#GC79 - Reflections by Matthew Cowden

Written by the Rev. Matthew Cowden, Rector of Saint Michael and All Angels
July 11, 2018 - Feast of St. Benedict

BCP, Budget, Benedict and Cuba

The Holy Spirit is in this. Today we authorized the beginning of a slow, intentional and locally focused process to begin adapting and experimenting with liturgies that form our common prayer. Yes, we have begun the process of revision of The Book of Common Prayer. Again I say, it will be a very slow and deeply intentional process, likely lasting ten to fifteen years. By that time it may or may not even be a book, per se, but an authorized resource. Or the BCP might be one that contains the core of our common life together. In any case, the resolution we passed in both houses creates a task force of 30 for overseeing a slow and careful process for preserving the best that has formed us, the historic rites of the Church AND for expanding to include an authentic, prayerful, outward and visible liturgy of the inward and spiritual realities revealed to us in our common life in Christ.

We also viewed a presentation on the budget of the whole church, which includes all our missions, governance, operational costs, salaries, ministries for evangelism, reconciliation and the renewed ministry of creation care. Although the budget is presented for a three year cycle (because that’s how often this legislative body meets), the annual cost for running the entire operations of the Episcopal Church is close to $45 million dollars a year. Just under half this amount is spent in supporting the mission within the Episcopal Church, and beyond, as well as the programs that lead us in the work of justice and reconciliation.

Day 7, Wednesday, was July 11, the Feast of St Benedict. The evening worship was punctuated by deep monastic silence and contemplation. The opening “hymn” was a music staff with no notes on it, just a long rest sign. And so we did.

We also rejoiced as we completed the process of voting to accept the Diocese of Cuba back into the Episcopal Church. We separated in 1966 when maintaining an official relationship with this Church put Cubans in danger of imprisonment or death. The House of Deputies voted a strong “Si!” of unanimous support. It was quite moving as they literally took their seats among us and were given seat and voice to join our deliberations.

photo credit:  Cynthia Black as shared in the House of Deputies News article  ¡Cuba Sí!

photo credit:  Cynthia Black as shared in the House of Deputies News article ¡Cuba Sí!

And what deliberations they have been. I confess, I’ve had my doubts about the legislative process that the Episcopal Church uses to make decisions on theology, worship and our common life together. It might seem odd that Robert’s Rules of Order is what we use to discern how the Holy Spirit is speaking through us. But it does work.  Perhaps it is part of our Anglican DNA that allows us to use our legislative process with some Godly intention. The word “parliament” has, as its root, the word parlay, to speak/dialogue/listen. Doing parlay in parliament is how we speak and listen to one another. This is certainly how we arrived at today’s decision to say 'yes' to BCP revision and to welcome Cuba back into our portion of the body of Christ. This actually works, and the Holy Spirit is in it.

One final word, we are starting to get weary as individuals and as a deputation. The days have been long for all of us and the need for our attention to many details of legislation or process has been intense. We eat plenty of chocolate covered espresso beans to help us stay alert (thanks to a nearby Trader Joe’s).  The restaurants are good in downtown Austin near the convention center but I think we’d be glad to have time to actually linger to enjoy a meal instead of having to rush to get back to a meeting or be too tired to linger at the end of the day. Just a couple more long days and we’ll be home. Thank you for your love and support. Keep those “likes” and “tweets” coming for your deputation from Northern Indiana.  We covet your prayers.