Dispatches from Quito

A roundup of thoughts from the House of Bishops’ meeting in Quito, Ecuador:

+Marc Andrus, California has been writing each day. From Day 2 he reflects on the bishops’ visits around the country:

I was part of a group that stayed in Quito, but journeyed a long distance in culture and economics, to Sector Comité del Pueblo, a community of poor and working class people who squatted some thirty years ago on a large swath of a valley that absentee landowners had left fallow. They finally had recognized land rights, and have created a vibrant community, which has a wonderful Episcopal mission in it, Mission Cristo Libertador, Christ the Liberator.

… The opening song had this refrain: “May we always have hearts without doors; may we always have open hands.” Immediately I remembered what I learned this past spring about the Guarani people, they call themselves the people with open hands. What that means is that as they receive something – money, material possessions, emotional investment, ideas – they are thinking about how they can enhance the gift, and pass it on.

The Guarani, through several centuries of experience with colonizing Western culture have learned to call us the people of the closed hands; people who immediately invest energy in how to hold onto possessions of all kinds.

+Dan Edwards, Nevada is writing each day even though he has been suffering from the altitude and root canal surgery:

An English bishop informed us of issues in the C of E including the upcoming Synod which will decide whether to admit women to the episcopacy. He indicated that many in England believe the discussion of the Anglican Covenant has been helpful but see no need to actually adopt the Covenant. He made no prediction of the outcome and did not say how he would vote. My prediction: we will endorse the core values in the first three sections of the covenant but not the sanctions in section four. I also predict not many other churches in the communion will sign on to the Covenant.

The bishops from Liturgy & Music reported on the same sex blessing liturgy drafting process. Enormous work has been done. Massive input has been received. More revising is probably ahead. My opinion: this rite will be approved in some form.

+Andrew Doyle, Texas is thankful for the support of the the other bishops and dioceses during the ongoing fires in Texas. He commented on the presentations on Liberation Theology:

In my own reflection of the day’s talks I found this last presentation for the day was excellent. Bishop Gomes gave a great and stirring talk about ministry on the ground, with the people, a mission and ministry that is incarnational and tangible. He offered illustrations about how the poor and homeless had given to him visions of God in ways he had not known before. He talked about the inter-mingling of scripture’s Gospel of Grace and life lived with those with whom Jesus had a special relationship.

He talked about the church’s work of knowing and announcing God’s presence in the midst of people and communities. The work of the church to be open to how the poor can teach us about grace and to listen attentively within the context of our mission for God’s words. And, he talked to us about the importance of engaging power to raise up the very best in our civil societies but how we also must be willing to speak out on Gospel imperatives. He got a very challenging question about how difficult it is to be close to power but not corrupted by it. He said that such work between the margins is the work of the Gospel. He ended by encouraging us forward through the power of the Holy Spirit. It was an excellent talk!

+Greg Rickel, Olympia (Western Washington state) discusses the controversy about the bishops meeting in Quito, the cost, the exotic location, and the goal:

I understand there has been some “chatter” in and around the Church regarding our coming here to such an “exotic” place. There is certainly enough on both sides of that argument to question and wonder about but I would address this in several ways. I can tell you personally that although it was a bit more expensive to get here, we have probably spent far less while here than any House of Bishops Fall meeting I have been to. But, perhaps the best counter to this argument is that Province IV (sic – IX ~ed.) is a part of our Episcopal Church, part of the Body this House of Bishops includes, and so it is important that we are here. It has been quite important to the people we have met here that we are here. We come not only to meet, but to learn, and I certainly have. I am quite certain any meeting place we might choose is subject to criticism and that is just part of the territory, but I had to say something about this particular one. It is good that we are here, this is as much a part of our Episcopal Church as is New York, Texas, or Olympia. We are the Domestic and FOREIGN Missionary Society.

+Brian Prior, Minnesota relates a revealing encounter with poverty:

She appeared to be no more than five or six years old. She was clearly holding, with all her strength, a baby wrapped in a blanket. She was speaking Spanish rapidly, standing only about three inches from me. With my limited understanding, I thought she was asking for money. My assumption was quickly corrected by a colleague who was more fluent in Spanish than me. “Did you get that she was trying to sell the baby to you?”

As you might imagine, I was immediately filled with a sense of shock and sadness. What would motivate a person to sell their sibling or their own child? Obviously it is complex, but at the core is an overwhelming experience of scarcity. When one’s existence, and even more importantly that of their children, becomes so marginalized in utter desperation, such drastic measures appear to be the only option.

+Michael Hanley, Oregon gives yet another reason for the importance of meeting in Ecuador:

One of the reasons for the House of Bishops to travel to a place like Quito is to learn about the country we visit. Today we listened to four individuals who are experts in their county about migration, international debt and climate issues.

I am struck by how challenging the problems are and how intertwined. Oil production uses chemicals that are also a part of illegal drug traffic. The military presence stresses the resources of a community to support their presence. The forests suffer when oil is extracted. It is easy to be overwhelmed. However, the good news is that groups continue to fight for the rights of indigenous people and for the use of better ways to manage oil production.

There is much to do and we have been asked to be aware of these issues and to make these issues our issues. There is one world, God’s world, and we are stewards in it. What might we do to be a part of the conversation?

+Daniel Martins, Springfield reports on the details of the bishops’ days – the food seems to be one of the best things about Quito. He also offers more thorough reflections on some of the issues – marriage equality, liberation theology and liturgy at House of Bishops at his Confessions of a Carioca blog.

The presenters we have heard here in Quito this week both confirm all the caricatures of Liberation Theology and at the same time raise some signals that are hopeful as regards the potential integration of its insights into more orthodox and mainstream Christian faith and practice. While some have momentarily indulged in anti-capitalist, anti-corporation rhetoric, they have all categorically disavowed any necessary link between Liberation Theology and either advocacy of or opposition to any particular political party, movement, or economic system. Apparently it’s not impossible for a free market conservative to be a faithful Christian!

More helpfully, they have taken some care to locate Liberation Theology within the broad sweep of the Christian tradition, not only biblically, but sacramentally and liturgically. Wednesday’s speaker (Don Compier from St Paul’s School of Theology in Kansas City) made a serious effort to unpack the notion of incarnation as it is realized in the Eucharist (citing, especially, the work of Charles Gore). Having encountered the risen Christ in the sacrament, having been drawn into the intimate life of the Trinity, the faithful Christian disciple cannot not work for justice and extend Christ’s presence in persona Christi in the midst of the poor and marginalized.

(on the Sauls’ plan – see previous story) Today was what I wish the rest of HoB meetings were like. In the morning, we heard from Bishop Stacey Sauls, newly-appointed Chief Operating Officer of TEC, regarding the need for a major overhaul of the organizational structure of the church. The idea is that we seem to be driven by governance rather than by mission. From an iPad, I’m not going to write too much about the concrete proposals he floated. More will be made public in due course, I’m sure. But we should expect it to be a hot topic at next summer’s Genera Convention. My own gut sense is that it may be too little too late. But I could be wrong.

Other bishops blogging the Quito meeting are:

+Neff Powell, Southwest Virginia

+Carol Gallagher, assisting in North Dakota

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