EDINBURGH: From one Episcopal Church to another: TEC to SEC – Jefferts Schori

EDINBURGH: from one Episcopal Church to another: TEC to SEC – Jefferts Schori


By Mary Ann Mueller
Special Correspondent
June 11, 2010

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s address was presented to the Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod on Friday. it is an expanded version of a similar address she gave to the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod on Tuesday in Halifax.

Thank you very much. I am very grateful for your invitation. it is a pleasure to be again with your Primus (the most Rev. David Chillingworth) even though it is briefly this time.

I bring you greetings from the many parts of the Episcopal Church.

We’ve struggled with what to call ourselves because ECUSA (Episcopal Church in the United States) is not accurate. At this point “The Episcopal Church” seems most apt even though we recognize and celebrate the fact that there are other “Episcopal Churches”, including this one (the Scottish Episcopal Church).

The Episcopal Church includes churches in 16 different nations … in Taiwan, in Micronesia, Honduras, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Haiti — is our biggest diocese; the Dominican Republic, the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and in the Episcopal Churches in Europe in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland.

I also bring you greetings from Episcopalians in the many indigenous nations we serve in North America and abroad, particularly in Latin America. And I want to point to those tribal heritage that is shared by those parts of the Episcopal Church and with the Celtic and Pictish heritage of the indigenous peoples of these lands.

The Episcopal Church is multilingual and multicultural as well as multinational. we are rural, urban, in towns and on islands, on native reservations; and in Europe we were ex-patriot congregations. They are now rapidly becoming indigenized.

We are a richly varied, motley crew, gathered as the Body of Christ to serve God’s mission.

I want to talk about mission. Emil Brunner put it this way. he said: “The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.”

Mission is our reason for existing. And if we are not engaged in mission we might as well just close up the doors and go home and die.

Mission means healing and restoring all of Creation toward the Commonweal of God.

It means that image that Isaiah holds up of people fed full and feasting, living with justice and dignity, and all people and all creation living together in peace.

The Baptismal Covenant that our churches prayed for more than 30 years has increasingly roused us into mission.

That Baptismal Covenant is not shared with most of the rest of the (Anglican) Communion, aside from churches that have adopted their own version of our Prayer Book. there is something like it only in Canada and new Zealand, and in the Alternate Service Book in England. You (the Scottish Episcopal Church) have a short version in your 2006 liturgy.

What we have prayed together over these decades has shaped our theology, and it has a great deal to do with the dignity and respect for the image of God in all our neighbors.

We have grown to understand that God’s Mission is about speaking, doing and being Good News. but it is about building a just society, peacemaking, and co-creating that dream of God’s called Shalom — a community of peace and justice.

We know that we are suppose to be doing what Jesus claimed has His own Mission — bringing Good News to the poor, release to the captive, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and challenging the oppressor.

This Baptismal Covenant has taught and reminded us that baptism is commissioning for service. that all the baptized are ministers and servants of God’s mission. that we are one Body with many gifts, and that we have different ministries. Primarily in the world.

We aren’t the same church we were 30 years ago, because of that Baptismal Covenant.

Our two churches share some significant common roots and history.

A couple of years ago the Episcopal Church celebrated 400 years of continuous Episcopal worship in North America beginning on the Atlantic coast in Virginia.

The first Anglican service held in what became the United States, was held by Sir Francis Drake’s chaplain somewhere north of San Francisco Bay in 1579 on the Pacific coast. that worshipping community didn’t survive. but then not all such initial efforts do. that doesn’t mean they are failures. Mission work is like that, with lots of seeds planted, some of them survive and flourish.

The first Anglicans to be baptized in North America were of Manteo, an native Algonquian chief; and a few days later, Virginia dare, the infant daughter of settlers. both of them baptized on Roanoke Island in 1587 on the Atlantic coast. that settlement disappeared, too.

