Pastoral Letter to Church of the Advent
28 September 2007
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I have watched the news coverage of the just-concluded House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans. I have read the Bishops’ response to our Anglican partners. I have read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon preached at an ecumenical service in New Orleans. I have kept track of the email conversations on the Oasis Missouri list service. I feel I owe Church of the Advent an insight into how I respond to all of this.
Many GLBTQ Episcopalians have felt hurt by the House of Bishop’s response, understandably so. For far to long, gays and lesbians have known themselves to be almost fully included in our church, and that status remains unchanged. The House of Bishops will continue to exercise “restraint” in consenting to the elections of gays or lesbians as bishops, and will not authorize public services of blessing for same sex unions, just as General Convention 2006 asked them to do in Resolution B033.
It is important to say, however, that the House of Bishops does not have the authority to rescind resolution B033: that’s the way the Episcopal Church operates. It takes the consensus and agreement of persons from all orders, lay and ordained, with the consent of the Bishops, to enact any binding legislation on the Episcopal Church. We have never entrusted that authority to bishops alone. And so, while we might be disappointed that the bishops did not change the status quo, we can be grateful that they simply cannot make any changes without the rest of us.
The House of Bishops did, in their response to our Anglican Partners, object in the strongest possible terms to the incursion of bishops and clergy ordained in other branches of the Anglican Communion into the jurisdictions of American bishops. If there is any hope at all of preventing schism within the Anglican Communion, we must all play by the same rules, and some African bishops do not.
I want to reiterate that absolutely nothing has changed, because the bishops simply do not have the authority unilaterally to make any change at all. The situation remains exactly the same as a week ago. But, B033 becomes a dead letter on the first day of General Convention 2009. I believe we must start now working for change with the seating of that convention. Perhaps Advent’s Vestry can memorialize our own convention in 2008 to ask the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to prepare resolutions for GC 2009 that will lead the authorization of a liturgy for blessing same sex unions. Perhaps Advent’s Vestry can memorialize our diocesan convention in 2008 to ask that General Convention make clear to the Anglican Communion that dioceses in the Episcopal Church elect their own bishops and that bishops and Standing Committees will respect local elections.
I hope we can turn the hurt and anger at the maintenance of the status quo into positive energy directed at changing the status quo. The time for silence is past. We cannot protect the Anglican Communion by simply swallowing our own hurt. No relationship works that way. We can certainly listen to and understand the hurt of our partners, but our own will not go away by ignoring it. I trust that we and our Anglican partners can find some way of being honest with each other that involves neither name calling nor spite nor self-harm. We have as much right to ask them to listen to us as they have to ask us to listen to them. But for the relationship, any relationship, to survive, each party must be allowed to exercise self-care.
I pray that during the time between now and Lambeth 2008 and General Convention 2009, we will all exercise restraint in any hasty decisions either to leave this beloved Church of ours, or to cast stones at others. I also urge all of us to begin to find creative ways to work for full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians. Advent has done a remarkable job so far of including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and including those who have doubts about their full inclusion. We stay together because we need each other. We honor each other, and find ways to live together. I believe we have that gift to offer to the Anglican Communion. How can we let our light shine for General Convention? I urge us to find ways to do this.