Bishop Scott Mayer delivered his address to the 36th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth on Friday, November 9, at the Decatur Conference Center in Decatur, TX.
I would like to begin this afternoon by expressing gratitude to our convention hosts – the people of the Northern Deanery, including Resurrection, Decatur and the Episcopal Church of Wichita Falls. I want to recognize the Dean, Jill McClendon, as well as the clergy who worked on this convention, Tony Hiatt and Topher Rodgers, and Sarah Walker who played the keyboard and led our music during the Opening Eucharist. Let’s show our gratitude to the Northern Deanery.
I am blessed and fortunate to work with dedicated and faithful “servant-leaders” who care deeply for this Church, and are committed to God’s mission. As you know, I serve two dioceses. This arrangement would be impossible without the professionalism, pastoral instincts, and shared leadership of these two staffs who understand their work as a calling to facilitate ministry within and beyond our respective dioceses. Please join me in expressing gratitude to the Fort Worth staff: Treasurer’s Assistant, Adriana Cline; Administrative Assistant, Michele King; Ministry Support and Communications Officer (not here today, and in our prayers), Deacon Tracie Middleton; Communications Director, Katie Sherrod; Communications Assistant, Susan Kleinwechter; and Canon to the Ordinary, Canon Janet Waggoner.
This diocese is served by two assisting bishops; one is my immediate predecessor in Fort Worth, and the other was one of my predecessors in Northwest Texas. I see both of them as wise and experienced mentors to me. I am grateful to introduce Rayford High and Sam Hulsey.
I need to pause for a moment to address the obvious. Yesterday, the Diocese of Maine announced its slate of nominees to serve as their next bishop. Janet Waggoner is on that slate. That election will be held in three months, and we pray that their process and electing convention is guided by the Holy Spirit. We pray, also, for Janet and her family during this process of discernment. And just in case, Janet, you’re not present at next year’s Fort Worth Convention, you have made a big difference in the life of this diocese at a critical time. And, we are grateful for your presence and ministry.
I would like to take a moment to recognize some guests. The Very Reverend Cynthia Briggs Kittredge is Dean and President, as well as Professor of New Testament, at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin. In the wider church, Dean Kittredge is a respected scholar and preacher. She is an author of books, a contributor and editor of a number of commentaries, and a poet. She is seen as a thought-leader in and beyond the Church. Please welcome Cynthia Kittredge.
We have guests from the Diocese of Northwest Texas (You will see them helping us during this convention): Diocesan Administrator, Elizabeth Thames; Canon to the Ordinary, Mike Ehmer; and my partner in dual citizenship, my wife, Kathy Mayer.
Every convention is a transition. At this time I would like to show gratitude to all those who have served in various capacities, and are rotating off or resigning from their respective positions. These include: from the Disciplinary Board, Barbara Evans-Chowning and Scot McComas; as Trustee of the University of the South, Suzanne Meyers; from the Management Committee, Carlye Hughes and Bob Gross; from the Finance Committee, Brent Walker, Gretchen Smith, Lynne Minor, and Bob Gross; from the Executive Council, Karen Calafat, Melinda Jo Ray, Laura Fleming, Louis Eichenberger, Susan Hunter, Joel Walker, Lynne Minor, and David Stanley; from the Corporation, Robert Bass; as Chaplains to retired clergy, Courtland Moore, Susan Slaughter, and Mo Lewis; from the Commission on Ministry, Judy Upham; from the Standing Committee, Kevin Johnson and President Jane Dennis; from the Mission and Outreach Committee, Dr Tim Stevens; from Diocesan Social Media, Susan Kleinwechter; as Assistant Chancellor, Kathleen Wells. Let’s show our gratitude to these servants for their sacrificial service.
I would like for all of us to take a moment to pay tribute to some of our leaders.
Kathleen Wells. Kathleen was one of the group of lay people who organized early to try to combat the undermining of the Episcopal Church by those making clear their intention to leave. With others, she traveled across the diocese to speak to any group willing to listen.
Kathleen used her legal skills to assist the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, as they worked with the Office of the Presiding Bishop in the months leading up to the split, and afterward, in preparing for the election of a provisional bishop and the reorganizing convention in February of 2009.
