Bishop Steve’s first video message from General Convention

Follow along most evenings for a video reflection from Bishop Steve with news from the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Indianapolis July 5 through 12.  Many thanks to Gretchen Lane for offering her videography services again.


The Boston Pride Parade: Surprise, Delight, and Joy

Massachusetts Bishop Tom Shaw, Bishop Steve, and New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson in the Boston Gay Pride Parade on Saturday.

Some months ago the Bishops of Province I (New England) were invited to the Cathedral of St. Paul’s, Boston, MA, for a reception for the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as he prepares to step down as the Bishop of New Hampshire. As a long time friend and colleague of Gene’s, I was happy to accept the invitation.

A few weeks ago, I learned that the context for the reception was Gay Pride Week in Boston and that the attending bishops would march in the Pride Parade before the reception. With a certain amount of trepidation, I decided a quick trip for the reception would not work, and so went down the night before to get familiar with the lay of the land and make connections with Bishop Tom Shaw.
As fate would have it, only four bishops were able to make the parade and reception, ordinations and graduations requiring the rest of the Province I bishops to be elsewhere. That being the case, I was very glad I was able to join Tom Shaw, Bishop of Massachusetts, and Barbara Harris, retired Suffragan Bishop, in walking with and thanking Gene.
Photos by Deborah Gardner Walker
It was a quite wonderful day. Despite severe thunderstorms, including strong winds and hail, the night before, Saturday dawned bright and sunny. In fact it turned out to be a very warm day. The Boston Pride Parade route covered 2.6 miles, and the marchers themselves covered well over a mile. There were all kinds of groups, including Macy’s, local radio stations, the governor and the mayor. Something like 200 Episcopalians marched from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, led in procession by a crucifer, a thurifer, and streamer bearers from The Crossing, at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Barbara rode in a red Mustang convertible, honored as the first woman ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion, while Tom, Gene and I trudged along on foot.
What struck me most on the long, hot and sometimes very noisy march, was the sense of surprise and, sometimes, joy which greeted our appearance. People would look quizzically upon seeing the cross and the incense pot, then suddenly recognize who was coming. People frequently called out Bishop Robinson’s name or would say loudly to a neighbor, “That’s MY church!” There were frequent expressions of thanks, and sometimes loud applause. Occasionally there were tears.
We weren’t the only church group, of course. There were many. And I would make no special claim for the Episcopalians. But we certainly do know how to transform a parade into a procession! And our message of welcome for all people is still vitally important. Despite the secularism of our age, despite the suspicion of many about large institutions, including the church, there is still a deep hunger for connection, for welcome, for community, for God. And people who may feel afraid to darken our doors were simply delighted that we came out to be with them.
The day ended with a cook-out at the Cathedral and a brief service of thanksgiving for Gene. I got to say a few words of thanks to Gene for his work, not only as a bishop, but long before as Canon in New Hampshire and as a founder of both Fresh Start and the Safe Church movement. He’s made an immense contribution to the health of our church.
But what I remember most are the expressions of surprise, delight, and joy on the faces in the crowd.


A bishop for the wider church – Bishop Steve serves on Program, Budget, & Finance

PB&F at work earlier this week. The Province of New England (Province 1) is represented by three members: two deputies and one bishop. In addition to Bishop Steve, who serves as Co-Chair, Province 1 is represented by Ms Anne Clarke Brown of the Diocese of Vermont (second from left) and the Rev. Canon Mally Ewing Lloyd, Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Massachusetts. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ENS

The budget process for The Episcopal Church is an interesting one – and extraordinarily complex. The Executive Council, whose job it is to implement the decisions of the most recent General Convention, is also requested to present a proposed, draft budget for the next General Convention. It has that responsibility because it oversees expenditures from the budget and makes adjustments during the triennium: it has contemporary experience of both the income and expense sides and is in touch with the ministries and programs of the Church. But notice the language: “proposed, draft budget.” The Executive Council does not function during the Convention. That responsibility belongs to the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F).

