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The third day of the Forum of Active Bishops’ meeting in San Diego began with a keynote address from Lt. General James Dubik, a retired Army general who shared lessons in leadership and change management gleaned from an exemplary 40-year military career. Gen. Dubik used his organizational skills to guide the U.S. Army through a time of transition. Now a consultant for the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, he has utilized his expertise in transforming organizations to help the Catholic Church in the U.S.
Dubik said that, as a baptized Christian , he felt a duty to his church. “That was the sense of the 35 of us who started the roundtable. We have a duty to the church and we’re going to do it, like it or not,” he said.
The bishops also heard from the Rev. Dr. Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain. Atkins said that he was encouraging Methodist leaders to do three things: 1) to tell a new story, talking about who we are becoming; 2) engage in holy risk-taking, believing that holiness and risk belong together; and 3) encourage people who take risks, allow them to fail and still support them.
The morning’s worship experience, led by Bishop Patrick Streiff of the Central and Southern Europe Episcopal Area, focused on the theme, “Come walk with us, the journey is long.” He asked participants to center themselves around their calling into ministry.
In the afternoon, the bishops journeyed to the U.S. – Mexico border to learn more about the people who live and work near the border and the issues they face. “Consider what it means to live in poverty amidst great wealth,” said Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Los Angeles Episcopal area. “Consider the impact on families on all sides of the border. Consider the great mission opportunity that exists for the church.”
The bishops divided into four groups, each with different itineraries. A loaf of bread for Communion was divided into quarters, with each group carrying a piece of the loaf. At the end of the afternoon, the four groups converged at Friendship Park for a Holy Communion service, separated by the border wall – some on the Mexico side of the border and some on the U.S.
The Rev. John Fanestil said that he began serving Communion in Friendship Park in 2008 to stand in solidarity with families who meet there. “For some families, it’s the only place they get to see loved ones.”
The visit was a learning experience for the bishops, who met with Mario Lopez, a representative of the San Diego mayor’s office at San Ysidro and viewed the pedestrian bridge leading into Tijuana. At another stop, they met with Enrique Morones, director of the Border Angels, a volunteer non-profit organization that advocates for human rights and immigration reform through community education and awareness programs.
One group of bishops hiked 1½ miles to Friendship Park through the Tijuana Estuary, one of the last undeveloped areas in the region. Another group crossed the border into Mexico to the Plaza del Bordo, an open-air migrant encampment to distribute health kits to the community. They also visited a ministry of the Methodist Church of Mexico.
“Today was a powerful reminder of the relationship we have with the struggles of migrant people and with strangers all over the world,” said Bishop Warner Brown of the San Francisco Episcopal Area. “They're people, they're families, just like families that live here, and many of them are directly related to people who have been here for centuries.”
“I come from a country which was divided through a wall and fences for 40 years,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the Germany Episcopal Area who was reminded of the similarities.
“The division of families, the division of the church, sisters and brothers here and there, the division of neighborhoods – that was exactly the same. I’m so happy that the church is in ministry here at that border. The congregation meeting there Sunday by Sunday is such a witness that through Christ and in Christ and in God's love, any border does not matter because we know that God's love is for all people and we work for justice so that families can live together.”