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Bishop Glasspool's 2017 Convention Report

Saturday, November 11, 2017
Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine

It continues to be such a great honor and privilege to serve alongside all of you in the Diocese of New York. Thank you for that privilege, for which I am deeply grateful, and thank you, my brothers in Christ, Bishops Andy and Allen, for being the incredible bishops and people that you each are. I am both humbled and energized.

One week ago today, Bishop Andy and I were at Mvumi Hospital just outside of Dodoma, Tanzania, to participate in the dedication of new buildings on the complex built by Global Funds coordinated by Bishop Dickson Chilongani and the Anglican Diocese of Central Tanganyika. Each visitation we made while in Central Tanganyika, followed a pattern that I found instructive and edifying. And let me be quick to say that since the Diocese of Central Tanganyika was celebrating the 90th anniversary of its founding, these visits were made not only by the Bishop Diocesan and guests from different places in the world, but also the Archbishop of Tanzania, and sometimes, even Government officials. The guests would arrive in two or three four-wheel-drive cars, to be greeted by a huge gathering of the community who would be welcoming us. If there were a choir - and most often there was -  the welcome was in song and dance. People visibly and physically showed their excitement at our arrival and shouts of "Karibu sana!" ("welcome!") were plentiful.

The visitors were then asked to go to a designated place to sign the Visitors Book. This was very ceremonial, gathering around a table or in an office, usually sitting by rank with the Archbishop at the head of the table. Then the sharing of the agenda or plan for the day would be made, and explanations given if necessary, by the leaders of the particular institution we were visiting. The agenda was followed by a guided tour of the facilities with commentaries, small speeches, or interviews with students, workers, or inhabitants. There would be more singing and dancing and welcome along the way. Then everyone would gather in a common place, set up in advance, to hear official reports. The bishops would speak words of encouragement to the people, and always, share hopes and plans for the future. There might be some formal gift-giving to the honored guests. The visitation, which could easily last five or six hours, would conclude with a meal and then goodbyes, before traveling back to Dodoma.

These visits seemed to me smaller versions of Diocesan Convention, only without votes and debate! Representatives of the entire community gather, register, and receive an agenda. We take our places in whatever facility, being mindful of the history of our place and time, current progress, and plans for the future. We hear official reports and the bishops of the Church make every effort to be focused and authentic  in offering words of thanks and encouragement to people. Our Bishop Diocesan articulates the "big picture" progress: where we have been; where we are now; and challenges us to envision the future into which God is calling us. Our song and dance is a bit more formal, taking place primarily in the central Celebration of the Holy Eucharist. That's really our celebrative meal. And after reports had been made and prayers offered, the business of the agenda being accomplished, we say a final prayer, receive a final blessing, and wend our ways home. The order of things might vary, but the basic elements are  there: gathering, welcoming, praising and thanking God, appreciating, celebrating, planning, listening, visioning, sharing, praying, consuming, saying farewell, and then returning home to rest and begin again. We are blessed to be in mission partnership with the Diocese of Central Tanganyika.

I have been entrusted with the oversight of several aspects of our life together as a diocese under the broad category of mission. During the past year it has been my privilege to work with the Global Mission Commission, the Global Women's Fund, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, the Social Concerns Commission, the Anti-Racism Committee, Reparations Committee, the India Network, and the Campus Ministry Committee. While the time allotted to this report does not permit an exhaustive reporting of all that has been accomplished by the dedicated and hard-working people comprising these groups, I do want to say that in every single case, the leadership of these groups has been nothing short of outstanding. Kathi Watts Grossman (Chair of Global Mission), Judi Counts (Chair of Global Women's Fund), the Rev. Curtis Hart (Chair of  Ecumenical and Interfaith), the Rev. Winnie Varghese (Chair of Social Concerns), Carla Burns (Chair of Anti-Racism), Cynthia Copeland and the Rev. Richard Witt (Co-chairs of Reparations), Anne Gorrissen and Johanna Shafer (India Network), and the Rev. Caroline Stacy (Chair of the Campus Ministry Committee), deserve our gratitude, appreciation, and ongoing encouragement. They certainly have mine. Thank you!

