Skip to comments.SYNOD ADDRESS OCTOBER 17, 2003
Posted on 10/17/2003 2:14:31 PM PDT by ahadams2
SYNOD ADDRESS OCTOBER 17, 2003
"Father, if it be possible let this Cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done."
Beloved in Christ, in my last nine Synod Addresses, I have always addressed you from the Pulpit, and for good reason. I have never really done a "State of the Diocese Address", but rather have shared with you the Good News of Jesus Christ. The pulpit must always be reserved for the Proclamation of the Word of God. In my 9 ½ years as your Bishop I have endeavored never to preach issues, never to use my Synod Address to advance my own personal agendas, nor to use the Harvest Plain as a political organ. In short I have endeavored to place the Mission of the Church, the need to Evangelize, and the obligation to implement strategic growth ahead of the chaos that has infected our Church. In so doing I have shielded you from the many developments that have taken place as the American Province has continued to shrink in size and has continued to be in conflict with the rest of the Anglican Communion. That is why I am speaking ex cathedra at this Synod, because as chief Shepherd and chief Teacher of this Diocese, I must speak very frankly with you. In many ways, this is the Address I never wanted to deliver. It is the Cup that I have asked to be taken from me, but as a Successor to the Apostles, I am bidden to share with you certain realities in our common life as Anglican Christians in the Episcopal Church.
As you know I was born into an Episcopalian family, and I am one of those oddities in the Episcopal Church, namely a "cradle Anglo-Catholic." At the age of five I knew God had called me to serve Him, and by the age of twelve I knew I was called to be a priest. With the exception of several diversions, including a brief stint on the pitcher's mound, all of my efforts have been towards that end, namely being a priest in the Episcopal Church. In retrospect I can see that about thirty-five years ago, under the leadership of the Presiding Bishop at that time, some erosion of the Faith once delivered to the Saints began to occur such as respect for life from womb to tomb, the nature of Holy Matrimony, Faith and Order and our relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion. Some of the erosion of that Faith was regional, but it was apparent that a stronger sense of centralization at the Episcopal Church Center was taking place. It was also obvious that the way in which we read and interpreted Holy Scripture was changing and references to the Episcopal Church as an "American Denomination" as opposed to being a Province of the Anglican Communion were becoming more common. At the same time we added to the office of Presiding Bishop the title "Primate." Indeed, mention was even being made of the "national Church" as if there were in fact such an entity as opposed to our incorporated name, namely "The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America" which reflects the earlier reality that we are a confederation of dioceses, with the Senior Bishop being the Presiding Officer. Suddenly we had a Presiding Bishop and Primate who had no jurisdiction. Even the Pope has a Diocese as does the Archbishop of Canterbury.
With this shift also came a type of "prophetic" imperialism whereby we Episcopalians in the United States began to function as if we knew what was best for the rest of the Anglican Communion. Living in a democracy is a very good thing, but assuming that God is the President of a democracy is a very dangerous thing. God does not act on the basis of our votes; rather we act on the basis of His commandments. At the Lambeth Conferences we began to see a growing animosity among the other Provinces towards the American Province partly because of our unequal representation. We were one of the smallest Provinces, one that was shrinking instead of growing, but we had the most Bishops present. Many Episcopalians interpreted that as anti-American sentiments and even tried to relate it to the policies of the United States government. The reality is that it was not and is not an anti-American sentiment; rather it is a reaction to the ways in which we as a Province have continued to stretch the limits of Anglican identity and ethos. In other words for those who are asking, "Why are people so unhappy after this year's General Convention", the answer is, this has been developing for many years. In 1988 one of our priests, who was then Executive Director of a national organization and now is vicar of one of our Missions addressed the matter of the looming conflict over human sexuality by saying, We are pleased that the Church is exercising caution in Christian Teaching on sexuality, and that the Convention rejected efforts to weaken the Episcopal Church's traditional teaching and practice. We are concerned about the nature and form of the dialogue to take place, particularly with the inclusion of "experience" as a theological category. This is a significant departure from Anglican method." It was only 15 years ago that he made that statement.
Due to fact that I have been drawn into a variety of national and international Anglican gatherings, I have been privy to much information for a long time, almost from the beginning of my Episcopate, and in many ways I have borne the burden of this information as your Father in God silently, but now we must carry it together. In some ways I have suffered in silence as I have witnessed General Conventions becoming more engaged in socio-political activities fueled by political pressure groups than in biblical and theological Kingdom building through the conversion of the world to Jesus Christ. But I have returned home to this precious Diocese with the knowledge that I am blessed to be the Bishop of very godly people in the Diocese of Quincy, with holy predecessors who have labored long and hard in this vineyard. Nonetheless I can feel the knot in my stomach months before each General Convention wondering how much damage control I will have to do when I return home and how many media interviews I will have to do.