Kathleen put her heart and soul into the work of reorganization and rebuilding. She worked tirelessly with the legal team dealing with the litigation, as well as with every diocesan committee, board, and commission. She advised our bishops, our clergy, and our lay leadership. Her intellect, passion, dedication, and determination has left its mark on this diocese.
As of this convention, Kathleen has resigned from her position as Assistant Chancellor. Let’s show our gratitude to Kathleen for her years of sacrificial service.
Susan Kleinwechter. Susan has announced that she will be leaving her work with the diocese after this convention. She and Gil are happily planning for the next few years, and she wants to concentrate on that.
Susan’s contributions to our diocesan communication team are too numerous to list, but I do want to mention a few. I am told that she was a very important part of helping our newly reorganized diocese understand the vital importance of constantly communicating a message of a loving, inclusive God – especially as we worked to differentiate ourselves from others using our name. She has been unstinting in this from the time immediately post-reorganization to now.
As social media coordinator, she developed and implemented a sound social media strategy integrated with the overall communication strategy that has been a roaring success. Her work with the website has been vital in bringing it to its current vibrant incarnation. Episcopal communicators across the wider church regularly turn to Susan for advice and input.
She has been and invaluable team member – a cheeky prod and a willing hand when we needed both. I am assured that her eagle eye in editing has saved us more than once from embarrassing typos and possible misunderstandings, and – even worse – from being boring.
Her unrelenting quest for the highest standards and her laser focus on God has helped us all do better work. We appreciate her. We thank her. We love her. We will miss her. Please join me in thanking Susan.
Judy Upham. Judy is rolling off the Commission on Ministry this year. Her service there is only one of the many reasons we are blessed to have Judy in our midst.
For those of you who do not know, Judy was with Jonathan Daniels the first time he went to Selma. She was studying at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when she saw television coverage of police attacks on civil rights marchers attempting to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge on ‘Bloody Sunday,’ March 7, 1965.
An Episcopal News story quotes Judy as saying, ‘Dr King went on television on Monday, asking for good Christian people to come and stand with them. Some people from the seminary were going to go. I brought my checkbook because I didn’t really have time to do stuff like that. We were all standing around watching TV. I looked at these people getting beat up by police.’
When fellow seminarian Jonathan Daniels asked her whether she was going to Selma, ‘I found myself saying, ‘How are we getting there?’ Next thing she knew, she was on a charter plane to Atlanta. Sitting between Daniels and another seminarian, she told them, ‘This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.’
After the march, Judy and Daniels spent the semester in Selma. Among other things, they helped with the several-days march to Montgomery. They returned to school after that semester, but later, Daniels returned to Selma for the summer. He was part of a group working in Lowndes County when he and others were arrested. After several days, they were released on August 13, 1965.
“I am convinced it was a setup,” Judy told ENS. “While waiting for transportation, Daniels, along with a Catholic priest and two black demonstrators, walked to buy a soda at a local store. They encountered a part-time deputy sheriff, who pointed his shotgun at 16-year-old Ruby Sales. Daniels pushed her to safety and he was fatally shot. He is now commemorated on the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints.”
Judy went on to spend time as a director of religious education, then earned a degree in social work. But when in 1970, General Convention approved ordaining women as deacons, Judy said, ‘For me, it was like bells ringing.’
She was ordained a deacon in 1975, General Convention approved the ordination of women as priests and bishops in 1976, and she was ordained a priest on Epiphany 1977. Here in our diocese she has been an assisting priest at St Alban’s in Theatre Arlington, and has assisted at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Keller.
Of her time in Selma, she says, it was ‘one of the few times in my life I was 100 percent positive that I was doing what God wanted me to do. If it cost me my life, that was all right. After all, there are worse things than death. … We had a promise of a future with God. What have you got to lose? At least you’re standing up for what’s right. … That’s your job as a Christian and a human being.’
We are blessed to have Judy in our midst. Let’s show our gratitude.
