Message from the President: Prayer for Polity and Policy
As you read this message, the Episcopal Church will be gathered in Salt Lake City for the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The House of Bishops and the House of Deputies will be gathered in discernment about many matters that affect our common life.
Over eleven days, the Holy Spirit will move in countless ways to inspire those present to “re-image” the Church in order to reach an increasingly diverse people who need to know Christ. The Church will seek consensus on challenging liturgical and pastoral issues. Perhaps the most public outcome of General Convention will be the person chosen by the House of Bishops and confirmed by the House of Deputies to be the next Presiding Bishop. The new Presiding Bishop will be the “face” of the Episcopal Church for the next decade.
Those gathered will be in prayer, both public and private. They will gather daily to break bread in the Holy Eucharist. There will be hearings in which people can voice their opinions about a huge variety of resolutions, and votes that will reveal the degree of consensus we have as we strive to move forward. Seasoned delegates still are aware of the tremendous responsibility the people of their dioceses have entrusted to them. New delegates are intimidated as they go, overwhelmed by the work. One of my parishioners is going for the first time, as a lay alternate. She and I have been in prayer and spiritual reflection as she carries a burden as well as a blessing.
So how shall we pray for these servants of Christ? Let me suggest first how we must not pray. We must not pray for specific results. God does not accept a prayer such as, “May Resolution X go down to defeat.” Nor “May the delegates’ eyes be opened to see the heresy and schism in their actions.” When we pray in this way, we are putting forward our on points of view, our own passions, and our own priorities.
The greatest power of intercession for gatherings such as General Convention are the petitions for bishops and delegates to be mindful of the presence of Christ and to seek the Spirit’s guidance in community. Pray that decisions on policy will promote the building up of the Church and the increase of faith. We must let go and let God in the gathering.
And we must pray also that the discernment and the decisions will strengthen the polity—the Body of Christ—and enable us to grow stronger as a body. We seek the strengthening of our Anglican roots while soaring on the Spirit’s wings. There are no winners and losers, no sides nor any angry struggles. We pray that all may seek the mind of Christ—and return with good news on how we as a Church are strengthened to proclaim the Good News to so many people of so many generations and cultures who need to be given hope and spiritual health through new life in Christ.
So let’s be mighty prayer warriors who are ready to pray directly for our diocesan delegates and bishops, to cover them with God’s grace, Christ’s presence, and the Spirit’s power. Where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s Name, He will be there in their midst--and even more gloriously when thousands are gathered in his Name to glorify God.
(The Rev.) John R. Throop, D.Min.
President, Anglican Fellowship of Prayer