Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Learning from a Bishop

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Deacon Quinn. Since Quinn drives a Diocesan SUV, his own white ’98 Chevy Lumina sits unused, and he’s loaned it to me for the rest of my stay here! That’s so generous of him! Last week, I used the car (and occasionally the SUV) to give the visiting bishops’ wives tours of the lower ninth ward levee breach. They were lovely people, and I’m thrilled they were able to take their annual service trip here. Annie vonRosenberg, from Eastern Tennessee, was a particularly wonderful lady, with lots of energy! The Diocese of Eastern Tennessee includes Chattanooga, home of the moon pie, so she had a lot of fun giving out the moon pies we had at the mobile unit. I also enjoyed chatting with women from Southern Virginia, Idaho, Detroit, and other places I’m forgetting.

Bishop Bud Cederholm, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Massachusetts, and his wife joined us today. He’ll be with another outfit tomorrow, and will come back after Thanksgiving to gut homes with the other bishops from Province One. He and I handed out water for most of the day. We chatted for a bit about climate change, New Orleans, and reconciliation in the church, when I realized we were having a dialogue. Not good! Usually, a 50-50 give-and-take conversation is great, but for Pete’s sake, I’m a 19 year old kid! This man’s a wise bishop! I should ask questions, shut up, listen, and internally digest! So I did, and it was very rewarding. As a preacher, Bishop Cederholm has always focused on the importance of God’s love – God loves us all, every one of us no matter what and no matter when, and sometimes we lose sight of that love. The bishop illustrated that point with a parable he called “Old Turtle,” about townspeople who forgot, but later remembered, to love one another equally, despite their divisions.

Bishop Cederholm said he’s realized in the past year or two that such reconciliation has always been a central part of his mission, something he hadn’t realized before. All too often, he said, people think of “reconciliation” as just another church word, theological jargon, another example of Episcop-ese. This is unfortunate, as reconciliation was a major part of Christ’s mission. And yet there are those in our church leadership who generally seem uninterested in any sort of reconciliation! Rather than focusing on theology, many are using the issue of homosexuality in the church to gain power – and using people is never a good thing. The bishop didn’t name names, but I will: Robert Duncan and Jack Iker. (Fortunately, not all conservatives are like that – huzzah for Louisiana’s Charles Jenkins, and others willing to talk to those who they disagree with!)

Bishop Cederholm also told me about his views on the homosexual issue itself (he supports Bishop Robinson, and told me how he talks to conservatives about it), the ordination process in his diocese and about Barbara Harris, the first female bishop, while I told him about New Orleans. From this conversation, I learned a thing or two that I’m sure will help me along my own discernment path, and I am very grateful to the Bishop.

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