Good Morning. I have a few words to say to you. First, greetings and love from both Bishop Parsley and myself, and from Sheila and Becky. The Parsleys are away right now, and I am here so direct your emails, etc. to me and I will gratefully receive them. I usually dont write my remarks out, but I think this is important so I will read them to you.
I have deep sympathy for the Episcopalians in Alabama. I also have great hope for us as bearers of a charism, a gift of being, which while not for everyone is deeply needed by some, perhaps many who are seeking Jesus Christ. My sympathy stems from my observation that Episcopalians here are being bombarded since General Convention by claims, for instance, that the Bible speaks plainly and clearly against inclusion and affirmation of homosexuals gay men and lesbian women in the life of the Church; and by claims, such as the one in an editorial in this mornings Birmingham News, reprinted from the Wall Street Journal, that the bishops and deputies at General Convention abandoned the Bible in order to promote what the author called a gospel of inclusivity. Echoing the Apostle Paul, there are varieties of spirits but there is one Holy Spirit.
The Bible never speaks plainly, but is always interpreted under the influence of spirits. Further, every institution has at its heart a guiding spirit and, no matter what name is on the masthead of that institution, it is only by prayer that the Holy Spirit becomes the guiding, interpreting spirit.
What has been poorly reported about General Convention is that the bishops and deputies prayed in the House of Bishops I can attest, so much so that some bishops worried we would never get our legislative work done. I felt, contrastingly, a great, serene peace despite the screaming Phelps family outside the convention hall and the Popes equation of same sex unions with abortion, for I knew we were under the direction of God, in whom we were actively putting our trust. Actively, for there was much debate and no small amount of that centered on scripture and how it might guide us. Despite contrary witnesses, such as in the editorial I mentioned earlier, the searching of scripture was evident in both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. I am not saying, however, that our fervent prayer or our work with scripture brought forth the perfect results. Though I believe that the question of human sexuality in the life the Church has justice dimensions, yet I co-sponsored and spoke and wrote asking for some time and widespread grassroots and up discussion on these questions and that legislative action on these issues would be postponed until some light, more light, could be cast on the subject. This week at Carpenter House I have been hearing a great deal of support for Bishop Parsley and the Alabama Deputation because they voted no on confirmation for Gene Robinson, but I disapprove of the National Church and its decisions on considering how to express that disapproval.
Well I, too, support and am with our Deputation and Diocese and Bishop in their reasoning and voting. But I must tell you that the prevailing vote did not drive any of us -Bishop Parsley, myself or your Deputation - from the Houses of General Convention. We, Bishop Parsley, I and the Deputies, continued as part of that body of representatives of the Episcopal Church, all of us working and praying to see what our next step in life together would be. The daily Eucharist we shared confirmed by experience that God has created us family. That realty imposes a heavy responsibility on me, and on you, for living out our common life.
I mentioned hope, and will close by saying that General Convention passed some very good, challenging, heartening, bracing legislation other than that which has been the focus of our attention: internships for young adults who seek to serve Christ and the world that Christ loves; lifelong Christian education and formation initiatives; and the endorsement of the Millennium Goals for World Development, to mention three exciting ones.
On that last one, the Millennium Goals for World Development, these have to do with the Episcopal Churchs engagement for the efforts against the AIDS pandemic in Africa; the legislation passed calls on parishes and diocese to commit, as Jeffrey Rothorn put it, nought point seven percent of our budget to the support of these enormously challenging goals around the world. It has been told to me this week that Bishop Stough, when we had a companion relationship in Namibia, put forward the idea - it seems like him - that if every parish sent one person to Namibia while we had that relationship we of the Diocese would be transformed. I believe that he is right. Whenever we lift ourselves out of our own concerns and are engaged in the concerns of Gods world for which Jesus Christ came
into the world and gave his life, we are transformed. Nought point seven percent of our people here at the Advent would be about 40 people.
You have enormous active ministries outside of this country and in this country under the leadership of Marcia Wilkinson, for whom I am very grateful. But I would wonder if you might consider this idea. In addition to the consideration of the devotion of that kind of money -nought point seven percent - what if about nought point seven percent of us went to Malawi or Zambia or any of the countries that are suffering under this pandemic, and sought to learn their lives, sought to help as they defined help for them?
This is a challenge I lay before you, as I will lay it before all of the parishes - the 92 parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. I am asking that we turn our hearts and minds to where Christs heart is, and Christs mind, and be engaged in that work of mission and ministry. The light from the gospel will guide us and we will find our way in these difficult issues, but we will stay together as a family. That is my commitment to you. I hope it is your commitment to each other, to your Dean, your clergy and your Church.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Andrus at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, August 17th, 2003