Unfortunately the Secular Media has focused on two issues only, namely the confirmation of the election as Bishop-Coadjutor of a divorced man who is living in a relationship other than that which is defined in Holy Scripture and reaffirmed by the Anglican Communion, and the passage of a Resolution that gives tacit approval to homosexual marriage, commonly called "the blessing of same gender relationships" again contrary to the actions of the Lambeth Conference. Both of these actions specifically violate the Resolution passed by more than 90% in 1998 at the Lambeth Conference. This Resolution was given much prayer and attention and was agreed upon by diverse groups. In rejecting the Lambeth Resolution the Episcopal Church has not only refused to abide by Lambeth Conference, but it has exceeded its own authority as defined in its own Constitution and Canons and in the preface of the first American Book of Common Prayer. The tragedy is that the Press only likes "sound bytes" and the media is simply incapable of explaining theological concepts with its various nuances. Moreover when this is coupled with both a House of Bishops and a House of Deputies whose primary expression is not theological articulation and communication, our corporate life becomes chaotic. It is becoming increasingly clear that many people really believe that the crisis in the Episcopal Church is all about human sexuality, and this simply is not true. Certainly there have been homosexual clergy throughout history. Indeed, sexuality is one part of our humanity, but it has never been, until recent years, a primary expression of the definition of our being. Indeed, in many places it would appear that our sexuality is more important than the other complex elements that constitute a human being. And the age in which we live gives little attention to the virtues of chastity and celibacy.
Our society, and indeed, the social sciences have all too often placed a greater emphasis upon its own ever-changing findings rather than on the unchanging Word of God. Moreover, speaking as one trained in the social sciences, generally speaking, we often address and treat symptoms of deeper realities than treating the deeper realities themselves. That is, symptoms invite us into looking for root problems and issues. Unfortunately the media all too often only reports on the various symptoms. In other words, we tend to react to symptoms that are only presenting problems as if they were ends in and of themselves, rather than to look at these symptoms as being windows into significant and complex circumstances. Moreover, as Karl Menninger has written in his book Whatever became of Sin we have substituted sin with new definitions of behavior by making all elements of our being subject to psycho-sociological analysis and definition as opposed to submitting ourselves to God for the purpose of forgiveness, healing, and transformation. This applies to all elements of our life and is not limited to human sexuality. In other words, human beings are not condemned to being enslaved by their nature, but are in the position of being liberated by the Healing Power of Jesus Christ that transforms nature. Through our Baptism we are made new. We repent, we participate in metanoia, and we become inheritors of the Kingdom. This Kingdom consists of sinners, that is, human beings who succumb to whatever impulse they have that violates the Word of God and ruptures their relationship with the One who created them. To select one sin and hold it above others is unfortunate. The Scriptures are clear: All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. But, again as the Psalmist tells us with the Lord there is plenteous redemption, with the Lord there is forgiveness and He shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
Therefore all of us stand before God with our own weaknesses and with our own bete noir. Even St. Paul makes reference to his own besetting sin, and yet we do not define the Patron of our Diocese on the basis of whatever struggle he was having. Therefore, I beg you to open your arms to all people, for this Diocese is open to all who are seeking to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is what makes the last General Convention so difficult, for it has distracted us and usurped our time, resources, and energy and prevented us from doing what we have been primarily called to do. It also makes it appear that we are unsympathetic towards those who struggle with pain and conflict within their very being. The Great Commission is crystal clear: We are to baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we are to keep all of our Lord's commandments, and we are to be assured of His constant presence. Obedience is a central theme of the Gospel as is the call to draw all people to the love of Jesus Christ who poured forth His life for all people, no matter who or what they are. Our response is to live in a way that glorifies Him. Upon returning from General Convention as I reflected on the various actions I was somewhat stunned. Perhaps you already know what troubled me. It was, the near adoption of a innovative plan that would have allowed unbaptized people to receive Communion. It was a total misunderstanding of what Christian Baptism is all about. It was the utilization of Liturgies that make no reference to the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and that removes all mention of Jesus as Lord and King. It was the idea that Jesus is just one of the ways to the Father. It was the defeat of Resolution B-001 by 60% of the House of Bishops that would have affirmed absolute belief in the Old and New Testaments, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Creeds, and the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. This, by the way, was the "Quincy resolution" that was passed unanimously at last year's Synod. In failing to pass this Resolution we are now in utter chaos as to what we have in common when we sit down to have a significant debate or conversation not only with other Provinces of the Anglican Communion, but also other Christians. It is a bit like having an intercultural debate without ever discovering the principles upon which we agree. A failure to begin with traditionally agreed upon tenets is very confusing to those who have inherited a particular body of revealed Faith. The result is chaos, because we begin to import, often without telling others, new principles that we think are more authoritative than those that we have always agreed upon. You see, it is quite wrong to say that the issues are New Hampshire and Resolution C-051. It has been said by some that they are happy to be in a Church, that is, a Province, which has conversation about very difficult matters. I concur, but the actions of this General Convention stopped the conversation. It would be as if a husband and a wife were having an ongoing conversation about buying a particular automobile. They disagree, but they keep talking. However, if the husband drives home one night in the very automobile they had been disagreeing on, I guarantee you that the conversation about a potential purchase will cease. The conversation will probably become an argument, because the husband showed little respect for his wife's input and point of view. He says, "let's discuss this matter." She says, "what is there to discuss; you cut me out of the conversation."
