Saturday, June 17, 2006

Thoughts from an Observer

During my time here, I've been a lone wolf, by choice. Since I have no voice or vote, and am not identified with any particular group here, I've had the freedom to simply be an observer.

So, what have I observed? The two outside events that attracted the largest attendance have been the U2charist and the Integrity Eucharist. The people gathered here care about justice and reconciliation. The onsite event that drew the largest crowd, outside of worship and legislative sessions, was the hearing on Windsor and the Communion Wednesday night. The people gathered here care about being a part of the Anglican Communion, if we can do so and still uphold our commitment to justice and reconciliation.

From listening to the legislative sessions and personal conversations, I have also observed that the dioceses have done a good job of choosing their delegates. The people gathered here are a sharp group of folks, who have done their homework. They are well informed, and take seriously the charge they have been given. They are also independent thinkers. They understand that they were elected to be Deputies, not delegates.

The people gathered here also give the worship of God a high priority. I arrived late one morning and found the hallways and exhibit area almost abandoned, as everyone was gathered together for Eucharist. When a prayer is offered, everyone stops what they are doing immediately. The Spirit of the living God permeates every space in which these people gather.

The people gathered here express care, and even affection for one another. I have heard no raised voices, no angry rants, but much courtesy and respect, even in moments of disagreement. There is little evidence of anxiety of any kind; just the opposite, in fact. I've been amazed that after four days, the most common facial expression one encounters is still a sincere smile. As one wanders down the hall, the loudest sound is regular bursts of laughter.

The people gathered here have welcomed me as a member of the family. All they know about me is that by my presence, I am identifying myself as an Episcopalian. And that is all that matters. As this lone wolf prowls the perimeter (couldn't resist that one) people initiate conversations, share stories, and offer advice as if I was an old friend. This easy acceptance has touched me deeply.

Now, maybe all of this will change as the next days unfold and more divisive issues are addressed. I don't know. But, one of the reasons I decided to take this trip was to get a feel of where the Church is right now; to take a barometer reading of sorts, leaning more on intuitive and emotive signals rather than the intellectual and scholarly content of the interactions.

My conclusion at this point is that the Episcopal Church is healthier and more well adjusted than I could have possibly hoped for. God continues to bless us, and the people gathered here have been a personal blessing to me.

Regarding the hot issues, here's my thoughts at the moment. If our experience of the larger Church is limited to the internet, we've developed an unrealistic picture of the situation. The reality of the people gathered here is that there are two poles with, at the most, 20% in each camp. And, for the most part, while listening respectfully to both camps, no preference is given to either. The other 60% know they are the majority, and will make the final decisions.

I don't think this 60% would identify themselves as "moderates," but neither would they claim the labels of "conservative" or "progressive". They are well informed independent thinkers who love God, and God's Church, and will do their best to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God.

I think we can trust the people gathered here to do everything they can do, and leave the rest up to God. If you disagree with them, (and I have little doubt that I will end up disagreeing with some of their decisions as well) by all means speak your mind. But don't start lobbing personal attacks towards them. Because, you see, the people gathered here are my family, and yours as well.


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