Written by Deputation Co-Chair Brian Grantz, Dean & Rector of the Cathedral of St. James
July 8, 2018
Trepidating really should be a word.* Maybe a southern word. It would be used thus: “Y’all seem to be doing a lot of trepidating about the General Convention.” Fretting would be listed as a synonym on Thesaurus.com, but trepidating, since I invented it, implies a couple of degrees of anxiety higher than fretting.
People – those invested in the Episcopal Church enough to care, anyway – often trepidate over General Convention. Trepidators ask questions like, “What crazy fool thing are we going to do this time?” and say things like, “This could really hurt the Episcopal Church.” I know this because I am often among the most trepidacious of all. In the age when snark, cynicism, and skepticism are amplified by social media, it is difficult not to be anxious about what whim might fly like a stray pigeon (who even has his own Twitter account) through the Houses of Deputies and Bishops, so who can really blame us?
The beauty of our polity, though, is that everyone has a voice within it. Everyone. No matter who you are or what your cause or concern may be, there is a way to place your issue before the Episcopal Church for our prayerful consideration. The way we do Church is, therefore, very complicated: we are doctrinal, AND democratic; ordered, AND equal; liturgical, AND adaptive; all of which makes for a pretty messy party when we get together to vote on what comes next. The idea that anyone can bring anything to us is brilliant! AND, the idea that a simple majority in both houses can define Christian theology and practice in our Church is terrifying. Our polity is, without doubt, our greatest gift and strength while simultaneously and paradoxically being our most confounding weakness. Thus, we trepidate.
This is the fifth time I have served as a deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Northern Indiana. If I have learned nothing else between Denver in 2000 and Austin in 2018, it is that the long view is the right view for the work of our church in General Convention, just as it is the right view for the movement of God in history. Urgent matters of the day come before every General Convention and we – this humongous legislative body – try to deal with them as faithfully as we can manage with the tools we are given. Sometimes we do bold, amazing, and wonderful things in the Name of Jesus! Mostly we do things that the average priest and parishioner will never hear about. And, far less often I think, our passions and predispositions lead us into a bit of mischief and folly. Pretty much like life. Pretty much like Saint Peter, himself, whose three steps forward were usually followed closely by two steps back.
Interestingly, I don’t remember a whole lot of specifics about resolutions we’ve passed or canons we’ve amended or Special Orders of Business we’ve considered. I remember trepidation about such things in the moment, but the details have drifted away into the ether. What I do remember is people. Good people. Kind people. Faithful people. Brilliant people. Passionate people. Resolute people. Hurting people. Hopeful people. Helpful people. Full spectrum of color and experience people. Singing, praying, communing, loving, Christian people, all trying to advance the Kingdom of God as best we knew how on any given day. And while we may not get it right every time – in the opinion of some, anyway – I have learned to trust this in the long view, because when all these people are gathered together, Jesus is surely in our midst.
I can’t stop anyone from trepidating if one is so inclined. What I can do, though, is testify that the loving, liberating, life-giving Spirit of God dwells among God’s people gathered in the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this time and every time.
And also with you.
* When a noun, such as trepidation, is used as a verb, it’s called verbing. This is the grammatical equivalent of onomatopoeia, because to verb something takes the noun verb and verbs it. That's pretty funny… if you’re a Word Nerd like me, anyway.