seen a newspaper since we arrived!) was the fact that the House of Bishops overwhelmingly gave their approval to the development of liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender civil unions and marriages in those jurisdictions where it is legal. Final vote 104 in favor, 33 opposed with a few abstentions. Included was consent for bishops to use "general pastoral discretion" in those dioceses where such civil unions are already legal, phrasing that many are interpreting to mean that clergy (me for example) would now be allowed to sign civil marriage licenses without fear of admonition from our bishops; acknowledging the practice that is already taking place and doing away with the era of "don't ask, don't tell" under which we in the Diocese of Massachusetts have labored now for several years. Our bishops will be meeting with the clergy shortly after our return to outline new guidelines.

At the mid-day "paperless" Eucharist yesterday (all done on the big screen), we heard Bishop Steven Charleston, Native American, former Bishop of Alaska and recently retired Dean of EDS in Boston preach, calling us to action re: environmental justice issues. Inspired me to begin thinking of our Labor Day "Mass in the Grass" and making it an island celebration of the earth. Text and video links are all uploaded at the General Convention website.

Last evening next door to the Anaheim Arena, where several thousand people gathered in an amazing celebration of Baptism, Christian rock band music, and incredible preaching by Brian McClarien. Any reports that you may have heard about the poor health of The Episcopal Church are over exaggerated.

Oh...and by the way...the House of Deputies consented to full communion status with the Moravian Church, continued dialogue with the Presbyterian church (USA) - problematic issues around the Eucharist and ecclesial authority - and continued and deeper engagement in shared communion with the United Methodist Church and their African relatives (AME, AMEZ, etc.).

As we sit through the debates it appears things go slowly and we are not making progress...then when I step back and reflect, I can see how much progress is actually being made.

I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and am more energized than I have been in quite some time.

You are all missed and held in constant prayer.

Stay tuned...

Faithfully,

Rob Hensley+

Clergy Alternate