Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bishop Envy

You wouldn’t really describe the bishops in my denomination as cool. They are often good men, kind and wise and caring for their flock. Occasionally they are saints in the line of Thomas More, Raymond Hunthausen, or Desmond Tutu. Once in a while they are despotic jerks. But by and large, no one would identify a sea of bishops in my tradition as all that.

Not so, apparently, in the Episcopal Church in the United States and Western Washington. This weekend, at a national Episcopal conference on faith and environment called Healing Our Planet Earth (HOPE) four of most awesome episcopates you ever met walked in the door of the gracious St. Margaret Parish in Bellevue and stayed for the day. As a collective, they were good-looking, charming, accessible, funny, egalitarian, articulate, capable, brilliant and visionary spiritual leaders. Damn!

Two of them are national. Katherine Jefferts Schori is a tall, elegant woman with perfect posture and a Ph. D in oceanography before entering the priesthood. Since being elected to the Presiding Bishopric of the National Episcopal Church she retains her pilot’s license and works hard for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals as her denomination’s top mission priority. Given that I am a one-trick pony (faith and environment) she entered my heart though her professional and pastoral understanding that life on Earth is in the balance.

Bishop Steven Charleston
is the visionary center of this conference. The Dean of the National Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, former Episcopal Bishop of Alaska and a Choctaw Indian from Oklahoma, Bishop Charleston is the best speaker I have ever heard in my life, bar none.

A year ago in Seattle, Charleston was a keynote speaker at the righteous Interfaith Creation Festival. In a moment that he called out as an anointing by the Holy Spirit he announced the Genesis Covenant. This is an agreement, offered to all national denominations, to reduce the carbon footprint of their facilities by 50% in ten years. This crisp one-sentence pact, if adopted and upheld by churches in the US, will establish people of faith in the forefront of climate leadership.

Then there is the awsome local ordinary, The Rt. Revered Gregory Rickel. What can I say? He’s an exceptionally competent manager, an awesome speaker, and a trained presenter for the Climate Project. He gets it, and the Diocese of Olympia gets him. Sigh.

Finally, Suffragan Bishop Nedi Rivera recently received a standing ovation from a large official gathering of women of a certain denomination for her capable leadership, her fine talk, and her perfect manicure. Every woman in the room secretly wanted her to be their bishop; but no, only local Episcopalians can claim her. Like my daughter and her friends, Bishop Rivera seems to have decided to save the world and look fabulous while doing it!

This is why I have a major case of bishop envy, for which there is no known cure. I could convert, I suppose, but this would cause my Irish ancestors to spin and spin and spin in their graves. On the upside, I might tap the energy generated by that spinning for an endlessly renewable fuel source.

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