The recent retreat meeting of the Board of Affirming Catholicism, held at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York, focused on the next generation of church leaders as part of its mission to provide inspiration and hope in the Episcopal Church and set the themes of their two North American conferences in 2007.
"At the General Convention, we became aware that a great number of the people visiting our booth were under 35. They were lay and clergy delegates, as well as members of youth delegations," said Mother Susan McCone, executive director of Affirming Catholicism. "Again and again we heard that they hadn't known that an organization like ours existed, and they were eager to know more about the catholic witness in the Episcopal Church. In particular, they wanted to know more about the 'holy life.'"
McCone said they understood the "connection between Christianity and social involvement" but had a much less developed sense of and little experience in the Church's tradition and practice of holiness -- the life of prayer, spiritual discipline, rule of life, sacramental worship -- as the underpinning of transformation.
The Board is responding to the interest of this "post-boomer" generation by exploring new ways to use electronic media and other direct means of contact.
The Board also announced the themes of Affirming Catholicism's two North American conferences in 2007.
The first conference, "The Gift of Communion: Is the Covenant a Gift of Grace?" will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, April 30-May 4, 2007. Affirming Catholicism is sponsoring it jointly with the bishops of Atlanta, East Carolina, North Carolina, Southern Virginia, Southwestern Virginia, Upper South Carolina and Western North Carolina.
The second conference, "Orthodoxy: Living Communion in Worship and Belief," will be held in Seattle, Washington, October 21-25, 2007. Speakers for this conference will include Kenneth Leech, James Alison and Diana Butler Bass.
Both conferences will begin with a day of retreat to form a praying community and will continue in the context of a community of prayer and liturgical celebration.
Bishop Keith Whitmore, president of Affirming Catholicism, said "that since the Episcopal Church is the only national province of Anglicanism to have committed itself [at the recent General Convention] to the process of developing an 'Anglican Covenant' about which the Windsor Report spoke, Affirming Catholicism wants to influence the conversation about communion and covenant in a positive way."
The hope, he said, is to broaden the definition of terms now being used restrictively; terms such as communion, covenant and orthodoxy.
"We think that both theologically and historically they have meanings that are more hospitable, more encompassing and more loving than is now implied by the way they are being used," said Whitmore. "The two conferences in 2007 are designed to allow for this type of conversation and conversion to take place."
Affirming Catholicism in the Episcopal Church is the American church's branch of the international movement. The movement began out of recognition that a dynamic understanding of God's revelation in Jesus Christ implies development and change. Affirming Catholics believe that the Church is being called to demonstrate a more progressive approach in relation to social justice, the environment, gender and sexuality, and that such new approaches must stand in the light of gospel truth and the received catholic tradition.
For more information, visit Affirming Catholicism's website