This is how the Primates felt as they gathered at Lambeth for an emergency meeting. They had been engaged in conversation with each other, and they had been assured by the Primates in Canada and the United States that nothing extraordinary would happen in their Provinces so that the conversation could continue, but we ended the conversation by taking contrary actions to both the Lambeth Conference and the recent Primates' meeting held just weeks before our General Convention. The Primates believe that we have exceeded our authority, violated our own Constitution, and have told the rest of the Anglican Communion, "I have no need of you." Thus thirty-five years of shifting has come to a defining moment in the history of Anglicanism. The real question before us is, are we so enamored with being Episcopalians that we have absolutely no interest in remaining Anglicans, that is, being part of a world-wide Communion. To phrase it differently, I am making every effort I can as your Bishop to prevent us from being expelled from the Anglican Communion, resulting in us becoming an American Protestant Denomination in Communion with no historic See, rather than members of a world-wide Communion that is a part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church in Communion with the historic See of St. Augustine in Canterbury. This has resulted in my being a part of several national and international events, which are exhausting but essential if we are to maintain full Communion with the rest of the Anglican Communion. We run the risk of being in Communion with several American Denominations while being out of Communion with the largest Provinces in the Anglican Communion.
Indeed, saying that we are Episcopalians first and that we will die with that identity gives us a peculiar form of patriotism: "My Church right or wrong," as many who say that criticize those who say, "My country, right or wrong." This was to be seen in the Resolutions at General Convention that were scathing denunciations of our Government and the President of the United States.
Tonight I am speaking in very plain words to you. Like Elijah I am convinced that we cannot "limp along with two opinion"s regarding the Word of God, or as one translation says: "How long will you sit on the fence?" I have mentioned the presenting problems, but what are the underlying root problems and principles? To begin with, it is the matter of Biblical reasoning and interpretation. It means do we do scholastic exegetical analysis or do we employ eisogetical principles. In other words how do you and I view the Holy Scriptures? Do we believe that the Holy Scriptures are, in fact, reliable, or must we revise and embellish them in light of our ever changing culture, thus meaning that each culture or nation around the world will and must interpret Holy Scriptures in light of where they live. That is, do we believe in objective truth or do we see all truth as subjective and evolutionary? Indeed, Anglicans are not inherently Biblical Fundamentalists, but I have come to realize that there is a growing fundamentalism in the Episcopal Church; it is canonical fundamentalism, in my opinion, for it holds up General Convention and its Constitution and Canons above another Book, which we call the Bible. Biblical interpretation is, indeed, done in the context of the Eucharistic Community, but it must be understood that the implications of Holy Scripture are as significant to today's world and Church as they were to the Church in Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. As one of our priests has said, "It is a matter of Love letters versus historical artifacts. If you believe that Scripture contains love letters to you, his beloved, from a God who is love, then you will hang on every word. Every precious thing said in them conveys the infinite care and solicitude of the lover who would preserve you for himself until he brings you home. You want to read them over and over, in order to experience again the breath of love that rustles in their pages. You thrill with love in your own heart as it answers to the love found in the Bible. You long to be all that He wants you to be, especially when he has promised to send you all the help you need to become the beautiful bride He will be proud of. On the other hand, many who call themselves Christian today seem not to experience this intimacy in the scriptures, much to the consternation of those who do. These analytical Christians find only dry leaves of an ancient tree long dead, worthy perhaps of "scientific" scrutiny as an historical curiosity. But these dead letters have only passing relevance to the needs of people today, who are the children of a new and green tree."
