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


27 Responses to “A preliminary note regarding the recent House of Bishops meeting”

  1. Zachary Braddock Says:

    Bishop Henderson, the episcopal church is falling apart around your ears. I hope you will follow Christ, and not Katherine Schori.

  2. KENT Says:

    I understand this also as an eloquent (if oblique) call for a Lenten fast from obsessing over the latest fulminating rhetoric from the blogosphere. May we enjoy during Holy Week ‘the glory of what the Lord has wrought in Christ.’ Thanks for refocusing us, Bishop.

  3. Jim Welsh Says:

    I am happy to see that someone has the sense to slow down and take the time to prayerfully consider their words before publishing them.

  4. Glenn Gould Says:

    I simply add an AMEN to Jim Welsh’s thoughts above. Thank you, Jim, for putting it so well.

    We continue to pray for you, Bishop, and all our brothers and sisters in Christ in this diocese — regardless of theological convictions and biblical leanings.

  5. Zachary Braddock Says:

    In Response to Glenn Gould and Jim Welsh: I would like to point out that I do have patience. I could have typed a long diatribe about the finer theological points of the current crisis in the church. But I did not. I posted a short message.

    I do pray for Bishop Henderson. He is the Shepherd of the Diocese. But there is a difference between having different theological leanings and biblical leanings and being a heretic; which Katherine Schori is, and Dorsey Henderson is not. From what I know, Bishop Henderson is one of the most Christian bishops left in the church.

    Kent: I rarely read blogs. I read news articles and newspaper features. I read diocesan websites. I compare scripture and the church fathers to the current rhetoric, and I talk to clergy from South Carolina to Pennsylvania to Michigan. I have made my own opinions; I am not echoing the bleating of an irritated blogger.

    You say that the Bishop is refocusing us. I think that that is the wrong course of action. I am staying focused on the Lord’s Passion.

    But the Passion of the Christ is intricately intertwined with this current crisis: The Passion is directly related to the nature of Jesus Christ, which is in dispute.

    Good Friday is the day wherin we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. The fact that he died is not in dispute, but if those who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ are among our bishops, how can we be united on Good Friday? If Jesus was not divine, then why am I wasting my time going to the Liturgy? In fact, I’m then committing Idolatry!

    We are celebrating Passiontide and the Triduum, but why?

    To all (including Bishop Henderson): I say the Episcopal church is falling apart because the membership is dropping like mad, most of the church is running on dead men’s money, and the most active and growth-filled dioceses are the same that are leaving. Just yesterday, a retired bishop renounced his orders to cross the Tiber. The largest churches in TEC are leaving left and right (I might add that they are in Texas and Northern California, generally orthodox areas). The average episcopalian is a white upper-middle class woman in her late fifties. The Episcopal church supports abortion and homosexuality, both of which are directly contrary to the act of procreation. In thirty years, where do YOU think TEC will be? (Something to think about as we contemplate our mission, possible only through the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.)

  6. KENT Says:

    [ Zachary: I’m honoring the Bishop’s call to dedicated worship for Holy Week. So no reply for now. Peace be with you, brother. ]

  7. Zachary Braddock Says:

    Kent: And peace be with you also, my brother.

  8. KENT Says:

    Anybody know if/when the Bishop’s promised (“as soon as possible” after Easter Day) next statement will be ?

  9. Zachary Braddock Says:

    Kent, I think we are all waiting with baited breath.

  10. KENT Says:

    ZACH: in belated reply to your March 30th post in this thread … Is a viable reply to your prophetic critique of TEC Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees complaining of the company He kept? To wit:

    “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9)

    I say this reply is also why we need to support our Bishop and work from within to strengthen our Episcopal Church.

  11. Bill Carroll Says:

    The Episcopal Church has never been stronger or more faithful.

  12. KENT Says:

    TO BILL . . . may we hear more from you than an assertion of an improbability? A church undergoing schism doesn’t sound like a strong one to me.

  13. Bill Carroll Says:

    The Church is strong when it is faithful, and the Episcopal Church has never been more faithful than it was at General Convention in 2003 and 2006 (except B033, which was a disaster) and the recent HoB meeting at Camp Allen. One hopes that the General Convention will reject the other ultimatums. This too will be a sign of strength, even if the reaction of some leads to schism. The sixteenth century reformations also strengthened the Church and its mission, even as they divided it. Any attempt to back up so much as an inch on the full inclusion fo gays and lesbians would be a moral, pastoral, and evangelical disaster, what Michael Hopkins calls “evangelical suicide.” One hopes that the next General Convention would push us even further forward. We still have a long way to go.

