Sunday, July 8, 2012


Mortal, stand up! So says the Spirit to Ezekiel in today’s OT Lesson (Ezekiel 2:1-5). It’s God calling the prophet into his service. As Ezekiel describes the experience, the Spirit itself lifted him up onto his feet—as if the words the Spirit spoke were physically compelling. Quite literally, at the sound of them, the prophet couldn’t sit still. He had to get up and do something.

That seems to me how the Spirit is working at General Convention. Given how much we are sitting—far more than I sit in a usual week—that might seem strange. And given how long we spent as the House of Deputies trying to figure out whether the amendment to the amendment was a substitute that, once approved, led us to the main motion or whether debate on the original amendment was still on the floor (say what?), this might seem to onlookers like a Spiritually dead place. I’ve never heard anyone call parliamentary procedure a gift of the Spirit. But in so many other, far more important ways, the Spirit is stirring us, lifting us off our feet to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday’s sermon was incredible. That it was preached in a service that featured steel drums and dancing nuns (see facebook video) suggested that we had been transported from an Episcopal church into another dimension of God’s kingdom. Some of our legislative work again suggested that a movement for substantial change in the way we do church. Although it seems certain to be defeated in the House of Bishops, our house passed a resolution that would allow the Presiding Bishop to retain her or his role as a diocesan bishop—a practice that was abandoned over 40 years ago when our church structure became less flat and more top-down. But the movement of the Spirit among us is most palpable in places I wouldn’t have guessed.

Walking down the sunbaked street from one meeting to another in conversation with a bishop from Western New York. Riding in an elevator for the third time in one day with a deputy from Kansas. Talking at the bar with a bishop from Maryland while we wait on our to go lunch orders. Shaking hands with a priest from Georgia who knows someone who knows someone I love. Hearing the distinct lilt of the ECW delegates from the Virgin Islands sitting behind me in worship as they sing “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.” Seeing a fascinated group of six-year-olds who are at the hotel for a birthday party rather than the Convention and hearing them ask, “Why are all these people here?”

The Spirit stirred up—disturbed—Ezekiel as God called him to action. God’s call was so firm that he was physically set on his path by the one who called him. That same Spirit moves in us. It has called us to this place. It has convened us here. And I sense that we all share the same call. We are not here to get our way. We are not here to argue or claim passionately the things that matter to us. We are here to be here with the whole church. And walking through the corridors and sharing elevator rides with people I have never seen before yet share an identity with is a powerful, stirring-up experience. Some moments are more sedentary than others, but it is impossible to be at General Convention and not feel the Spirit lifting us up in unision.


  1. Perhaps the HOB will amend this resolution to require, not just allow, the PBS to also maintain their diocesan responsibilities. I believe the only canonical responsibilities are for the PBS to preside at a ten day convention every three years. Lots of potential for saving money here.

    Think of all the lawyers we could pay with the savings.


  2. Oops, autocorrect spelling has transformed PB into PBS. Sorry.

    RT Barr

  3. Thanks, Russell. I don't think it has a chance of passing House of Bishops. Plus, there was actually debate on requiring the PB to retain her/his see, but that didn't get anywhere in the HofDeputies. Really, I think this is another example of an important symbolic gesture. We're open to change. That seems to be what matters here.