First a quick vocabulary lesson – from the Gospel According to Merriam-Webster:
1: of or relating to a bishop
2: of, having, or constituting government by bishops
3 capitalized: of or relating to The Episcopal Church representing the Anglican communion in the United States
So we are All Saints Church (Episcopal) because we are part of The Episcopal Church in the United States. And we are The Episcopal Church in the United States because our polity includes the governance of bishops. That’s the back story.
And this month is a great month to draw attention to that story – to that part of our story as a particular people of God – because here in the Diocese of Los Angeles and at All Saints Church the month of May is officially “all bishops all the time.”
We start here at All Saints Church on the weekend of May 8 & 9 when Bishop Barbara Harris – the first ever woman bishop in the Anglican Communion will be our very special guest. Bishop Harris is a long time friend of All Saints and an historic trailblazer for justice, compassion and equality. Ordained as Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts in 1989, Bishop Harris’s prophetic ministry and her unique, powerful preaching style continue to challenge and inspire. She rocked the house last summer as the preacher at the Integrity Eucharist in Anaheim at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and you’ll want to mark your calendars now to be here when she rocks All Saints Church.
The second event in our “episcopal trifecta” is the ordination and consecration of two new bishops suffragan on Saturday, May 15 at the Long Beach Arena. Diane Jardine Bruce and Mary Douglas Glasspool will become the 16th & 17th women bishops in the history of the Episcopal Church – and the first in this Diocese of Los Angeles – when they are ordained as bishops by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. There is a very long list of reasons why this is an historic event you won’t want to miss – and details on the service can be found on the All Saints website or at the purple table on the lawn on May 2nd & 9th.
Finally, Episcopal Event #3 is the May 16th visit to the Rector’s Forum of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo. Bishop Christopher has been an outspoken advocate for human rights in Uganda. He has taken great personal and vocational risks in defense of LGBT people in his country -- a nation where lawmakers recently considered imposing a death penalty on homosexuals. He will address the homophobic and draconian anti-gay movement and legislation pending in Uganda as well as how we can be agents of hope and change. You won’t want to miss the chance to be inspired by this genuine Giant of Justice.
So what do bishops actually DO, anyway? Here’s what it says about the ministry of a bishop in the Book of Common Prayer – from the ordination rite we will use in Long Beach on May 15th:
You are called to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church; to celebrate and to provide for the administration of the sacraments of the New Covenant; to ordain priests and deacons and to join in ordaining bishops; and to be in all things a faithful pastor and wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ. With your fellow bishops you will share in the leadership of the Church throughout the world. Your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope. Your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve.And that “job description” is exactly why having these particular three episcopal events to celebrate this month are such a source of celebration – not just for us here at All Saints Church, but for the whole church.
Bishop Harris, Bishops-elect Bruce & Glasspool and Bishop Christopher are for us exemplars of “bishops at their best” – those who understand that their vocation to guard the faith is about guarding the faith for ALL the faithful. Their diversity expands the “wholesome example for the entire flock of Christ” to include more fully the entire flock of Christ. And their leadership both has and will continue to inspire those in this generation who look to God in hope for a church with the courage to lead on issues of peace, justice and compassion. And in generations to come, their work and witness will continue to inspire as they take their place in our history.
So come celebrate. Be inspired. Be part of history. And give thanks for Barbara and Diane and Mary and Christopher: Bishops in the Church of God who follow the One who came not to be served, but to serve.