Of interest: Presiding Bishop’s Pentecost letter

May 7, 2008

[Episcopal News Service]

In this season: Pentecost 2008
A Letter to The Episcopal Church

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we come to the end of Eastertide and the feast of Pentecost, we shift to an awareness of God present with us in Holy Spirit. The early church marked that gift as inspiration, fire, and language — the breath of ever-new life and the burning desire for ongoing relationship with God. That gift of Holy Spirit keeps us lively and moving, bears us into new territory and challenges unsought.

In this as in every age, we face issues of identity, vocation, and mission as members of the Body of Christ. Entering the long season of Pentecost brings our focus to how we, too, will follow Jesus inspired by Holy Spirit. I would like to offer a few reminders about identity, vocation, and mission that I shared recently with the people of the Diocese of San Joaquin:

1) Jesus is Lord. In the same sense that early Christians proclaimed that Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord, remember that no one else — not any hierarch, not any ecclesiastical official, not any one of you — is Lord.  We belong to God, whom we know in Jesus, and there is no other place where we find the ground of our identity.

2) We are all made in the image of God. Even when we can’t see that image of God immediately, we are challenged to keep searching for it, especially in those who may call us enemy.

3) In baptism we discover that we are meant to be for others, in the same way that God is for us.  This means that God’s mission must be the primary focus, not anything that focuses on our own selves to the exclusion of neighbor. For when we miss the neighbor, we miss God.

4)  None of us is alone. We cannot engage the fullness of God’s mission alone, nor know the fullness of God’s reality alone. Together as members of the Body of Christ, we can begin to try. And the Spirit, burning fire, inspiring breath, and speaking in many tongues, is present in that Body, empowering and emboldening and strengthening our work. Thanks be to God who continually makes us new.

Your servant in Christ,

+Katharine Jefferts Schori


Of interest: PB to bishops on process, canons

May 7, 2008

[Episcopal News Service] In an April 30 letter to the House of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has reviewed and commented on process related to deposition, inhibition, renunciation and resignation of bishops. The full text of  the Presiding Bishop’s letter, posted by email at 10:30 a.m. on April 30, follows here.

April 30, 2008

For the House of Bishops

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:Inasmuch as the past several weeks have involved some significant situations, I thought it would be helpful to review and comment on process. First, regarding deposition for “abandonment of the communion of The Episcopal Church,” it is important to remember that such an act is not by definition punitive, but does give formal recognition to a reality already taking place. Once the Title IV Review Committee has certified that a bishop has abandoned the communion of this Church under Title IV, Canon 9, the bishop in question is given sixty days to respond.

During this sixty day period, Title IV has a provision for temporary inhibition of the bishop by the Presiding Bishop with the consent of the three senior active bishops of the Church. These bishops who must consent to the temporary inhibition do not, however, have a veto over consideration of the merits of the deposition by the House of Bishops, any more than those who must consent to temporary inhibitions in other circumstances have a veto over consideration of the charges by a trial court. This understanding of the canon is held not only by my Chancellor, but also by members of the Title IV Review Committee including an attorney who is an original member of the Committee, the chancellors of several dioceses who have been consulted, and the former Chair of both the Standing Commission on the Constitution and Canons and the Legislative Committee on the Canons at the General Convention.

As the actual vote regarding deposition draws near, it is important to recognize what does and does not constitute a relevant response by the bishop in question. A letter of resignation from the House is irrelevant to the charges brought forward by the Review Committee and the deposition proceedings, since deposition concerns a person’s ordination in this Church, not simply participation in the House of Bishops. Resignation from the House thus has no bearing on following through with the charges brought forward by the Review Committee. Deposition in this situation makes clear in an official way that the bishop in question is no longer permitted to exercise ordained ministry in this Church.

Regarding how the vote is to be taken, the canon is clear that a vote on deposition must occur at “regular or special meeting of the House.” Although we have other canonical consent provisions where consents may be secured by written ballot through the mail, that process does not satisfy the canons here.  Every bishop entitled to vote is invited to the meeting and given ample notice that there will be a vote on depositions. Materials surrounding the deposition in question are posted in the “Bishops Only” section of the College for Bishops website.  The canon is read that a quorum be present and a majority of all bishops present who are entitled to vote consent to the deposition, as was done in the case of Bishop Davies of Fort Worth in the 1990s and Bishop Larrea of Ecuador Central in 2005. In terms of parliamentary rules of order, any questions about the propriety of a vote are to be raised before the meeting or, of course, during it.

These are weighty matters, and it is important that we take seriously our procedures, as well as their purpose and intent. It is also important that we remember the reason that such canons and procedures are in place. These matters with which we are confronted have ramifications for many outside our House. For those who would like an alternative to deposition, we already have one, in the form of renunciation of vows in this Church, so that anyone may pursue his or her conscience and desires in another part of Christ’s Body. This option makes clear and clean an individual’s departure from The Episcopal Church. Resignation from the House is quite different, since it only deals with the person’s relation to the House, not to The Episcopal Church.  Thus, to resign from the House while still claiming jurisdiction over a diocese with its property and assets is not a viable alternative.

Some have misunderstood the impact and intent of deposition. It is this Church’s formal way of saying to the world that the deposed cleric is no longer permitted to act as a sacramental representative of this Church. If vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church are not voluntarily renounced, how otherwise can a cleric take up new vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of another Church?

These are indeed difficult decisions that we at times are called to make, and I have no doubt that all of us would wish things were different. We must respond to the situations with which we are faced, compassionately but not naively, knowing that we make these decisions not for ourselves alone but for the people whom we are called to shepherd and oversee.  I remain

Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori


Remembering MLK

February 7, 2008

On January 20 I attended St. Luke’s Columbia, where the focus was the Christian message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For your reflection I share here the homily given that day by St. Luke’s rector the Rev’d Calvin R. Griffin.

Epiphany II, January 20, 2008

I speak to you in the in the Name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Almighty God … Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” “Words from the appointed collect for Martin Luther King, Jr., as found in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. There, too, we find the following biographical sketch of Martin Luther King’s life and work: Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta. As the son and grandson of Baptist preachers, he was steeped in the Black Church tradition. To this heritage he added a thorough academic preparation, earning the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Divinity, and Doctor of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from Boston University. In 1954, King became pastor of a church in Montgomery, AL. There, Black indignation at inhuman treatment on segregated buses culminated in December 1955, in the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat to a white man.

