Friday, November 03, 2006

David Fly Introduces "Remaining Faithful" Gathering

The Rev. David Fly opened the first meeting of The Episcopal Majority this afternoon with the following remarks to open the "Remaining Faithful" gathering, held at St. Columba's parish in Washington, D.C. You can find the complete meeting agenda and list of speakers by clicking here.

One should always give credit where credit is due. Last summer during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Columbus, a few of us organized a reunion of former [I started to say “old,” but thought better of it!] university chaplains. It was a great meeting; just being together again reminded us of many of the battles we’d been through together in the late '60s and '70s and also reminded us why we love this church so much. But we were disturbed by some of what we saw at Convention and disturbed at a kind of negative attitude that seemed to have taken root in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion. It reminded us a bit of American politics. The "right" had been allowed to define the terms of the debate. What was once honored as Anglican freedom – that two Episcopalians have never been known to fully agree on anything! – was now seen as a weakness rather than a strength. A church that was once celebrated as a “big tent” now saw groups pitching their own tents and declaring themselves to be the “true tent.”

So, as our little reunion ended, we did what Episcopalians have done for as long as I can remember: we went to dinner and had a drink! Now comes the “giving credit where credit is due.” A group of us were at a lovely Columbus restaurant and our friend Bob Grandfelt, a former chaplain, who now lives in Pennsylvania, brought along Thornhill and Jane Cosby as his guests. Jane was a Deputy to Convention. Jane sat across from me and Bill Coats and listened to us rant and rave about the state of the church. “It just makes you sad to see all this going on, because we know that the majority of folks in the Episcopal Church love their church and don’t want it to be torn apart,” one of us said. And then Jane Cosby looked at both of us from across the table and said, “The only question is: what are you going to do about it?” It was a conversation stopper!

But it also stimulated further conversation between Bill and me. Then, on June 25th, a few days after convention, Bill sent me the following e-mail:

“Is it possible,” he wrote, “to create a nation-wide organization/movement specifically designed to defend our church and to combat Windsor? How is this done? Well we write some manifesto and we call for a national gathering somewhere.
Could we actually do this. Am I smoking something?
And who is the "we" here? Is it really at its core the old Episcopal Society for Ministry in Higher Education crowd? Now it may be possible to launch this by reaching out in conversation to people we know across the land. In a kind of preliminary way, see if they would like to do something like this. I am sure our crowd could come up with 50 - 60 people to get some initial feedback. And if it is positive (there will be energy right after this GC) to go all out in a national call.
Of course I am leaving out such things as money, our age, reality.”

Well, there you have it. The beginning of a response to Jane Cosby’s question “What are you going to do about it?” and the beginning of a group now known as The Episcopal Majority.

Bill and I sent out his paper, called “A Manifesto” to all our friends across the land and, lo and behold, they began to answer. Before long, we had a Steering Committee that represented a cross-section of the Episcopal Church: Lisa Fox, a layperson in Jefferson City, Missouri; George Bedell, a priest in the Diocese of Florida; Richard Tombaugh, a priest from Connecticut; Bob Smith, a layperson from Florida; Mark Harris, a priest who now lives in Maryland; Jeffrey Simbeck, layperson from St. Louis; Tom Woodward, a priest now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Judy Mathews, a layperson from Florida.

Many of us only knew each other by e-mail, but we began working and planning together. We decided that we would call a meeting on the weekend of the Investiture of our new Presiding Bishop. Then on August 9, I got an e-mail from Lisa Fox from Jefferson City who announced that she had just secured a blogsite for us. If we didn’t want it, she said, we should just let her know, and she would forget about it. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for Lisa Fox, I don’t think we’d be here today because within three weeks we had 7,000 visits to our blog and to date over 29,000. Word began to spread, and our mailing list grew so that around the 1st of September I was sending an e-mail to you all when AOL kicked me off-line. They thought I was a spammer! I was panicked. I thought I had lost everything. But our techno-geek, Jeffrey, came to our aid and overnight sat up a website that had all the bells and whistles – The Episcopal Majority took another giant step.

So, here we are. Over 100 of you, from 45 dioceses, have committed yourselves to being a part of this gathering, and we hope it will be the beginning of a movement to defend and support our church.

Most of you used the online registration form on our website to register for today’s meeting. And you were invited to answer the question, “What one thing would you like our gathering to accomplish?” In looking over that section on the form, the responses seem to fall into three or four categories:
  1. Reinforce, enlarge, and/or strengthen the voices of current Episcopalians who want to support TEC.
  2. Provide tools, support, and/or strategic ideas for persons to use in challenging the Network in their own dioceses.
  3. Provide communication with and support for loyal parishes in dissenting dioceses.
  4. Build international coalitions.
Hopefully, today we can get a start on responding to some of those concerns.

You’ll see we have a wonderful keynote speaker today who will be introduced by Mark Harris. You’ll also see that we have a series of workshops that will meet beginning at 3:30. The goal of this time together is to plan strategy and action that we can take in the future. We want to get very specific in those workshops and report on our progress when we get back together as a group at 5:30. We’ll meet until about 7 this evening and then break for the day. I want to be sure and let you know that we have a hospitality room at the Omni Shoreham and everyone is invited to drop by. Just ask for the room number at the desk.

Tomorrow morning, from 8:30 until 10:00, we will have an open Steering Committee meeting. At that time will go through the suggestions from the workshops and decide on a schedule for action. I know many of you with tickets to Bishop Jefferts Schori's investiture must get to the Cathedral early and won’t be here, but anyone who can make it is invited to be a part of this meeting in the morning.

Let me say at the beginning that the Steering Committee has shaped an agenda for this meeting, but I want to emphasize that this is a grassroots movement. We want your participation. Together we will give voice to The Episcopal Majority. This is just a beginning. Hopefully today we’ll begin the networking [if you’ll pardon the expression] that will serve us in the future. Tomorrow we will install a new Presiding Bishop who is committed to the vision of the Church we all share. And then on Sunday, we return to our parishes and our dioceses where the hard work is done and where the vision we hold for the Episcopal Church becomes a reality.

Again, let me thank you for taking the time and making the commitment to be here this weekend. You are the answer to the prayers of a lot of Episcopalians who have written us to say, “Thank you for being there and speaking for me.” You are an answer to Jane Cosby’s question: “So, what are you going to do about it?”



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1 Comments:

Blogger Ann said...

And the beat goes on --- I attended the Communications workshop -- lots of good ideas for keeping the message of Anglican diversity and the joys of our church out in the public and ecclesialstical news-o-sphere. Rather than a one note church we are a symphony - all parts needed to make the whole.

11/03/2006 5:13 PM  

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