Third Sunday of Easter, May 1, 2022
This week I’ve been at Camp McDowell, meeting with all the deputies from Province IV – that is all lay and clergy elected to represent their dioceses at The National Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Baltimore this summer.
Province IV, also known as the Province of Sewanee,
is the largest Province in the Episcopal Church.
Geographically we encompass nine states from NC to Louisiana—we are all owning dioceses of the University of the South.
Our northern most state in Prov IV is Kentucky
who will host the next General Convention in 2024 when we elect the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church,
the poor bishop who will succeed The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry.
Prov IV has the largest number of clergy, baptized members, communicants, church school and day school pupils and is the largest contributor to the General Convention budget of any Province in our Church.
When I was elected as a clergy deputy…way back at our 2020 Diocesan Convention, I had no idea what I was getting into.
Not because of the pandemic…though that did postpone us meeting until this summer, when we were to meet last year.
No, I had not a clue what the duties of a deputy entails.
There are (1) legislative sessions to attend ahead of convention,
(2) 213 resolutions to be familiar with,
(3) 3 volumes of reports compiled in what are known as the Blue Books prepared in advance of the 80th General Convention from the interim work,
and (4) a whole set of protocols on how one may propose amendments and actually vote on resolutions.
The General Convention is the Episcopal Church’s highest temporal authority.
That is, our highest earthy authority.
Just in case you are wondering, our spiritual authority is solely, Christ.
We have Two houses—
House of Bishops & House of Deputies (lay and clergy); we meet every 3 years.
General Convention has the power to amend
the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church;
the Book of Common Prayer and to authorize other liturgical texts;
to adopt the budget for the Church;
to create official relationships with other branches of the Christian Church;
to determine requirements for its clergy and other leaders;
to elect its officers and delegate responsibilities to the Interim Bodies of TEC;
When Jesus told Peter to Feed My Sheep—
I’m pretty sure he didn’t envision his Church
setting up a bicameral governing legislative body to enact his commandment.
And Yet, structure is vital to stability.
Peter was at the heart of the organization of the Christian church
after Jesus’ resurrection.
This post-resurrection appearance we read today, set Peter into action.
Three times Jesus asks Peter, Do you love me?
Three times—in response to the three times Peter had denied Jesus—
this exchange: (Do you love me? Feed my sheep) was Peter’s absolution.
It healed Peter’s bungling heart AND set Peter off on a path
to be a powerful spokesperson for the early Christian movement.
Peter became an influential preacher and… a governing leader of the Church.
Arguing, compromising, convincing, teaching, as leader Peter had to do it all.
To make decisions on how to collect money and where to spend it.
He and Paul needed to resolve legislative matters such as who could qualify as presbyters, and how to structure gatherings of the worshipping faithful.
Jesus’ words, “feed my sheep, tend my sheep” literally means,
“feed, care for, and protect” those who come to follow the way,
as the world will not understand—
the world despise and reject the Christian way
to love all people, to turn the other cheek, to not only include the outcast but create the Church such that all are equal in status as God sees us.
Peter heard these words “Feed My Sheep” as Jesus’ charge to go—
to do the work of the Church—and he did.
It was not easy, but…
Peter let the Holy Spirit move in him, strengthening him and giving him insight.
He opened the church to Gentiles after seeing a vision of ritually unclean food descending from heaven and being told not to call profane what God had made clean.
Peter ordered the baptism of the Gentile Cornelius along with his relatives and close friends.
Paul with Peter’s blessing planted churches for Gentiles
and raised money for the home Church in Jerusalem.
With much effort, as it often goes against human nature which tends to see power differently than God,
they made the Church welcoming, especially for the poor and the outcast.
We are still doing the same.
Of all the resolutions our province discussed this week,
the one that received the most enthusiasm was
in regard to establishing an Evangelism Endowment Fund
to prioritize the establishment of new Episcopal communities
that are especially committed to mission and evangelism
engaging under-represented groups.
In addition, our bishop has worked tirelessly across our Province
to gather commitments from neighboring dioceses and combine our efforts
in recognizing the work we still have to do in racial reconciliation.
Creating a plan, she wants to show the good apostolic work Alabama is doing
just as Jesus has called us.
Peter’s work is our work.
Just as Jesus called his apostles back to him
after they had abandoned the movement and gone back home, gone fishing,
Jesus meets them there. With Breakfast.
Jesus meets us where we are,
looking for devoted witnesses to continue his mission of love.