God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Dear Friends of the Diocese of Washington,
As I make my way to England to attend the two week Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops, I have in mind the counsel a wise priest gave me when I was first elected bishop. He said, “When you’re clear about an issue, don’t pretend that you’re not.” I have since realized that his words are equally helpful in the reverse: When I’m not clear, there’s nothing to be gained by pretending that I am.
Since deciding to attend, my daily prayer has been to go to Lambeth with an open heart, so that I might pray alongside bishops from around the world, listen to and learn from colleagues whose life experiences are vastly different from mine. I expect to be humbled and challenged as we discuss pressing global issues and ask ourselves what it means “to be God’s church for God’s world,” which is the conference’s overall theme. There is so much about which I am not clear, and I am ready to enter into prayerful discernment with others.
On one matter, however, I am clear, as are most bishops coming from the Episcopal Church: the validity and sanctity of same gender marriage. I am more than happy to share with others how we came to our position of full acceptance and inclusion for LGBTQ+ persons, with rightful access to all the sacraments of the Church, including marriage. I intend to listen respectfully to those who feel otherwise. But I will not pretend that in the Diocese of Washington this is a topic for which further discernment is needed. Imagine how painful this conversation will be for the married gay and lesbian bishops invited to Lambeth, and all in our church whose marriages are a continual topic of debate.
I hadn’t thought it necessary to write to you on this matter, for the Archbishop of Canterbury had assured us that our primary focus would be on all that unites us as Anglican followers of Jesus and on global concerns we must address together. I believe that is still the case, and in that spirit I go. But last week we received the documents that will guide our conversations. We will be asked to discuss ten topics and then express our individual response to matters ranging from Mission and Evangelism to the Environment and Sustainable Development. In a section entitled “Human Dignity,” which begins with a declaration that all human beings are created in the image of God and includes the affirmation that “all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ” we will be asked “to uphold marriage as between a man and woman.” The only options we have been given as our response to this and all other statements are full endorsement or “needs further discernment.”
It’s a puzzling insertion within a topic that deals primarily with the enduring dehumanizing effects of colonialism, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and unjust economic systems. I’m not sure what to make of it, and I don’t know what will happen when the topic comes up. But on this matter I am clear and will not pretend otherwise. Based on the multitude of letters coming from other bishops across the Episcopal Church this week, I am not alone.
I commend to you one such letter written by Bishop Susan Snook of the Diocese of San Diego. Bishop Snook gives a helpful historical overview of the Lambeth Conferences and how we in the United States and elsewhere have come to our understanding of human sexuality and LGBTQ inclusion as, indeed, matters of human dignity.
Serendipitously, in the two weeks between our General Convention and Lambeth, several of us in EDOW and other dioceses have been crafting an alternative lectionary season for this October based on Micah 6:8, to help us all speak to one another clearly, yet with kindness and mutual respect when discussing divisive issues. More on that to come soon. In the meantime, I will have ample opportunity to practice being just, kind and humble at the Lambeth Conference.
I am honored to represent the Diocese of Washington at the Lambeth Conference. Thank you in advance for your prayers.
I had the great honor and privilege of serving as one of the EDOW deputies at the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland earlier this month. Typically, the General Convention (GC) will last for 10+ days, but this year due to COVID it was shortened. This meant that General Convention committees did their work throughout the year via Zoom for General Convention.
As a first time deputy some of the highlights for me were:
- Seeing Episcopal Dioceses represented from all over the country
- Being able to vote for amendments and resolutions that will impact our church and eventually impact our own diocese as it relates to mission and ministry.
- Witnessing money and mission align to the Way of Love.
- Seasoned deputies, in particular Gay Clark Jennings (now-former President of the House of Deputies), investing intentionally in raising up the next generation into leadership.
- Bishop Eugene Sutton’s (Diocese of Maryland) powerful sermon on Sunday, July 10th – authentically speaking to leadership challenges and humility, the power of love, and pursuit of reconciliation; all parts of God’s call to us as disciples of Christ.
My hope and prayer is that we as disciples in Christ may embrace some of the highlights noted above and lean into them in our own diocese, regions, and congregations. Thank you, EDOW, for allowing me to serve as a deputy to the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.
Iman Green Syler
Deputy to General Convention, St. George’s Valley Lee
“A Parliamentary Pentecost” is how I can best describe my first experience as a Deputy to General Convention. The Holy Spirit was clearly at work at Convention as we heard hard truths about our Church’s past, such as our involvement in Boarding Schools aimed at erasing Indiginous culture and identity. We heard a powerful witness from a Deputy from the Navajo Nation, who could not have been much older than my mother, who told her story as a student in such a school, and the impact it had on her, and her nation–and her joy that the Church had finally recognized this issue in Resolution A127 which was adopted by Convention, a small but important first step in reconciliation. The Holy Spirit also made Herself known in prayer book reform, calling the Bishops to enter into discernment, where they ultimately adopted unanimously a better path forward on prayer book revision.
