The General Convention arrives in Austin, Texas, for the first two weeks of July. Not the hottest month of the year—but close. It is being held at the Austin Convention Center, in downtown. The convention center is a sprawling complex of meeting halls, exhibit halls, ballrooms, and conference rooms. Every year, the famous South by Southwest (SxSW) Conference and Festival occupies these same spaces. The Episcopal Church and the Music Capital of the World are colliding in a seismic expression of all obsessions Texas and all fascinations Episcopal.
Another seismic collision took place here 300 million years ago and formed the Ouachita Mountains. These ancient hills flattened and gave way to Balcones Escarpment. This fault zone is the route Interstate 35 (I-35) runs along. I-35 is one of two main arteries of Austin, the other is Route 1, affectionately called MoPac (mow-Pack), after the Missouri-Pacific railroad. To go north or south in Austin a person will inevitably travel on I-35 or MoPac. Like the human body, these left and right carotid arteries of the body of Austin are important to the life of the city. When they get clogged with traffic the whole city is stuck. This happens. A lot.
The Christian church has been formed over two millennia of collisions. The fault lines of the faith are exposed whenever the church gathers in council. The General Convention is no stranger to collision and the beauty and pain that comes from the clash of theological and ecclesial impacts. The body politic of the convention has a complicated circulatory system with a left and right carotid artery in its House of Deputies and House of Bishops. If either one of these arteries gets clogged, it resembles the traffic of Austin on a bad day. Nothing happens, or little does, and the result is frustration, and sometimes worse – road rage.
The temperature of the American culture resembles July in Texas. There is much happening and not happening. All doesn’t mean all. Me too is too common. Allies are strangers. Strangers are allies. Disruption and distrust are in the deeds of damned and the decent. And as usual, children are in the middle and suffer the most. All the while the adults quote Holy Scripture and clog their arteries with the plaque of self-righteousness, causing a hardness of heart and a societal stroke that leaves the culture paralyzed and slow in speech.
Into this traffic comes the 79th General Convention. Into Austin comes the beauty of a multinational church. Into the mess of the current world comes the Jesus Movement – a revival of the faithful called in the name of Jesus to a ministry that is loving, liberating and life-giving. The body of Jesus does not only move north and south, but east and west, and all points in between. Jesus moves along the fault lines of earth, and in each of Jesus’ movements, there is release from the atrophy caused by each passing generation. Into the hash tag fray comes the General Convention with one goal in mind: to make the church healthier, stronger, and more ready for the work of God in the world. All the church’s hopes and dreams may not be achieved this time around, but at least there will be good work in rerouting the traffic off the clogged arteries of the world. No short cut of ideas, but a strategy and a road map for the future.