Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Way of Love in a world filled with division and need

The Rev. Dr. Donald Fishburne, right, with the 25th Presiding Bishop of
The Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold, at the Austin Convention Center at GC79.
The Rev. Dr. Donald Allston Fishburne attended the 79th General Convention, and shares with us this report, as well as his photos, of his time in Austin. Donald was baptized and ordained in Charleston and has served congregations from Florida to Maine. He is Priest Associate at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Church, Pawleys Island, to which he and Sarah moved last year. They are glad to be home in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

As a South Carolinian I’m proud to be part of the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement – and to have been present as our Presiding Bishop launched The Way of Love.

Check it out:

Some things that stand out for me as someone who was at General Convention in no official capacity, but with media credentials:
  • The dedication before Convention and in Texas for day after day of long hours exhibited by Bishop Adams, Deputies and Alternates, staff members, and those accompanying them to Austin; 
  • The worship and preaching, from the opening Eucharist to the spirited Revival, and including last Sunday’s Prayer Service and protest at the dreadful ICE Women’s Detention Center, which is in fact a prison. 
  • The prayers and speakers at the Bishops Against Gun Violence event earlier that day were also heart-wrenching. 
I’m grateful for Deputation Chair Rick Lindsey’s prelude and now for his video wrap-up; and for daily written and video reports from team members, including reporting on Andrea McKellar’s election to Executive Council – and her championing of the work of Forma, both as a Board member of and also her resolution for General Convention funding toward that important work.

All of us in The Episcopal Church in South Carolina were honored when Deputy Lonnie Hamilton III received the House of Deputies Medal, and we were heartened by the Youth Presence and reporting on that in this blogspot by OYP member Helena Upshaw and Deputy Jean McGraw. Much was accomplished by the meeting of the Episcopal Church Women and other ministry groups as well.

I'm glad for some fruitful time with Alternate Deputy Bill Coyne, our new Missioner for Returning Congregations. And for the obvious love and joy of Holly and Al Votaw, and for their ministries.

Summary news and feature coverage is available at

As always, I was bolstered by investing time with leaders of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes, and of our seminaries, and Education for Ministry (EfM); and Invite,Welcome,Connect. The Order of St. Helena and the Order of the Holy Cross were represented, along with Living Compass and the Living Church, as well as Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, along with more than 160 other exhibitors. See and its GC79 reporting. And it was fun for me to see representatives of other dioceses in which I have served.

The overarching themes of Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation, and Care of Creation were enfleshed in the lives and ministries of those who return from General Convention.

Canon Wilmot Merchant of St. Stephens, North Myrtle Beach said it this way:

Episcopalians at the T. Don Hutto Dentention Center
in Taylor, TX on July 8.
First of all, the Presiding Bishop continues to be an excitement for the Episcopal Church; his presence and words continue to draw attention to the Episcopal Church as a part of “Jesus Moment.” I was walking the streets the other day and someone stopped me to ask what was happening with all these people he was seeing on the streets. I jokingly said, they were “the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Moment”, and then quickly said the Episcopal Church was having their convention at the Austin Convention Center. I am having a different experience at this General Convention then the one in Utah, 2015. In Utah, I felt overwhelmed because it was my first time and it seemed so much to do, and I did not know it I could do it. I was also assigned to a Legislative Committee and I am not sure how much I contributed. This time around I have a good feel for the flow of things, and I am not on a Committee and I am an Alternate.

My excitement has to do with Cuba being welcomed back, some form of compensation for the President of the House of Deputies, and our Sunday “worship” at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center. It was a powerful experience for me as an immigrant who is now and American citizen. I wept when I saw the women waving, “they saw us and we saw them”; and that was the witness of the church. Sunday afternoon was spent not in a building but in a park and on a road, and that was a powerful “worship” experience for me. God was there with all of us, the women in the Detention Center, those on us on the road and the others who were in the park – all of us.
Lauren Kinard, the superlative Executive Assistant to our Bishop, had another full-time job on the platform as Recording Secretary of the House of Bishops. She was asked to serve in this position by the Secretary of the HoB, The Rt. Rev. Bishop Diane Jardin Bruce of Los Angeles. She arrived an hour before the HoB convened each day.

