American and Canadian bishops met recently in Windsor, Ont. to discuss common challenges and strategies. Back row, Philip Poole and Ann Tottenham (both area bishops of Toronto); Katharine Jefferts Schori (Nevada), Bruce Howe (Huron) and Colin Johnson (Toronto).
A five-day meeting brought together Canadian and American bishops for sessions in Windsor, Ont. and Detroit to share common concerns and strategies. The joint meeting followed the regular three-day spring gathering of Canadian bishops’ and brought together nearly all the Canadians plus a contingent of U.S. bishops, among them Presiding Bishop (primate) Frank Griswold.
“I had a valuable discussion with (area bishop) Philip Poole (of Toronto). We’re both in urban dioceses,” said Bishop Wendell Gibbs of the diocese of Michigan and host for the Detroit part of the gathering. He noted of the meeting, “You get to meet (other bishops) as people. You may have heard of someone’s position but they are still human beings.”
The group of about 60 bishops heard from author and Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann and informally discussed mutual concerns. The U.S. was represented by bishops from such border states as Michigan, New York, Minnesota and Alaska. Also represented were Kentucky, Utah, Colorado, Virginia and California, among others.
Bishop Gene Robinson, the New Hampshire bishop who is in a long-term same-sex relationship and whose election in 2003 provoked conservative outcry, was also part of the delegation.
In his lecture, Mr. Brueggemann urged the bishops to provide an “alternative humanness” to what he referred to as the “dominant culture of acquisitiveness and consumption,” adding that the church must be “God’s agent for gathering exiles.”
“Exiles” include those “who are rejected, ostracized, and labeled as outsiders,” said Mr. Brueggemann, who is professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. “This of course includes the poor and inevitably we would also think in one way or another of gays and lesbians.” But the category of exiles also includes “those whom the world may judge normal, conventional, establishment types,” he said. “For the truth is that the large failure of old values and old institutions causes many people to experience themselves as displaced people, anxious, under threat, vigilant, ill at ease, and so in pursuit of safety and stability and well-being that is not on the horizon.”
During informal gatherings, American and Canadian bishops discussed whether they might collaborate on common strategies to face such issues as parishes that want to leave the established church but remain in their church buildings. Some wondered whether the Archbishop of Canterbury had an accurate picture of the North American churches, many of which are healthy and growing, and considered sending him a letter about it.
Many participants cited the building of relationships with colleagues across the border as a valuable component of the meeting and most agreed that they wanted to meet more often. The last gathering of U.S. and Canadian bishops occurred in 1993.
The gathering closed with evensong at Detroit’s Cathedral Church of St. Paul and dinner at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Sunday morning, the group attended worship at All Saints church in downtown Windsor.