Throughout the Colonial Era the Bishop of London had charge of the Church of England in the Colonies. he largely ignored us. (Chucking) no bishop ever visited; no clergy were ordained there, they had to go to England; and no confirmations were held, even though adults so desirous were admitted to Communion.

As a result lay leadership became a essential and vital. And women had leadership roles, particularly in funding the construction of church building and clergy salaries.

The history of lay leadership and the development of a democratic, national, and ecclesiastical polity has continued to shape the Episcopal Church.

the beginnings of the Episcopal Church after the Revolution reflected a long history of tension between High Church and Low (Church). And between bishop-centered and more congregational forms of governance. A history I think you have shared.

We struggled, at the beginning, over whether or not we’d have bishops. And we struggled over how the emerging polity of the church would be structured. And in 1783 the six clergy in the former colony of Connecticut elected an Anglican priest as bishop and he went to England to be consecrated. the Church of England declined. so he went to Scotland. (Laughter)

The non jurying bishops here did lay hands on Samuel Seabury in 1784 with the expectation that our new Prayer Book would reflect the theology of your “Wee Bookies”. (Chuckles) that act also effectively began the Anglican Communion.

In 1835 the Episcopal Church formally and legally became the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and every person who is an Episcopalian is a member of that. that action solidified what had already become a spreading tide of mission efforts.

The first missionary bishop (Jackson Kemper) was elected that year sent out to the Western Frontier to work with Native Americans and settlers.

The second one (William Boone) went to Shanghai, the third one (Horatio Southgate) went to the Ottoman Empire. after that missionary bishops sent to Cape Palmas (John Payne) in Liberia and to Japan (Channing Williams). Eventually mission work was established in places that were or became effective American colonies — in the Philippines, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico. And they were established in places with commercial or diplomatic interests: Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, and Paris, Nice, and Rome and other European cites. many of those are now separate Anglican provinces, and most of the remainder are still a part of the Episcopal Church. Today church-wide mission has many aspects. They all reflect those five Anglican Marks of Mission. [*See below.]

Our relief agency started out in 1940 as the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief. A humanitarian response to the plight of refugees during the Second World War. Today it is known as Episcopal Relief and Development, and it touches two million people a year in domestic disaster relief and oversees in development and disaster work.

Episcopal Migration Ministries was originally an arm of that Presiding Bishop’s Fund. And today it resettles four to five thousand refugees a year.

We have on-going mission partnerships with overseas and domestic dioceses funded from the church-wide budget for developing ministries in native communities and emerging contexts. we engage in chaplaincy to the Armed Forces, federal hospitals and prisons.

We continue in formal covenant relationships with Provinces of the Anglican Communion that were once part of the Episcopal Church: Mexico, IARCA, — which is the Church in Central America — Liberia, the Philippians, and Brazil.

We’re involved in mission partnership with most other parts of the Anglican Communion — at the diocesan, parish and provincial levels.

We are in full communion relationship with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and in Europe we’re are in full communion relationship with the Old Catholics.

We voted for full communion relationship with the Moravian Church in North America. They will vote on that this summer. we are in growing partnership with the United Methodist and Presbyterian churches in the United States, and particularly in rural areas, those relationships are of an immense missiological significance.

We’re engaged in the on-going work of developing congregations and mission awareness. Internationally that mission work is most often shaped by the (eight) Millennium Development Goals. [**See below.] Which we understand as a proximate version of the Reign of God.

Domestically we’ve begun a mission initiative on poverty, with initial focus in native communities.

We are seeing numerical growth in most of our overseas dioceses, but only in handful of domestic ones. [Alabama, North Dakota, Wyoming and Navaholand.]

Several realities are at work in our North American context, and I think you share a number of these.

We can no longer rely on evangelism by reproduction. (Laughter) An increasingly post-Christian society means that church attendance is no longer culturally expected, and it is no longer the only available activity on Sunday morning.

We have not done a terrible good job of mission work in emerging ethnic and cultural communities. we are still learning how to invite people into Christian relationships.