Lauren says,
Bishops United Against Gun Violence led a
public witness July 8 in downtown Austin.
What I'll take away from my GC experience and my time in the HoB are these things:

1) There is room for all voices in our church and under our large tent. We are a better church for having all these voices. Be they super conservative, or super liberal points of view, they matter. Be they gay, straight, black, white, transgender, cisgender, hard of hearing, able bodied, differently abled — they are important, and they have a right to be heard, even if they are on the losing side of debated resolutions/topics. And they are loved. We respect the dignity of all human beings, no matter what.

2) I am inspired by the leadership of the bishops in our church. I am inspired by their willingness to listen — to each other, to their clergy and those in their diocese, to trust each other, to be vulnerable with each other. The environment of the house is accepting, loving, and pastoral in ways it may have not been in the past, especially when dealing with complicated and controversial issues (as bishops and others can and have observed and stated). It was inspiring to watch them discuss hard issues — issues many felt passionate about, and not always on the same side, and to see how they model that for our dioceses and our churches and congregations. Respect is present for all. It is a model we all should follow in our own lives and churches.

3) I was inspired by the Liturgy on July 4 – the #metoo listening session and the conversations that followed in both houses. I was inspired by the respect that was shown, and the seriousness with which this subject was handled. I was touched by the vulnerability that we all shared in simply addressing the reality and the truth of such issues in our church — in our history, and in our current state, and how such issues are to be addressed. Those conversations were raw, and hard to hear, but yet they were held. I was encouraged by the conversations in the HoB that followed as they stood accountable as the diocesan leadership to agree that such abuse, harassment, etc., cannot and WILL NOT continue in their dioceses.

4) The welcoming of Cuba and the seating of Bishop Griselda in the HoB was incredible. I know the HoD had a similar goose-bump experience.”
Deputy Pam Guess says, "Things that make my heart sing about the work of General Convention are:
1) Reuniting with the Episcopal Church in Cuba – the re-admittance of Cuba as a diocese into Province II of The Episcopal Church. In early 1961, Cuban refugees arrived in my small coastal community of Beaufort, SC. Our church joined with others to ensure their into the local community by providing food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. Several of the children entered my elementary school. When Manuel Gonzolez came to my fifth-grade classroom, I knew his life had been forever changed.

2) Uniting behind immigrants. The critical trip to the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, to witness against the separation of families as they immigrate into the America is also at the top of the list.
3) Supporting human rights in all corners of the world through legislation. The House of Deputies and The House of Bishops reflect the direction of The Episcopal Church as a loving, liberating and life-giving way to move into world communities. 
Here’s some of what the Rev. Wil Keith of Pawleys Island (who was all over the city talking with all sorts and conditions of folks) had to say that hasn’t been reported elsewhere: 
We have responded well to the #metoo movement. And we did so without any remarkable pushback. We have looked at making our liturgies acceptable and affirming to those who often find no affirmation outside our church.

"But this is the best: We have responded to racism, sexism, cissexism, pretty much everything except ageism, AND WE HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT MUCH ISSUE. That means we have gone through a (trying) period of discernment and have emerged on the other side with a clear call to justice, mercy, and ensuring the Episcopal Church will be present to those who are oppressed, even in our own land. I think this is huge."
Other high points for me as an observer/participant at my fifth General Convention:

Progress in orderly liturgical revision and inclusive language, options in marriage rites, and attention to listening to and hearing each other.

Personally, I was glad to enlarge my circle of contacts in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Holy Land, the church in Egypt, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe; and in the returning Episcopal Church in Cuba, to which I will help lead 400 Episcopal and Methodist lay leaders and clergy in January, with The Rev. Dr. Luis León as a speaker. Luis was sent away from Cuba at the age of 11, graduated from Sewanee and VTS, and has just retired after 24 years as Rector of St. John’s Church, Lafayette Square near the White House.

I was grateful for some time breaking bread with a dear friend and colleague, the first woman to be ordained as a priest in South Caroina, the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Taylor. Cindy is a church planter and leader in the Diocese of Georgia and beyond. She testified at this Convention about a #metoo experience years ago involving a priest who later left the Episcopal Church after accusations of ongoing abuses.

What's the one thing Cindy is most grateful for at this Convention? That Lonnie Hamilton was the only member of the lay Deputation who did not walk out of the General Convention of 2012 with Mark Lawrence.

Most of all, 

I am proud of Bishop Skip, our Deputies and Alternates, and those with them in Austin. I was present for the electing Conventions of Frank Griswold and Katharine Jefferts Schori as well as Michael Curry for each of their terms as PB – and I’m glad we didn’t have to elect a successor to Bishop Curry this time around!



