OUR GENERAL CONVENTION 2000 COVERAGE includes this report from Anglicans Online correspondent Kendall Harmon. Other reports are listed here. You may contact the writer at ksharmon@mindspring.com.


The mystery and future of the church
10 July 2000

Over 800 deputies from more than one hundred dioceses, resolutions concerning racism and capital punishment, hard committee work on how much to fund the historically Black Colleges (including Vorhees), seeing people you have not seen for years, and in some cases, ever. Such are only a handful of the cascade of bewildering experiences of being in Denver at General Convention which have occurred in only the first few days.

Amidst such a kaleidoscope of images and events, my mind focuses on just two. The first is a phrase used by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold in his opening homily at Convention. Originally penned by Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Wales, he noted that the church invites us into "solidarities not of our own choosing." Look around you, Bishop Griswold said, and ask if you would have CHOSEN everyone you see. Of course not. But God has given them to us in the body of Christ.

He went on to tell a particular story about a parishioner early on in his ministry who so dogged him with his perspective and criticism that Frank actually began to pray that God would send him to another parish. The harder he prayed, however, the greater this person's resolve seemed to be to stay in the church where Frank Griswold served. It was only later that it became apparent to him that this person was a gift to him in Christ through which Christ was seeking to bless his ministry in a deeper way.

There is a wonderful prayer which speaks of the "mystery" of the church, and part of the church's mystery lies here, in these diverse sisters and brothers in Christ God has blessed us with. Who on earth would have put the three clergy of St Paul's (where I serve) much less the whole parish family? This rich blessing of the sheer breadth of the church in these solidarities we would not choose has hit me in a fresh way.

The second image comes from a hearing of the committee on education, on which I am privileged to serve for the second time. We were given a resolution which addressed the need to create safe places in the church to provide accurate information on human sexuality. And lo and behold, who came before us to speak to the resolution, but Sara Guest, age 18, and Melissa Bixley, in her early twenties.

Understand the setting for a moment. There were maybe 50 people in the room, about 30 of whom were on the committee. To speak on a resolution means you not only address the matter at hand, but agree to answer concerns and questions the committee may have.

And of the three people who testified, two were under 24 years of age. And what speakers! We heard about the confusion in the world today, about the struggle for sexual identity, about the tremendous trauma of abortion and its aftermath, and the importance of a message of love where the call to chastity was raised up.

Honestly, these two young women were so effective I wanted to cry. To speak like that at any age is impressive, but their gift to us was astonishing. Not only did they deeply impact the committee's subsequent discussion, but they gave me an image of the promised coming body of Christ in the next generation and beyond.

They are our future, and I thank God for the hope which they inspired within me. They made me want to pray more fervently, and to support more vigorously, the youth ministry in the parish i serve. How about you?

Warmly in Christ from Denver,

Kendall


Dr Kendall S Harmon
Clerical Deputy, South Carolina
Theologian in Residence, St Paul's Church, Summerville, South Carolina

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