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Voices of General Convention
Excerpts from sermons preached by Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, retired Sen. John Danforth, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, Maori Anglican theologian Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa, the Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis.

Excerpt from Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori’s homily at the closing Eucharist June 21. In English and in Spanish:

If you and I are going to grow in all things into Christ, if we're going to grow up into the full stature of Christ, if we are going to become the blessed ones God called us to be while we were still in our mothers' wombs, our growing will need to be rooted in a soil of internal peace. We'll have to claim the confidence of souls planted in the overwhelming love of God, a love so abundant, so profligate, given with such unwillingness to count the cost, that we, too, are caught up into a similar abandonment.
That full measure of love, pressed down and overflowing, drives out our idolatrous self-interest. Because that is what fear really is -- it is a reaction, an often unconscious response to something we think is so essential that it takes the place of God. "Oh, that's mine and you can't take it, because I can't live without it" -- whether it's my bank account or theological framework or my sense of being in control. If you threaten my self-definition, I respond with fear. Unless, like Jesus, we can set aside those lesser goods, unless we can make "peace through the blood of the cross."
That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are his children. If we're going to keep on growing into Christ-images for the world around us, we're going to have to give up fear.

Spanish translation:

Si queremos crecer en la plenitud de Cristo, si es que queremos crecer en la plena estatura de Cristo, si es que queremos encarnar a quienes Dios bendijo cuando nos encontrábamos en el vientre de nuestras madres, nuestro crecimiento debe estar enraizado en una paz interior. Necesitaremos reclamar la confianza de almas plantadas en el superabundante amor de Dios, un amor que es tan abundante, tan generoso y que nos ha sido dado sin querer tener en cuenta el costo para que nosotros podamos abandonarnos de la misma forma.

La plena medida del amor, colmado y rebosante expulsará a nuestro egoísmo idolátrico. Porque en realidad, el miedo es una reacción, una respuesta a veces instintiva a algo que creemos que es tan imprescindible que ocupa el lugar de Dios. “Esto es mío y tú no lo puedes tener, porque no puedo vivir sin él" -- ya sea mi cuenta en el banco, mi estructura teológica o el sentir que todavía estoy en control. Si se amenazan mis propias convicciones, respondo con miedo. A menos que, tal como Jesús, dejemos de lado los ídolos; a menos que hagamos las paces "por medio de la sangre de la Cruz".

Esa Cruz ensangrentada engendró nueva vida en este mundo. En Colosenses se describe a Jesús como el primogénito de toda la creación, la primicia de entre los muertos. La obra sangrienta, sudorosa y desgarrante de la Cruz engendra nueva vida. Nuestra madre Jesús engendra una nueva creación – y ustedes y yo somos sus hijos. Si queremos seguir formándonos en la imagen de Cristo para el mundo donde hemos sido puestos, tendremos que dejar de tener miedo.

From the challenge to the church issued by retired Sen. John Danforth, Episcopal priest and former ambassador to the United Nations, in his presentation to the Presiding Bishop’s Forum on Reconciliation:

The question I believe the Episcopal Church should be addressing is whether we as an Episcopal Church intend to be part of the problem, or whether we intend to be part of the answer … Virtually all of the public attention on this General Convention has been on the issue of sexual orientation. I don't want to downplay that issue, because obviously, you have to deal with it, and it's an important question. But I simply want to raise with you the basic question of whether that issue is truly the centerpiece of the Episcopal Church …

I ask you to consider these factors. First, it is the most divisive single issue in America today, and, secondly, when you think about how we're so focused on the Episcopal Church and so focused on how we deal with this issue, bear in mind that over 99 percent of the people in the United States are not Episcopalians and they really don't care, with all due respect, Bishop Griswold, who our bishops are. And they don't care whether rites for blessing same-sex relationships are found in the prayer book or on the Internet. It's not on their screen … I bet you the average person in the pew doesn't care much either.

I say this because I know you're intentionally focused on all these issues and all of these resolutions, but whatever you do on the Sunday after this convention adjourns, all of these people including yours truly in St. Louis, Mo., are simply going to toddle off to church on Sunday just the way we always did.