King was catapulted into national prominence as the leader of the Montgomery bus boycott. He became increasingly the articulate prophet, who could not only rally the Black masses, but could also move the consciences of Whites. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to spearhead non-violent mass demonstrations against racism. Many confrontations followed, most notably in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama and in Chicago. King’s campaigns were instrumental to the passage of the Civil Rights acts of 1964, 1965, and 1968. King then turned his attention to economic empowerment of the poor and opposition to the Vietnam War, contending that racism, poverty and militarism were interrelated.

King lived in constant danger: his home was dynamited, he was almost fatally stabbed, and he was harassed by death threats. He was jailed 30 times; but through it all he was sustained by his deep faith. In 1957, he received, late at night, a vicious telephone threat. Alone in his kitchen he wept and prayed. He relates that he heard the Lord speaking to him and saying “Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice”, and promising never to leave him alone –“No, never alone.” King refers to his mission as his “mountain-top-experience”. After preaching at Washington Cathedral on March 31, 1968, King went to Memphis in support of sanitation workers in their struggle for better wages. There, he proclaimed that he had been “to the mountain-top” and had seen “the Promised Land,” and that he knew that one day he and his people would be “free at last.” On the following day, April 4, he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet.

“Almighty God … grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin, may resist oppression and secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel” … You’ve heard me tell the story, the story that is told of a great disturbance that erupted in Heaven. It will soon become obvious why once again today I’m sharing this story as we commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King.

Again, it is a story of a great disturbance that erupted in Heaven. Hitler, and yes perhaps somewhat surprisingly, but nevertheless, according to this story, Hitler is in heaven, and was shouting, creating a ruckus about unleashing the so-called ruling regime. Khrushchev was pounding his shoe on the table, and King was threatening to take it to the streets. Suddenly, St. Peter called out “Brothers! Gentlemen! Peace! There’s no need for you to argue here, not here in heaven. For we have a person here who knows the answer to any question you might have … ‘Pardon me, Jesus’, said Peter … ‘can you come over here for a few moments? Some of your people have a question to ask.’

Jesus complied. ‘Yes Adolph, what is your question?’ Adolph said, ‘How long will it be before Germany will rule over all?’ Jesus said ‘about 10 million years.’ Hitler wept. ‘And, you, Nikita, what is your question?’ And Nikita asked, ‘how long will it be before the dictatorship of the proletariat will arrive?’ Jesus answered, ‘about 30 million years.’ Nikita Khrushchev wept. Finally, looking at Martin, Jesus said, ‘And, you Martin, what is your question?’ Martin asked, ‘how long will it be before my country treats my people like brothers and sisters?’ And Jesus wept.”

What an insightful story for this 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany of our Lord and as our nation celebrates the life, work and legacy of one of God’s great 20th century prophets, the Rev’d Martin Luther King, Jr. As I’ve said before, perhaps designed by Divine Providence, but then again, perhaps not, but certainly, certainly not insignificant is the fact that our national observance of King Day always occurs during the Church’s observance of Epiphany, the season celebrating light, celebrating the light of Christ, the season celebrating freedom and liberation, liberation from the bonds and chains of darkness and degradation.

Light … Freedom … Liberation … Not simply for a select group or select groups of people, but light, freedom and liberation for all people … for all God’s children, regardless of race, nationality, color, creed or religion, gender, gender orientation or class – for all people. The message, the message not only of the Church’s feast of the Epiphany, but the message of Jesus, the message of St. Paul and the message Brother Martin is this: “There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; no longer is there male or female; for allall are one – one in Christ Jesus.” And we, therefore, are admonished, “to stand firm, to stand firm in that blessed liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.”

Certainly, Martin Luther King, Jr. was first and foremost, a churchman, a Christian, a prophet, a witness to the Good News of God in Christ Jesus. In other words, Dr. King was that to which we too, in holy baptism, have been called and commissioned. We, you and I, are the Church. We are the body of Christ. In our Book of Common Prayer’s an Outline of the Faith or Catechism we find that the Church pursues its mission … How? … as it prays and worships, as it proclaims the Gospel, and as it promotes justice, peace, and love.

The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members, not just through the ministry of the clergy, the ordained, but through the ministry of all its members – through you and through me … – through all its members. Beloveds, we are the Church. In holy baptism we promised to strive for justice and peace among all people – among all God’s children. In holy baptism we promised to respect the dignity of every human being – for all are precious in God’s sight. Dr. King’s life and work exemplified these traits, these characteristic of a true, true child of God.

Again, we are the Church. We are the Body of Christ. You and I and all who are baptized into Christ. We must keep the dream alive; Martin’s dream that all be brothers and sisters; Martin’s dream that all be free; Martin’s dream that all may experience justice; that all may experience peace; that all may experience equality. We must keep the dream alive. … The message of Epiphany; the work and the mission of the Church; the work and the mission of each of us baptized into the body of Christ.

“Blessed Martin, pastor, prophet…”

As the Rev’d Dr. Harold Lewis often reminds the Church, “Martin’s heart still beats in the breast of this nation, because the blood of this modern-day martyr has truly proved to be the seed for a movement for the liberation of every oppressed segment of this society. Martin Luther King laid the groundwork for racial equality, to be sure, but the struggle for liberation on the part of women, the struggle for liberation on the part of homosexuals, and the struggle for liberation on the part of other minorities could not have taken place when they did – or to the extent that they did – had it not been for Martin’s witness”.

Light – Freedom – Liberation for all God’s children.

In this season of Epiphany, celebrating the coming of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, and today, as we commemorate the life, the work and the legacy of Dr. King, may God grant that we, God’s people, illumined by God’s Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that Christ may be known, worshiped and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Bishop Henderson’s Christmas sermon

January 3, 2008

“The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light”; I speak to you in the name of God who made light to shine in the darkness, and who calls us to live as children of the light: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Beloved, it is dark outside—it is very dark.

Darkness can be a blessing—if one is in love, and walking with one’s beloved under a clear, moonlit, star-bright sky. Or if one is snug and warm—and safe—at one’s fireside hearth or in one’s bed.

But darkness is not always so pleasant. Often it is the very symbol of evil. “In the beginning”—in the very beginning—the “earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep….”

Darkness can be fearful. As a young child, lying in bed in the dark, I was afraid of creatures I knew were under the bed, waiting to “get me”—whatever “get me” might mean to a young mind. Maxfield Parrish, an art deco artist of the last century, caught this common childhood fear illustrating a poem entitled, “Seein’ Things”. In his painting several fearsome specters lurk, suspended in the dark, surrounding a frightened youngster sitting upright and oh so tense in his bed. “Mother tells me ‘Happy dreams!’ and takes away the light, An’ leaves me lyin’ all alone an’ seein’ things at night! …I woke up in the dark an’ saw things standin’ in a row, A-lookin’ at me cross-eyed an’ p’intin’ at me—so! Oh, my! I wuz so skeered that time I never slep’ a mite–…I see things at night!”

