Dear Friends in Christ:
Years ago the House of Bishops began to meet for a retreat each March. In the early days I am told the agenda was kept light and the gathering was used as a time for the bishops to pray together and to deepen their relationships with each other. This was at a time of deep division in the church and in the House of Bishops. The House today is a very different community, our relationships are better and the meeting agenda has changed to adapt to the changing needs of our community.
We continue to pray together, having Eucharist daily. We continue to eat meals together (but no, I did not have any Kanuga toast, Neff and Bingham Powell!). We continue to deepen our relationships with each other and we try to keep the agenda light, however, we also know that our time together is important for the life of the dioceses we serve.
Our most recent meeting, just concluded, had as its title “Reconciling Leaders: Bishops in the Jesus Movement.” During the meeting we worked hard on issues of diversity and inclusion in our own lives and in the House of Bishops. Trainers from Visions inc. were with us for three days and invited us to examine such topics as:
- Guidelines for effective cross-cultural dialogue
- Multicultural process of change
- Levels of oppression and change
- The three dimensions of change in individuals and organizations
- The awareness of feelings as messengers
- A look at modern ISM’s and internalized oppression theory
- A look at historically excluded and historically included group identities
It was hard work and the outcome was rich learning for everyone. We certainly did not solve all of the issues we have as a House of Bishops or do all that needs doing in reference to diversity and inclusion. On our last day together Presiding Bishop Michael Curry used the metaphor of birth as messy and yet beautiful to call us further into this work in the days and years to come. In the end, however, it was the message I heard from Bishop Wendell Gibbs that will remain. In his homily he spoke of a young person who was about to be confirmed. The young man told the bishop he wanted to add a small sentence to a psalm and he wondered if he might do that. Bishop Gibbs asked the boy what he wanted to add. He said, “God, I can’t do this, but it can happen with your help.” I do not know about you but I feel this way often in my life. Many things seem overwhelming but if I continue to be connected with God and Jesus, powerful things can happen; God’s reign can come near in my life and in the Diocese of Oregon. Bishop Gibbs told the boy that adding to the psalms was above his pay grade but he thought that was a fine addition to make.