My name is Mary Gray-Reeves. I look forward to meeting each of you! I come to this course as one who works full time in an established career. The SPP course is part of my sabbatical study this summer. I look forward to an intense experience of learning and transformation with all those who are participating in this course.
I am the Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, a geographical region stretching along our coast between Arroyo Grande in the south and Palo Alto in the north. We are 45 churches, several schools and service organizations. We are part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. I am one of approximately 50 women bishops (out of 850 or so bishops) in the world. I have served in this position for ten years and continue to be blessed by the diverse, challenging and rich experience of this work.
As a Christian Minister reconciliation is central to my values, theology and work. Each of our congregations, schools or organizations is set in a local context with particular social concerns and challenges. As a bishop, my role is one of pastoral and strategic oversight, supporting congregations in their local ministries and in helping them to connect to the wider world. Sometimes church groups find themselves in conflict internally even as they seek to be a presence of reconciliation in their community. The conflicts can range from inter-personal estrangement to differences between deeply held theological or moral beliefs. Part of my work is to support a congregation through their work of healing and reconciliation so they may move forward in their call to love and serve in the wider world.
As a global church, the work of reconciliation includes relationships with people in other countries. An example of this global work, and one that has been an important context for my learning about Peacebuilding is a partnership our diocese shares with The Diocese of Western Tanganyika in western Tanzania and the Diocese of Gloucester in England. We have been in conversation and active in mission together since 2009. It has been for me personally (and I can say also for our whole diocese) an important context for reflection and the practice of peacebuilding, peacemaking and reconciliation.
In brief, the three dioceses came together initially to dialogue about human sexuality, since The Episcopal Church (made up of 11 countries but largely represented by the United States) ordained an openly gay, partnered man (Gene Robinson, 2003) to be a bishop. This remains highly controversial in the worldwide church and in the world of religion in general. Our more liberal stance on human sexuality is perceived as a source of division and brokenness by many – and conversely a source of liberation by others.
Our partnership engaged over several years in deep and honest conversation about our differences and where we could seek commonality. We continue now to build relationships and support our local contexts in mission, while authentically and respectfully owning our differences. Our efforts require our constant discipline and intention. It is not easy work.
Finally, I include a picture from my first visit to Western Tanganyika of myself and a Burundi refugee woman living there. Certainly, a new world opened for me on that journey. I never learned this woman’s name, but the photo reminds me that in whatever way we can reach toward one another, something can be offered for the healing of the world. The joy we shared that day remains inspirational for me.
The skills I have learned from both local and overseas efforts have taught me much about Peacemaking, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation. And there is so much more to learn. Through this course I seek to deepen my knowledge and practice for this important work. I look forward to learning with you!