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Episcopal Majority meets, affirms reconciliation

By Pat McCaughan
[Episcopal News Service]  Getting organized and "waging reconciliation" was on the agenda as the newly created Episcopal Majority met for the first time November 3 to become advocates for a moderate voice within the Anglican Communion.

"We need to wage reconciliation, to constantly work for dialogue and conversation, reaching out and touching others who are different than us," Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles told the gathering during a keynote address frequently interrupted by appreciative applause.

Bruno quoted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, on the eve of her investiture: "At our meeting at Kanuga, Katharine told a story about how whales come to the breeding ground, singing one song, but they go away singing a new and different song because they've listened and heard what each other sang."

The national gathering was planned to coincide with Jefferts Schori's November 4 investiture. She did not attend the gathering "but sent us her blessing and said we have her support and that this is an important meeting," the Rev. David Fly, an event organizer from Missouri, told the audience.

Fly said he and others organized the Episcopal Majority to give voice to the "broad middle majority" of Episcopalians who agree with the church and the direction it has taken regarding issues of human sexuality as well as Jefferts Schori's election as primate.

About 150 participants from 46 dioceses, including several network dioceses, attended workshops on the Anglican covenant, how to communicate with one another, how to be a reconciling force amid the changing landscape of the Anglican Communion, and legal issues arising from the conflict within the church.

The group also elected the steering committee as a board of directors for a one-year period and authorized them to seek nonprofit status. Members of the steering committee, in addition to Fly, are: the Rev. William R. Coats, Diocese of Newark; the Hon. Robert P. Smith, Diocese of Florida; Lisa Fox, Diocese of Missouri; the Rev. Canon Mark Harris, Diocese of Delaware; Judy Wright Mathews, Diocese of Florida; the Very Rev. Thomas Woodward, Diocese of the Rio Grande; the Rev. Dr. George C. Bedell, Diocese of Florida; and the Rev. Dr. Richard Tombaugh, Diocese of Connecticut.

The Rev. Meg Ingalls, rector of Holy Trinity Church in Fruitland Park, Florida, was among several people who attended from dioceses affiliated with the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes.

"I came to see whether or not there was hope for the church," said Ingalls, who is from the Diocese of Central Florida, which has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for alternative primatial oversight.

But she added: "there is hope for tomorrow, I believe there's hope. And in the meantime, we continue to work, we continue to love, we continue to reach out to send people to seminaries, to make sure we continue to uphold our dioceses as much as possible, even from a peripheral space, and hope for tomorrow."

Participants at a workshop about the Anglican Covenant sent a variety of possible strategies to the steering committee. The committee will meet on the morning of November 4 to begin to plot a future course. Among those suggestions were ways to reach out to those in network dioceses, and to other like-minded churches throughout the Anglican Communion, such as churches in Ireland, England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. The group also discussed a letter writing campaign to the Archbishop of Canterbury and attending the November 27 Inclusive Anglicans gathering in England and possibly to make pilgrimages to Nigeria and other nations, for one-on-one people contact.

The Rev. Christopher Worthley, of the Diocese of Washington, D.C., said citing the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral's assertion, that "Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation," might be a starting place for a new conversation.

"The Episcopal Church hasn't violated that and everyone agrees to it," he said.

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who attended the meeting, said "we don't want a covenant that tries to be a set of international canon law and is basically a format whereby we can punish any errant constituent church."

Fly said General Convention fueled the idea for the group, then the gathering and said "our experience in the last four months has been a mountaintop experience.

"I feel God has led us to the mountaintop and allowed us to look over and see other side, and what I see is hope. What I have heard tonight and all day long is hope and I just want to celebrate that. We have something we've just begun, but it will be powerful in this church of ours."