Tim Stevens. Tim has been the heart and soul of the mission and outreach committee. His passion for ministry and his joy in seeing our congregations respond to opportunities for ministry within and outside the diocese are evident. Start Tim talking about mission and outreach and you’re going to be there awhile. And with good reason – Tim has nurtured that committee and its work from at least 2011, when this diocese determined that by 2018 we would be tithing a portion of our budget for mission and outreach work. That’s a goal we reached this year.
Tim is especially gifted at connecting community organizations that might not realize their common needs and complementary gifts. His work with Texas Inmate Services led him to connect Christian Community Assistance, the McCart Parole Office, and St Christopher to provide help for the imprisoned after they leave prison. Through Christian Community Assistance these organizations are able to help the newly released with clothing appropriate for job interviews, food, and accessing other community services. Through Tim’s contacts at the parole center, St Christopher became aware of the need for sack lunches for the newly released, and provides those once a month.
Tim and his wife, Sylvia, have been faithful members of St Christopher since 1999. They have been significant supporters of Brite Divinity School’s Episcopal Studies program. In 2015 Tim was named a trustee of Brite Divinity School’s Episcopal Board of Directors. Also, in February of 2015 Brite Divinity School and the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth announced the completion of a $2.5 million endowment of a faculty chair: The Right Reverend Sam B Hulsey Chair in Episcopal Studies.
The completion of the endowment of the Hulsey Chair was accomplished through gifts and pledges from 150 donors, and finalized with a gift from Sylvia and Tim. Their gift will enrich this diocese for decades to come.” Let’s show our gratitude to Tim Stevens.
We are doing a couple of things at this convention, which are a break from recent convention patterns. Tonight we will have a “fireside chat” with the distinguished Dean of the Seminary of the Southwest, a New Testament scholar, Cynthia Kittredge, and me. This is intended to be a conversational way to talk about scripture, the church, or theological education – rather than a lecture. You will find that Cynthia is not only a scholar, but also a kind, warm, and generous person of deep faith.
Our Presiding Bishop’s mission priorities are Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation, and Creation Care, and we are going to address with some intentionality two of these today and tomorrow. So, this afternoon Canon Linda Taylor is going to guide us in a Living Room Conversation on Race. The Living Room Conversation is a way to participate in civil discourse on challenging societal issues. Many of you have experienced the effectiveness of this process already.
And next, tomorrow we will have a presentation regarding our own diocesan Evangelism Media Campaign. This Evangelism Media Campaign started at a regular meeting of our rectors and clergy-in-charge when they expressed a desire to get our message out through various media sources.
Within the last year the Episcopal Church saw its profile elevated by three big events: Barbara Bush’s funeral at St Martin’s in Houston, the Royal Wedding at Windsor at which the Presiding Bishop preached, and Senator McCain’s funeral at the National Cathedral. Our diocesan website in Fort Worth had thousands of hits during these events – most of them on the link which reads “What Episcopalians Believe.” Our Presiding Bishop is preaching a message of love, and it’s being noticed, and people are curious about us.
So, from the ground up – and not from the top down – our clergy leaders have been inspired to get our message out through media. It’s going to be a message of love. The micro-site is Godlovesall.info. God loves all.
The General Convention for the Episcopal Church met in Austin, Texas, this summer. I would like to recognize and thank our convention deputies and alternates. Lay Deputies include our Deputation Chair, Katie Sherrod, along with Kathleen Wells, Aidan Wright, and Marti Fagley. Lay Alternates at convention were Brent Walker, Bob Hicks, and Cynthia Hill. Clergy Deputies include Tracie Middleton, Carlye Hughes, Scot McComas, and Amy Haynie. Alternates at convention were Kevin Johnson, and David Madison. I would be very remiss if I did not recognize our hospitality team, as well: Michele King and Elizabeth Thames.
One particular deputy was recognized at General Convention twice. Katie Sherrod was named a “Distinguished Woman” of the Episcopal Church. And then, during the middle of business on the convention floor in the House of Deputies, the President of the House of Deputies, Gay Clark Jennings, stopped everything to award the House of Deputies Medal. Katie, the entire Fort Worth deputation, and I, were invited up to dais, as President Jennings read the following (I don’t think Katie has ever been more surprised, and I doubt that she heard a word.)
