I stand by the decisions that we made at our General Convention to embrace a wider definition of marriage and to minister to our gay brothers and sisters by offering marriage equality.
Dear Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania:
Yesterday, while I was at one of our regional Clergy Council meetings, the news was breaking in Canterbury that the Episcopal Church had been directed to step away from participating in the committees and decision-making bodies of the Anglican Communion for a period of three years. This sanction was issued after a vote by a majority of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and is a direct result of the decisions that we made at our General Convention last July when we changed the canonical definition of marriage and embraced new liturgies for same gender weddings in our Church.
The directive said that the Episcopal Church should, “no longer represent us (The Anglican Communion) on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, (they) will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”
Many people in our parishes will have read that we have been “suspended from the Anglican Communion.” This, of course, is sloppy journalism and is untrue. However, it will still raise the anxiety levels in our parishes, and further undermine our sense of unity with our global Anglican partners. Our Church, Diocese, parishes, and parishioners are as Anglican today as we were last week. We still enjoy the spiritual and temporal riches that our membership of the Anglican family provides, except for the temporary and administrative sanctions I summarized above. Maybe our job in these days includes reassuring God’s people that the reports of our expulsion are greatly exaggerated!
A thorough report on the proceedings at the Primates meeting and links to other reports can be found here, on the Episcopal News Service.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, our Presiding Bishop, responded to the sanction saying, “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.” More of Bishop Curry’s comments are included in the ENS news release.
The international “fall out” for our actions is not surprising and, still, I know that for many, this will be painful and received as shaming. I stand by the decisions that we made at our General Convention to embrace a wider definition of marriage and to minister to our gay brothers and sisters by offering marriage equality. I have never been prouder to be a member of a Church that boldly steps out, in the name of Love and respects the dignity of every human being.
My prayer is that in due time, the Anglican Communion can proclaim and live into the richness of the theological, cultural and ethnic diversity that we enjoy by finding room for all of our voices at the table. In spite of our differences, I pray that we will find common ground, working for the reconciliation of the world to God in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Working towards that reconciliation in our own Anglican body will be a good spiritual exercise for us as we ask others to do the same. The barriers to wholeness and unity are not stronger than the One who vanquished death and offered us new life; may we find strength in Christ to overcome our divisions and devote ourselves to the work of the Gospel, healing the sick, clothing the naked and caring for the poor.
There will likely be members of our parishes who are quite happy with the Primates’ actions, and for whom the change in our understanding of marriage has been very challenging. They may even feel a sense of vindication today. Yet, this is an opportunity to extend our love and inclusion of these dear ones, even though we remain resolute in the conviction that our decisions at last year’s General Convention were in step with the Holy Spirit.
It would be worthwhile for us to spend some time together in Clergy Council meetings discussing the global church and its work. There are those among us who have great experience working in the international arena with insights to share and it is always a valuable exercise to explore how, in our daily life and ministry, we are connected to the larger Body of Christ.
Please pray for Michael, our Presiding Bishop and the Anglican Communion in this time of deep disagreement.
In the love of Christ,