Yesterday, the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs issued “House of Bishops offers a word to the church: Godly leadership in the face of violence.” The letter from the bishops notes that the theme of the retreat was “Godly Leadership in the Midst of Loss.” Losses mentioned included those caused by Hurricane Sandy, the earthquake in Haiti, illness, and violence against Native Americans. Much of the letter, however, concerns gun violence.
It is gratifying that our bishops are concerned about gun violence, though it is not surprising, since particular bishops have already spoken out against it and advocated for more restrictive gun legislation. What is discouraging is that this is the best our bishops could do in terms of taking a stand:
As bishops of The Episcopal Church we embody a wide variety of experiences and perspectives with respect to firearms. Many among us are hunters and sport-shooters, former members of the military and law-enforcement officers. We respect and honor that we are not of one mind regarding matters related to gun legislation. Yet we are convinced that there needs to be a new conversation in the United States that challenges gun violence.That’s it; we should talk! I wonder how many bishops receive contributions from the National Rifle Association.
I was even more disappointed by an obvious source of loss that the bishops seemingly ignored—the loss visited on the church by Bishops Duncan, Iker, Schofield, and others, and especially the chaos in South Carolina engineered by Mark Lawrence and his supporters. Of course, I do not know that Mark Lawrence’s exploits and the damage he is continuing to cause were not discussed, but the public reports from the retreat show no evidence that they were. Do our bishops have ideas about how to deal with such losses or, more importantly, how to head them off? Are they incapable of facing the problem, believe that nothing is to be done, or are satisfied with how conflicts have played out in San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, Quincy, and now South Carolina?
It costs Episcopalians a lot of money to send bishops off to semi-annual retreats. Are we really getting our money’s worth? Would more useful work get done if we limited retreats for bishops and occasionally had a gathering of the House of Deputies between General Conventions?