The Convocation, despite being geographically distant from other member dioceses, is a part of Province II in the Episcopal Church. While we have sent representation to Provincial Synod over the years, our full participation in provincial events is often limited by our geography.
We do, however, send a full deputation to General Convention (four lay members, four clergy members, and first alternates). Deputies are elected at our Annual Convention. The Convocation is proud of its participation in the governance of our Church, and at various times, we have been able to speak to, and offer a helpful voice of solution, to issues that have arisen in the Convocation before the larger church. Deputies from the Convocation have served on Legislative Committees and Dispatch of Business, and at various times on a variety of Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards (CCABs).
Besides carrying out the work of a normal domestic diocese, the Convocation also represents The Episcopal Church in Europe. As a small entity within Europe, many of whose members come primarily from countries other than their country of residence, the Convocation and its parishes and missions have close relations with those around them. The Bishop in Charge, Archdeacon and every parish and mission represent the U.S. expression of an inclusive and progressive Anglicanism. Particularly for the Bishop but also for the Archdeacon, and the other clergy and parish leaders throughout the Convocation, this requires a significant amount of time at meetings and ecumenical and interfaith events.
Europe is a microcosm of the Anglican Communion, as we minister alongside the Church of England Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, the Lusitanian Church of Portugal and the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain. Since the 1990s the bishops of these jurisdictions have been licensed as assistant bishops in each other’s jurisdictions. At about the same time, the Council of Anglican Bishops in Continental Europe (COABICE) was formed to discuss issues of common interest and concern. The highlight of its work to date was a provincial “Partners in Mission” consultation in Madrid in 2003, with clergy and laity as well as the bishops, along with representatives from the Old Catholic and Lutheran Churches in communion, organized by the Anglican Communion Office. While recognizing that at that time the differences among the four jurisdictions to form a new province in continental Europe were still too great, participants confirmed their commitment to working closely together, “so that our unity may be more visible and our mission enhanced.”
In the intervening years the bishops have continued to meet regularly, including with the bishops of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, with whom the Anglican Communion is also in full communion. Discussions continue on closer collaboration and sharing, and on ways forward toward a single Anglican province.
The full communion relationship with the Old Catholic Church of the Union of Utrecht is strong, particularly in Germany, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland. We are exploring more ways to do common mission with them in all countries where both are present. Some years ago, by agreement, the Convocation absorbed the Carmelite community of Buon Pastore, Milan, Italy. The Archbishop of Utrecht, the Most Reverend Joris Vercammen, and Bishop Pierre Whalon have had discussions concerning bishop oversight in France and in Belgium.
In recent years the nature of the Convocation's relationship with the Church of Sweden, another full communion partner, led to very generous treatment when one of the parishes took the bold step to acquire its own building, at the time owned by the Church of Sweden.
In those cities with Episcopal, Church of England and/or Old Catholic parishes, there has been growing collaboration amongst the parishes, and this is seen as an area for growth throughout the Convocation.
The Convocation has warm collegial relationships with many Churches beyond the Anglican Communion. These occur notwithstanding the absence of formal links, e.g. through the various agreements such as Porvoo, Meissen and Bonn which bind together a number of European Churches. The relationships extend at the local level in some places to shared worship, common or combined outreach projects and joint use of space.
Naturally and inevitably in our setting in Europe, there is dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, and at local level in a number of cases, parishes and mission congregations have been given welcome support.
Other important connections are developed and strengthened through bodies such as the Council of Anglican Episcopal Churches in Germany (CAECG), the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen in Deutschland (ACK) (Council of Christian Churches in Germany) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC). In recent times, work has progressed in building a closer relationship with the Evangelische-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bavaria), which shows prospects of leading to full communion.
Partly because of location, the Bishop in Charge of the Convocation inevitably becomes involved in conversations with other churches and religions. Bishop Whalon has been instrumental in supporting interfaith conferences in Paris involving Jewish and Muslim leaders. His contacts with the bishops of Iraq and a visit there before the 2003 invasion led to his founding with Iraqi and French friends an association to help people receive asylum in France and adapt to life there. The Bishop in Charge receives many requests for help, of all kinds and from all quarters. Not least of these are from the Presiding Bishop’s Office and The Episcopal Church in general.
Due to our small Convocation staff, and realistic limitations on clergy, not nearly all the potential opportunities for mission and outreach have been tapped. We feel we have both much to offer and much to learn by working more closely with our Communion and ecumenical partners and neighbors.