Report 1 from Mary Ailes

Story by Mary Ailes: Tuesday, Oct. 7, Dallas, TX
This well written "letter" was posted 2nd-hand to the House of Bishops/Deputies mailing list. I vouch for its authentic content. (Note: Mary is a parishioner and former staff member at Truro Church, Fairfafax, VA)

The first hint that this was something big was on the plane - both from Washington Regan to Chicago O'Hare, but then even more so on the plane from Chicago to Dallas. It is common to fly in the early hours of a week day and have a plane be almost silent, filled with business travelers either preparing for a late morning meeting in some distant city or dozing lightly in their seats, a magazine sprawled open on their laps. But that was not the case this morning on my plane trips toward Dallas. The planes were full and from the moment we left Washington until long after we finally landed in Dallas, the plane was filled with conversations - going up one aisle and across and down, voices asking:

"Are you Episcopalian?"
"Are you going to Plano?"

And then the conversations would take off - often between people who had been complete strangers when they first buckled their seatbelts, but later had their Palms out and typing information by the time we all landed.

It was like an Episcopal Coffee Hour in the Sky.

I kept thinking of the Canterbury Tales and we were like Pilgrims on our way and filling our time with stories. Everyone has a story.

How did you feel after the Bishop's voted on August 5?
What was your parish reaction?
What is your bishop doing?
What do you think is going to happen in Dallas?

And the conversations take off and it's as though we are unaware that we are thousands of miles above ground, zooming through the clouds. For now we are discovering strangers and friends and we are all headed to the same place:

Dallas.

It's been like that since the wee hours of this morning. Seeing groups from the Falls Church and All Saints Dale City at Reagan. Landing in Chicago and seeing copies of the USA Today and the story with Martyn and the whole meeting here in Dallas announced boldly in its pages. What is going on? Can this really be happening?

By the time we were all finally assembled in the Wyndham Hotel for our first meeting at 12:30 p.m. today, we were 2,600 bishops, clergy and lay leaders from every diocese in the Episcopal Church. There are 800 priests here, countless bishops, 103 Seminary students, and 1,413 lay leaders. It is massive. It is unbelievable. It is thrilling!

Imagine being in a room with THOUSANDS of Episcopalians from all walks of life - Anglo Catholics, Evangelicals, Charismatic - Army chaplains, parish priests, diocesan bishops, missionaries, vestry members, seminarians - the list goes on and on. Women priests are standing along side traditionalists in long cassocks and beanies on their heads. We are gathered here to worship together, to weep together, to stand together. We have come here to "A Place To Stand: Declaring and Preparing."

This afternoon we heard from the Rev'd David Roseberry, rector of Christ Church Plano and the host for this event. Originally, when he agreed to host the event, he was thinking of a couple dozen leaders who would gather after General Convention to figure out what to do next. Never did he - or his parish - dream that they would be hosting and event with nearly 3,000 people representing every diocese in the nation. Never did he - or his parish - dream that we would be meeting one week before the historic meeting of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow Anglican Primates to decide what to do about the crisis in the Episcopal Church. But David's talk was "For Such a Time as This" and he spoke that the this is a time to declare and prepare. It is time to declare that the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Episcopal Church should not be - under any circumstance - changed.

We are finally free.

And the hall was filled with thunderous applause and the people got to their feet.

David Anderson, President of the American Anglican Council, spoke about being "Shocked But Not Surprised." He invited a panel to discuss what happened at General Convention and the panel included Martyn Minns, Diane Knippers, and Bishop Bob Duncan who all gave stunning recounts of what happened at General Convention. We are now faced with the consequences of the actions by the Episcopal Church.

After these reports, you could feel the question on so many hearts in the room. What are we going to do now?

One of the most exciting things about being here is to see the amazing breadth and depth of thousands of Episcopal leaders who are hurt, grieved, and betrayed by the actions of those who are supposed to be our leaders at General Convention. For every person here, you know there are many many more at home. I have seen priests in tears, recounting of what it has been like for them these past seven weeks since General Convention ended. It is heartbreaking to see and hear the stories that people bring with them - of long time families leaving churches where they were baptized and married because they can no longer worship in a church that has repudiated the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of others who are grieving and wondering what will happen next? Will the Presiding Bishop try to sweep this under the rug? Will he try to make it all go away.

Friends, if there's one thing I can tell you from just being here for the past 12 hours, it's that we are NOT GOING AWAY. We have been left. BUT WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY. Either our national leaders get it - or they don't. And from what we are hearing here, if our national leaders don't get it now, they will get it later. We are NOT GOING AWAY.

This afternoon Kendall Harmon, Resident Theologian in the Diocese of South Carolina, gave a stunning address called "Anglican Essentials and our Future Call." I will try to find out if he has posted it online. It was stunning. He did not mince words. He was the lone member of the committee at General Convention that voted against C051: The Resolution for the Blessing of Same Sex Unions. He gave an impassioned Minority Report on the floor of the House of Deputies after C051 was voted from committee to the House floor, pleading with the Deputies to not do this. The Deputies responded with attempts to prevent his Minority Report from being printed in the record. What were they afraid of?

This is the "Declaring" part of our time together here in Dallas. But there will also be a "Preparing" time, and this includes releasing a statement called "A Place to Stand: A Call to Action." This is what we will send to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates, reflecting where we are in this crisis in the Episcopal Church.

Here is the DRAFT of the Statement as it stands now:

(draft removed - summary was posted yesterday - final gets voted on tomorrow)

Tonight was the Eucharist, which began with an incredible procession of the 800 clergy and all bishops who are here. As I watched them process in I was reminded that we are not alone. It may be that the leadership of the Episcopal Church has abandoned us. But we are not abandoning the Church. I saw the future of the Church tonight.

On a personal note: I am overwhelmed by seeing so many friends and colleagues, all here. Many are former clergy from Truro, but others are from different places and events in my life. I've seen Neil Lebhar, Geoff Chapman, Mary Hays, Allison Barfoot, John Whitnah, Paul Frey, Peter Mitchell, Shawn Porter, and so many others that my mind is just swimming in the memories of them. And this is going on all over the place. For the first time ever, the major streams of the Cross-centered Episcopal Church have gathered under one roof to worship, pray and seek God's face of what we should do next. But please know this - if there's anything I want to say tonight it is this:

We are not alone. We are not alone. We are not alone.

God bless you! Please keep praying! I'll write more later!

Love in Christ,
Mary

P.S. We had a great meeting with the Truro team this evening before the Eucharist. Martyn gave us a fascinating update on some of things that are happening. God is doing some AMAZING things. But there are some things that are going on in the national church leadership that are shocking - or could be shocking - and so please keep praying!!!! Thank you!

P.P.S. There apparently are folks here with Louie Crew and his gang on the 9th floor. I haven't seen or heard them. I did pass a large group singing worship songs in the lobby after the evening worship. They were singing the Lord's praises, their joy overflowing. It was so healing to witness. General Convention was NEVER NEVER NEVER like this!

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