Self Differentiation and Communion

I have rarely been prouder to be a part of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops than I was today. With care and sensitivity to one another, we found a way to be clear and self-differentiated as a House, provide leadership and yet seek consultation with the wider Church — clergy and laity — and re-affirm our desire to remain part of the Anglican communion: as an autonomous, yet interdependent reality.

We passed three resolutions:

1. Resolving that we wish to remain part of the Anglican Communion, but expressing our opinion that the proposed “pastoral scheme” of the Dar es Salaam Communique would be injurious to the Episcopal Church and urging the Executive Council to decline to participate in it, while pledging to continue to work to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the Primates that are compatible with our own polity and canons.

2. We invited the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates’ Standing Committee to meet with us at our expense for three days of prayer and conversation regarding these important matters.

3. And we passed a three-page Communication to the Episcopal Church from the House of Bishops summarizing our hopes and aspirations about the Communion, recounting what we have already done as a Church to meet the concerns of the Communion and what we will not do, and pledging ourselves to certain actions in the future.

The debates and decisions were carried out without rancor and by strong majorities. If anyone has any doubts about where the bishops of this Church stand, the communication you will see in the next several days should make that clear. In the words of the Communication’s concluding paragraph:

“With this affirmation both of our identity as a Church and our affection and commitment to the Anglican Communion, we find new hope that we can turn our attention to the essence of Christ’s own mission in the world, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Lk. 4:18-19). It is to that mission that we now determinedly turn.” 

  

28 Responses to “Self Differentiation and Communion”

  1. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    I was extremely proud of the House when I read the resolutions. I am pleased you had the same reaction. Thank you.

  2. Scott Gunn Says:

    Bishop Epting,

    It was nice to meet you (briefly!) in Tanzania, and I’ve been meaning to express my gratitude for your witness there and in this blog. So, thanks!

    This is, I think, a very good day for the HoB and for our church.

    Peace,
    Scott+

  3. Richard Helmer Says:

    Bishop Epting,

    Thank you, and thank you to all the House of Bishops for clarity and the strength found in humble solidarity. The Spirit moved.

    I am grateful to count myself led by Christians such as these.

  4. obadiahslope Says:

    The minority in TEC are left wondering what “intentional care ” might mean. Any idea what was meant, Bishop?

  5. rob roy Says:

    “In truth, the number of those who seek to divide our Church is small, and our Church is marked by encouraging signs of life and hope.”

    No, in truth, you have no idea how many episcopalians oppose or support your views. There was an attempt to poll the laity some years ago, but it was squelched by Griswold. The last serious attempt to gauge the opinion of the laity was in the 1980’s. It’s been “don’t ask, don’t tell” since then.

    What encouraging signs, pray tell? There are none. Please, point out any signs that are not of death and despair for the TEC. The announced 3.8 million dollar deficit? Which diocese actually grew (meaning faster than their population, otherwise, that’s called shrinking)? Answer: South Carolina, whom the national church just spurned. Now, imagine Falls Church/Truro in all the dioceses. The national church and David Beers won’t be able to lend their weight to all the dioceses. The considerable endowment, to which my parents gave for the advancement of His Kingdom will vanish in less than a decade.

    Father, forgive them for they know not what they’ve done. The sad thing is that there are among you well informed who understand all and have proceeded knowing the cost in terms of the Church. They have willing put the church on the sacrificial pyre. Though, you deny it, you will come to know the very true reality of Hell. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

  6. rwk Says:

    I still do not understand. To me it sounds like the Episcopal Church is willing to accept “communion” only on its own terms. It does not matter what the broader communion thinks, the Episcopal Church will do as it pleases. The Episcopal Church was warned in 1998, 2003 and 2006 that its actions would damage the Communion and it did not heed the warning. The phrase that came out of GC03 was “It will all blow over.” It didn’t and still it does not seem to bother the leadership of the church.

    I will finally applaud the fact that the House of Bishops has spoken with an unusual degree of clarity for that body. For those of you who agree with this action, may God be with you. For others, including myself who in good conscience believe we are standing with the historic teaching of the church, you need to know that although you may think otherwise, to us it feels as if we have been driven from the Episcopal Church. We started out as respected equals, were then “tolerated”, then mariginalized and now — it’s just time to leave because there is only room for us if we sit quietly and do nothing.

    If you want to discuss this more as always, rwkachur@hotmail.com.

  7. rob roy Says:

    The TEC walks apart with KJS at the head. That certainly is a house divided. She called for B033, a “season of fasting”, primatial vicar, signed Tanzania communique, etc. Now that the TEC has rejected the AC, will KJS be next?

