Choice: EVANGELISM or SOCIAL JUSTICE
Episcopal activists heard their Presiding Bishop call them to action on behalf of the gospel as they packed the Raleigh NC hotel ballroom to hear her address the 2007 Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly on February 8, 2007. The theme of this year's Assembly -- "Making the Contacts: Locally and Globally" -- was reflected in the questions +Katharine answered following her formal presentation, which focused primarily on the minstry of the baptized to "reconcile the world to God and to each other."
rejected out of hand the misapprehension that we have to choose between
the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. "I do not believe
God has any patience with those who insist we must choose between
evangelism and social justice. One cannot love God and our neghbor
without doing both," she said. "Scripture tells us that we cannot
love God who we don't see if we don't love our neighbors who we do."
that the 0.7% MDG giving rate was based on a 40-year old economic
study, she reminded the Assembly that it will take governmental commitment
to those goals in order to make a difference -- and our U.S. government
is lagging sadly behind in that regard. "Giving by the church is
a generous and prophetic act," she said. "But meeting the MDGs will
require urging governmental compliance" and called on Assemly members
to "lobby your Congressional Representative and Senator, to call
When questioned by one priest who had been advised in seminary and by some clergy mentors to "steer clear of politics" +Katharine didn't mince words in her response. "The task of the priest," she said, "is to equip the saints to take up their ministry. I think it is our duty to equip the people to live out their ministries IN the political arena." In a follow up comment, the Presiding Bishop noted that in Spanish there are actually two words for politics: one meaning the kind of "art in living in community" we were talking about and the other "dirty politics." She also noted the difference between political activism and partisan politics pointing to All Saints, Pasadena and our ongoing IRS issue as an example. "Systems of injustice do not change ONLY through silent prayer," she concluded. (Leading one colleague to lean over and whisper, "I can see the headlines now: "Presiding Bishop Doesn't Believe in Prayer.")
Speaking of the press, when asked what had been the greatest challenges she's faced so far as the first woman primate she noted wryly, "The press see me as fair game but I see them as an opportunity for evangelism" -- to much applause from the gathered Assembly. Equally well received was her response to a question about the Iraq war: "It is long past time to beat our swords into plows."
Asked about the upcoming meeting of the Primates in Tanzania and how we might pray for her and for them she noted the message to the church sent out yesterday through ENS and urged all gathered to pray that God "bless the best of the people we encounter" -- especially those with whom we disagree. In regard to the wider communion, she went on to say she believes there is "a much wider acceptance and diversity of opinion on this issue [human sexuality] than is represented by the primates" and shared her communication with African bishops committed to working beyond those differences. The energy she is taking with her to Tanzania was summed up for me when she said, "Our task is to focus on what our mission is and not on what divides us."
Another questioner took on the "life after B033" issue, noting that for many in this church -- including some in this very room -- life after General Convention 2006 was lived with the reality that their vocations were negotiable and that B033 gave them cause to question whether or not they were truly fully included in the church -- questions that were hampering both ministry and evangelism.
It got very quiet.
And +Katharine didn't flinch. She continued to look directly at the questioner and said in a low somber voice, "I continue to be troubled by that." She went on to say that B033 was the cause of much suffering in the church and that her hope was that out of that suffering would come clarity that would move the church forward. "I think when we come to the next General Convention," she said, "we will be clearer."