|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: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/way-of-love
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 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 https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/tag/general-convention-2018/
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 https://livingchurch.org/ 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.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.
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.
|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:Deputy Pam Guess says, "Things that make my heart sing about the work of General Convention are:
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.”
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.Other high points for me as an observer/participant at my fifth General Convention:
"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."
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,
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!