I was also grateful that our Church passed several resolutions aimed at Creation Care, not only in the nation and our world, but also in our Church. One such resolution was one I authored to urge the Church to expand its use of virtual meetings for governance at all levels of the Church to help reduce our harm to creation generated by travel, and to save resources that can be used for other vital areas of ministry.
So many things I expected to be contentious this Convention turned out not to be so. The Holy Spirit molded Her Church through those packed 4 days, and also uplifted many new young leaders in our Church with talent and vision. Like many of you, I often worry about the future of our Church–but I was heartened at what I saw during this Convention, and to see the Holy Spirit at work. While we all entered General Convention with our own idea of how the Church should work, we came out doing things we didn’t foresee going in–yet with faith that we had lived up to our calling, and had been all the better for listening to the Spirit rather than ourselves.
Deputy to General Convention, St. Paul’s, K Street
The Fall Congregational Growth Grants cycle opens on Monday, August 1.
During its June meeting, Diocesan Council awarded 15 Congregational Growth Grants totaling $104,477.00 to parishes in six diocesan regions.
As many of our congregations continue navigating through this phase of the pandemic, it can be difficult to imagine possibilities of what congregational life beyond the pandemic might look like. The Diocese is committed to the revitalization and growth of our congregations, creating fresh expressions of Episcopal worshiping communities, and providing technological resources to support our leaders in executing their initiatives.
This grant cycle, the Congregational Growth Grants committee received predominantly proposals for technology grants that were more specific and modest than in previous years. Proposals that focused on enhancing building visibility, improving website and communications, developing programs for introducing the parish to the community, and investing in children’s and music programming rounded out the committee’s review.
The following are the recipients of the Spring 2022 Congregational Growth Grants by region:
- Central DC: Church of the Epiphany; Our Saviour, Brookland; St. George’s; and St. Thomas
- South DC: Christ Church, Washington Parish; St. Timothy’s
- Central Montgomery County: Good Shepherd; St. Mary Magdalene
- South Montgomery County: Ascension, Sligo Parish
- North Prince George’s County: St. John’s, Beltsville; St. Matthew/San Mateo
- Southern Maryland: All Saints, Oakley Parish; Christ Church, La Plata/Wayside; St. John’s, Broad Creek; and Trinity Upper Marlboro
We encourage you to learn more about the various diocesan grants and scholarships available to parish leaders and hope you consider submitting a Congregational Growth Grant proposal when the fall application cycle opens on Monday, August 1.
Please contact Mildred Reyes, Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries & Diocesan Initiatives with questions about congregational growth grants.
Participation in the Tending Our Soil initiative has helped Christ Church, Capitol Hill better understand who we are, how we fit in our community, and how we can be more intentional about our future. Ours is an historic parish, founded shortly after George Washington laid the cornerstone for the U.S. Capitol. The Tending Our Soil team began by reviewing the excellent existing materials on church history, including a presentation prepared for the church’s 225th anniversary celebrated in 2019. The team made a visual summary for display in the parish hall to allow for reflection on and discussion of our church history. To learn more about who we are now, the team also displayed a U.S. map and a world map. People placed dots on the map to show where they grew up and indicate their faith tradition, if any.
This inquiry, coupled with conversations with parishioners, indicated that our congregation values inclusion and wants to be a church where people from any faith or no faith background feel welcome and at home. Numerous people said that the words spoken each week before the Eucharist (“This is God’s table, not ours. All are welcome.”) resonate with them. In addition, people value the neighborhood feel of Christ Church and its long-term commitment to serving the neighborhood. People want our church to be a place on Capitol Hill where people put divisions aside and are united in seeking to learn about, love, and serve the Lord.
As part of the Tending Our Soil initiative, the team took a careful look at the neighborhood. The team walked the neighborhood and reviewed data the Diocese provided on neighborhood demographics and trends. Both confirmed that the neighborhood immediately around the church is primarily historic homes, and at the periphery of this area, population growth is exploding. Much of this growth will be people living in new, large, multifamily buildings in the Navy Yard, NoMa, and Hill East areas. We learned that the number of single adults will increase substantially, and the number of school-age children near our church is expected to double by 2031. We have work to do to help ensure that our church reflects this changing neighborhood.
With these findings in mind, the Vestry developed a mission statement to guide Christ Church into the future:
To be a caring, accepting, and welcoming community that embodies Jesus’ love in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and beyond.
Our next step is to set goals that will help us live more fully into this mission. Christ Church has the opportunity to offer a church home to a growing number of people of all ages who are new to the neighborhood or searching for a community of faith. We plan to use Tending Our Soil resources to be more intentional and effective in how we seek to welcome people, help people become involved in the life of the church, and inspire and strengthen people to live out Jesus’ love both individually and as a church.
Parishioner, Christ Church, Capitol Hill
Digging into the Work is an on-going series reported by Tending Our Soil congregations as they implement some of the practical steps to growing in strength as vital bearers of God’s love in the world. St. Paul’s, K Street’s experience with getting to know their mission field was the first in the series.