  8. Lois Keen Says:

    All these years, I and others who understand Christ and Christianity as I do have not left, have felt there might be no room for us, but did not sit quietly and do nothing. Even when we felt most marginalized, we did not leave. We were faithful. Now that our understanding of Christ’s gift of salvation seems more dominant, those who once hoped we woud sit quietly in a corner or leave believe this is the only route for them. I do not understand. Even in the days when the HoB tried to have GC establish a separate non-geographic province for people of color, and, having failed that, then went home and established the Suffragan Bishops to separate their people of color from the whites, the people of color did not leave the Episcopal Church. They made a place for themselves here. Even in the days when GC after GC refused to give seat, voice and vote to women, we women still made a place for ourselves in the church. (Note, “Made” a place for ourselves!) Even when GC after GC made it hard to be gay or lesbian in this church, our gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, children and friends remained faithful to this church. We did not leave. We made a place for ourselves and our families here. There were always places where we could be ourselves. Yet now that there is definitely a place for all people, those who do not want these things for us, say their only option is to remain silently in a corner or leave.
    Faithfully, Lois Keen

  9. ecubishop Says:

    Thank you Thomas, Scott, and Richard.

    Obadiah and RWK: I believe there is a re-doubled commitment on the part of bishops to reach out to those troubled by the “direction” of the Episcopal Church and to assure a place at the table for any who wish to find a way to stay togeher.

    Rob Roy: There are no doubt many who continue to disagree with the direction of the Episcopal Church — perhaps more than I think; perhaps fewer than you think. I grew up in the Diocese of South (then) Central Florida. We often disagreed with specific decisions of General Convention or the “national church.” But we knew that the mission of the Episcopal Church as a whole was much more important than our disagreements.

    I believe your predictions of the coming demise of the Episcopal Church are greatly exaggerated. As to whether I will come to know “the true reality of hell,” fortunately that judgement will be up to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and not up to you.

    Lois: Thank you for your eloquent testimony.

  10. obadiahslope Says:

    Lois,
    Perhaps part of the difference is this: perhaps the groups you mention had a hope or a vision that one day The Episcopal Church would adopt the policies they advocated. Do you think the new minority can reasonably hold a similar hope today?

  11. Trey R Says:

    Obadiahslope,
    I don’t think this is about “adopting the polices a certain group advocates.” For me, this is about giving any group (blacks, women, GLBT, etc) the ability to worship and serve the Lord to the fullest extent possible within the church. To proclaim that we are all God’s children and we are fully, and equally, part of the church and can bring our own special gifts to help serve the church and help do the Lord’s work.
    For those who do not want to support this path, this full inclusion, the question I ask is: how does this path restrict your ability to love and serve the Lord? No one is forcing anyone to attend same sex blessings if they do not wish. No one is forcing a GLBT clergy member on a parish or church. How does this full inclusion of all God’s children into his church limit, restrict, or constrain your ability to love and serve the Lord?

  12. puzzled Says:

    Rob Roy, how on earth do you manage to type and clutch your pearls at the same time?

  13. SInner Says:

    FIrst, the HOB statement has alread been accepted by the Network and the Global South Primates as the final definitive anwer on all the issues surrounding the commnion. Frankly the working there about accepting GBLT persons makes absolutely clear that the other moratoria are unacceptable to ECUSA: ECUSA will consequently be thrown out of the commuion forthwith.

    I believe there is a re-doubled commitment on the part of bishops to reach out to those troubled by the “direction” of the Episcopal Church and to assure a place at the table for any who wish to find a way to stay togeher.

    No, there isn’t. IF there was, why have the standing committess of the Network dioceses and FIF places like San Joaquin, Pittsbutgh and South Carolina all been scrambling to organise special dioesean conventions as soon as possible, to amend their canons and leave ECUSA?

    Frankly, for a Bishop, you’re completely clueless about what is about how hard ECUSA is about to be hit: I hope you have faith in David Beers, because that’s all that’s let to ECUSA now!

  14. karekin madteos, bsg Says:

    I was thrilled to have read the bishop’s “mind of the house” yesterday. it has been a good while since i felt proud to be an episcopalian. for the last couple of years, my life in this church has felt as though i was a bothersome tenant about to be evicted from my home.

    as a member of the glbt faithful, the bishop’s statements give me hope that my presence in this church will continue to be welcomed, celebrated, and honored along with all of my sisters and brothers.

    thank you bishop epting, and all of your colleagues in the house, for stating finally and unequivocally that this church’s mission will not be held hostage to intolerance.

