Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Bishop of Western Michigan responds to the Canterbury primates communique

I am saddened by the recent action taken at the Primates meeting in Canterbury, England. Please continue to pray through this situation especially holding up +Michael, our Presiding Bishop, whom I wholeheartedly support, and all the Primates of the church. This action touches a painful nerve for many of us who deeply love both the Episcopal Church and our Anglican heritage.

First and foremost, please know that I stand by the decisions of General Convention that expanded our understanding of marriage and provided appropriate new marriage rites. It is a rather strange honor to be “sanctioned” for offering caring support and pastoral concern for others, particularly our LGBT friends who continue to be unfairly discriminated against and marginalized for simply for loving someone. I am committed to being open and inclusive of all people, recognizing we are all vulnerable and tender, and in constant need of mercy and forgiveness. This is what God in Jesus continually teaches us about the counterintuitive, countercultural, everlasting love of God.

Quite frankly, the Anglican Communion is a quirky deal. We are, properly understood, as an autonomous collective of churches whose authority rests locally. The Primates are not a governing body. They have no authority to sanction. They comprise one of four instruments of Anglican unity. These instruments are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and The Primates Meeting. (For more information, click here.)

I personally find this action to be really rather un-Anglican. Anglicans do not have litmus tests for right understanding or true belief. This is one of the things that makes us uniquely Anglican.

As a white, American heterosexual male, I have never really experienced any form of discrimination. I have access to great privilege based simply on the fortunes of my birth. This limiting action by a majority of the Primates does not sit well with folk who are accustomed to privilege. So, I have to measure my personal response over and against those who experience discrimination daily. This realization humbles me, making me more grateful to God for my many blessings and moves me to use my privilege to help end discrimination of any kind, shape or form.

This action does not change our call to serve the least, the last and the lost. The Episcopal Church is still part of the Anglican Communion. We must stay focused on our mission and not be distracted by powers and forces that seek to divide us.

You have heard me say, time and again, that Christianity is all about relationships. Fostering and cultivating intentional, mutual, respectful relationship is what it’s all about. So, for me, it is the breakdown in relationship and trust that hurts most. This division works against our missional call to be about restoration and unity. I find comfort, however, in the opening sentence of the Primates statement which simply says, “It is our unanimous desire to walk together.” Let us do this. I invite you to stay in the struggle, to stay in relationship with God, each other, with those whom we are blessed to serve and even with those with whom we disagree.

I love this Church and am proud to be an Episcopalian,


+Whayne M. Hougland, Jr., DD
IX Western Michigan

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