  14. Zachary Braddock Says:

    First off, Bill: You say that backing up on the full inclusion of gays and lesbians would be a disaster. I say that the disaster has happened because the church has gone as far as it has, and going any further will do nothing good. The relationship between a husband and wife typifies the relationship between Christ and the Church; a relationship between two same-sex partners does not. Christ cannot be his own body, nor can the Church be the head of the body.

    You also say that the church is strong. The Episcopal church does not agree on the message of the Gospel. Orthodox Christians preach the redemptive power of the Gospel, the saving message of Jesus: Go and sin no more. Obviously, since we are human, they are unable to refrain from sin, just like those who are not orthodox. However, the problem with the non-orthodox is that the gospel is seen as a free pass to sin. There is no command to try and refrain from sin. There is no endeavor to unite oneself to Christ.

    To Kent: I realize that Zach is shorter than Zachary, but I would prefer to be called by my full name.

    I would agree that trying to fix the episcopal church from within would be a better solution, but that has been tried. Those who oppose the revisionist beliefs of their bishops are refused ordination. Priests are deposed. I personally know one priest who upheld his ordination vows and was deposed because of that, without trying to leave the Episcopal Church.

    The Pastoral Vicar was refused. Those who were counting on that in order to stay in the Episcopal Church were left high and dry because the House of Bishops said their way or no way. If the Episcopal Church truly had any tolerance left in it, it would have embraced the Pastoral Vicar.

  15. Bill Carroll Says:

    The standard of orthodoxy should be the teaching of the Church you actually belong to (the Episcopal Church) and not the Church that you wished you belonged to but do not.

    By asserting a male-headship theology of marriage you make it difficult (if not impossible) to take your contribution to the debate seriously. If men and women are equal partners in marriage, then a vowed couple of men only or women only can be just as good an image of Christ’s faithful love for the Church as anyone else.

    The trajectory in the household codes is liberatory (since those who were “on top” in Greco-Roman society are given obligations toward their subordinates), but there is still a considerable amount of sexism in what is being proposed, which Christians today must reject outright, just as they must reject outright any theology of gender complimentarity, which is necessary to get heterosexism (as well as plain old sexism) off the ground.

    You beg the question about whether same sex partnerships are always sinful, regardless of context. The Episcopal Church already ruled on this in 2000, when D039 was passed. The only remaining argument is about what relationships can be “officially” blessed. God is already blessing same sex relationships and the Chuch is adding its blessing with no canonical, disciplinary, or doctrinal prohibition in many parishes and dioceses of the Episcopal Church. The Church has already acknowledged (C051) that this is perfectly acceptable. We will continue to press forward.

  16. Roger Truesdale Says:

    Apparently Bishop Henderson has decided that ‘discretion is the better part of valor.’ I’m extremely discouraged that almost a month has gone by now since his promise of a fuller statement on the House of Bishops’ meeting. May we at least know how you voted, Bishop?

  17. Zachary Braddock Says:

    Bill, first off, how do you know that God is blessing same-sex relationships? This is an honest question, and I will refrain from asking any more of you, until you answer.

  18. Bill Carroll Says:

    It’s like any other case of spiritual discernment. How do you know that God is present in any relationship. I suppose you look for evidence of self-giving love, increasing openness to our neighbors outside the relationship, etc. I’ve known dozens of same sex couples whose partnerships show at least as much evidence of holiness as my own marriage (which like most human relationships is a mixture of holiness and sin). Like most intimate relationships, very little in these couple’s lives has to do with sex. Most of it has to do with deciding what to have for dinner or who will walk the dog or what movie to rent at the video store. Sex is one important component in any partnered relationship, a sacramental sign of mutual self-giving.

    How would one know that God is not in the relationship? This seems a pretty unnecessary and insulting claim, unless one accepts the untenable view that everything Scripture says is true and the equally untenable view that the biblical texts which appear to condemn such relationships actually have something like the relationships envisioned in D039 in mind.

    Suppose for the sake of argument that the sexual acts in such a relationship were objectively sinful (which they aren’t). Would that mean that God is not in the relationship? Would it mean that the relationship doesn’t use the relationship for the couple’s sanctification? Why would this one sin be worse than the sin that is in an opposite sex couple’s relationship.

