Episcopal activists heard their Presiding Bishop call them to action on behalf of the gospel as they packed the Raleigh NC hotel ballroom to hear her address the 2007 Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly. The theme of this year's Assembly -- "Making the Contacts: Locally and Globally" -- was reflected in the questions +Katharine answered following her formal presentation, which focused primarily on the minstry of the baptized to "reconcile the world to God and to each other."
She rejected out of hand the misapprehension that we have to choose between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. "I do not believe God has any patience with those who insist we must choose between evangelism and social justice. One cannot love God and our neghbor without doing both," she said. "Scripture tells us that we cannot love God who we don't see if we don't love our neighbors who we do."
She once again offered the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) as an example of "a contemporary illustration of a means to bring the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven." Focusing specifically on the MDG emphasis on women and children, she said, "When women are educated and empowered the whole community benefits. When the least among us are served the whole community flourishes."
Noting that the 0.7% MDG giving rate was based on a 40-year old economic study, she reminded the Assembly that it will take governmental commitment to those goals in order to make a difference -- and our U.S. government is lagging sadly behind in that regard. "Giving by the church is a generous and prophetic act," she said. "But meeting the MDGs will require urging governmental compliance" and called on Assemly members to "lobby your Congressional Representative and Senator, to call Washington."
"Politics," she said, "is the art of living in human community. You and I are meant to build a community that reflects the Reign of God."
When questioned by one priest who had been advised in seminary and by some clergy mentors to "steer clear of politics" +Katharine didn't mince words in her response. "The task of the priest," she said, "is to equip the saints to take up their ministry. I think it is our duty to equip the people to live out their ministries IN the political arena." In a follow up comment, the Presiding Bishop noted that in Spanish there are actually two words for politics: one meaning the kind of "art in living in community" we were talking about and the other "dirty politics." She also noted the difference between political activism and partisan politics pointing to All Saints, Pasadena and our ongoing IRS issue as an example. "Systems of injustice do not change ONLY through silent prayer," she concluded. (Leading one colleague to lean over and whisper, "I can see the headlines now: "Presiding Bishop Doesn't Believe in Prayer.")
Speaking of the press, when asked what had been the greatest challenges she's faced so far as the first woman primate she noted wryly, "The press see me as fair game but I see them as an opportunity for evangelism" -- to much applause from the gathered Assembly. Equally well received was her response to a question about the Iraq war: "It is long past time to beat our swords into plows."
Asked about the upcoming meeting of the Primates in Tanzania and how we might pray for her and for them she noted the message to the church sent out yesterday through ENS and urged all gathered to pray that God "bless the best of the people we encounter" -- especially those with whom we disagree. In regard to the wider communion, she went on to say she believes there is "a much wider acceptance and diversity of opinion on this issue [human sexuality] than is represented by the primates" and shared her communication with African bishops committed to working beyond those differences. The energy she is taking with her to Tanzania was summed up for me when she said, "Our task is to focus on what our mission is and not on what divides us."
Another questioner took on the "life after B033" issue, noting that for many in this church -- including some in this very room -- life after General Convention 2006 was lived with the reality that their vocations were negotiable and that B033 gave them cause to question whether or not they were truly fully included in the church -- questions that were hampering both ministry and evangelism.
It got very quiet.
And +Katharine didn't flinch. She continued to look directly at the questioner and said in a low somber voice, "I continue to be troubled by that." She went on to say that B033 was the cause of much suffering in the church and that her hope was that out of that suffering would come clarity that would move the church forward. "I think when we come to the next General Convention," she said, "we will be clearer."
So there you have it -- my best efforts to take the scribbled notes on the back of my Assemly Agenda and Worship Descriptions and turn them into some kind of coherent Report from Raleigh. I should also report that we had an excellent report last night from House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson who is off from this meeting to the Diocese of San Joaquin and asked for our prayers for her and for those seeking to "Remain Episcopal" in the heartland of the Anglican Insurgency. This afternoon are site visits to Raleigh urban ministry sites and this evening a festival Eucharist with Bishop Michael Curry preaching and +Katharine presiding.
Onward and upward!