Friday, July 13, 2018

Reporting on the final day of GC79: Deputy Rick Lindsey

The Rev. Richard Lindsey, Chairman of South Carolina's Deputation at General Convention, reflects on the triennial gathering of Episcopalians that has taken place in Austin, Texas over the last 2 weeks. Rick is the Rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Hilton Head Island, SC.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

'Seriously enormous, and enormously serious'

Pam Guess just before the closing Eucharist
of General Convention on Thursday night.
Pam Guess of Christ Church, Denmark is our Deputy of the Day for July 12, and posts this report from the 79th General Convention.

Greetings to The Episcopal Church in South Carolina!

Here's the thing. . . We are having a blast here in Austin! Some legislative days are longer than others, and the business at hand is seriously enormous and enormously serious. We refresh by worshiping together every evening. As deputies, we pray for all peoples in the world. In amendments, we cultivate language to ensure equity and diversity with inclusion. In legislation, we take action to ensure justice for all.

Last night, after worship service, the legislative session reconvened to pass resolutions supporting inclusive policies for all church members. Young and old handicapped and disabled worshipers are asking the church to provide the aid of reasonable accommodations for their inclusion. The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) offers recommendations at this link.

This week, in a joint session, the committee on Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation met for TEConversations, music, and discussion with the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. Notably, the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, called for mitigation in the impact of climate change and poverty in the regions of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and in coastal areas of Asia and urban centers. 

In closing, he stated, we see you, and we see you, too, by doing something. Following Bishop Makgoba, the impassioned Bernadette Demientieff described the precious and sacred culture of the Gwich'in Nation in Fort Yukon, Alaska. She told of the harmful effects of climate change on the Gwich'in people and their hallowed Porcupine caribou herd. Asking for help and prayers, she proclaimed, "Indigenous rights are human rights, and when standing together, we can make a change."

The House of Deputies has unanimously voted to concur with the House of Bishops to admit the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese. The Diocese of Cuba joins Province II, which includes dioceses from New York and New Jersey in the United States, Haiti, and the Virgin Islands.

Love, grace, and peace to you,
Pam Guess

A place in history

Archivist Mark Duffy and Bonnie Adams at the
Episcopal Church Archives exhibit at General Convention
General Convention is a place for making connections, and Bonnie Adams, wife of Bishop Skip Adams, made a connection this week with the Archives of the Episcopal Church on behalf of her friend, 83-year-old Professor Hillyer Rudisill III of Charleston.

A book from the professor’s collection, an 1864 collection of prayers handwritten during the Civil War, is now part of the Archives’ collection, delivered by Bonnie on Hillyer’s behalf.

Hillyer is a retired educator who most recently served as professor of philosophy and humanities at Trident Technical College. As a young student, he attended Porter Military Academy (the forerunner of Porter-Gaud School in Charleston). The school was clearing out old volumes from its library, and let each student choose a few to take home.

Hillyer picked a volume called “The Church Loyal and True” on the cover. Its title page says: "The Services of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America as ordered by The Bishops During the Civil War". Each page is a lithographed reproduction of handwritten prayers that were written by northern bishops of The Episcopal Church during the Civil War.

The carefully inscribed pages call to mind the painful separations that occurred in the church in that period. After 1861, Episcopalians in states that seceded formed their own separate organization, but the General Convention chose to mark those dioceses as “absent” at the 1862 convention, and welcomed them back after the war ended.

Hillyer thought the book might be of historical interest, and he asked Bonnie to reach out to the Archives of The Episcopal Church to see if they would like it in their collection. She learned that while the Archives hasd one copy already, they would very much prefer to have two.

So at the Archives exhibit at General Convention on July 10, Bonnie met Mark Duffy, the Archivist of The Episcopal Church, and Pan Adams-McCaslin, Chair of the Board of Archives and a Deputy to GC79, and presented the book in person on Hillyer’s behalf.

Mark told Bonnie that he remembered seeing the other copy once and thinking it might be an actual manuscript, because the reproduction of the handwriting is so clear. The Archives are truly grateful for the valuable addition to their collection, he said, and he plans to write to Hillyer personally to express their gratitude.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Reporting from GC79: Deputy Wil Keith

The Rev. Wil Keith, Rector of Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church in Pawleys Island, SC, is our Deputy of the Day for Wednesday, July 11. In a break between legislative sessions, he recorded this video outside the Austin Convention Center as his blog post for today.