Fear of the dark can follow us into adulthood. You know the evil things that happen, so often in the dark: assaults, robberies, in the dark…break-ins, drive-by shootings, in the dark…and for all of us, some place—some place—where we do not want to be in the dark, where we fear evil deeds happen most.

Because we are all human, I’m confident that there have been dark times in the past of each of us. Some of that darkness was due to circumstances beyond our control—some of our own making. There are dark times in our present, in our personal lives, in the lives of those we love, in the life of our nation and our world. And there will be dark times in our future. What is it “they” say—“Only two things in life are certain: death and taxes”? To borrow from an obsolete radio serial, “Who knows what evil lurks….” Afraid of the dark—literal darkness, figurative darkness—past, present and future darkness? You bet we are!

But with Christmas we celebrate the light which is Jesus. “In him was life,” St. John writes in the Gospel, “and the life was the light of people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Is it only irony that many of the significant occasions in our Lord’s life occurred in the dark? Apparently he was born in the dark, while shepherds kept watch over their flock “by night”. On the cross, Jesus died in the dark, for as we are told, “darkness covered the whole earth”. He arose in the dark: “Early in the morning, while it was yet dark, Mary Magdalene came.” Jesus Christ came to us in the dark, gave himself for us in the dark, and arose from the dead in the dark. In his life and in his death, Jesus shared our darkness. Holy Scripture affirms it, and we declare it in faith: He came “to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us….” He’s “been there”—in the dark—so he knows our darkness from personal experience. To borrow from Isaiah, he has walked with “the people who walked in darkness….” Darkness in our past, darkness in our present, darkness in our future—Christ has been there, is there, and will be there—for us! “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us….”—again, “to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us….”

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined”. Nevermore need we be afraid of the dark. Oh, there is darkness now, and there will be more darkness—but Christ is in the darkness with us. To borrow—this time not from Isaiah, but from a personal friend, a mentor, a guide[1]: “Christ came in the dark so that we should not fear what is dark to us ever again”. No fear at birth or in life, where he has been, where we have been—and are. No fear in the present or in the future, where he is—and we are. No fear during death, where he has been, and where we will all be, one day. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Let me conclude with a portion of my friend’s sermon, the concept I have borrowed generally, but which I now shamelessly plagiarize, word-for-word: “Says the Bible, in the beginning, darkness covered the whole earth; says the Bible, near the end, Judas went out, and it was night; he went out from the Upper Room; he went out from the last supper; he went out from the lighted table of the Lord. Judas went out ‘and it was night’. For him, night was welcome, because the night covered his dark plans. But it was in that darkness that Judas lost his heart and his life and his soul”

We will not lose our heart or soul in any dark time. For God himself went through the darkest hours of all, for no reason except to help us. Christ is in the dark, any dark, forever, always to be the Light of the World. There can be no real fear in our darkness, past, present or future, because Christ is always in that darkness with us. St. Paul expresses the overwhelming nature of this gift when he writes to the Christians in Corinth that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”—the Lord which is the Light that shines on everyone who walks in darkness. That, Beloved, brings the “endless peace” which Isaiah prophesied—that is the joy which is Christmas—that is the Light that shines on us this night and evermore.

Merry Christmas! During these Twelve Days of Christmas and beyond, may you and your loved ones know joy and share it, find peace and live it, understand love, and give it—in the Name of God who made light to shine in the darkness, so that we might live as children of the Light: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

___________________________________

[1] The Rev’d Dr. Donald O. Wiseman, in my opinion one of the greatest preachers of the Church; who prepared and presented me to receive Holy Confirmation; guided me—with great patience—in a discernment process which led to my ordination—and without whose presence and influence in my life I might not be a Christian at all!


On the report of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates to the Archbishop of Canterbury

October 5, 2007

October 4, 2007

Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi (1226)

Sisters and Brothers, the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates of the Anglican Communion has issued its report to the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the Response of the House of Bishops issued at the conclusion of our meeting last week in New Orleans. It is a significant statement, prepared and signed by the Primate of Australia, the Primate of Wales, the Primate of TEC, the Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the ACC Standing Committee, the Vice-Chair of the ACC and Standing Committee, and four other members of the ACC Standing Committee.

The report—all 19 pages—is well worth reading in its entirety, and may be found through Episcopal Life Online (www.episcopalchurch.org/episcopal_life.htm). For brevity’s sake, however, and to point out significant highlights, I draw your attention to the following excerpts which I trust are an accurate reflection of the thrust of the document. (Those portions appearing in bold print are my emphases.)

I. From the introduction: “…(T)he House (of Bishops) has labored long and strenuously…to offer its response to the requests of the Windsor Report, as reiterated in the Communiqué of the Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam…. This reflects the fact that the House of Bishops were themselves of differing perspectives on the questions before them; it also reflects their readiness to respond to the concerns raised by the Communion….”

II. From Part One, “The Response of The Episcopal Church to the Windsor Report”:

“On public Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions….

“The House of Bishops has now said that they ‘pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions’…These statements…address the request of the Primates at Dar Es Salaam…. On this basis, we understand the statement of the House of Bishops in New Orleans to have met the request of the Windsor Report in that the Bishops have declared ‘a moratorium on all such public Rites’ and the request of the Primates at Dar es Salaam that the bishops should ‘make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses’ since we have their pledge explicitly in those terms.

“On elections to the episcopate….

“…(I)n June 2006, General Convention passed Resolution B033, which stated: …Resolved, That this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion…. By…making the explicit acknowledgement…that B033 does refer to ‘non-celibate gay and lesbian persons’, the Episcopal House of Bishops is answering the question of the Primates positively. They confirm the understanding of the sub-group (that is, as expressed in the Report of a Sub-Group established by the Joint Standing Committee) that restraint is exercised in a precise way “by not consenting”, and that this specifically includes ‘non-celibate gay and lesbian persons’. They have therefore clearly affirmed that the Communion Sub-Group were (sic) correct in interpreting Resolution B033 as meeting the request of the Windsor Report.

“Conclusion

“By their answers to these two questions, we believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them in the Windsor Report, and on which clarifications were sought by 30th September 2007, and given the necessary assurances sought of them.”

III. From Part Two, “Pastoral Issues”

“On care of dissenting groups….

