Christ has no Body now but Yours – James Wilson II

James N. Wilson, II

I am grateful to the ECMN community for affording me the opportunity to serve as ECMN deputy at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal deputy. I am also grateful to my ECMN deputation colleagues for the General Convention preparatory meetings and the support given at the GC; you were helpful.

My Experience

Being a first time General Convention deputy, I was nervous and excited. Nervous because it was my first time and yet excited because the name “General Convention” suggests a gathering of global leaders. And so I anticipated meeting Episcopalians/Anglicans and other global church leaders at the General Convention. Attending the General Convention was an eye-opening for me; it provided me new Christological perspectives for missional engagement. It was a great experience for me in that I was able to witness and participate in deliberations of the General Convention as the primary legislative and governing body of the Episcopal Church. I was incredibly impressed by the legislative and governing structure of the General Convention like the U.S Congressional legislative and governing structure. We were provided iPad and virtual binder technology that helped us navigate the GC information and were also given voting electronics that facilitated our voting and work at the General Convention. Some key resolutions, like marriage equality resolution, were voted on using paper ballots and we were together as ECMN GC deputation team. The turnout was huge. I met so many of my former seminary classmates. I testified before the Cuba, Social Justice and Foreign Policies, and Environmental Stewardship legislative committees respectively about welcoming back home the Episcopal Church of Cuba into TEC, about Immigration injustice against Immigrants and about responsible environmental stewardship on the Native Americans soil.

Reflection

In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, a 15th Century Spanish mystic, writer and reformer of the Carmelite Order, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” The open-mindedness of the GC and the passing of resolutions on national and global issues demonstrated the desire and willingness of the Episcopal Church to be the “body, hands, feet, and eyes of Christ” to make this world a better place for all. The GC actualized the theological and missional essence of the Church: One Body of Christ, called to be God’s heterogeneous/multicultural community in the world, to carry out God’s mission through prophetic and public witness of the redemptive love of Christ in the world. The conspicuous cultural diversity of the GC and its deep sense of advocacy and inclusion of all God’s people followed the relational intentionality of the Triune God. The inter-linguistic resolutions and worshiping liturgies of English, French and Spanish demonstrated the multicultural vision of the church. Amazingly, the Episcopal Church is offering a new ecclesiastical alternative to Spanish-Speaking Roman Catholics where everybody is somebody and they are going for it. The Deputies of Colored Caucus comprising Native Americans, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, was alive and well with hope and enthusiasm and I participated.

In every cultural and community, regardless of educational achievement, there are bound to be dislikes, disagreements and differences. This too was demonstrated at the GC but the strength of the Episcopal Church lies in its DNA to equally coexist beyond dislikes, disagreements and differences. And so a true Christian spirit of companionship and colloquiality prevailed; disagreements and differences were respected during open discussions and debates on national and global policies and compromises were reached to work together as a body of Christ. Of the 517 resolutions passed at the General Convention, here are just a few resolutions on Israel and Palestine Relations, Racial Justice to grow a Beloved Community, and TEC welcoming home the Episcopal Church in Cuba.

Highlights

Resolutions B016, D039 & C038, D027, D038 & B003 on Israel and Palestine Relations

Under the auspices of the Committee on Stewardship and Socially Responsible Investing, Israel and Palestine relations were highlighted at the GC with the passing of the above listed resolutions with the intent of raising awareness about the Israel’s ill-treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. These resolutions were unequivocally forceful more than ever before. They called on the TEC to follow the examples of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in developing “criteria for Israel and Palestine based on a human rights’ investment screen and the actions of General Convention and Executive Council over the past seventy years.” The Lutherans’ policies are spelled out in their document, “Justice for the Holy Land Through Responsible Investment.” Resolutions D039 and C038 condemned Israeli’s discriminatory laws and policies against the “citizens of Israel and have inevitably led to the current state of apartheid.” The resolutions also condemned the military justice that subjects Palestinians to injustice and called on Israel to “guarantee basic rights and exercise a prohibition against torture and ill-treatment of detained children.” While Resolution D027 called for an investigation of “the use of lethal force against unarmed civilians by the Israeli Defense Force” and invoked the Leahy Amendment, if there is evidence of lethal force, ”which prohibits the United States from funding foreign military units that commit human rights violations,” Resolution D038 called on President Trump and Congress to suspend “all military aid to Israel until Israel is in full compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by changing its laws, policies and practices that favor its Jewish citizens and discriminate against its Christian and Muslim citizens and other minorities.” Despite some pushbacks from other deputies that these resolutions singled out Israel for special condemnation, yet the resolutions were passed. On their part, the House of Bishops Resolution B003 showed their concurrence by “reaffirming Jerusalem as the shared capital of both Israel and of a potential Palestinian state.

