July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
Texas Governor Rick Perry opined a few days ago  that, had moviegoers in Lafayette, Louisiana, been allowed to bring their guns into the theater, they could have stopped John Russell Houser when he opened fire on July 23, 2015. The mentally ill like Houser should not have been able to get a gun, Perry said — the laws were not enforced.
Nearly every classical religious tradition begins with an affirmation of the sacredness of creation. This is not surprising. Ancient peoples were captivated by the beauty, grandeur and complexity of the natural world. They told stories of how the world began and how humans came to inhabit it. Our own biblical tradition affirms that the world that God has created is good: ‘God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good.’
Has The Episcopal Church changed its doctrine of marriage? Reading various statements during and after the 78th General Convention, it would seem that once again, that church based in America and present in sixteen other countries is threatening the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion by leaving behind the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). If that is straining the bonds of our Communion, it is not purely an American issue, by any means. Our church is in the same position as the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church of Ireland, the Church of Wales, the Church of Canada, the Church of Australia, the Church of Southern Africa, the Church of Brazil, the Church of Mexico, and the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia. Why is The Episcopal Church singled out?
[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Several hours after being elected as the Episcopal Church’s 27th – and first African-American – presiding bishop-elect, Michael Curry fielded a range of media questions with characteristic humility and humor June 27 and said he intends to build on the good work of his predecessor “because that’s the way the Spirit works.” Current Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori introduced Curry at a crowded press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Salt Lake City, saying the House of Bishops handed him “a major mandate” with the historic landslide victory.
It’s pretty hot for camel hair right now. You may not have had locusts for breakfast, but I can tell you where to buy protein bars made from cricket flour. And I saw honey for sale in the exhibit area. This may be an Episcopal convention, but we are all supposed to be John Baptists and Jane Baptists. Our task is to build that straight road, knock down the privileged heights, fill in the sloughs of despair, and make the road flat enough for all God’s people – and that includes Baptists, Episcopalians, Jews, Hindus, and “nones.” We’ve been baptized into Jesus’ baptism as well as John’s, and called to the kingdom work all the prophets proclaim: to be light in the darkness, strength and comfort for God’s people, gathering the lambs and leading ewes to shelter, and showing the healing power of forgiveness. That is the road to the peaceable kingdom.
Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si, released a few days ago, certainly has stirred a great deal of comment, much of it negative. Consider, for example, the New York Times' columnist Ross Douthat's response. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The "letter" is huge, with 246 paragraphs divided among six chapters. The Pope fights on two interrelated fronts, ecological degradation and economic injustice. He proceeds from a very detailed description of the situation of humanity on our planet that is unrelentingly grim, to a bright hopeful promise that real change can happen. It will be very widely read, and due to the weight of the Roman Church's one billion Christians, and their leader's popularity, Laudato si will make an impact politically as well as upon the major environmental and economic debates of our time.
I like to speak briefly about the Kingdom of god or and the Kingdom of Heaven, as it is referred to in the Gospels. What is this Kingdom? Where is it? Who belongs to it? Well, first of all, we modern people do not have kings, unless you are British, of course, and even there, we do not think of monarchs as being in charge of our lives. The Kingdom of God. How do we translate that? Well, modern people say the ‘Rule of God’, ‘the reign of God’, where god is, where God’s will is done. Jesus tries to get this across in many different ways. The Kingdom of God is like a man who sows a seed on the ground, that sprouts, and then he takes a sickle to it. Or like a mustard seed, a tiny little thing, and when you sow it into the earth, it grows into a great big bush.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) is one of my favorite poets because of the sheer beauty of his language, including words he invented. Some of his poems celebrate and give thanks for the beauty of the world — and they open my eyes to it, even when I do not understand his every word! Hopkins was an Oxford-educated Jesuit priest, so of course he expresses gratitude in the language of his tradition. But when you read the body of his work, it's clear that his spirituality has a universal reach, rooted in respect for the sacredness of all life in all its diversity.
I have been on a pilgrimage of 16 years here in Italy, getting to know a little bit more Africa because I have met so many Africans while I have been living here, and indeed working very closely especially with people drawn from West Africa, from the nations of Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, just to name three. But of course, Africa is much bigger than just its west, just as in the hymn we sang moments ago. There’s north, there’s south, and there’s east as well, within the continent, that rich continent of Africa. Rich in every sense, but rich most of all as we celebrate this feast of the Holy Trinity in the way that God’s grace is poured upon it. And the praises of God resound that. Praise the Lord. Alleluia.
'Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.' Thus Romans, Paul writing to the Romans. well, 'We do not know how to pray as we ought' . . . I understand that. But what about the rest?' The ‘spirit interceding in us with sighs too deep for words? It is very odd what Paul is saying here. It as if we are caught up in the life of the Trinity, and prayer comes from God, by God, to God. What about me?