“In March 2004, the Bishops of The Episcopal Church adopted a plan for such congregations in the Statement, Caring for All the Churches…designated ‘Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight’.” (The Joint Standing Committee then recommended that the Archbishop of Canterbury encourage “duly designated authorities of The Episcopal Church…to consult further on the issue of the provision of pastoral care and oversight…in consultation with those who are requesting it…. In particular, such consultation could be taken in conjunction with the scheme for “Episcopal Visitors” announced by the Presiding Bishop at the House of Bishops Meeting in New Orleans….”) Then, significantly, “We believe that these initiatives offer a viable basis on which to proceed. Bishop Jefferts Schori indicated that she deliberately left open and flexible the operation of the ministry of the Episcopal Visitors, believing that it was best for the visitor and the diocesan bishop concerned to work out an acceptable scheme.” “…(T)he House of Bishops is correct in identifying that the co-operation and participation of the wider Communion, in a way which respects the integrity of the American Province, is an important element in addressing questions of pastoral oversight…. We also believe that a body which could facilitate such consultation and partnership would meet the intent of the Pastoral Council envisaged by the Primates in their Communiqué. We encourage all the Instruments of Communion to participate in a discussion with the Presiding Bishop and the leadership of The Episcopal Church….”

“On Interventions in the life of The Episcopal Church by Other Jurisdictions….

“…(T)he House of Bishops makes a point here which needs to be addressed urgently in the life of the Communion. …(T)he House is reminding all Anglicans that we are committed to upholding the principle of local jurisdiction. Not only do the ancient councils of the Church command our respect on this question, but the principle was clearly articulated and defended at the time when the very architecture of the Anglican Communion was forged in the early Lambeth Conferences, as well as being clearly re-iterated and stated in more recent times as tensions have escalated….

“As a Joint Standing Committee, we do not see how certain primates can in good conscience call upon The Episcopal Church to meet the recommendations of the Windsor Report while they find reasons to exempt themselves from paying regard to them.

Citing both the planting of congregations in provinces other than their own, and the ordination of bishops as part of a ‘mission initiative’, the Joint Standing Committee goes on to say that “the time is right for a determined effort to bring interventions to an end.”

“The Life of Persons of Homosexual Orientation in the Church….

“Lambeth Conference Resolutions do not have ‘magisterial’ force in the Anglican Communion; that is, they are not per se binding on the faithful of the Churches of the Anglican Communion. Nevertheless, Resolution 1.10 expresses the understanding on Christian marriage and sexual relationships actually taught and held by the vast majority of Anglican churches and bishops across the globe….

“In addition, the resolution also goes on to say ‘…We commit ourselves to listen to the experiences of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ; (and This Conference)…calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialization of sex….” (The Joint Standing Committee then cites two statements from the Primates expressing that “we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people”, and an affirming and explanatory portion of the Windsor Report.)

The Report of the Joint Standing Committee concludes with this paragraph, which I include because of its importance as a guide to both the present and the future:

“The life of the Anglican Communion has been much damaged in recent years…. With the response of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in September 2007, the Communion should move towards closure on these matters, at least for the time being. The Communion seems to be converging around a position which says that while it is inappropriate to proceed to public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions and to the consecration of bishops who are living in sexual relationships outside of Christian marriage, we need to take seriously our ministry to gay and lesbian people inside the Church and the ending of discrimination, persecution and violence against them. Here, The Episcopal Church and the Instruments of Communion speak with one voice. The process of mutual listening and conversation needs to be intensified. It is only by living in communion that we can live out our vocation to be Communion.”

Beloved, the concluding sentence is worth repeating: “It is only by living in communion that we can live out our vocation to be Communion.” The critical nature of the unity of the Church is reflected in our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer the night before his crucifixion—in the writings of St. Paul—indeed, throughout Holy Scripture and echoed in the Baptismal Covenant: “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship…?” Historically, “schism only begets schism”, and the Will of the Holy Spirit is discerned by study, prayer and dialogue—in communion (community) and fellowship—all, to be sure, with God’s grace. For accurate discernment, all voices should be at the table; we get nowhere by secession into groups of only like-minded persons. Remember the description of the Church as the Body of Christ, with Jesus Christ himself the head of the Body—and all parts indispensable. If we are not all present and all exercising our gifts, the Body is not functioning as effectively or as efficiently as the Spirit has designed it—in discernment as in mission.

As a diocese we are committed to the Gospel and mission of Jesus Christ—the Great Commandment and the Great Commission—and life in Christ as guided by the three authorities of the Church: Holy Scripture, Tradition and Reason. We are committed to the discernment of the Holy Will in all things, including every issue in every age. But, in order to be faithful, I am bold to remind you, we are mission-driven, not issue-driven. I pray that by God’s Grace we shall be diligent in discernment, and that by God’s Spirit we shall be powerful in mission—in proclaiming God’s gracious Good News to all of God’s children.

Of which, more anon. Subjects among those I would like to see discussed on “The Bishop’s Blog” and otherwise studied and explored earnestly: (1) What does it mean to be a bishop in this catholic church? (2) What are the implications of the affirmation that “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church?”—or, what does it mean to be part of something larger? (3) How do we honor the Anglican Communion’s commitment to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons (and to) assure them that they are loved by God and…full members of the Body of Christ” (Lambeth Resolution 1.10. Your suggestions?


Pastoral letter from Bishop Henderson

September 29, 2007

A Pastoral Letter

“For the Sake of the Gospel”

Bishop Henderson Comments on the Meeting and Statement of the House of Bishops

 

“I do all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings”—I Cor. 9:23

 

Beloved Sisters and Brothers in the Lord, I return exhausted but exhilarated after the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans (19-25 September). There, together, we worshipped God…engaged in Bible study…listened for the voice of the Holy Spirit…heard inspiring accounts of the life and mission of the Church (including one from “our own” Paul Farmer about the work in Cange)…labored physically at sites of Katrina destruction…and—yes—had a little fun, and a little too much food, too.

Regarding the Bishops’ Response

This was possibly the most congenial and unified meeting of the HOB in my experience—truly a blessing from God. That is not to say that we were all of one mind about the serious issues before us—but throughout our striving I perceive there was a unity of purpose, a unity in spirit. More than once I recalled the words of that hymn, “Surely the Spirit of the Lord is in this place”. Though disappointed that three or four bishops departed after the first two days—their voices, too, needed to be heard throughout the meeting—there was, nevertheless, a remarkable sense of urgency and a remarkable passion for the task which was ours. Bishops with sharp differences of opinion seemed determined, by God’s grace, to respond faithfully to the expectations within our own province and from other Anglican provinces. Commitment to maintain the unity of The Episcopal Church and full partnership within the Anglican Communion was patently obvious.