Resolutions D002, C060 and D087 on Racial justice and Sexism to grow a Beloved Committee

These three resolutions are intended to strengthen the work of racial justice and reconciliation with the goal of dismantling racism and sexism in the Episcopal Church through practices and processes promoting multicultural/intercultural/interracial acceptance, equity, diversity, justice, healing, and reconciliation. Resolution D002 came from Committee 9 on Racial Justice and Reconciliation, intends to fund the work of The Beloved Community. First was approved by the House of Bishops, the resolution requested that the Joint Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) allocates $5 million for “the implementation of additional work organizing our efforts to respond to racial injustice and grow a Beloved Community of healers, justice makers and reconcilers.” Of the proposed $5 million, the Presiding Bishop’s office presented a budgeted $1.75 million to fund D002, $1 million of which carries over from the 2016-2018 triennium and $750,000 of which is new funding. The allocation is part of a larger racial justice budget of $2.77 million.
D002 specified that money budgeted for this work would be used exclusively “to make grants to agencies and dioceses and other affiliated entities” of the church for activities such as “speaker series, sacred conversations, Racial Reconciliation Workshops” and other activities that promote The Beloved Community. I encourage ECMN to take advantage of the budgeted money to bring in Minnesota Human Rights and Social justice to conduct exclusive racism worships with train ECMN staff, clergy and pair congregations to talk about racism to enhance inter-congregational relations as key to congregational development. Deputy Lindsey Ardrey of Louisiana, speaking in favor of the resolution, argued that we “don’t need a top down approach, but one that works up from the bottom,” one that works to support “foot soldiers on the ground” and “transform the contents of our tool box.”
Deputy Beth King of Atlanta cited an example from her diocese, the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing led by Dr. Catherine Meeks, as “a perfect example of what can be accomplished with reasonable funding.” The resolution specifically mentions the Absalom Jones Center as the entity that would facilitate sharing with the rest of the church the “much-needed culturally appropriate and relevant resources” that would be developed by those awarded Beloved Community grants.

Resolution C060 frowns on sexism and calls for diminishing sexism in the church. The first of these, resolution C060, Breaking the Episcopal Stained-Glass Ceiling, was proposed by the Diocese of Newark and came to the house through the Ministry Committee (Committee 15). The resolution proposes the creation of a task force of three bishops, three priests or deacons and six lay people, including at least two young adults, to research sexism in the church, and “the role it plays in pay equity, status, and gender-based harassment.” The resolution stipulates that at least half the members of the task force be women.
In a similar spirit of promoting greater opportunity and access within the church, the house passed resolution D087, Parents Nursing or Bottle-Feeding Children, originally proposed by Deputy Michael Funston. The resolution was presented by Rules of Order Committee Chair, Deputy Rob Schneider of West Texas, who noted that, this usually-lightly attended committee “may have set an attendance record” at the hearing on this issue. This resolution was proposed in response to an incident at the beginning of the first legislative session on July 5 when Deputy Erica Pomerenk of Colorado and her 12-week-old daughter Beatrice, were denied admission to the house floor by a volunteer who said the child was not allowed on the floor.
“This should not happen again,” said Deputy Lawrence Hitt, co-chair of the Colorado deputation, especially because “women are increasingly powerful members of this house, members since 1970, and breastfeeding since at least that long.”

An enthusiastic welcome of the Episcopal Church in Cuba

One of the exciting and celebratory accomplishments of the General Convention was to welcome back home the Episcopal Church in Cuba after 52 years (1966 to 2018). Resolution A238 articulated the reasons of the Episcopal Church in Cuba Committee to the General Convention to admit the Episcopal Church in Cuban into the TEC, after a half-century breach in formal relations. The constitutional and canonical indecisiveness of the Legislative Committee was “whether the General Convention had the power to act to bring in an existing Anglican Communion diocese and a bishop.” It was later realized that the relevant canonical provision Article V, Section 1 of the constitution “does not expressly provide for creation of a new diocese from an existing Anglican Communion diocese, neither does it expressly limit or forbid General Convention from doing so.” Since “all power is in the General Convention which the constitution does not limit,” based on Resolution 1976 – D004, the Committee resolved to move ahead and called on the 79th General Convention to welcome back home the Episcopal Church in Cuba.
Resolution A238 called for $400,000 for support of the Cuban church’s ongoing mission and an interim body to accompany the two churches through their transition to re-unification and $50,000 to fund that work.

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