    It can’t be a sin if it doesn’t violate the person’s conscience, which according to the ancient principle of canon law, must always be followed. (Conscientia semper sequenda.) The Church celebrates, witnesses, and blesses the marriage (BCP, p. 423), it does not create the marriage. The couple does that. We don’t remarry people who receive a civil ceremony. This tells us something important.

    Natural law objections went out the window when we started permitting contraception.

  19. Bill Carroll Says:

    make that: “God doesn’t use the relationship”

  20. Zachary Braddock Says:

    Bill, your last line stands out to me. Natural Law. It would seem that same-sex “marriage” would be a violation of that Natural Law. Just as contraception is.

    You mention conscience being neccessary to sin. Does that mean that using contraception is a sin for me, but not you? Does that mean that Osama bin Laden does not sin when he plans the murders of innocents? What I say may sound ridiculous to you, but it shows my point.

    As for the church blessing marriages, you are correct. The two persons being joined in matrimony are the ministers of that sacrament.

    But remeber, a sacrament must have the neccessary intent, form, and matter. For Communion, it is the consecration of the Bread and Wine into the Real Presence of Jesus Christ as the intent; the form is the institution narrative, and the matter is bread and wine. For marriage, it is the intent of binding oneself to another in holy matrimony, with all the responsibilities that are incurred in the married state, including (but most certainly not limited to) giving oneself physically to another, and only to that person, and being open to the gift of children; the form is that which is found in the prayerbook, ie. the promise and committment as described above; and the matter is one man and one woman. Together, they compliment each other, bringing gifts and responsibilities to the marriage.

    Bill, pure biology also testifies against same-sex “marriage”. Two men cannot have children. Two women cannot either. Sure, they can adopt. But so can two heterosxual people. If homosexuality becomes more widespread, like some people believe it shall, then… we as a species will not be able to continue. One of the primary purposes of marriage is reproduction. That is impossible in same-sex “marriage”. The Natural Law reveals its ugly self again.

  21. Bill Carroll Says:

    People used to argue in this way that women couldn’t be ordained. And yet the Church teaches that they can.

    People also used to argue that interracial marriage was against natural law. In 1998, we voted to remove the ban in SC, which had long been superseded by federal law.

    Last I checked, the Episcopal Church permits contraception. The pronouncements about sex by any Church that does not permit contraception are not to be taken seriously. The Roman Catholic ban is responsible for grave moral evils. The MDG’s commit us to empowering women, and contraception and family planning, including the decriminalizing of abortion have to be part of this package.

  22. Zachary Braddock Says:

    Bill, answer one simple question. If part of the church teaches that women cannot be ordained, then you think they are wrong. Is it therefore possible, that since that part of the church is wrong, that that same part of the church could be wrong?

  23. Bill Carroll Says:

    I think we’ll have to just let this one rest. Any part (or the whole Church) can be wrong at any time. The Articles of Religion, which no Episcopalian is required to accept (except #6, which is only binding on the clergy), teach that general councils can err. So too can Lambeth, which is neither a council nor general. So too can General Convention, which is a council and has some real binding authority. If you think the Church is wrong, you have to follow your conscience. The Church itself teaches that. That doesn’t mean that you should expect to escape discipline. Part of conscientious dissent is accepting the discipline of the community. In our case, the process is spelled out in the Constitution and Canons.

    I am going to give this conversation a rest. I’ve tried to reply to you as best I could, but we’ve really gotten off the topic of Bishop Henderson’s post. I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

  24. Fred Says:

    Bishop, we are still waiting for the fuller statement you promised.

  25. John Ashworth Says:

    TO ALL: does ANYONE know how Bishop Henderson voted at the House of Bishops in March?

  26. Jonathan Grieser Says:

    Bishop Henderson has sent a letter to the clergy dated today, May 9, in which he describes the meeting of the House of Bishops, his votes on the resolution, and the reasoning behind those votes. None of it will come as a surprise to anyone who knows the bishop, and has followed closely his statements in the last four years, and his activity in the wider church. As always, he writes with care, compassion, and sincerity. The letter should be available in all congregations of the diocese on Sunday, and will be posted on the diocesan website early next week.

  27. Richard Irons Says:

    The posts have been interesting reading and have spurred a question. If St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was labeled a heretic by the intellectual people of his time, is our PB to be considered in good company?

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