#GC79 - Reflections by Bishop Doug Sparks

Bishop Doug, with his convention name tag and pins

Bishop Doug, with his convention name tag and pins

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and peace be with you in Jesus, the Light for all people!

Greetings from Austin, Texas at the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church!  I wanted to share my reflections on my particular work during this convention on the Ecumenical
and Interreligious Relations Legislative Committee and on the two TEConversations that we’ve had.

I have been committed to the work of Christian Unity for most of my adult life. I had the privilege of going to seminary in Chicago during the early 1980’s where I came to know sisters and brothers of other denominations and religious traditions. These fellow Christians enriched my faith and understanding as I began ordained ministry.

For more than 25 years, I have been engaged in conversations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA) … in local and diocesan dialogues and initiatives. In 2016, I was appointed by our Presiding Bishop to serve as the Episcopal Bishop Co-Chair on the Lutheran Episcopal Coordinating Committee, which ultimately led to my appointment on this legislative committee.

(Below - Ecumenical Partners from ELCA and Lutheran Church in Bavaria giving testimony)

We are in full communion with the ELCA (since 2000) and the Moravian Church (since 2009). Our dialogue with the United Methodist Church began almost 50 years ago in the early 1970’s. Our committee spent significant time in conversation and testimony about the possibility of coming into full communion (after study and conversation during the next three years). We also worked on resolutions to affirm our long-standing full communion relationship with the Church of Sweden as well as an initiative of the Episcopal Convocation of Churches in Europe and the Lutheran Church in Bavaria. From my vantage point, full communion partnerships are a manifestation of Christ’s prayer that “we all may be one.” I am committed to working intentionally toward these partnerships.

One of the wonderful things about this convention is that both the House of Deputies and House of Bishops are gathering for intentional TEConversations around three key areas of our common life: Racial Reconciliation, Evangelism and Care of Creation. We gathered on Friday for a conversation on Racial Reconciliation. We heard the witness of a former racist skin head, a
“Dreamer” priest and the witness of Dr. Catherine Meeks, founder of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing.

On Saturday, we gathered for a conversation on Evangelism. We heard a bishop describe the
experience of 40 Revival Events in Iowa, an Episcopal Priest who is an author bridging faith and
culture and a Latino Church Planter priest from the Diocese of Virginia.  Each conversation included a time for listening, a reflection question for pairs to discuss, a second question for our deputation to discuss, and a final question for us to consider going forward.

Let me conclude with the three questions we were invited to reflect upon:

2018-07-07 TEConversation Flyers.jpg
  1. What word, image or theme stands out for you from the talks and offerings you just heard? What is Jesus saying and calling you to do or to be, with regard to racial reconciliation…to evangelism?
  2. Given what you just shared in pairs about what Jesus is calling you toward personally, how might our churches and institutions respond to this call collectively?
  3. Given what your group said about how we could respond to God’s call as churches and institutions, what would help you/ your church/ your diocese to take the next steps around racial reconciliation or evangelism?

Well, sisters and brothers, our conversations went well and we hope to share some possible next steps with you regarding racial reconciliation and evangelism…and care of creation soon!
Be assured of my prayer.

Every blessing,
Bishop Doug