May 22, 2013, CAMBRIDGE, MA – A panel with honorary degree recipients was held at Episcopal Divinity School on Wednesday. The Right Rev. Michael Curry, Jamie Bissonette Lewey, and the Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory Straub, who are to receive doctor of divinity degrees at the EDS commencement ceremony on May 23, spoke about their lives and offered details about their ministerial work.
The panel, moderated by the Rev. Margaret Rose, deputy for ecumenical and interfaith collaboration for the Episcopal Church, and a Procter Scholar at EDS, was equal parts informal and insightful. The three speakers provided anecdotes – both lighthearted and poignant – underscoring the uniqueness of their experiences.
The Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory Straub, who retired in January as Executive Officer of the General Convention and Secretary of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, talked about the Church’s transformation towards openness and inclusion through the years. Today’s Church is a “world away from the Church of the first General Convention that I was a part of,” he said. “What the Church has come to understand of itself is that its members, and those it seeks to attract as members, want to see somewhere within the church’s leadership persons like themselves.” Regarding his time as executive officer for the General Convention, Straub said that it was a pleasure to serve, before adding, “When I say pleasure, that’s what I mean.”
Jamie Bissonette Lewey, chair of the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission and coordinator of the Healing Justice Program for the American Friends Service Committee in New England, introduced herself in her native language. She then shared her experiences of working for transformative justice. Lewey stressed the need to think differently about the criminal justice system and mentioned that possessing the “resources to be responsible” is a step forward in healing a broken system. She added that learning to reconcile and to love can effectively tackle tribal and criminal justice and human rights issues. “Do we continue on this journey together?” she asked, in closing.
The Right Rev. Michael Curry, eleventh Bishop of North Carolina, talked about his experience of serving as rector at St. James’ Church in Baltimore during the 1980s. Speaking about the gang violence and drugs endemic during that time, Bishop Curry told the audience of his belief that “God did not put us on this earth simply to consume the oxygen.” He recounted the frequent turf wars and the deaths of young gang members during this time, and spoke of his realization that “our salvation is tied to their salvation.” “No, we are not here to consume oxygen,” Bishop Curry restated. “God put us here to change the world.”