The question wasn't asked out of fear but out of curiosity regarding recent events in the Anglican Communion. It's an important question and I wanted to give a substantive answer. So here's my response to the question, "What is your hope for the future of the Episcopal Church, and on what do you base that hope?"
My hope for our future as the Episcopal Church is strong, based on my conviction that God is at work in and among us. This knowing has lived in me from the day of my baptism at the age of eight when I came to know the presence of Jesus in my life. Writing a daily Examen is one of my spiritual practices—and each evening, looking back on my day, I never fail to see God’s presence in my life, in the church I serve, and in the world.
Although some aspects of the gathering of Primates this past week (January 11-15, 2016) in Canterbury is disappointing, the unanimous desire voiced by the primates to walk together is a hopeful sign. A task force established for restoring relationships, rebuilding mutual trust, healing hurt, and exploring differences is a hopeful prospect. And, as our Presiding Bishop reminded us, it is “important to remember that we are still part of the Anglican Communion. We are the Episcopal Church, and we are part of the Jesus Movement, and that Movement goes on, and our work goes on… And so we must claim that high calling; claim the high calling of love and faith; love even for those with whom we disagree, and then continue, and that we will do, and we will do it together.” I agree.
My strong hope for our future is also based on first-hand experience of our legislative process. In 2000 I was appointed as a Coordinator for General Convention. For four Conventions I coordinated the meeting rooms for the legislative committees. My responsibilities enabled me to see and hear our national church wrestle with challenging issues. Conflict stemming from the election of Gene Robinson, prayer book revisions, canonical changes, and budget allocations were contentious debates. But, time and again, I was deeply moved by the prayerfulness and faithfulness to respectful listening. Committee chairpersons followed fair and faithful processes to hear all voices. Decisions were not made hastily. And, after voicing diverse and disparate perspectives, and the struggle to discern the best way forward, all gathered for worship as one body.
Other evidences of hope I see are the ways dioceses, bishops, clergy and laity, are collaborating for stronger ministry. For example, a colleague in the Diocese of Delaware is serving as a “Covenant Rector” serving three small congregations. She’s working hard and learning a great deal. Cluster-ministry is occurring in several dioceses. Shared-ministry with ecumenical partners is occurring. Congregational Development is a priority. Vocational Deacons are more widely utilized. Clergy are beginning to rely less on the church for full-time employment and finding alternative sources of income. The Episcopal Church is becoming less hierarchical. I see more visionary prophetic leadership (and practice this myself). We know maintaining the status-quo will not work so we’re breaking through glass ceilings, launching into social media to tell our story, investing in our youth and re-imagining the church. All this gives me great hope for our future. To be living and serving in these times of change is nothing but grace!