I’m pleased that this edition of Connections is devoted to exploring who does what to move the mission of the diocese forward. Earlier this summer, as I was thinking about how I might contribute to this project, it occurred to me that I might say a little about aspects of my own ministry that regularly take me outside of Southern Ohio. One of these is my membership in the House of Bishops.
As you know, The Episcopal Church is governed by General Convention, a bicameral body that meets every three years. The House of Deputies is made up of clergy and laity elected from each diocese. The other chamber is the House of Bishops. Every Episcopal bishop, whether active or retired, has seat, voice and vote in it.
Obviously, the bishops play an important role, along with the deputies, in the legislative work of General Convention. But unlike the deputies, the bishops gather twice a year between General Conventions. This is because our work extends beyond legislation. At our best, we provide a collective teaching ministry, and because we are a relatively small body, we are able to develop relationships of trust and respectful challenge that bridge the geographical, liturgical, economic and cultural divides that are part of our church.
This is not to say that we don’t also continue to share equally with deputies and other leaders on specific areas requiring the church’s ongoing attention. We do. Most bishops are assigned to at least one so-called “interim body” tasked to help ensure that the decisions made by General Convention are carried out. For instance, I served a term on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, which developed a way forward for the church to tackle the complex and thorny question of Prayer Book revision. Other interim bodies focus on such areas as budget, ongoing review of canon law, and ecumenical relations.
Right now, the House of Bishops is chiefly on my mind, because we are gathering in mid-September for our fall meeting, taking place this year in Minneapolis. It is especially on my mind because a committee I chair is initiating and leading a general discussion of an emotionally-laden and painful subject, namely, the ideology of white supremacy.
To back up a little: the group making this presentation is the House of Bishops Theology Committee, appointed by and reporting directly to the Presiding Bishop. Its charter is to provide the bishops with theological resources for their pastoral and teaching ministry across a range of questions relating to faith and ethics. This committee is made up of eight bishops and seven academic theologians, and I find it a great privilege to be part of it. When Presiding Bishop Curry called the Episcopal Church to deep engagement with Becoming Beloved Community, the theology committee decided to make this its focus for the foreseeable future.
We soon realized that we could not proceed with integrity unless we faced the vicious ideology of white supremacy and invited the House as a whole to join us in doing this. I have just submitted to the Presiding Bishop a fairly lengthy report on our work so far, each section authored by different members of the committee. This report will be sent to every bishop and will form the basis for our discussion in Minneapolis. Please hold this ongoing process of truth-telling in your prayers, not only as it unfolds among your bishops, but as we pursue it here at home.
The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal serves as Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.