House of Deputies Medal awarded to Lonnie Hamilton

Lonnie Hamilton with the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings,
onstage with the rest of the South Carolina deputation and Bishop Skip Adams.
On July 10, the House of Deputies Medal was awarded to Lonnie Hamilton III, a lay deputy for South Carolina. House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings presented the award, honoring Lonnie's leadership and witness in serving the Church through a time of division and the ongoing reorganization in our diocese. Our deputation and Bishop Adams accompanied him to the stage as he received a standing ovation from more than 800 people present in the House of Deputies.

Watch the video here - the presentation begins at about 17:00 minutes.

Here is the text of President Jennings' presentation:

Now, back in 2012, we had a little excitement at General Convention. ... At that convention, held in the great diocese of Indianapolis, some of those gathered among us decided to leave the convention and, ultimately, to leave the Episcopal Church. Just one loyal Episcopalian from the former Diocese of South Carolina remained, and he is a gifted educator, a civil rights advocate, and an astonishing jazz saxophonist and clarinetist who has also been a faithful member of our church for more than 60 years. And through it all, he has never stopped working and praying and hoping that the people of his former diocese will find a way to come back together so that we all may be one."

Deputy Lonnie Hamilton of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina has been a member of Calvary Episcopal Church in Charleston for 57 years and served on the vestry, as choirmaster, and in many other leadership roles. He has served on the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council in South Carolina, and this is his sixth General Convention as a deputy or alternate. He is a retired administrator with the Charleston County School District and served his community as a member of Charleston County Council for more than 20 years. He was the first African American to serve on that body and was twice elected as its chairman.

The House of Deputies is not, as you can imagine, the first organization to honor Lonnie’s faithful ministry. When he received the Dean’s Cross Award from Virginia Theological Seminary last year, the citation noted that Lonnie has “a reputation not only as a gifted educator but also as a charismatic figure who was popular with students and who could help ease tensions at Bonds-Wilson and other North Charleston area schools resulting from the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. In the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, he led the diocesan Community Housing Development Organization, which has converted dozens of properties into affordable housing units.”

As if all this weren’t enough, Lonnie toured with the Jenkins Orphanage Bands in the mid-1940s and played with his own band, Lonnie Hamilton and the Diplomats, which was the signature jazz band in Charleston for decades.

For his distinguished service to the Episcopal Church and to the community we serve in Charleston, South Carolina, I am honored to award the House of Deputies medal to Deputy Lonnie Hamilton.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A learning experience

Deputy Mark Szen just before the daily Eucharist
at General Convention on July 9.
Mark Szen is a lay deputy from the diocese, and files this report as our Deputy of the Day for Tuesday, July 10.

I have found the time at General Convention to be a great learning experience. While I am a lifelong Episcopalian, there is so much to The Episcopal Church that I do not know.

The best part, for me, from convention has been the joint sessions with the bishops, the Texas Revival, the gatherings against Gun Violence and the protest at the Hutto Detention Center. Also being a part of the legislative committees and, of course, hearing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preach. The least favorite part has been the legislative sessions where we wind our way through resolutions, amendments, amendments to amendments, etc. before finally voting on amended resolutions.

We have had three joint sessions with the bishops. One each on racial reconciliation, evangelism and the care of creation. Each session featured four or five presentations, followed by one-on-one discussions and then delegation discussions. I hope we can all bring some information and energy back to our churches so we can experience and examine where we stand on each topic.

Having not been to a revival before, I had no idea what to expect. One account had 8,000 people there and, with Michael Curry preaching, it was an emotional event. It ended with prayer stations for anyone present, to be prayed upon to receive the Love of God.

The Bishops' Witness Against Gun Violence featured a family who lost a child at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting this spring and a local 14-year old girl's response and her school's response to the shooting. WE MUST keep these stories alive and insist that our legislators take action to prevent more occurrences. Similarly, the protest at the Hutto Detention Center, where women are held, highlights the need that we must speak up for the voiceless, those refugee families that are being needlessly broken apart.

Most of all, what these two weeks have taught me is that the Episcopal Church is a wide, deep and diverse group of people that make up the Body of Christ here on earth. The Episcopal Church is made of more than 100 dioceses not only of the United States, but all of the Americas, and some states of Europe too. We stand up for the rights and dignity of every human being, regardless of their circumstance. For all people, regardless of race, gender identity, ethnicity, disability, etc. The Episcopal Church is made up of, and serves, ALL of God's people.

Mark Szen