Gay says, “Along about now, I imagine that some of you are getting tired. The days are long, the debates are tough. Maybe things even feel like an uphill battle. So, I want to tell you a little bit about a deputy who knows just what it’s like to have days like that, for years and years on end, and never, ever, give up.”
“Deputy Katie Sherrod of the Diocese of Fort Worth has been fighting for the church she loves for decades. Through some dark and difficult days, she made a witness for the Episcopal Church at a time and in a place where that was not a popular thing to do.”
“She and her family, especially her beloved husband, Gayland, paid a price for that loyalty, but Katie was resilient and persistent – oh, so very persistent – and finally she and her fellow Episcopalians prevailed. Today they have rebuilt a faithful, committed, and energetic Diocese of Fort Worth whose mission and ministry inspires us all.”
“Katie doesn’t just do church. She is an independent writer, producer, commentator, and author. She has been given many awards for her consistent advocacy of women’s reproductive freedom and for her 25 years of writing about efforts to combat family violence. She holds the Associated Press Managing Editors Award for feature writing, and the Texas Headliners Award for investigative reporting. She was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1987 for outstanding contributions in the field of communications, named as one of Fort Worth’s Outstanding Women in 1988, and Texas Woman of the Year in 1989. Katie has a daughter and – she will be the first to tell you – two amazing grandsons.”
“For her decades of faithful, bold, and persistent – oh, so persistent – ministry on behalf of our beloved church, I am pleased to award the House of Deputies medal to Deputy Katie Sherrod.”
It was quite the standing ovation from over 1000 deputies and alternates. Let’s join them in expressing our gratitude and affection.
As deputation chair, Katie Sherrod will give her report later during this convention, but I would like to make a couple of remarks about life in the House of Bishops, as well.
From my perspective this was a significant convention. It was the least controversial and least contentious convention in my memory. In the House of Bishops, debates sounded more like thoughtful conversations. We made compromises. Charity was shown to one another, as difficult and personal words were spoken. The bond with the House of Bishops strengthened, and relationships deepened. I believe we departed convention with a sense of unity, as well as a sense of common mission to proclaim and strive to manifest the Presiding Bishop’s fundamental message of love.
This is not to say we avoided challenging topics or issues. The Presiding Bishop’s priorities of Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation, and Creation Care were addressed through both the budget and through stories, as people told their personal stories on these topics to the entire convention.
Sometimes convention was uncomfortable. Responding to the “MeToo” movement, bishops created a liturgy in which personal stories of sexual harassment and exploitation within the Church were shared. Bishops United Against Gun Violence led a gathering at which we heard the testimony of Philip Schentrup, and Episcopalian whose daughter, Carmen, was killed at her school in Parkland, Florida. The same day, several hundred Episcopalians traveled by bus to an immigration detention facility to hold a prayer vigil.
Bishop Curry says, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” This convention was all about love. One night we had a revival! At the opening celebration of the Eucharist, Bishop Curry introduced us to – and invited us to use – a set of practices, a rule of life, called “the Way of Love.” These are practices we can do together as a church, as we follow the way of Jesus – the Way of Love.
Bishop Curry reminds us that “in the first century Jesus of Nazareth inspired a movement: a community of people whose lives were centered on Jesus Christ and committed to living the way of God’s unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial, and redemptive love. Before they were called ‘church’ or ‘Christian,’ this Jesus Movement was simply called ‘the Way.’” (You should have a brochure or leaflet in your packet about the Way of Love, and spiritual practices to “turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, and rest.”)
The theme of our diocesan convention this year is taken from the theme of General Convention: “The Jesus Movement: Loving, Liberating, Life-giving.” I know many of us have heard Bishop Curry reference God as “loving, liberating, and life-giving,” as he tends to open sermons by saying, “In the Name of our loving, liberating, life-giving God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
To go tangential for a moment – and if you bear with me, I think I’ll make a point – I want to make an observation. In an attempt to avoid patriarchal language in references to the Holy Trinity, over recent years people have substituted “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier” for “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” I applaud the effort, and I support our efforts as a church to have expansive and inclusive language for God. This recent General Convention voted to explore intentionally more expansive language for God.
