Many years ago, at the first General Convention I attended, an elder statesman of the church told me that you “see the Episcopal Church in action” at General Convention. But it seems to me that in reality General Convention is the mere tip of the Episcopal iceberg. We all know that what you see of an iceberg is just a fraction of the true reality of size and complexity.
At General Convention we see:
– participatory democracy at work in church governance. Yet that which is not seen are the congregational vestries and bishop’s committees, the committees of every stripe and level of governance, the diocesan conventions and provincial synods at which committed members of the church toil to enable the work of the God to be done at home and around the world.
– seminary booths and representatives in the exhibit hall who are symbols of the myriad students that seek knowledge and inspiration by studying scripture, history, pastoral care, and church development to build, now and into the future, on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
– lay leaders in the House of Deputies who are elected from among a broad and numerous spectrum of lay leaders in the constituent dioceses of the Episcopal Church. Leaders who are willing to make the commitment of time, gifts and energy to struggle with the task of adapting the institutional church to the changing present and unknown future so it proclaims the unchanging truth of the Gospel in ways best heard in the contemporary culture
– a small but impressive presence of youth at Convention who are willing to share their witness and vision of the church. What is not seen is the small and impressive youth in most congregations who are willing to struggle within the polity and traditions in order to be heard and be seen as the church of today, not the church of the future.
– volunteers giving many hours to do the necessary but unglamorous work of seeing to the needs of a convention; unseen is the hoardfs of volunteers the church has raised up for volunteer work in the world from church sponsored mission to community service, to advocacy emanating from their understanding of God’s will for the kingdom on earth as in heaven.
What is most impressive about General Convention is not its size or its worship, its resolutions nor policies. What is most impressive is that when we see all this we are seeing just a small portion of what our church is and does – and the barest hint of what it could be.