Austin Statement of the Communion Partners of the Episcopal Church

July 13 2018 statement released at the close of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Austin

1 During the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, we prayed the Collect for Proper 9:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This prayer captures both the hope and the challenge we have experienced at this General Convention.

2 We give thanks to God for the way that members of our church who share the same baptismal identity have reached out to one another at this convention in common devotion to our Lord and in mutual affection, in order to seek common ground. We too seek to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Yet, in the midst of disagreement, the challenges to our communion in Christ are profound.

3 We are grateful that the convention has commissioned a Task Force on Communion across Difference (Resolution A227). This Task Force follows upon the “Communion across Difference” statement of the House of Bishops in 2015, which recognized the “indispensable” place that the Communion Partners have in our church’s common life, as a witness our church needs.

4 The work before the new Task force is to “seek a lasting path forward for mutual flourishing consistent with this Church’s polity.” The Task Force will bring together in equal numbers members of the church who affirm a traditional understanding of marriage and those who affirm same-sex marriage in order to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). The goal is to discover ways, in consultation with the wider Anglican Communion and others, to walk together with integrity as brothers and sisters in Christ within the structures of the Episcopal Church. This is a hopeful development.

5 The witness at this General Convention of our brothers and sisters in Province IX powerfully challenged the Episcopal Church to preserve a place for traditional theological witness. In the absence of such place, several dioceses of Province IX have made it clear that they will need to walk apart. There can be no clearer reminder of the importance of our efforts now to maintain the communion in Christ that we possess, and to walk together as closely as possible.

6 As Communion Partner Bishops, we seek to maintain the communion of our dioceses within the Episcopal Church, a “Fellowship of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer” (Preamble of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church). The larger Church is a catholic whole that includes our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion, and indeed Christians all over the world. In the face of crucial differences with our fellow Episcopalians over marriage, we seek the highest degree of communion possible consistent with these commitments.

7 We are grateful to God that the 79th General Convention has preserved the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, guaranteeing its continued use. While giving space for those who seek to develop new rites and new language under the guidance of their bishop, the Convention “memorialize[d] the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as a Prayer Book of the church preserving the psalter, liturgies, The Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and Trinitarian formularies ensuring its continued use” (Resolution A068). In adopting this resolution, the General Convention ensured that we may continue to pattern our communities after the historic Faith and Order of the Book of Common Prayer as authorized in the Episcopal Church, and that clergy and bishops will be able to vow obedience to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of this church as set forth in its historic prayer book.

8 As bishops, we claim our apostolic ministry as teachers of the Faith, and our role as chief pastors within our dioceses, clearly articulated in the Book of Common Prayer. As Communion Partner bishops, we affirm without reservation the traditional teaching that “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and the man enter into a life-long union” that is “intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another…; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” (BCP, pp. 861, 423). This is the teaching of Holy Scripture and of the Anglican Communion, articulated in resolution I.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998. At the same time, we recognize that other Christians of good will and commitment hold contrasting convictions about marriage. There is deep disagreement, which leads to a difference in teaching and practice among dioceses and congregations of our church.

9 The General Convention has, through Resolution B012, made liturgies for same-sex marriage available for all congregations that wish to use them, as authorized by their rectors or priests-in-charge (§7). How this will be dealt with in each diocese may differ. B012 has also provided (at §8) a structure that, in the face of our profound differences in teaching over marriage, preserves the role of bishops as chief teachers, pastors, and liturgical officers by allowing us to call upon the ministry of other bishops of the Episcopal Church, in exercising supplemental episcopal pastoral care in those congregations of our dioceses that desire to use these liturgies and seek this form of oversight. This creates a helpful space of differentiation, set within the wider communion of baptism and faith that we continue to share, however imperfectly.

10 Our church is called episcopal in order to indicate the primacy of bishops and dioceses within our polity, an ancient catholic principle. The diocese, not the congregation, forms the basic unit of the Church. We believe that the provisions of B012 for supplemental episcopal pastoral care enable the local adaptation of the historic episcopate, as provided in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, as a means toward unity within our church and with the wider Anglican Communion.

11 The convention has also acted to protect clergy and congregations who cannot, for reasons of theological and pastoral conviction, affirm such rites. Resolution B012 clearly underlines the canonical pastoral responsibilities of rectors and priests in charge (§7). Congregations that maintain the traditional teaching on marriage, no matter what their diocese, have an equal claim upon the pastoral care of the church. We offer our own ministry of pastoral care in such congregations as bishops in furtherance of that goal.

12 We believe that much remains to be done as we work out the details of the mutual flourishing to which the Episcopal Church has committed itself (Resolution A227 §3). The General Convention has resolved on ways that will allow us to walk together as closely as possible for the immediate future. The meaning of B012 for our church remains to be discovered, and we recognize that the contexts of our dioceses vary, as well. We continue to seek, through the Task Force on Communion across Difference and in other ways, more lasting means of walking together within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, preserving and deepening our communion in Christ.

13 Our Presiding Bishop, consistently and with great joy, bids us to turn our hearts to Jesus. We accept that challenge without reservation. We commit ourselves anew to transparency, to mutual affection across difference, and to reaching out and ministering to the LGBT community, who are also our brothers and sisters in Christ. By God’s grace we faithfully take up our cross as we follow our Lord and Savior (Matt. 16:24).

The Rt. Rev. Lloyd Emmanuel Allen
Obispo Diocesano de Honduras

The Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt
Bishop of Tennessee

The Rt. Rev. Gregory O. Brewer
Bishop of Central Florida 

The Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard
Bishop of Florida

The Rt. Rev. William H. Love
Bishop of Albany

The Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins
Bishop of Springfield

 The Rt. Rev. Moisés Quezada Mota
Obispo Iglesia Episcopal Dominicana

 The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith
Bishop of North Dakota

 The Rt. Rev. George R. Sumner
Bishop of Dallas

The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II
Bishop of Northern Indiana, Resigned

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