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But, what about Jesus? – Cheryl Wetzel

But, what about Jesus? – Cheryl Wetzel

By Cheryl M. Wetzel in Anaheim
July 16, 2009

This is my fifth General Convention, and in all honesty, I have heard the name of Jesus Christ mentioned, with conviction more at this convention than perhaps the total of the previous four.

Last year at Lambeth, I admit I was “on a tear.” I would talk with bishops and they never said anything about Jesus. “What is your diocese doing and what do you tell your people about?” I would ask.
No one ever mentioned Jesus.

They talked about committees and programs and glorious worship services, but that Name Above All Names rarely ever came up. In frustration, I started saying to these men and women, “So tell me what you believe about Jesus and what you are telling your people about Him.”

They always looked at me with surprise and/or shock. I frequently responded that I am a lay person, a sheep, looking for a shepherd. Please don’t make me guess about where you stand in relation to Jesus Christ.“ This usually brought more consternation, but few responses.

“Well, of course Jesus is the center of our ministry,” they would say. But you could tell the way that the name Jesus rolled off their tongues that it wasn’t.

The Bishops from the more conservative dioceses frequently speak about the Christ and His impact on their lives, their ministries and their decisions. Their continuation of this is not news.

This morning at the press briefing, Bp. Ed Konieczny of Oklahoma (which is less than three hours from my home) stated his response to a question on how the budget for evangelism was cut, by stating, “The crisis economically gives us a new opportunity to think in new ways, to get out of norms and look in creative ways to empower people in our congregations. Jesus Christ wasn’t focused on the economy or special church programs.

He moved among the people, healing and proclaiming the good news. We need to get back to those basics. “
Deputy Ernest Bennett, Central Florida, in response to a question on why Resolution C069 was discharged, replied “The witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ is what we are all about.”

Resolution C069 requested that the House of Bishops speak on "their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in the United States multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none."
Yes, it was discharged.

I want to stress how often members of the House of Bishops have named Jesus Christ in their discussions and how unusual – perhaps non-existent - I have found this to be in the past. Now, I know that many of you will be skeptical, as I was initially.

My question at the press briefing this morning was to note the frequency, especially in the House of Bishops, in using the name of Jesus as part of an explanation on how/why they are voting as they did. Did Lambeth last year have an effect on their willingness to speak about the basics of their faith?

Bp. Konieczny replied, “I’ve never felt embarrassment in speaking about Jesus. Lambeth I think for me, created a greater awareness in the larger Communion and the relationship with one another and the work done in the name of Jesus. How do we share that work across the world?

To spend time with bishops and bishop’s spouses and know they have they have no financial means to do their ministry. They walk for days to do visitations to their parishes and ride in canoes, if they can, to meet their people.

This brought us to a greater understanding of who we are and what we have been given.
Deputy Bennett, Central Florida:

We are a motley crew. We have little in common except that one thing and that one thing is Jesus. That’s what binds us together.

Bp. Mathes, San Diego: Lambeth was major event for all of us.

There is no doubt we were transformed by our fellow bishops from other parts of the world. I didn’t start preaching about Jesus after Lambeth. We are the community of the beloved and the center of that is Jesus.

There is a different feeling in the House of Bishops. Attributable to Lambeth? May be. Whatever has encouraged this newer openness, to God be the Glory.

----Cheryl M. Wetzel is Editor of The Anglican Voice. She is reporting from Anaheim, California

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