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A series of essays towards General Convention in 2003

How will we discern?

How will we discern?

By The Rev. Hays Junkin
President of the Standing Committee, Diocese of New Hampshire

Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2003 7:49:51 -0500

Dear Bishops and Deputies,

I look forward to meeting you in a few weeks at General Convention. Mr. *****'s recent comments about New Hampshire's episcopal election causes me to "jump" into the ongoing discussion.

He refers to New Hampshire as a "small liberal state." I'd like to invite Mr. ****** to New Hampshire at his convenience. As chaplain to the House of Representatives, I'd be glad to introduce him to all the liberals in the house. Not many. We are a small conservative state that lives by the motto "live free or die." New Hampshire Episcopalians know and trust Gene Robinson as a decent, honest, and holy man.

Mr. ******'s later reference to this election being "agenda driven" could not be farther from the truth. Our only agenda from the beginning has been to find the best person to serve in partnership with us as we move ahead following the strong episcopal leadership of Douglas Theuner. Our process has been open, fair, transparent, and Spirit driven throughout. I could not be more proud of those who have given countless hours of their time to participate in this process. Our process indeed witnesses to the strength and health of this good diocese. The result?

We offered the diocese five (and then four) wonderful nominees, all of whom would serve us well as our next bishop. These nominees became our friends and we grew to love and respect them for their strong witness to Jesus Christ and for their humanity. It is insulting to us, to our nominees, and to the Holy Spirit to suggest that we had "a means to an end" in mind during this process.

To date this process has cost the diocese in excess of $85,000.00. Even a "liberal" yankee wouldn't stand still for that sort of "issue driven" expense! Trust me. We are very proud of our transition process and thankful to God for all the gifts bestowed upon this diocese.

Mr. ***** also writes:

I wonder how we can be so bold, any of us, to think we have spoken by our voting for the whole church, especially when our voting makes decisions and statements about which we know the vast majority of the church is in turmoil.

Would this include the consents given by Bishops and Standing Committees to the election of Barbara Harris who, shockingly, is still not recognized by most of the provinces of the Anglican Communion? Did her consecration stop the theological debate about the place of women in the church?

Bishop-Elect Gene Robinson
Further, as bishop, Gene Robinson would (as he does now) only function in dioceses where the diocesan gave his or her permission. We do not seek to impose our view of an open and inclusive ministry on any other diocese or province; why do others seek to impose their views and interpretation of Holy Scripture on us?. Are we not the "Anglican Communion" where there has always been room for lively disagreement and discussion in the context of our joint prayer and praise of God? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US??? We seek only to follow the ministry that we believe the Holy Spirit is calling us to. Will this be a model for the entire Church? Like women's ordination, time will tell, but even in the midst of our discernment and disagreement can we not come to the altar together to be in communion with Him who is the full truth and life?

Mr. ***** writes:

This controversy may offer a clear sign that at this moment electing a practicing homosexual person to be a bishop is jumping the gun and short circuiting the larger ongoing theological thought process and disrupting the unity of the church universal.

Could Mr. **** please point out where this "ongoing theological thought process" is happening? Are the southern hemisphere or African provinces participating in this discussion? Are they listening to the stories of gay and lesbian Christians, a much neglected and seldom implemented part of the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that is so often quoted? Have they invited gay and lesbian members of the church to their dioceses to witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and to learn about their ministries?

Finally, many have asked about Gene's "relationship outside of marriage." Is this a wholesome example to the flock of Christ? Certainly this is a issue for the Church to address in the question of the blessing of same gender relationships. As a delegate to General Convention, I have this question: How can we say on one hand that gay and lesbian members of the church are not "wholesome examples" because they are not united in a lifelong covenant relationship blessed by God, and then on the other hand refuse to offer them this blessing? How can we in good conscience do this? Like Paul, who saw the integrity and faith of the gentile members of his church --- despite criticism from others --- I see the work and life of members of this church who happen to be gay or lesbian. By their fruits you shall know them, says the Bible, and I can tell you of many life giving examples of how the grace of God is working through Gene Robinson to embrace all the people of this diocese...! those who agree with his lifestyle and even those who don't. The point of our Communion is not AGREEMENT, but FAITH in Jesus Christ our Lord. Gene and Mark have been faithful partners for over 14 years who seek only to be full members of this Church and to excersize their ministries. Our electing convention, on June 7, 2003, elected Gene as our next bishop knowing him fully as a strong and faithful Christian. We know Gene and Mark to be wholesome examples to the flock of Christ. Does honesty about who we are as children of God count for anything? Gene and Mark have never hidden who they are and how they feel about each other. Gene's children have embraced Mark and love him as a true member of their family. The people of our diocese accept Gene and Mark for who they are, and have transcended the question of sexuality to see the higher and more profound examples of how their life together mirrors the grace of God for all people. But this has always been true in the beloved "live free or die" state and diocese.

As we come to General Convention. I hope that each bishop and delegate will take the opportunity to meet our bishop coadjutor-elect, or to speak with someone who knows him from first hand experience. You will find in him not a gay bishop-elect, but a very decent and holy man, who happens to be gay, and honest about it.

May the peace of the Lord be always with you!

The Reverend Hays M. Junkin
President of The Standing Committee
New Hampshire C-2 [Clergy Deputy No. 2]

You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.


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