Having said that (and in regards to the Trinitarian formula, “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier), I can still hear the words of my professor of Systematic Theology, Doctor Bill Green: “That smacks of Modalism.” (Seminary professors love to say something “smacks” of something, and it’s all very dramatic when they say this.)
Modalism is a heresy which assigns the function of Creator to God the Father, and the function of Redeemer to God the Son, and the function of Sanctifier to God the Holy Spirit. And that is a heresy because God creates, redeems, and sanctifies; and Christ creates, redeems, and sanctifies; and the Holy Spirit creates, redeems, and sanctifies.
And so, while we may think of God as loving, and of the Son as liberating, and of the Holy Spirit as life-giving, we know that all three Persons of the Trinity are all three, and do all three. And we know that our Presiding Bishop is a Yale graduate and knows his heresies, and concludes with the traditional Trinitarian expression – even as he leads the Church to strive for and offer expansive images for God. And let me add, if you have been (or someone you know has been) praying a Trinitarian model which smacks of Modalism, I bet you’re going to get into heaven anyway.
We are called to be the Jesus Movement: all of us loving, all of us liberating, all of us life-giving, all of us all three – like the original community of love: the Holy Trinity. I want to take a moment to look at the image and reality of the Holy Trinity. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to “explain” the Trinity using the shamrock or three manifestations of H2O, but I am going to begin with the image and reality of the Divine Community of Persons as the Triune God – and I’m going to quote a couple of people to get us started.
Beatrice Bruteau says that the radiant energy between the Persons of the Trinity is “spondic energy.” The word “spondic” is derived from the Greek word for “libation.” The energy is a free libation of abundance.
There is no “quid pro quo” in the Trinity; it is not transactional. But rather, the energy goes round in a continual circulation of mutual donation. It is Holy Communion. It is love. And when we say we are created in the image of God, one understanding of what this means is: a community of love created in the image of the Trinity.
Richard Rohr, the Franciscan author in New Mexico, says we need right now in this world a Trinitarian Revolution. In his recent book on the Trinity he writes the following:
“At the risk of sounding like I am making a serious overstatement, I think the common Christian image of God, despite Jesus, is still largely ‘pagan’ and untransformed. What do I mean by this? History has so long operated with a static and imperial image of God – as a Supreme Monarch who is mostly living in splendid isolation from what he [created] – and God is always and exclusively envisioned as male in this model – created. This God is seen largely as a Critical Spectator (and his followers do their level best to imitate their Creator in this regard).”
So Rohr offers: “Instead of God being the Eternal Threatener” (a god who threatens), we have God as the Ultimate Participant – in everything – both the good and the painful. … Instead of God watching life happen from afar and judging it, how about God being the Life Force of everything? Instead of God being an Object like any other object, how about God being the Life Energy between each and every object (which we usually call love or spirit)?”
He says we need a Trinitarian Revolution. “If my instincts are right, this unearthing of the Trinity can’t come a moment too soon. Because I am convinced that beneath the ugly manifestations of our present evils – political corruption, ecological devastation, warring against one another, hating each other based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation – the greatest dis-ease facing humanity right now is our profound and painful sense of disconnection.”
We are fractured. I’m not going to name the ways we are divided this afternoon; you know them already. The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh is fresh on our minds, but I won’t make a list today. And of course, alienation is not new. The entire biblical drama is a story of alienation and reconciliation.
But love is the answer. Spondic love, as Beatrice Bruteau says, that free libation of unconditional love, love which is not transactional, but pure gift – grace – is the answer. Love is the way God moves us from alienation to reconciliation. Love is the way God restores us to union. We, Christians, have nothing to offer without love. And God’s love is extended to ALL. It’s not all, “if.” There is no “if.” It’s all. God loves all.
Even the disciples were slow to learn that God loves all, and that Christians are called to love all. There is a dramatic story about Peter in the Acts of the Apostles. This is after the Resurrection, of course. And as the story goes, Peter encounters a Roman centurion named Cornelius. If we read the entire story it’s evident that the Holy Spirit has drawn Peter and Cornelius together for this encounter. Cornelius is a God-fearing man, and he will become one of the first Gentile converts to Christianity. So, God is at work here.