A study several years ago said that the average Episcopalian invited somebody to church once every 38 years. (Laughter)

But we are discovering that our ethos of radical hospitality, a hopeful focus on transformation, a tradition that invites questions and offers both structure and flexibility that empowers the leadership of all persons is immensely attractive to several segments of our society — to young adults, to Latina women, and to young mothers.

We think that those characteristics are also likely to be effective in serving the growing immigrant and ethnic communities in the United States. All people who are spiritually hungry.

We adopted a strategy for mission in the Latino communities this summer, already funded at an adequate level. we realize that we need to address more than just recent Hispanic immigrants. Second and third generations are often more comfortable worshipping in English, but they crave a culturally Hispanic contexts in which to practice their faith.

We’re relearning that principal of the English Reformation that worship must be in a language and context understanded [sic] of the people. We’re also moving beyond church buildings. We’re beginning to learn new ways of accompaniment and of solidarity to address a post-Christian context. We’re learning the Good News of befriending, whether it’s in the form of food pantries, youth and after school programs, home building, or community development. All ways in which communities begin to be transform towards that Common Wheel of God.

An example: A congregation in Hartford, Connecticut, has had a program for inner city kids on Monday nights that provides a meal, a Godly play-story, and a craft activity.

For years they use to go down the street and collect kids from the Boys and Girls Club. Recently, they have moved the program to the Boys and Girls Club and doubled their attendance.

We’re moving beyond building with our immerging work with new Christian communities.

St. Lydia’s, in new York City, is a movable feast. Gathering in different homes once a week or once a month, to prepare a meal, out of which a worship experience grows.

We’re learning that mission must move out of the church building to encounter people who have no experience with the Christian community. it is an uphill work for people who like their comfortable pews.

As we look to the future there significant ways of which our churches might partner with and learn from each other. Ministry in a post-Christian context. Ministry with new populations. Ministry in depopulating rural areas. new forms of leadership development, total ministry, shared ministry, local common ministry. A shifting understanding of leaders as agents of change towards transformation.

Your theological education program has something important to teach us. And I think we can learn together about how best to serve a geographical large but little populated dioceses.

The conversation around (the Diocese of) Argyll and the Isles is the same kind of conversation that we’re having.

We have a singular opportunity in our shared full communion relationships with the Lutherans, and other opportunities with Methodists and Presbyterians.

As a church we are looking for opportunities for dialogue and openings for transformative action around ethics and biotechnology. Energy — whether it is the Gulf Oil Spill, nuclear power generation, or green technology. we seek greater understanding around human sexuality and anthropology. we work to preserve the language, culture and life ways of indigenous peoples. Issues of resource use and the stewardship of Creation — fisheries, oceans, watersheds, airsheds, global warming and climate change, all are deeply connected to the vocation we share — co-creating a world of justice, peace and right relationship.

We celebrate in official companion relationships with four of your dioceses: Aberdeen and Orkney with Connecticut; Argyll and the Isles with Delaware; Brechin with Iowa; and Glasgow and Galloway with Kentucky. we would welcome opportunities with other dioceses.

We are immensely grateful for your support of the Sisters of St. Margaret in Haiti. They are a very important pastoral and missionary presence in our largest and poorest diocese.

We’re grateful for our friends north of the border (Canada), who gave us the fullness of episcopal ministry.

We’re eager for what you can teach us out of your context, and we’re energized about the possibilities for increased partnership in God’s mission.

May God bless our journeys, and may God abundantly bless the world through the mission to which he calls us all.

*The five Anglican Marks of Mission
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers;
To respond to human need by loving service;
To seek to transform unjust structures of society;
and To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

** the eight Millennium Development Goals

To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
To achieve universal primary education;
To promote gender equality and empower women;
To reduce child mortality rate;
To improve maternal health;
To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
To ensure environmental sustainability; and
To develop a global partnership for development.

—Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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