PB&F receives the proposed draft, presents it to the Church at Provincial Synods and by other means, receives input from the church, holds hearings at the General Convention, and presents a “proposed” budget to the General Convention. PB&F received the proposed, draft budget from Executive Council this past Monday and is now preparing to present it to the Church.

There is some overlap in the responsibilities of Executive Council and PB&F. The Canons of the General Convention indicate that PB&F should work with the budget between General Conventions. It is a Standing Committee. However, in practice, Executive Council has taken the lead. During this past triennium the Chair (Diane Pollard) and Vice-Chair (that’s me) have attended meetings of Executive Council to stay in touch with the budget.

The proposed, draft budget that will soon be before the Church is an interesting document. It was formed in response to D027 (2009) which mandated that the budget for the 2013-15 triennium be crafted according to the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion. In addition, Executive Council developed some budget principles and strategies which emphasized such things as care for the poor and direct action on indebtedness. The proposed, draft budget should be available to the Church in about ten days once the Treasurer’s Office is certain it is complete and accurate. Executive Council is also preparing a narrative describing the Council’s work.

I am currently working on the presentation that will be made to the Provincial Synods. Members of PB&F will present the budget using the same PowerPoint at each meeting. Depending on the time available, there may be opportunities for discussion at the Synods. In addition, PB&F will be hosting and moderating an interactive blog to receive input from the Church prior to General Convention.

This is my first experience with PB&F, and I must say it’s a bit daunting. Our work will need to be accomplished in five or six days at the General Convention. We will hold three hearings on July 4, 6 and 7, and the budget will be presented to the General Convention no later than July 10. It will be a time of concentrated effort. The situation is made more complex by the proposals for reform of The Episcopal Church being brought forward from many quarters. To craft budget to support a church in the midst of dramatic and rapid change is both really exciting and very challenging.

Stay tuned for more, and please keep us in your prayers.


The mandate to PB&F
Read the Episcopal News Service story on this week’s PB&F meeting.
PB&F Membership Roster

Reflecting on the House of Bishops from home

The Spring House of Bishops Meeting drew to a close with further conversation about young adults, this time focused on theological education. For the first time in anyone’s memory, the deans of all eleven Episcopal Seminaries joined the bishops for a conversation about seminary education. The good news is that nearly all of the seminaries have taken strong and positive steps to address issues of enrollment and finances. All are discovering new ways to deliver theological education and most are financially stable.  That said, the seminaries still face many challenges, most particularly the challenge of forming clergy and lay leaders for a church that is very different from the church of just a few years ago.

The last session of our meeting was a brief business meeting during which we heard commentary from the visiting Primates, elected members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, and approved a letter in support of the Bishop of Jerusalem.

Since returning home, I’ve reflected a bit on the bishops’ time together. It seems to me that part of what it made it feel so jam-packed was that what we were discussing – ministry with young adults and conversations with Islam – is so very challenging. Our assumptions about the value of the church are not shared today by many in Western culture. Indeed, many young adults have no experience of or interest in the church at all. And in our increasingly pluralistic communities, Christianity no longer corners the market on meaning or morals. Other religions/philosophies have passionate adherents. Like the early church, we are in the position of having to show the world our good news, to take what we believe on the road, and to risk the encounters of the marketplace. And, frankly, we don’t know how. We have some ideas. There are successful programs in a number of places. But a lot of our congregations are stuck in a manner of life that no longer serves.


What does it really mean to meet young people where they are?

How do we show others that we are more interested in them than we are in ourselves?

Is our commitment to Christ greater than our concern for institutional survival?

What kind of ordained leadership is needed both to evangelize the unchurched and to train the churched to participate in God’s mission?

Whether it’s face-to-face or long distance, what kind of seminary education actually prepares church leaders for the realities we face?

Can we be faithful to our commitment to God in Christ and live in peace with committed adherents of other faith traditions?

These are the questions behind our struggles with finances, with liturgy, with governance. These are the challenges that will continue no matter what we decide about an Anglican Covenant. They are, I suspect, messages from God about the new thing God is doing. But only God knows where it’s all going.

We bishops learned a much that was helpful at our Spring Meeting. For all of us the task now is to bring it home for your consideration and to work with you to make a new church.

Bishop Steve