  15. Linda in Iowa Says:

    Amen to karekin madteos’ message

    Tears streamed down my face as I read the bishops’ resolutions: both tears of relief and joy that my brothers and sisters in the house of bishops re-stated unequivocally that I and other faithful GLBT Episcopalians are fully included; and tears for those for whom this statement was not what they may have wanted. My heart goes out to them, as I know how painful it is to feel fearful or hurt because of the church.

    When one member of the Body suffers, we all suffer together. I hope we all can resist any temptation to turn our backs on one another, and instead walk the way of understanding and compassion together.

    Thank you, Bishop Epting. And thanks to all the bishops.

  16. Deacon Charlie Perrin Says:

    Knowing full well that people I love and respect will be dissappointed by this response from our bishops, I am joyful. This in my mind is an appropriate response to those who would fundamentally change the nature of anglicanism. This is an appropriate response to bullies, who would have us, as a Church, be something we are not, because they are offended by who we are and what we believe the Gospel to be.

    I am very sorry that they (Bishop Peter, et.al.) choose to separate from us. I am sorry that they choose to follow the letter of the Law rather than the spirit of the Law. I am sorry that they choose to ignore our Lord’s commandment that we love one another as He has loved us; a love for which He stretched out his arms upon the cross to embrace us all, even those of us who crucified him.

    But mostly I am sorry for their departure for we need them as we need all our Christian sisters and brothers with their diversity of thought and opinion; just as they need us and our thoughts and opinions. The things that unite us to them (and them to us): the Dominical Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, are far more potent than the petty human power oriented squables that have shattered the Church over the centuries. But I suppose that it is part of our fallen nature to put our petty issues over our Lord’s Sacraments.

    So I rejoice, but I pray for all of us who follow Jesus.

  17. JB Says:

    Lois and Bishop:

    How can we claim that the minority has anything other than the choice to “remain silently in the corner or to leave” in the face of what we did to South Carolina? Does anyone seriously think that Quincy or Fort Worth would be able to elect a bishop of their choosing and have him confirmed? Those in the pews in South Carolina only asked for the same consideration asked for by those in the pews New Hampshire, and they learned just how much space has been carved for all at the table in our current deliberations.

    Peace,

    JB

  18. ecubishop Says:

    SInner: I said we would work hard to keep a place at the table for those who wish to stay. Not those who wish to leave.

    JB: I believe any diocese (including Quincy or Ft. Worth) can elect a bishop of their choosing and have him confirmed — unless that bishop-elect makes it clear , even before his consecration, that he is preparing to attempt to lead his diocese out of the Episcopal Church.

  19. James Says:

    SInner,
    They aren’t scrambling to have special conventions. That was all organized months and months ago. Now they have most of the ducks in a row so they can scream martyr and persecution and flee for refuse to the Nigerian bigot.

    The rest of the AC (or what will be left of it after the Nigerian is through) better get ready because he is coming for them, next.

    In 50 years, i’ve hardly been more proud to be an Episcopalian — not sunce my priest marched with MLK Jr.

    My hat is off to the HOB for such a clear stand for human rights, Jesus, and against the despot pontiff.

  20. obadiahslope Says:

    Ecubishop,
    I am puzzled. Suppose a diocese elects a bishop wwho might be aginst the ordination of women or opposed to gay clergy. Yet the canons of TEC ISTM make it clear that wome and gays are not to be discriminated against in TEC. How can such a bishop swear to be loyal to the canons and doctrine of TEC? Surely you would agree that a degree of contortion is required?

  21. toujoursdan Says:

    Thanks to the HOB for shedding some much needed clarity.

    While I am joyful at the measured and well articulated response to a power grab by some Primates, I know that there are faithful Christians who may feel a need to depart, and their loss will be missed. I hope that any split will be temporary and that like the moral row over slavery in the 19th Century, the Spirit will eventually speak and the wounds healed.

    I will continue to pray that while your relationships with some partners may change that those who have come to depend on the TEC’s generous support in prayer and finances for aid and development can still be helped.

    Dan
    Gatineau, Québec Canada

  22. JB Says:

    Bishop:

    I have yet to see where Lawrence said that he would lead the diocese out. I have read that some believed that he would, but I have not seen anyone do much more than parse “intend.” Perhaps you can provide us with that tidbit of information. If he did say it, then the bishops were surely negligent in granting consent. If he did not, then the standing committees have made it plain that we want SC and other such dioceses either to sit silently in the corner or to leave. I think Obadiah is wrong in that it is graceiousness that will be required, a trait that seems sorely lacking on both sides.

