Decision has no effect on close ties between Iowa and Kenyan diocese Bishop Scarfe reports
I was in the Cincinnati Airport, returning from a meeting of the Bishops’ Native Collaborative (a network of dioceses with significant indigenous Episcopalian members, of which Iowa is a part), when the Primates Communique (from the gathering of Primates in Canterbury this week) was released. The local TV news for Channel 8 (KCCI) was quick for an interviewed response barely five minutes from entering my home. A small snippet of that interview was shown on the 10pm news and can be found here. I am glad also to share with you the official statement by our Presiding Bishop.
My own thoughts are that we have gone down this road before. It does not make it any less painful especially for LGBT persons within our Church. Even such a temporary withdrawal of representation within Communion Boards and decision making bodies (presumably the Anglican Consultative Council) is a form of the cross which we carry for our readiness to invite all people into the Church of Jesus Christ offering full pastoral blessings on every aspect of their lives. Episcopal News Service quotes a statement made by our Presiding Bishop to his fellow Primates at the time in Canterbury: “I stand before you as your brother. I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society. And this (action) conjures that up again, and brings pain.”
I agree with the Presiding Bishop that it is the relationships that we are already forming that will continue to move us forward. These include the relationships between ourselves in our own differences of position on the most recent actions within The Episcopal Church. For example, the President of the Standing Committee, the Rev. Canon Kathleen Milligan, and I do not share a common position, and yet we have a profound respect for one another as ministers in Christ, are planning a joint evangelistic mission in 2017, God willing, and continue to work as close colleagues for and in the mission of this Diocese.
As for our companions abroad, I am grateful for Bishop Peni’s positive response to my inquiry as to what his own Primate’s statements might mean for our companionship, and we both find ourselves agreeing that our common bond forged by Jesus Christ remains the key. I am sending to Bishop Peni a reiteration of our shared mission goals as companions. The same applies to our companionship with the Diocese of Swaziland. It will be interesting to see if the discussion comes up among our young adult leaders from Iowa, Swaziland and Brechin when they meet in the Diocese of Brechin this summer. The Bishop of Bondo in Kenya has also repeated his invitation to me to visit him and his people with some renewed sense of urgency. Bishop Johannes of Bondo is the bishop of Fr. Domnic Misolo who works for gender equality in Africa (a mission goal, by the way, of our companions in Swaziland) Fr. Domnic was introduced to us through the support of his work by the people of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Des Moines.
People ask, “Why do we make these visits when there is so much need at home especially among our own small congregations?” The answer is twofold – first, it is not an either/or situation but both/and. This is Iowa’s opportunity to maintain the bonds of affection across the Communion, and we remind ourselves that God’s mission is global and so is ours. Second, I know of no one who has traveled to our companions and not returned transformed in mission energy for home as well as for abroad. God changes us through these moments, and I can only invite others to join me in these journeys. Often we see there vibrant congregations led by lay people, with regular doses of morning prayer and only occasional joyous celebrations of the Eucharist, and quite frankly it begs the question of what resources do we really need to be such a congregation. A love for Christ and a compassionate fire in our hearts for our neighbors is the gift of the Gospel. And if we don’t feel it we are encouraged to pray for such a Pentecost as they do.
It is hurtful that the Primates decision only perpetuates the pain and discrimination felt by LGBT persons not only within our expression of the Body of Christ, but across the Communion itself. Many of us may have hoped that we were turning a corner at General Convention in Salt Lake City on our pastoral inclusivity, though I think we had no illusions that there wouldn’t be more responses across the Communion. I am not sure what people think will be different in three years. In the meantime, it can be assumed that as we move forward promoting Jesus whose loving arms embrace everyone, within that embrace, leadership and vocations will grow, along with their own opportunities to continue to reach out in love. I am grateful that the Primates unanimously agreed that they want to walk together and that the “requirement” on The Episcopal Church (and wouldn’t we expect the list to grow within the next three years) relates to representation on International Anglican Bodies. We remain thankfully in communion, though clearly impaired. In fact I read somewhere (Romans *:38-39) that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor anything in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” After all it is God’s love that binds.
In the peace of that love of Christ,