But, it is significant that Peter, a Jew, is in the home of a Gentile, crossing all boundaries – and not only that, he is in the home of a Roman officer. And in this encounter – in this particular moment – it’s actually Peter who experiences a conversion of sorts. It’s Peter who has a sudden epiphany that Jesus is Lord of ALL. All – meaning even Gentiles, and even this centurion from the Imperial Roman nation that crucified Jesus.
And in this moment Peter says, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality!” To Cornelius and his gathered household, and perhaps to himself, Peter says, “God shows no partiality!” God has no favorites. God’s relationship with us is not based on our status, our ethnicity, or our religious heritage. Peter says, “You know the message he sent to the people of Israel preaching peace by Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all.” Jesus is Lord of ALL.
And 2000 years ago there were two ways to hear this – at least two. (Now, there might be more, as many have trouble with the word “lord,” and maybe there’s a reason for that.) But, when Peter says, “Jesus is Lord of all,” in the Roman Empire it’s going to be heard one way – at least by those in power.
For, to declare the very FIRST creed of early Christians that “Jesus is Lord,” included an unspoken “part 2” to the creed: “Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not.” And as Peter likely knew, that creed could lead to martyrdom, and for him it did.
And another way to hear the claim which Peter makes, that God shows no partiality and Jesus is Lord of ALL, is that all are included. For, Jesus is a different kind of lord.
It doesn’t matter who you are, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, woman or man, leper or priest of the temple, Pharisee or tax collector, simple fisherman or Roman centurion, the God revealed in Jesus shows no partiality.
Jesus, the Risen Lord, is a different kind of Lord. For in Jesus we see the power of love, while in the lords of the Roman Empire we see the love of power. Their systems serve the elite; burdensome taxes support the power of the empire, rather than the poor, the disadvantaged, the outcasts – not even the widows and orphans have a safety net. There is a system of domination with the principalities and powers at the top, and the servants and slaves and foreigners at the bottom. No wonder people have trouble with the word “lord.”
But, Jesus is a different kind of Lord. His own life begins as a refugee. He is raised in the small, insignificant town of Nazareth. And unlike both the religious authorities and political authorities of his day, he eats with sinners and tax collectors. He touches lepers. He heals foreigners. He treats women as persons. He loves people, and people are drawn to him.
And to a large crowd of followers, he says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the poor in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the persecuted.”
Jesus is a different kind of Lord. This Lord knows the power of love, and shows it, as he says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
No one said, “I’m sorry,” first. No one stepped into a confessional first. No one pulled out their Book of Common Prayer and prayed the General Confession first. This is undeserved forgiveness for all. This is unmerited grace. This is unconditional love. This is the “judge of the living and the dead.” This is the Lord of ALL. God loves ALL.
The Mission and Outreach Committee of this diocese expressed that God loves all, as it recommended grants through our congregations to pay for school supplies, shoes for the homeless, food for students, non-food essentials for parolees, laundry, welcoming strangers, and community-wide ministries – all locally – and, for support to the Navajo in New Mexico, and orphanage in Kenya, a children’s home in Mexico, a leprosy mission in India, and for speech therapy in Zambia.
Like that spondic energy of the Trinity, that free libation of abundant love, which spills over as love for those who can never pay you back, who will never join and support your church, who will never see you again, who may never say a word of thanks or praise, you are showing what love is. This is not transactional. This is unconditional love manifest in a diocese who believes God loves all.
The commissioning of the Requiem for a New World in Spanish says, God loves all. The calling of a priest from this diocese to serve as the Bishop of Newark (of all places) says the church sees us as a people who believe and proclaim that God loves all. We celebrated people today – Kathleen, Susan, Judy, Tim, and Katie – who proclaim and embody our belief that God loves all.
You, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, are a witness to Peter’s epiphany and testimony that God loves ALL. It is a privilege to serve you – and to serve with you – as a part of this loving, liberating, life-giving movement, as together we proclaim and embody the Gospel, the Good News, that God loves all.