That said, I want to briefly point to five specific things, and then wrap it up. The first is an announcement. A Search Committee subcommittee of Campus Ministry, under the excellent leadership of the Rev. Nils Chittenden, has worked very hard over the past year to write a position description, conduct a nation-wide search, do thorough background and reference checks and then extensive interviews, and make a recommendation to the Bishop Diocesan of a person to be appointed Episcopal Chaplain to Columbia and surrounding campuses. The position is written to include ministry as  a campus young adult missioner for Harlem, upper Manhattan and the Bronx - yet that's a mouthful, and we're calling it "Canterbury North" for short. It is with great joy that I share with you that the Rev. Ryan Kuratko  has accepted the call to this position, and will be coming to us early in 2018. Ryan and his wife, the Rev. Lauren Kuratko, have two small children and come to New York from the Diocese of Atlanta, where each has served faithfully for the past five years. Transition details are being worked out, and I hope you will join me and the Campus Ministry Committee in welcoming Ryan, Lauren, and their family to the Diocese of New York.

Second: this morning you heard Bishop Dietsche refer to the Year of Lamentations put together by the Reparations Committee, and we have passed a resolution committing ourselves as a Diocese, to observe 2018 as such a year. I want to emphasize that this is not just another year of special programming. This is not just our Diocese's official response to the larger Church's call to Become the Beloved Community God wants us to be. This commitment to a Year of Lamentations is an opportunity and an invitation to deep personal transformation beginning with each of us as individuals, but then continuing in our communities, the church, and the world. This is a call, ultimately, to the sustainability of right relationships as the People of God. And it requires hard, honest work as we look unflinchingly at our past, with its deeply embedded dynamics connected to the evils of slavery and injustice.

Many of our young people already get this and are showing the way. Here is a two-minute video clip of the now annual Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage in which the Diocese of New York participates each August. The clip was put together by Thalia Lucas, who is doing an Intern year with us.

I hope that you can see from this brief video clip, the willingness to learn and to be transformed that our own young people model for us.

Prior to June, 2017, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission was most ably led by the Rev. Joe Campo, and we are grateful for his years of networking and leadership in that position. When Joe+ indicated his need to resign for personal reasons, I reached out to the Rev. Curtis Hart, a faithful and hardworking member of the Commission, to take on the Chairmanship, and thankfully, Curt+ said "yes!". You can read his very fine report to the Convention on page 52 of this year's Calendar of Business. Curt+ and I meet regularly - mostly to get me entirely on board - and we can look forward to building on the foundations of past work, particularly in the area of educational opportunities and resources for parishes. Related to this Commission, I participate and represent the Diocese on the New York State Council of Churches, whose Executive Director is the Rev. Peter Cook, and the Interfaith Council of New York, ably led by our own the Rev. Chloe Breyer. As the Church's General Convention in Austin, Texas approaches in July of 2018, we will also be paying particular attention to our Church's dialogue around full communion with the United Methodist Church and what possibilities for mission and further work that might present to us all.

The Global Mission Commission recently sponsored the Second Annual Global Mission Fair with the theme: We Will All Be Changed: Mission as Mutual Transformation. The theme says it all, even as those who gathered together at Christ Church, Bronxville on October 14 heard from keynote speakers the Rev. David Copley and the Rev. Paul Gordon-Chandler. The Commission continues to work very hard at carrying out its mandate to teach, support, and grant Sustainable Development Goal grants from the Diocesan monies explicitly set aside for such work.

Closely connected in theme is the Global Women's Fund, which most recently held a fund-raising tea at Ogilvie House with an inspired presentation by the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, who is the new Dean of Episcopal Divinity School's current incarnation at Union Theological Seminary. The women and men working with the Global Women's Fund know something about sustainability as we develop one-on-one personal relationships with women and girls around the world seeking to be educated to effect transformation in their homes, families, countries, and their own lives.

The fruits of much of this labor in mission was clearly evident to Bishop Dietsche and me as we were graciously shown the outgrowth of Carpenter's Kids in the Ibihwa Vocational School, the connections with the Global Women's Fund at Msalato Theological College, and the new water tanks at Shamba Darasa - the teaching farm that is connected to Msalato and which received a Diocesan-sponsored UTO Grant for the tanks.

My friends and colleagues: we can learn so much from our relationships with the Diocese of Central Tanganyika which can inform every aspect of the work we do together in Christ anywhere. I close with a brief comparative piece that illustrates some of the many things I learned in one relatively brief visit. We say: There's an interesting looking cow. Let me take a picture of it. They say: There's a cow. Is it for milk? or meat? We say: I need some wine. Where's the nearest liquor store? They say: We need some wine. How do we grow grapes? Let's plant a vineyard! We say: They deal with so much in Tanzania: poverty, disease, lack of education and training. What can we do to help make things better? They say: We deal with a lot. With help, we will make things better. It's time to sing and dance and praise the God who made us all.  And to that, I say, Amen!