The Presiding Bishop set the tone by announcing the appointment of eight “Episcopal visitors”—bishops (including yours) to provide pastoral oversight for dioceses unable to accept her ministry. Unlike an earlier, rather elaborate proposal from her, this plan leaves the details of such oversight to be worked out between the “visitor” and the diocesan bishop. This spirit of openness and trust set the tone for much that followed.

Two days were spent listening to, and in conversation with, the Archbishop of Canterbury and representatives of the Anglican Consultative Counsel. That was followed by conversations among us bishops, some public, some in executive session. A “writing committee” was appointed to develop—based on those discussions—a response to the larger church to which the HOB could subscribe. We went through at least four or five drafts; however, the “meat” of the final document was the result of suggestions of bishops with very different viewpoints: +Charles Jenkins (of Louisiana—our preacher at the “Great Gathering”) and +John Chane (Washington, D.C.), with some involvement by +Jon Bruno (Los Angeles). Their work eventually became the “bullet” points in the final version. I feel that those bullet points respond to the Primates’ requests faithfully, explicitly, and consistent with our Constitution and Canons—thus honoring the twin Anglican principles of provincial autonomy and interdependence within the Communion.

The results can be seen within the contents of the document itself, which is entitled “House of Bishops response ‘to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners’”. My own summary assessment of the document is that it is a sincere, heartfelt, gracious and adequate response at this stage of discernment. As before, I urge you to read the document and assess it yourselves, avoiding anxious voices and agenda-serving analyses, no matter their origin. (As example of the different “spin” which is possible, note these conflicting headlines: from “The New York Times”: “Episcopal Bishops Reject Anglican Church’s Orders”; from “USA Today”: “Episcopal bishops make concessions for the sake of unity”. Ironically, the contents of the two articles are almost identical—what a difference a headline writer can make!)

Consensus and Comprehension, Not Compromise

In the Collect of the Day for the Commemoration of the life and witness of Richard Hooker (Priest, d. 1600), we pray as follows: “O God…Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth….” The Bishops struggled mightily—and, by the grace of God, rather successfully in my mind—to frame our response as “comprehension for the sake of truth”—acknowledging that we differ among ourselves on some matters, but that we strive, in effect, to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers”. I trust that you can see this in the “Summary” section of the Bishop’s response. Read that summary carefully, as well as the discussion of each point which follows.

That consensus and comprehension were achieved by the bishops could be seen in the vote on the final version of “Response”—only one “nay” vote was heard.

Mission

Christ’s mission continues to be the focus of the life of The Episcopal Church (as it does in our diocese). As usual, this part of the agenda is ignored by the popular, secular media. The Presiding Bishop—who, by the way, has accepted an invitation from Mark Lawrence+, the Bishop-elect of our neighbor, the Diocese of South Carolina, and its Standing Committee, to visit them—called us to “claim the mission that Jesus claimed”, and to “cooperate with the Holy Spirit” and to “make space for the Holy Spirit to work”. Thus, for example, we heard from Paul Farmer on the Millennium Development Goals; worked on various re-construction sites in New Orleans and Mississippi; heard from an appreciative local, secular leader about the work of the Episcopal dioceses in those two states, and received an update on combating the sin of racism.

[I, for one, have learned a new craft—dry-walling; luckily, there were experts on hand to teach this team of struggling bishops and spouses in what turned out to be a truly exhausting—but satisfying—day. We worked in a home destroyed down to the frame, owned by a teacher retired after 35 years in public schools, only to have her security stripped from around her. Then, on Sunday, I traveled with two other bishops to worship at Holy Trinity Parish (Pass Christian, Mississippi), whose church and parish hall were destroyed by the hurricane “Katrina”, and are now worshipping as guests of hospitable Methodists.]

The Bishop of Louisiana (+Charles Jenkins) and the Bishop of Mississippi (+Duncan Grey) are constant inspirations to us all. They live day and night with the devastation wrought by Katrina, coping with the needs of thousands of displaced persons (over 100,000 homes needing total or major reconstruction), congregations without church buildings, priests and their families without congregations—and therefore without income—exploitive contractors and ineffective governmental action at every level. After two years, conditions remain intolerable—even hospitals and schools remain closed. Please “pray without ceasing” for these bishops, other clergy and people of those two areas, which in a true sense bring home the MDGs and actual Third World conditions.

What Happens Next? The Windsor Process Continues

I think that as much as anything else, most of us strongly desire a swift resolution—an end—to the conflict in The Episcopal Church and in the Communion. That, Beloved, will not happen today any more quickly than substantive conflict has been resolved in the previous 2,000 years of the Church’s life. The Archbishop of Canterbury has appointed a committee which will study the House’s Response for the apparent purpose of evaluating it and what it means within the life of the Communion. Beyond that, the Anglican Consultative Counsel, the Primates of the Communion, and Lambeth Conference (to take place next summer) will continue the labor of discernment through their own prayer, study, and dialogue. The Windsor Report, after all, set out a process which cannot be both faithful and abrupt. Discussion and study of the idea of an Anglican covenant has hardly begun.

Beware, in the interim, those who would say that “this or that is (or is not) acceptable to the Primates”. Only the Primates can decide that, and this they doubtlessly will do, as a continuation of the conversation and discernment which is the Windsor Process.

We need to be reminded, too, that the Primates are only one of the four Instruments of Unity designated by the Windsor Committee—a cooperative structure in which no one “instrument” is supreme over the others. The concept of demands and deadlines is not conducive to the kind of careful discernment which, for example, took over 400 years in reaching consensus about a concept central to Christian faith—nothing less than the Trinity! Nor is the idea of demands and deadlines consistent with classical Anglicanism.

What happens next– for us? As I stated to Convention last spring: having been derailed temporarily, it is time to reclaim our mission. As a diocese, we focus on mission—spreading the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While we have every intention of dealing seriously with the issues before us, I am confident that I speak for the great majority of Episcopalians in Upper South Carolina when I affirm, again and again if necessary, that we are a mission-driven diocese—not an issue-driven diocese—a diocese committed to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission—a diocese committed to God, who is love.

We continue the journey of faith, trust and action with prayers for the Church, for the mission of the Church, and for the faithfulness of the Church.

By God’s grace and as a beneficiary of your prayers, I remain

Faithfully yours in our Lord,

Dorsey F. Henderson, Jr.

