I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6
Conversations among Anglican sisters and brothers during the past several years have raised important questions of Anglican identity and authority. These questions speak to the nature of relationships among us.
We understand the requests made by the Primates from Dar es Salaam in February, 2007 as a good-faith contribution to that on-going conversation. Still, the requests of the Primates are of a nature that can only properly be dealt with by our General Convention. Neither the Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop, nor the House of Bishops can give binding interpretations of General Convention resolutions nor make an “unequivocal common commitment” to denying future decisions by dioceses or General Convention. We question the authority of the Primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion or to prescribe the relationships within any of the other instruments of our common life, including the Anglican Consultative Council.
Assertions of authority met by counter-assertions of polity are not likely to lead to the reconciliation we seek. As important as we hold our polity, the questions before us now are fundamentally relational. Our salvation is not in law but in the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Savior; so too with our relationships as Anglicans.
One part of this grace is that we, all of us, are bound together irrevocably into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit through the waters of Baptism. We are, whether we wish it or not, God’s gift to each other. It is our bounden duty to respond to God’s grace, a grace that we believe warrants gratitude and respect and that must be reflected in a deep and abiding honesty with one another in the context of living relationships.
We strongly affirm this Church’s desire to be in the fullest possible relationship with our Anglican sisters and brothers, but in truth the only thing we really have to offer in that relationship is who we are ”“ a community of committed Christians seeking God’s will for our common life. At various times in our history, we have struggled to embrace people who have historically been marginalized. We still struggle with those concerns, sometimes in new forms. Today this struggle has come to include the place of gay and lesbian people and their vocations in the life of the Church.
We cannot tell our brothers and sisters with certainty what the future holds or where the Holy Spirit will guide this Church. We can say with certainty that we have heard what some of our sisters and brothers have said about our actions with the utmost seriousness. We have attempted to respond to those concerns sensitively and positively. The sincerity of The Episcopal Church’s responses to matters before the Anglican Communion, particularly the responses of the General Convention 2006, have been attested to by the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.
We can promise that our engagement with the churches of the Anglican Communion and our deep and sincere listening will continue. The truth spoken in love by our sisters and brothers in Christ, and particularly the truth lived out in our relationships with Anglicans throughout the world, will be very much on our minds and held at the center of our hearts. The advice of the larger community will continue to find reflection in the actions we take.
We have received from the House of Bishops of our Church a request to decline to participate in the proposed Pastoral Scheme; with an explanation for the reasons our bishops believe that the scheme is ill-advised. We agree with the bishops’ assessment including the conclusion that to participate in the scheme would violate our Constitution and Canons. We thus decline to participate in the Pastoral Scheme and respectfully ask our Presiding Bishop not to take any of the actions asked of her by this scheme. We affirm the pledge of the bishops to “continue to work to find ways of meeting the pastoral concerns of the Primates that are compatible with our own polity and canons.”
At the 75th General Convention, The Episcopal Church reaffirmed its abiding commitment to the Anglican Communion (A159). As a demonstration of our commitment to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church supports the process of the development of an Anglican Covenant, and through the Executive Council is responding to the proposed draft now before the Anglican Communion (A166).
It is our most earnest hope that we continue to walk with our Anglican brothers and sisters in the journey we share together in God’s mission. We believe The Episcopal Church can only offer who we are, with openness, honesty, integrity, and faithfulness, and our commitment never to choose to walk apart.