What this priest and Rector has eloquently shared with us is the crux of the matter. He, in effect, gives us an analysis of what can be called the traditional hermeneutic versus the new hermeneutic. It is the former that has been traditionally held by Anglicans and reaffirmed by this week's emergency Primates Meeting; it is the latter that has been adopted in a post-modern, post-Christian age. Indeed, our own Richard Hooker, the Elizabethan apologist, was rather clear about Scripture. For him it was not sola Scriptura, but rather it was the preeminence of Holy Scripture from which one is able to use Holy Tradition and Divine Reason as ways of reinforcing Scripture. It was not a three-legged stool, rather as one of our priests has said "It is more like an iceberg with Scripture being at the top". Thus for us today it will be a matter of determining how it is that Holy Scripture informs and guides us as we analyze new developments in all areas in our culture. Again, since this is not a sound byte you will not see this in the newspaper or hear it on the 6:00 News.
This leads us to the dilemma of what has transpired since General Convention in our Diocese and in our Province. Our Canons require Resolutions to be filed 30 days prior to Synod. In the past the Resolutions Committee in consultation with those who submitted the Resolution then reviews such Resolutions. These Resolutions are refined, and then are presented at the Deanery pre-Synod meetings. Once again they are refined in light of feedback from these meetings. Those who do not attend these meetings do us a disservice, because they often introduce matters at Synod that have been discussed or even resolved at the pre-Synod meetings. In addition this year we had a Clergy Day to discuss the various matters of General Convention and we invited each priest to bring someone from their Bishop's Committee, Vestry, or Cathedral Chapter. Several churches had no lay representation, and two priests did not attend. Again, not attending these meetings means that some come to Synod without a sufficient amount of information. This year three sets of resolutions were written with the full knowledge that most of the Resolutions would be revised and other resolutions withdrawn on the basis of what happened at a large Meeting in Dallas Texas called "A Place to Stand," and the emergency Primates' meeting in London that concluded yesterday. Unfortunately someone shared these pre-synod draft resolutions with the Press. This then sparked a response from one of us that was used by the media. I have a healthy respect for the media, but I am also aware of what sells papers and what causes stations to have higher ratings than others. Thus, we, as a Diocese, have had to witness this year's Synod already publicly reviewed by those who will undoubtedly be astounded by the Resolutions that actually will be presented. I have been amazed to read headlines saying that the Diocese of Quincy is splitting from the Episcopal Church and to learn of someone suggesting that all of this is the Bishop's attempt to lead us out of the Episcopal Church because of women's ordination. How in the world can I even respond to absurd statements such as those? It will be the Holy Spirit who will guide us in our deliberations, and it will be the Hand of God that will guide us in our common life together.
As a result of the phenomenal fall out since General Convention, I was asked by the Presiding Bishop along with nine other bishops to attend a two-day meeting in New York. Several things became clear: entire vestries have resigned, people are leaving the Episcopal Church, both Lay and Ordained, Special Diocesan Synods have had to be called to try to stop the hemorrhage, the Presiding Bishop has been uninvited to consecrate a priest as Bishop-Coadjutor of Florida, Islamic and Anglican dialogue has been halted, Ecumenical relationships are being severely strained, several Communions and Denominations have already issued statements of denunciation, the Episcopal Church has been excommunicated by several Anglican Provinces, with apparently more to come, and several Bishops have immediately announced their retirements. Beloved no matter where you stand on several issues, the Episcopal Church is in chaos, and I as your Bishop am giving every waking moment to praying and acting in ways that will not allow our Diocese to be sucked into this chaos. Our task is to make Christ, known, worshipped, and adored, to provide a safe place for all of you who have been committed to my care, and to take seriously the vows I made when I was consecrated as your Bishop 9 ½ years ago. My personality type is to try to avoid conflict, but just as Thomas a Becket had to decide between his love for his friend, King Henry, and his love for the Lord of the Church, I have had to keep my eyes on Jesus and not be distracted by those who wish to use me to accomplish their own ends or to sidetrack me into becoming a second rate ecclesiocrat. I am not an elected official with constituencies; rather I am a Bishop with a flock. I have been and will simply continue to be a man who can only take orders from One - namely the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is He who will judge me and my intentions; it will not be my supporters or my opponents. It was with openness and honesty that I spoke in New York with the Presiding Bishop and nine other bishops last month so that there would be no hidden agendas. I leave it to others to judge what I said there.