The Right Rev’d, the Bishop


“The Consitutional Crisis, 2007″

September 17, 2007

Beloved, a document is being circulated among the Bishops of The Episcopal Church, and by internet, to broader circles. The full title is “The Constitutional Crisis, 2007: A Statement to the House of Bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Honored Visitors”. It has been circulated to be considered during the upcoming meeting of the House of Bishops, and it bears my name.

Although asked several months ago by Bishop Doss, the first lawyer-bishop to suggest the project, to participate in the writing of the document, I have not, in fact, contributed to its research, content or drafting. Consequently, I asked that my name be removed from the list of contributors, but the paper had already been sent to the printer for publication and distribution.

It is being said that I have “repudiated” the document. This, too, is inaccurate. Indeed, I asked for my name to be removed because, as stated above, I had not contributed to it and did not avail myself in a timely fashion to review and critique its contents—but also, as I indicated to Bishop Doss, because at best I would be “concurring in part and dissenting in part”. I think that there are parts of the thesis which the authors set out which are worth consideration—along with many others which have been developed as part of the process commended to us in The Windsor Report.

However, I also believe that the document, and the dialogue which it will provoke, must necessarily involve consideration of the following:

1. The specific inclusion of the provisions of The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (see pp. 876-877 of the BCP) as well as the Creeds of the Church, would bring, in my opinion, greater clarity to the concept and content of such a constitution.

2. Because the catechism reflects the historic and traditional understanding of the ministry of the various orders, I am convinced that bishops, who specifically—and unlike the other orders—have the responsibility “to guard the faith, unity and discipline of the whole Church” Accordingly, it would seem that Bishops, in those limited areas, have a responsibility which does not require the concurrence of the General Convention (as much as concurrence is to be desired). My view is inconsistent with the position taken in the paper.

3. A good dose of Richard Hooker would—again, in my humble opinion—enrich the content of “The Constitutional Crisis” and the dialogue about it.

4. I also fear that some of the “tone” of some the language utilized in the paper will tend to be a barrier to objective consideration of the overall concept.

I commend to your diligent prayers the bishops, The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as we convene in New Orleans beginning the evening of September 19.

Faithfully in our Lord, +Dorsey USC VII


Bishop’s Convention Address May 19, 2007

May 24, 2007

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

Welcome to this part of the family reunion of the delegates who represent the sisters and brothers who constitute the family of God in Upper South Carolina.  With this session we look at the “nuts and bolts” of Christian leadership—how we conduct a “revival”, so to speak—an on-going revival of focus and energy for mission.

 

Several weeks ago I made a visitation to St. David’s Parish in Columbia, where I enjoyed a delicious breakfast and an open forum with the communicants.  After I made some reference to my experience of 12 years as bishop, a kind gentleman asked me what goals I had 12 years ago, and which of them had been accomplished.  That was easy, and I rattled them off without hesitation.

 

Then he asked me another question:  “What are your goals now?”  That one surprised me—and, I confess, gave me pause.  Then I stammered, I’m sure, and responded with a few, probably pious, generalizations.  Mostly, I was surprised that I was surprised.  The question got my attention.

 

And it has generated serious reflection on my part.  After all, the clock is ticking, the calendar running.  Canon law requires that I resign effective no later than my 72nd birthday.  Now, I assume that you won’t tar and feather me and run me out of the diocese on a rail before then.  Unless you do, you may have to drag me, kicking and screaming, off of the Cathedra.

My reluctance to “turn loose” notwithstanding, God has a vision for us—and whether we are in transition or not—and in a sense we are always in transition—the mission and love of Christ compels us.  You know the mission of the Church:  to spread the Kingdom of God on earth.  Or, in the words of the catechism, “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”

We have brought that mission home, so to speak, by the development of our vision action plan:  “One Body, One Mission:  Changing Lives.” That plan was devised by setting concrete goals consistent with the vitality of the Church in the first century after Christ. Love for each other—“See those Christians, how they love one another”—and a passion for mission to the unchurched; a nurturing Christian community and sharing the Gospel of Christ—those were the factors that set fire to the Early Church.  Our action plan needs to be updated and reformed—regularly and constantly—to meet changes resulting from the passage of time, progress already accomplished, and changes in the needs of God’s people here and in the world around us.  But a plan we need, and a specific one.  In the Book of Proverbs we find that “Without a vision, the people perish.”

 

We have also sought to grow spiritually.  Early in my episcopate, Christian formation teachers from congregations around our diocese gathered time after time to help us focus on the spiritual journey called life, and to promote deeper understanding and practice of the Christian faith among all of us.  Our goal, we said as the family of God in Upper South Carolina, is to grow more and more into the image of God in which we were created, and after the example of Christ.  That goal prompted the drafting of our spiritual vision statement:  that “We strive to love with the heart of Christ, to think with the mind of Christ, and to act in the world as the Body of Christ”.

 

We celebrated our definitive sense of mission with the Great Gathering.  What a time—commitment and energy spilling out all over the place.  “Our cup runneth over.”  We were off to a great start, committed to the Lord and to the Lord’s mission, committed to living into the Great Commission as fully as God’s grace empowers us.

 

But we were derailed, or, to use another metaphor, the wind was taken out of our sails when other issues grabbed headlines and sapped energy.

 

Beloved, it is time to reclaim our mission—and to get down to the nuts and bolts of mission.

 

And thanks to the communicant at St. David’s and his provocative question, I have spent considerable time seeking to discern how we do that at this time in our life as the people of God in
Upper South Carolina.  My thoughts are based on consideration of where we need to be when the next diocesan bishop of Upper South Carolina is seated in the Cathedra.

 

First, the Healthy Church Initiative.  Before I slip away into the night, I want every congregation to have a vision action plan which indicates specifically the ministry to which they believe God is calling them, and also the means and resources, financial and otherwise, sufficient to accomplish that ministry.  In the Healthy Church Initiative we have the blueprint and the process for discerning vision and developing resources—the establishment of mission goals, and a strategy for accomplishing them by effective Christian stewardship of the gifts God has given us.

 

The population of our state is exploding.  Faithfulness to our Lord’s Great Commission requires that we need to develop a mission strategy to take advantage of this significant opportunity—a challenge and a blessing dropped in our laps.  So my second specific goal is to have in place a plan for planting new missions, and a strategy for assisting congregations already in place.  Let me state parenthetically that further enrichment of our ministry with our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters is an indispensable part of our mission strategy, not just for the future, but for here and now.

