As The Episcopal Church of the United States opened its General Convention, two leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh shared their reflection on the rebuilding of the diocese.

Bishop Robert H. Johnson, along with the Rev. Dr. James Simons, the Standing Committee President, joined representatives of three other “continuing” dioceses in the evening of July 7 for a live webcast from the General Convention site in Anaheim.

Bishop Johnson spoke of the call to reconcile and rebuild.

“I felt the power of that call,” he said in telling of why he accepted an invitation to come out of retirement and serve as Assisting Bishop in Pittsburgh. “That was something I couldn’t just willy-nilly say, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’ I felt called to come and be part of a continuing diocese of our church which felt strengthened in their mission and ministry and wanted help in rebuilding the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.”

The Bishop went on to describe Pittsburgh as a “wonderfully vibrant, alive city” with 28 parishes that decided to stay with the Episcopal Church. “We might be smaller and leaner, but we have every bit the love of Jesus in our hearts,” the Bishop told the webcast.

Dr. Simons spoke of an emotional greeting awaiting him at the convention.

“A deputy came up to me, stopped me in the hallway, put his hands on my shoulders, and literally with tears in his eyes, said to me, ‘Jim, I know that we disagree on a lot of things, but I’m so glad you are here. I need you in my church.’”

Representatives of the Dioceses of Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin also spoke of feeling welcomed again at General Convention. All four dioceses experienced a split as former bishops and their followers left the Episcopal Church. Many recounted their struggles – and joy – in rebuilding their congregations and ministries.

Katie Sherrod, a Deputy from Fort Worth, shared the story of a woman who broke into tears when the Presiding Bishop processed to begin the Eucharist at their Special Convention. “Katherine stopped the procession, put her arms around the woman and said, ‘It is going to be alright,’” Ms Sherrod said, echoing, “It is going to be alright.”

The webcast can be viewed on-demand at the General Convention’s Media Hub, http://gchub.episcopalchurch.org.

See Episcopal Life Online’s  "Renewing dioceses embrace mission, evangelism" at http://www.episcopal-life.org/81803_112071_ENG_HTM.htm for more.

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