A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
May 9, 2005
An Open Letter to the House of Bishops, Episcopal Church USA
To my brothers and sisters in Christ:
Please stop making my vocation more difficult than it already is. Rather, give me a vision of leadership which will inspire and bring about a unified response to the church’s mission of “restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
I serve as rector of Christ Church – Grosse Pointe, Michigan. In general, Grosse Pointe is a politically and fiscally conservative community. Much of its conservative nature is also present in the pews of its various churches. Christ Church, while certainly reflecting the community, also reflects the diversity in regard to the spectrum of theological thought found across our church in this country. We, like all worshipping communities, have had our issues to deal with. Thankfully we have dealt with those on a more local level rather than carrying on about “what General Convention of ’03 has gone and done.”
However, each time you, the House of Bishops, acts out in a manner which - if not immature, is certainly confusing – it causes unsettling waves to spread throughout the church. These waves you make are in no way big enough to topple this wonderful church. But it sure seems as though you, as a body, are bound and determined to do us in.
March 15th, at your House of Bishops’ Spring Meeting at Camp Allen, you produced what I and many of my parishioners and colleagues believed to be a wonderful response to the Windsor Report. This Covenant Statement finally seemed to indicate that you are putting your house in order. I have not been more proud of my bishops in a long time as I was when your covenant statement was released. The work it must have taken you to reach your decisions clearly was Spirit driven. I thanked God you were willing to listen to the Holy Spirit.
However, within three weeks and a day, twenty-one of you chose to act out in a manner certainly not becoming of the previous covenant you all established, by writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury and requesting a meeting with him without notifying your own Presiding Bishop. Often when such behavior occurs those of you on the opposite side of the issue seem only to use the media as a response to your fellow bishops, or act out in an equally unilateral way. Can you imagine the wonderment going on in our pews about such inconsistent behavior? How do you hold one another accountable and responsive to the covenants you establish? What motivates you to remain committed (or not) to these covenant statements? Presently your public behavior implies you are struggling with these concerns. I often wonder if any of you, regardless of your theological positions, ever feel safe in your work together.
I can attest that many persons in our pews do not get anxious about your inconsistent and immature behavior. Rather they just shake their heads in wonderment and in some cases amusement about you. That is truly unfortunate.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, with all sincerity I acknowledge and respect the weightiness of your collective and individual ministries. I look for your leadership and wisdom as I serve as Christ’s servant. I choose to be a Christian within the boundaries of the Episcopal Church because of our polity, our worship, our history and our way of being.
Please, on behalf of this individual servant of Christ, I plead my case to you and beg that you indeed endeavor to respect one another and act accordingly. We have work to be done which is impeded by the confusion of covenant making followed by covenant breaking. Christ is waiting and would rather not fail because we, His hands in the world, are too busy acting as immature siblings rather than the faithful servants He calls us to be.
Sincerely and with daily prayers offered on your behalf,
The Reverend Bradford G. Whitaker
cc: Parishioners of Christ Church, Grosse Pointe;
Office of the Diocese of Michigan
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