Upon returning from New York I shortly thereafter went to London, meeting with Bishops from around the world, including the Archbishop of Canterbury who presented a significant theological paper. He shared his deep concern about the General Convention and reiterated the necessity of abiding by Lambeth Conference Resolutions. He also spoke of a possible realignment in the Communion.
And then there was Dallas. Although due to Jo's father's death, we were only there for the first half of the Conference, elsewhere at this Synod you will discover the significance of what happened there, as nearly 3000 people prayed and prepared for what the Primates would say.
And now the Primates have spoken. In their dramatic statement released yesterday they have spoken with clarity and boldness about such subjects as the authority of Scripture, the expulsion of Provinces from the Anglican Communion, alternative Episcopal oversight and broken Communion. In addition a commission has been established by the Primates under their oversight to review the legal implications of Provinces that rebel against the rest of the Anglican Communion. In a typically polite way the Primates have called the Diocese of New Westminster, the Diocese of New Hampshire in Canada and the Episcopal Church to reverse its actions. In these actions the Archbishop of Canterbury as First among Equals has pledged his absolute support and leadership. The commission that has been formed will do all in its power to keep the Anglican Communion together. Indeed, as one insider in London said, "This meeting was a miracle, for the Anglican Communion is protected, and those who are seen as disrupting this union are placed in the position of having to change."
As the Primates have said, the actions of the American Church, "threaten the unity of our own Communion as well as our relationships with other parts of Christ's Church, our mission and witness, and relations with other faiths, in a world already confused in areas of sexuality, morality and theology, and polarized Christian opinion." They go on to say that the Episcopal Church has no authority "unilaterally to substitute an alternative teaching as if it were the teaching of the entire Anglican Communion." In addition they tell us that if the Bishop-Coadjutor elect of New Hampshire is consecrated by the Presiding Bishop on November 2 then, "we recognize that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA)." We are urged "not to act precipitately," but we are to "take time to share in this process of reflection and to consider (our) own constitutional requirements as individual provinces face up to potential realignments." Finally our Most Reverend Fathers in God tell us that "It is clear that these recent controversies have opened debates within the life of our Communion which will not be resolved until there has been a lengthy process of prayer, reflection and substantial work in and alongside the Commission which we have recommended. We pray that God will equip our Communion to be equal to the task and challenges which lie before it."
In all of this, the Lord has drawn me more and more into the Garden of Gethsemane, the Chapel in our house, where before the Blessed Sacrament I have prayed slept, and wept, interceding for each of you, for the Episcopal Church, for Dallas, and for the Primates. The Lord has ministered to me in ways that I cannot even express, but in ways that only reinforce what I have been saying to you since General Convention. We are first and foremost to be people of prayer. I am grateful for the many, many e-mails, letters, cards, and Mission and Vestry Resolutions that have conveyed the theme of support. But In all things, beloved, remember that when the history of this Diocese is written, it will be your support of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will endure, long after you and I are called home from our earthly pilgrimage.
This is a remarkable time to be an Anglican Christian and it will require our Province and our Diocese to recognize how significant our relationship is with our brothers and sisters around the word. Or as one overseas friend put it, "Your Diocese is just boringly normal in the Anglican Communion."
I wish I could have shared with you all of the excitement I have about our Diocese - a good Capital Campaign that is winding down, parishes and missions working together in partnership to share resources, starting a new church, St. Francis Chillicothe moving into a high growth area in Dunlap, growth in our churches, the rebuilding of St. John's Quincy, a UTO grant for the youth center in the new parish hall basement at St. George's Macomb, the new parish hall at Christ Church Moline. But tonight you deserved to hear what is really happening rather than what others perceive is happening.
For my failures to pray often enough, for my failures to thank you enough, for my failures to give you enough of myself, I ask your forgiveness. For your unconditional love, for your loving support, for your hugs, and for your generosity I give thanks. But in all things I ask you this, Be firm in your faith. Listen carefully to others but not more than you listen to God. Pray more than you worry and complain, and have compassion and love for those who feel abandoned and hurt. You, beloved, represent me, but more importantly you represent the One who called me to be your Bishop.
I can truly say that while I have prayed that this Cup pass from me, it is obvious that the Primates under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are with us in the Garden of Gethsemane. We are not alone, and as your Bishop I am more convinced than ever that I must say to you, in spite of the pain, in spite of the conflict, in spite of praying that this cup pass from me, not my will, but Thy will be done, at this Synod, in this Diocese, in this Province, and in this Communion.
To God Be the Glory October 17, 2003 Rock Island
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