Bp. Shahan's Explanation

Bp. Shahan's Explanation


This issue of the Arizona Episcopalian is devoted to a piece of writing I have done on the topic of being the church called to a more inclusive posture in relation to all of its members. I want to introduce you to a bit of the process that led to this teaching before you read the document itself.

I believe you all know I have not taken a public stand around any of the issues of human sexuality during the past six years. I have not signed any petitions, statements, or papers drafted by others. I have intentionally kept my own counsel as a way of being a sign of unity in the Diocese of Arizona. My concern was that my stance on an issue of the church not be a source of debate and division. My preference was that the discussion center on the issues and not on my position.

My experience of the Lambeth Conference and my prayerful reflection on that experience brought me to the point where I felt led by the Holy Spirit to write what we are calling The Epistle. This is written in humility as a Gospel teaching from the Bishop and not simply a statement of my position.

The Epistle does not represent a change of policy but rather a change of perspective. I have made a commitment to work and speak for a more inclusive church along the lines of the teaching and it is my prayer that the church will become more accepting and supportive of all of its members.

In all likelihood the issues raised in this teaching will not intrude upon the lives of individual persons in any noticeable way. The call is for the church to rise to a new level of Gospel conversation. I believe the Holy Spirit is calling for a change of hearts rather than a change of minds.

The question of motivation has arisen in conversations with members of the clergy in recent days. Some persons want to know why I am writing this document now. They want to know what has changed.

I can tell you with all candor that there is nothing in this experience that will benefit me personally. The easiest thing for me to do would be to keep on as I have for the past six years and say nothing on the topic of human sexuality. I present this teaching to you with the knowledge that there is some risk involved and that some of you will not agree with what I say. I cannot, however, ignore what I experience as the call of the Holy Spirit to speak a word of hope and reconciliation to the church.

Those of you who know me well or who have followed my writings and teachings of the past six years know I am not a wild-eyed radical from the lunatic fringe. I seek to be a servant of the Gospel who speaks the truth as it is given to me. I am not joining up with a cause or campaign. I am simply telling you what I believe it means to be the Body of Christ.

The phrase popular among some young people is found on bracelets many of them wear. This bracelet has the letters "WWJD" on the top. It stands for "What Would Jesus Do?" It is a call for them to be aware of the choices they make in their lives and to remind them of a higher value than what might be presented by peers or sometimes their own inclinations.

This phrase is in the back of my mind as I offer this teaching to the Diocese of Arizona. I assure you with all my heart that I am convinced the Gospel teaching compels all of us to put down prejudice, malice, judgment, self- righteousness, fear, worry, anger, and all of the things that separate us from one another. Open your hearts and receive the message.

We Are One!


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