A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By Kate Bishop
Beloved in Christ,
After many days of intense discussion and prayerful consideration, with a deep awareness of Christ's love and grace surrounding us and the Holy Spirit speaking in and through us, we have come to the following:
We are blessed with many commonalities, foremost being our Christian heritage and the promise of love, salvation and forgiveness surpassing all human understanding. We are assured of these things through the persons of the Trinity, whose presence has been made available to us in every way we require to sustain our love in, by and through a loving God. We resolve to begin and end our coming together in thanksgiving for our lives and our communion with the Holy Eucharist. In the breaking of the bread we are reminded of our own brokenness and in the cup of thanksgiving we celebrate the gift of love, sacrifice, forgiveness and grace bestowed on each and all through Christ's humanity, divine love and sacrifice.
We share a common respect, reliance and reverence for Holy Scripture and our continuing commitment to open hearts and minds so that we may receive, embrace and apply its continuing revelations in our lives and our churches. We resolve to renewed efforts in spending more time with scripture and prayerful consideration of its message of redemption, love, and social justice. We also resolve to use our leadership and pastoral role to ensure that all clergy and laity make scripture a centerpiece of worship and mission along with the resources to interpret these words in the context of current understanding and knowledge. As human beings, we understand that intelligence; choice and growth are divine gifts necessitating change. It is our charge and challenge to discern what change is an expression of God's love in the world and what is not and to look to Holy Scripture to assist us in that discernment. By necessity, interpretation of these words are dynamic and subject to change through new insights via the Holy Spirit.
We are blessed with a tradition and history uniquely Anglican in the Christian world. We see Canterbury as the symbol of that history and will continue to affirm the special pastoral and leadership role of the ABC. We intend to use that tradition and its via media expression as reflected by others, to guide us through the challenges before us now and in the future. We rely on respectful listening, prayerful discernment , The Holy Eucharist and a commitment to live in tension and community through change or disagreement, to sustain us. Appreciating the fact that we come from many cultures, languages and backgrounds and that we come to Christ and Anglicanism through a variety of histories and understandings, we will strive to respect those differences while relying on our commonalities in sacrament, liturgy and via media to sustain and nurture us.
We acknowledge that polity varies greatly among us and that some are democratic and some are not, with various degrees of transparency and process, timeliness and procedure. All are unique and represent the cultural, political, economic and spiritual evolution of each area and people. We commit ourselves to honor those polities by informing ourselves about their function and procedure so that resolutions to any controversy may be applied with full consideration of due process for all involved. We commit to each other to make knowledge and understanding of our own traditions and procedures fully available to all to ensure that due process can be achieved and the integrity of each region and its administrative structure will be honored.
We recognize that among our commonalities there is an essential yearning for the knowledge, presence and love of God. That this hunger is universal and whether expressed in the physical or the spiritual, it is foremost a call to mission and evangelism to which we must respond. It is the first priority of what we do and are as a Communion. All other needs are of concern, but not of the first order. As we have pledged to honor our own diversity and polity, contained in our unique histories and cultures, we will also honor the diverse backgrounds of those we serve in our evangelism. As servant leaders, we will approach mission and evangelism with respect and consideration for the culture and context of those who we serve. We see much of the world in crisis and a terrible imbalance between those living in abject poverty and subsequent illness, disease, violence and war while others have wealth and an abundance of resources. We hear the love of Christ calling us to address these glaring inequities. In humility and without judgment, we call upon each other and the world to relieve these urgent needs and to share the wealth and resources among us as God intended us to do. We are challenged to identify those inequities, the tools that are needed to relieve them and with love make their application just, effective, merciful and as immediate as our human limitations and God's intervening grace will enable us.
