“We have been provided with a solemn and hopeful moment full of possibility,” said Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold in a pre-convention opening address to the assembly of the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 29.
Nearly 1,000 laity, clergy and bishops and guests of the church streamed into the Minneapolis Convention Center to begin orientation for the 10-day gathering of the Episcopal Church family by listening to presentations by the heads of both houses of deliberation: Griswold, as head of the church and presider of the 300-member House of Bishops, and the Rev. George L. Werner, president of the 853-member House of Deputies, comprised of laity and clergy from around the church.
Engaging God’s mission is the focus of the convention, Griswold stressed. Amid worship and prayer, the convention will deliberate, discuss, enact and discern what that mission means to the church today in the opening years of the 21st century.
God’s mission, as the Book of Common Prayer states, is “To restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” This is reconciliation, he said: personal, within congregations, dioceses, the national church, the worldwide Anglican Communion and the world. “The mission of the church, God’s work, is global in scope and embraces the whole creation.”
“Many arrive with fully informed opinions and a clear sense of what ought to happen,” he noted. Yet as deputies listen, participate, debate, attend committee meetings and make serendipitous connections, “something larger than our own perspective overtakes us. ”Perhaps it is the Holy Spirit, he noted. But in the process, “our attitudes and perspectives…firmly held notions of what should happen, are enlarged.”
“Predictably, the topic of homosexuality has received the most media attention…and also has been a focus of some of our internal life.” Some think it is a decisive moment, yet it is important to remember that the church is always evolving, “always, in some sense, becoming the church.”
“My prayer is that this convention will be a part of the continuing process of discovery and growth.”
Touching on financial stewardship of the church, he noted that by the time he leaves office in 2006 there be a long-term development and fund-raising resource in place at the national level that will be available churchwide. “This kind of effort needs to be part of the consciousness of the church, last into the future and help provide for the future.”
Werner, closing out the nearly hourlong gathering, spoke with energy of his three years of engagement with congregations, dioceses and people around the church.
“It’s been a rare privilege to visit churches with creative, dynamic spirit-filled ministries…both places with great resources and those with a lot less.”
Comparing the church today to the church in the 1970s when he first attended General Convention, Werner said he finds the church a place of “visible and growing dedication to prayer and Scripture.”
“In these two weeks, I hope all of you will join the Presiding Bishop and me in worship, Morning Prayer, [the] opportunity to study Scripture, and how many healing people and praying people there will be with us these two weeks.”
He touched on the “storm” within and outside the church, listing a litany of cultural, economic, domestic and international concerns. “We are called to do justice, witness and to be a community of faith. People are hungry for such language at a time of despair, dread and enmity. God help us if we leave here on August 8 and have not greatly strengthened and advanced our ministries for witness and mission -- to do mission, justice and be advocates for the ministry of Jesus Christ.”
Read the full text of the Presiding Bishop’s address here.