 

Beloved, we cannot be content with the level of Christian education and formation we received in grammar school.  So, third, let’s greet the next bishop with programs—wherever we have an altar, wherever we have a congregation—for growing in our understanding and practice of the Christian faith—a plan for education and formation “from the womb to the tomb”.  “To think with the mind of Christ” requires knowledge—constantly growing knowledge and a comfortable familiarity—with Holy Scripture, the Tradition of the Church, and Reason—all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

Finally, we cannot ignore the great opportunity that we have—unique to our day and time—to be doing the work that Christ would have us do—to be faithful to his self-proclaimed mission to “bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, (and to) proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”.  That blessed opportunity comes to us as the Millennium Development Goals.  Episcopalians in USC are off to a great start in numerous, exciting ventures in mission associated with the MDGs.  This is not so much a goal in itself as it is a way to measure how effective we have been with the three challenges I have set before you:  the Healthy Church Initiative, mission strategy, and Christian formation.  Our involvement in reaching the MDG’s is a thermometer for gauging spiritual health and mission accomplishment—and, along with evangelism, a demonstration of our commitment “to act in the world as the Body of Christ”.

 

Enough said.  Let’s get on with our praise of God Almighty and our commitment “to do the work God has given us to do”—with the nuts and bolts of Christian community and spread of the Good News.


A Pastoral Letter to the Church in Upper South Carolina

May 15, 2007

A Pastoral Letter to the Church in Upper South Carolina
From Their Bishop 

5th Easter, 2007 

Sisters and Brothers, dearly Beloved: Greetings in the Name of our Resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ!  May He, and the Good News he brings, be known to you in the breaking of the bread, in the community of the Church which is His Body, and in your hearts. 

In March I attended a meeting of the House of Bishops at Camp Allen, Texas.  It was the first House meeting over which ++Katharine Jefferts Schori has presided since her installation as Presiding Bishop.  And she did just that—no more, no less.  She presided as we, the members of the House, strove to live faithfully into the ministry we all share.  Like the presiding officer of any deliberative (and in this case, prayerful) body, she kept order and insured that everyone had the opportunity to speak.  She pressed no agenda and did not take sides, which was not always true with her predecessors.  She is off to a great start.  Her task is monumental, yet the constitutional role of the Presiding Bishop is extremely limiting.  This is unlike the other Primates of the Anglican Communion, who have powerful authority to act autonomously within their Provinces.  Our Constitution gives the Presiding Bishop oversight in only three areas:  the consecration of bishops, the obligation to visit every diocese at least once during the nine-year term, and the discipline of bishops charged with misconduct.  This limited role and authority are consistent with our American democratic heritage politically, socially, and in the Church.  After all, many of those who designed the governmental structure of the United States participated in the design of the structure of our Church.  ++Katharine and I served on the Special Commission on The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.  During our meetings she would knit (or crochet—some kind of sewing).  But at the same time I could almost see her mind constantly at work.  She’s sharp, and she looked for the Lord in every idea offered, in every proposal made.  In the most difficult of roles, the Presiding Bishop has my prayers, support, and I might add, my affection.   

Collegiality among the bishops seemed to me to be deeper and more authentic than usual.  Although none of the Forward in Faith bishops (those who do not ordain women) was present, there was broad representation otherwise—conservative, moderate, and liberal.  In keeping with our custom, we worshipped daily with the Holy Eucharist and Morning and Evening Prayer.  For the first time in my memory, we did not sit pew-style, facing front, but monastic or choir style.  We faced each other, so that God’s Altar and our community were our focus.  I was personally quite moved, looking across at bishops pro-this, anti-that, different from each other in so many ways.  But we prayed together, praised God together in word and in boisterous singing of hymns.  And then, together, we approached the altar, to receive there the broken Body and spent Blood of our Lord.  There were differences, yes—differences in opinion on any number of things.  But there was solidarity in love of the Lord and the Lord’s Church—love of each other.  I was reminded of the paradox again when reading the Gospel for this Sunday:  Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  We worshipped, prayed, and deliberated for six days.  Among other things, we considered and adopted three resolutions.  Although they were not passed unanimously, support for the resolutions was broad and across the spectrum—conservative, moderate, and liberal. In one resolution, we made four essential points:  First, we reaffirmed our commitment to remain a part of the Anglican Communion.  Second, we acknowledged that the General Convention is the sole, appropriate body to determine the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church.  Third, we stated our belief that the Pastoral Scheme proposed by the Primates in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué of February 19, 2007, would be injurious to us.  Thus, the House urged the Executive Council to decline to participate in it.  The fourth point was a pledge that we would continue to work to meet the pastoral concerns of the Primates in ways that are compatible with our polity and canons.  I support this resolution. The second resolution was initially proposed by Bishop John Howe of the Diocese of Central Florida.  In it we acknowledged that we are unable to accept the proposed Pastoral Scheme.  Again, however, we affirmed our “passionate desire to remain in full constituent membership in both the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church”.  As an indication of our commitment to meet the concerns of the Primates, we urged the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates’ Standing Committee to accept our invitation to join us, at our expense, for three days of “prayer and conversation regarding these important matters”.  We need their understanding and their help.  I support this resolution. 

The third statement is one of the so-called “Mind of the House” resolutions.  I proposed what I consider to be a significant amendment.  It was adopted unanimously.  Citing the Book of Common Prayer, we stated:  “In anticipation of the traditional renewal of ordination vows in Holy Week we solemnly declare that ‘we do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and we do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church’”. As in the other resolutions, we emphasized in some detail the “deep longing of our hearts for The Episcopal Church to continue as a part of the Anglican Communion”.  Basically, this third resolution spells out the convictions behind the content of the first resolution—why we believe that the Pastoral Scheme proposed by the Primates would be injurious to us.  Stated simply, it would violate our Constitution and Canons.  Were we bishops to agree to the Pastoral Scheme in the form specified in the Dar es Salaam Communiqué, we would be violating the vows of our consecration as bishops.  Our Constitution and Canons can be changed only by the General Convention, and amendment would be necessary before we could accept the Primates’ proposal in its present form. I felt that the adoption of this Mind of the House resolution would be more appropriate if passed when we meet next September.  Thus I voted against it.  However, I am in full agreement with both its intent and its content.  I support it. I digress with a personal word about the “deep longing of our hearts” for this Church to remain fully constituent within the Anglican Communion.  That is the deep longing of my own heart.  Although The Episcopal Church existed before there was an Anglican Communion, all Anglicans need each other. We need each other for mission, for collaboration and cooperation in spreading the Good News, in healing the sick, feeding the hungry, bringing liberty to those in prison, and striving for justice and peace.  Those are the things God leads us to do in order to that his “will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”. 