We acknowledge and commend the work of the Lambeth Commission and its Windsor Report. It's intention to guide us through a process of identifying barriers to achieving and maintaining communion in love and respect and creating tools to address these barriers, is before us. The Report is the product of a group and a process characterized by diversity of opinion and respectful listening. Its' intent to fulfill the charge of the ABC to examine controversy and how such matters can be processed among us while remaining in full communion, has been addressed. Its' suggestions for structural or administrative changes to keep us in good stead during current and future disagreements, are worthy of our continued attention and consideration. We will institute some administrative changes immediately. Others, which are more complex and have implications for the character and polity of the Communion as a whole, will be discussed for some time. We will take on this discussion within the context of our determination to retain what is characteristically Anglican in our history and that is our ability to live in tension while substantive change is before us and our commitment to listen respectfully to those with whom we disagree. We will also allow enough time for all parties to engage fully in the integrity of their own polity so that primates, bishops and laity will be empowered to participate with the full input and understanding of the churches/regions they represent.
We also acknowledge that the most current controversy and the one that has prompted the Windsor Report, is our diversity of opinion on the matter of human sexuality and more specifically, homosexuality. The recent ordination of an openly gay bishop in ECUSA and the ACC church's decisions to bless same gender unions, is seen by several regions and their primates as deeply offensive and a threat to the integrity of their own region and the Anglican Communion. There can be no doubt that feelings are very strong and run deep on this matter. It is also true that feelings are very strong and run deep in the west where much of this change is occurring. There is apparent pain and suffering on both sides since no substantive social or cultural change happens without struggle, resistance and the very real pain which comes from the uncertainty of change. We agree that offenses have occurred on both sides of the issue and we resolve to heal those wounds and develop tools and procedures to ensure that they do not re-occur. We recognize that each region with its own history is experiencing justice, change and evolution in different ways. We intend to proceed by:
Refraining from interventions violating the integrity of any region's administrative structure
In the spirit of respecting the dignity of every human being and the integrity of each region's policy, we will hold a place at the table for all who are qualified by their churches through there own due process, to be there. WE cannot hope to reach a better understanding of the issue or the persons carrying it by their absence. It is via media which enables us to sit, break bread and converse with those with whom we disagree. It is only by listening and relationship that we can hope to understand what it is we must be concerned about. Since the issue revolves around the full inclusion of a group of people, it is a serious matter from a spiritual and scriptural perspective. We are called by God to love and welcome all. It is the greatest commandment. We are also called to respect the differences among ourselves in this issue. We will listen to our brothers and sisters to discern the path most helpful to all.
We declare that the Anglican Communion is a heterogeneous body of many differing traditions and polity. That while we may differ in our polity and tradition, none are affirmed or legitimized over others by their presence as participants in the Communion. On many matters we agree to disagree but we are all called to live out Christ's love in the world and to minister to those in need. Therefore our purpose in gathering is the essence of who we are, not the identity of individual participants or the polity they may represent.
We will continue our conversations among us related to homosexuality, our biblical, social and spiritual positions and their implications. We will listen to those whose lives and participation are now a matter of concern and conflict. We are called to do this by two Lambeth Conventions and we must respond to maintain our own integrity. We intend to become informed and fully open to gay and lesbian persons in our churches. We will choose formats that will uphold their right to speak and participate with due consideration to the conflicting positions in our midst and the constituencies they must answer to.
We look forward to continued input and suggestions from all corners of the communion as we proceed on our journey. As difficult and challenging as our current issues are, we believe that our call to evangelism unites us in purpose and love. WE are uniquely qualified to bring relief to a broken world and one in which we are interdependent in ways never before experienced in our history. It is with God's love and guidance that peace, justice healing and love can be in the world, ministering to others and benefiting all. We are sorely needed and it is enough to make us whole, at peace with each other and serving the world whose people are treasures and divine gifts to all.
Amen. (Kate in Teetering imagining what might be said in Ireland)
My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.... and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.
Audre Lorde 1935-1992
You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.
- The Series: `Do Justice'. http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/dojustice/dojustice.html
- Angels Unawares: Strangers Who Have Changed Your Life
- Assays. A Series of reflections before GC 2000 http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/assays.html
- Joy Anyway!. Reflections and Visions of Anglican Pilgrims. http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/joy.html
- Louie Crew's Anglican pages: http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/rel.html
- Louie Crew's home page: http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew
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