Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Last week, I attended the opening of the Episcopal Church’s 77th General Convention, which is presently continuing in Indianapolis. The Convention began on July 4, America’s Independence Day, with speeches by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson.

This was followed by the Convention’s Opening Eucharist on July 5, a bilingual English and Spanish celebration where the Presiding Bishop preached.

I was struck by several things. First, in just one generation, the Episcopal Church has come a long way in welcoming the gifts of women, who now hold key ordained and lay leadership positions. Not that long ago, this was inconceivable in the minds of many women as well as men. I am thankful for the faith, perseverance and courage of those women who heeded God’s call three decades ago, and to all who supported them.

Attending the opening speeches on Independence Day, I was also reminded of the Episcopal Church’s unique governance, which includes a prominent role for the laity. This practice originated at the time of the American Revolution, when the Episcopal Church broke with the Church of England and began to take form in the context of a new democracy. House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson noted in her July 4 remarks, “Our first Presiding Bishop, William White, who like Thomas Jefferson was a student of John Locke, became a champion of shared governance by all orders—laypeople, clergy and bishops.”

Last but not least, the bilingual Eucharist was a vivid expression of the growing importance of ministry to Spanish-speaking communities in the United States and beyond. It was an important reminder of the multilingual, multicultural nature of the Anglican Communion. The same Opening Eucharist also re-affirmed our full communion with two ecumenical partners, as our Presiding Bishop concelebrated with Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Rev. Betsy Miller, President of the Provincial Elders’ Conference of the Moravian Church Northern Province. It was a stirring way to begin this important gathering of Church leaders.

Katherine Wood
Associate Director
Center for Anglican Communion Studies