    Peace,
    JB

  23. rwk Says:

    Lois and others,

    What I have seen is that the traditional orthodox teachings of Christianity are more and more mariginalized. I’ve sat in “Bible Studies” in a revisionist parish where when I spoke of Jesus rising physically, bodily from the dead and the importance of that fact I got looks of astonishment that anyone could be so silly as to actually “believe” that. “It’s a metaphor” or “It’s a literary device” but it certainly wasn’t “real”. I was already looked at suspiciously just because I walked in with my own Bible full of marks and notes. I was not invited back in to the “study” — no room. The trajectory has been steady and unmistakable. While traveling for work I got to spend Sunday after Sunday in a revisionist Church where the priest regularly quoted Camus, Sartre and Freud and at almost never Christ. All of these experiences have made me deeply suspicious.

    TEC has also been quite selective in its discipline. When the Spirit is doing a “new thing” the canons can be overridden. Women’s ordination? Non-celibate homosexual ordination? When you cross the leadership as matter of conscience you’ll feel the full weight of them. Connecticut, South Carolina and now the retired Bishop of MD.

    Finally, I am very aware of the fact that I could be wrong. I do know my history. It was not an easy decision to support separation from TEC. However, I’m not sure that my decision is the same thing as “a separate black province”. If God convicts me on this account, I’ll repent and return but until then in good conscience, I have to go. If the Spirit truly is present then I presume I will be forgiven and welcomed…in the interim I guess I will need to be forgiven seven times seventy.

  24. ecubishop Says:

    Obadiah:

    I’m not sure it’s so much “a degree of contortion” as another example of trying to make space for those who disagree. Bishops can be opposed to the ordination of women and still make provisions for them to go through the ordination process. Jack Iker does so. All bishops will allow celibate gay and lesbian persons to go through the ordination process and so could fulfill the intent of the canon at least on that level. We have said that both those who oppose and those who support the ordination of women and gay and lesbian persons have a place in this church.

  25. ecubishop Says:

    JB:

    I suppose it’s always a matter of “parsing” or interepretation of a person’s statements. All I’m saying is that apparantly a majority of Standing Committees (or was it really a majority…I’m not sure how the several “improperly marked” ballots plays into all this) believed he would and the majority of bishops believed he would not.

    I don’t know if Fr. Lawrence will let his name go forward again, but I frankly think he should…and make his position on this matter crystal clear.

  26. obadiahslope Says:

    Bishop,
    I wonder if your system would allow another Iker to get confirmed. I guess we will only know that when the situation next presents itself. The polity of my province, Australia, differs from yours in that bishops do not have to be nationally confirmed. I do wonder if that is a strength or a weakness. Our situationa allows our very different dioceses to co-exist.
    I would imagine at some stage in the future the sticking point for TEC will be a candidate for bishop who refuses to license non-celebate gay clergy. It is those dioceses most likely to elect such a person who must be wondering about their future in TEC. The bishop’s statements which rejected the primates’ scheme without suggesting an alternative can only have raised the anxiety level in those places. Do you think an alternative scheme will be put forward by the PB, the bishops or the Executive Council anytime soon?

  27. ecubishop Says:

    Obadiah:

    We have such a “scheme.” It is called “Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight” (DEPO) and it has been in place for a number of years. It is working in several places and could work in more, if the dioceses which alternative oversight would give it a try.

    The “Primatial Vicar” our Presiding Bishop has proposed would function in a similar manner. He would simply not be under the jurisdiction of overseas bishops (as in the “Pastoral Council”) but working with her and the local bishop to effect healing and reconciliation.

  28. obadiahslope Says:

    I would point to the number of congregations leaving for AMiA and CANA compared to local churches happy with DEPO, as evidence that however noble the intention, DEPO has failed to reassure. Were I an evangelical in TEC I would welcome the fact that DEPO might send a friendly face to visit and conduct confirmations, but I would still be concerned that there is no guarantee thet a local bishop will allow ordinands to attend an evangelical seminary so that a continuing supply of evangelical priests will be available.
    This is a real concern for evangelicals that is simply not addressed by DEPO. In conversation with Bill Carroll and other convinced-but-gentle prgressives it is clear to me that the ordination process in TEC is such that no such guarantee can be given. I hasten to add that I do not regard this as organised persecution in any sense but the simple outcome of the fate of ordinands being up to the examining committees and the individual bishops. Some progressive Bishops, such as Bruno, appear to have encouraged evangelicals in the past but a more organised scheme is needed. Call it DEPO plus if you will.
    I think the panel of reference report on Florida might have got the balance right : The local bishop is recignised, property remains with the diocese, plus some additional protections foir the dissidents.

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