I believe that we have a higher calling. I believe that we have a more simple message, and I believe that that simple message is the context in which we should see all of the issues, and it's exactly the same message Bishop Griswold mentioned in his introduction. It's what St. Paul said. I believe that the central message of the Episcopal Church and of all Christians is and should be that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and that he has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation.

From the sermon preached by Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire at the Integrity Eucharist at Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, Ohio:

I hope you will permit me to address this sermon to my brothers and sisters who happen to be gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered Episcopalians … God won’t let you and me stay put, content to believe what we’ve always believed, what we’ve always been taught, what we’ve always assumed.  Change is not just something to be wished upon our enemies – but something God requires of us as well.

Think of the things you and I believe and think today that we could not have imagined years ago!  We used not to be outraged at black folk being made to drink from separate water fountains, women not being deputies to this General Convention nor priests standing at God’s altar, differently-abled folk not able to get into our churches.  Our change in thinking didn’t come as a result of our own work, but the work of God’s Spirit, blowing through us like wind, calling us away from our narrow thinking and more nearly into the mind and heart of Christ.

More importantly, remember how we used to think of ourselves!  We believed the church when we were told we were an abomination before God, that our relationships – indeed our lives – were intrinsically disordered, that we were second-class hangers-on in the church of God, loved perhaps, but “only if.…”

And then the Spirit of God blew through us like a mighty wind.  We heard God’s calm and loving voice above the noisy din of the church’s condemnation.  And we were saved, made worthy to stand before God through God’s Son’s sacrifice on the cross.  Quite literally “born again.”  And our lives changed forever.  Think of the joy we have come to know because of the Spirit’s work within us.

From the sermon preached at the Saturday, June 17,  Eucharist by Maori Anglican theologian Dr. Jenny Plane Te Paa, the ahorangi or dean of Te Rau Kahikatea (College of St. John the Evangelist) in Auckland, New Zealand:

Trouble arises when the decisive differences emerge between the community of our dreams, our paradise lost, and the “really existing community” which we fallible human beings consciously create for ourselves (in spite of our idealized and well-intentioned dreams) and in spite of our theological rhetoric about 'being brought near by the blood of Christ.'

Inside the “community of our dreams,” we imagine ourselves to be safe, protected, surrounded by familiarity, insular, cozy, secure, contained. However, in the “really existing community,” we are increasingly insecure, vulnerable, surrounded and challenged by difference, exposed, pressured to conform and often to blindly obey. And so we invent categories of human worthiness to try and justify forms of social order, and all we do is allow for the creation of unjust hierarchies of power and dominance. We selectively valorize aspects of human identity in order (amongst other things) to protect unjust economic realities. We invent clever race and gender-neutral discourses to disguise our own deep prejudices. We contrive scientific and medical evidence to bolster our homophobia.

We appropriate Scripture in order to do harm to one another instead of exemplifying the gentle, grace-filled, deeply compassionate behavior of the one who came in order that all would have life and have it in abundance -- the one who created us to be, the one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace ... no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

From a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Harold T. Lewis at Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, on Sunday morning, June 18, two hours before the bishops arrived to vote for the new primate:

It has often been said that the Lord has a sense of humor.  There is now evidence that the lectionary does, too.

Here we are, at the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Later this morning, that church’s mitered leaders will meet in this very parish to elect the 26th presiding bishop.  And by the luck of the draw, as it were, we see that this morning’s lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures is the account in First Samuel of another election of sorts, the process which led to the anointing of David as king of Israel.

The reign of Saul, which was fraught with problems, has effectively come to an end.  The Lord, to say the least, is displeased with Saul’s performance, so the Lord instructs Samuel to appoint a successor to Saul. But instead of a slate proposed by a nominating committee that had spent 200,000 shekels, Samuel learns that the electoral pool is limited to the sons of Jesse. So Samuel sets out to Bethlehem, horn of oil in hand, to do the Lord’s bidding.

My first reaction was to avoid that lesson like the proverbial plague, but I must admit that great was the temptation to focus on the verse in which Samuel asks Jesse, “Do you have only seven candidates for the job? Is there not another?”  … The more I read and prayed over the lessons, the more the Spirit drove me back to the story of the anointing of David, and especially to the words which the Lord spoke to Samuel. 

Mindful that Saul had been chosen for his good looks, and the fact that he stood head and shoulders over the other candidates, the Lord warned Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature ... For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”