In considering the meaning of the Bishops’ resolutions, please note three things.  First, these resolutions do not address in any fashion the issues of sexuality which seem to be at the heart of the Primates’ concerns.  Nor did we make any decision regarding a proposed covenant for the Communion.  Rather, we limited these resolutions solely to issues of our polity—whether we could accept the Primates’ proposal for a Primatial Vicar without violating our Constitution and Canons.  We did take care to address one other matter of great concern to the Primates—providing care of all persons and congregations who disagree with their bishops.  So we reaffirmed our intention and our previous constructions for providing such pastoral care.  That plan is called “DEPO”—Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight.  At the request of the recently retired Bishop of Western North Carolina, I have provided such oversight to one of his congregations which considers him too liberal.  He and I have taken different positions on various issues du jour, but among other things we agree on the need to provide adequate pastoral care to any and all who feel distanced from their own bishops.  Thus, I have offered to arrange delegated oversight to the one congregation in our diocese which seems to feel that I should be more conservative, or at least more outspoken.  DEPO, with good will from all parties, can work. 

Secondly, we must remember that, while we respect their position and their convictions, the Primates are only one of four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion.  The other three are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Lambeth Conference, which includes all bishops of the Communion.  The Anglican Consultative Council is probably my favorite because it is the only one of the four which includes in its membership representatives other than bishops and archbishops.  Its makeup is more consistent with the American model of ministry and leadership in the Church in that it includes lay people as well as bishops, priests and deacons.  All four instruments have their role, but none is primary, none is supreme.  Accordingly, while the Primates may request that The Episcopal Church respond in a particular way and in accordance with a deadline, they do not have the authority to mandate either response or deadline.  At Camp Allen, the Archbishop of Mexico was asked how he had experienced the Primates’ Meeting at Dar es Salaam.  He responded that it was great—that although he arrived in Dar es Salaam as an archbishop, he departed as a “cardinal”!  His point was clear.  The Primates had assumed unto themselves authority which they have not heretofore possessed.  I believe the Primates have, on the whole, good intentions.  However, it is clear to me that they do not fully understand our heritage, the difference between their extensive authority and the limited constitutional authority of our Presiding Bishop, or our polity.  Third, the Presiding Bishop—after the House had taken final action on the three resolutions—was asked this important question:  “Do you feel that you still have the authority to appoint a Primatial Vicar (for those dioceses which have requested one)?”  She answered, “Yes.  There is nothing final in these resolutions”—or words to that effect.  Indeed, the Presiding Bishop responded to those dioceses last December.  Working with some of their bishops, and with several others of us, she offered a model that honored their requests and is consistent with our Constitution and Canons.  She is still prepared to do so.  I support her in that determination. Finally, as the Archbishop of Armagh, chair of the Lambeth Commission, wrote in The Windsor Report, “This Report is not a judgment.  It is part of a process.”  The process—very much like a conversation—continues.  Actions by the Church in Canada and the United States provoked much of our present conversation.  The Archbishop of Canterbury joined the conversation.  Then the Primates, and then the Anglican Consultative Council, added their voices.  The conversation continued with the resolutions of the General Convention last summer, adopted in response to Windsor.  Then the Primates spoke again.  Now the House of Bishops has continued the discussion.  The conversation will continue.  We in Upper South Carolina, striving to be faithful within both the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, having our voice, will be part of it.  With God’s grace, and our continued commitment to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers”, we will together come out in the place God wants us. 

Beloved, this period in the life of the Church makes us anxious.  You are anxious.  I, blessed to be your bishop, am anxious.  And your clergy are anxious, probably to a person.  If you are not already praying for each other, for your clergy and bishop, about this anxiety and its inevitable distraction from ministry, I urge you to do so.  In that same regard, I am attempting to have the same insight into the contents of this letter that I would have were I still the rector of a parish, or a vicar, or a communicant in the pew.  Would it increase, lower, or have no effect on my anxiety?  I think I would hear—as I hope you hear—my commitment as your bishop to give everything I have and know how to give, to maintain our faithfulness to God in The Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion.  Anglicanism is not only dear to me, but I believe it to be the clearest manifestation of authentic Christianity yet achieved.  The Episcopal Church is dear to me—and I believe its development in the setting of the New World to be the clearest manifestation of authentic Anglicanism yet achieved.  Neither is perfect.  The Kingdom of God is not yet fully realized on earth.  God is not finished with us yet!  But that’s why we have the Holy Spirit, sent to lead us into all truth and to strengthen us as the Body of Christ for Christian living.   The Windsor Report concluded, in part, by calling upon “all parties…to seek ways of reconciliation and to heal our divisions”.  To be a Windsor Bishop and a Windsor Diocese is to continue to participate diligently and conscientiously in the process and in the conversation leading to reconciliation and healing.  Deadlines and demands from any single party seem less than helpful to the biblical mandate, which comes to us from one who does have authority, and with which I conclude this epistle:  “God…reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…., entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  So we are ambassadors for Christ…” (2nd Cor. 5:18-20a).  My fellow ambassadors for Christ, may you be blessed by the Risen Lord throughout this Easter season and forever.  My prayer for us all is that the Peace of the Lord will make us less anxious and more hopeful. 

Alleluia!  The Lord is risen, indeed!  Alleluia! 

Faithfully and with a blessing,

bishops-signature.jpg

Upper South Carolina VII


A preliminary note regarding the recent House of Bishops meeting

March 29, 2007

 

Wednesday of 5th Lent
29 March 2007

 Sisters and Brothers, dearly Beloved:

The worship of God is the central factor of a healthy Christian community, and worship during Holy Week and Easter Day is central to the life of the Church corporately and individually.

I realize and appreciate that for some there is anxiety about one or more of the decisions by, and messages from, the House of Bishops when we met last week at Camp Allen, Texas.  Please be assured that I am preparing a pastoral letter about them.  However, because worship has such priority, the related demands for my own preparation for Holy Week liturgies leaves me unsure whether I will complete that letter before Easter Day.  If not, it shall be released as soon as possible thereafter.

 In the interim, God and God’s Church calls each of us to focus on the completion of our Lenten journey, including worship throughout the Triduum.  I am doing my best not to be distracted from that quest by alarming (sometimes misleading and/or exaggerated) headlines or by other anxious voices.  Our Lord approached his passion, crucifixion and death with calm faithfulness and quiet resolution.  May God bless us with the grace to follow that example, that we, “walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace”.

 Faithfully and with prayers for a holy conclusion of Lent for us all, +Dorsey USC VII


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