Daily Archives: October 10, 2007

'Dear Abby' says she's for gay marriage

For years, rumblings have surfaced on the Internet, conjecture about her casual references to “sexual orientation” and “respect.” Now, Dear Abby is ready to say it flatly: She supports same-sex marriage.
“I believe if two people want to commit to each other, God bless ’em,” the syndicated advice columnist told The Associated Press. “That is the highest form of commitment, for heaven’s sake.”

What Jeanne Phillips, aka Abigail Van Buren, finds offensive and misguided are homophobic jokes, phrases like “That’s so gay,” and parents who reject or try to reform their children when they come out of the closet.

Her views are the reason she’s being honored this week by Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a national advocacy group that provides support for gay people and their families. The original Abby, Phillips’ 89-year-old mother, Pauline, helped put PFLAG on the map in 1984 when she first referred a distraught parent to the organization.

Jeanne Phillips, who formally took over the column when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago, has continued plugging the group, as well as its affiliate for parents with children who identify as transgender, and a suicide hotline aimed at gay teenagers.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Marriage & Family

The Bishop of Iowa Writes on the New Orleans House of Bishops Meeting

One statement produced four different headlines: “Episcopal Bishops stand their ground” (The Times- Picayune, New Orleans), “Episcopal Bishops reject Anglican Church’s orders” (New York Times), “Episcopal Bishops make concessions for the sake of unity” (USA Today), and “Episcopal leaders pledge ”˜restraint’ on gay support” (Des Moines Register). As one who was there and engaged in the discussion and response, I would write “Episcopal Bishops seek to offer clarity and transparency to the Anglican Communion”.

In our statement in response to the Primates’ Communiqué the House of Bishops reinforced first that we would not consent to any one elected as bishop whose manner of life was a challenge to the Communion, and we clarified that this resolution (General Convention resolution B003) pertained to non-celibate gay and lesbian persons. We underscored how this response from General Convention had been accepted by the ACC’s own Working Sub Group set up to evaluate our responses to the Windsor Report. Second, we upheld that we have never and will not in the current time authorize any official rites for same sex blessings. We added that a majority of bishops do not allow their clergy to offer the local pastoral option for same sex couples of an unofficial or private rite, even though the Primates own statement from 2003 indicates that such offerings are pastorally sensitive. We were also clear that some bishops do permit their clergy to make local pastoral provisions for such couples. All in all it struck me that this statement alone was an indication of a serious roll back from 2003, as I am sure some bishops of that majority have ceased such permissions since that time. The distinction of practice between authorizing rites and local option allowance was something the ACC representatives wanted to know about. It was a clarity that allowed for greater unity across the floor of the House of Bishops.

The third area concerned the refusal in March and then in June by the Executive Council for a pastoral council made up of representatives from beyond this Province to overview the concerns of the dioceses who could not accept the Presiding Bishop’s authority. We upheld our position, but asked the Presiding Bishop to explore ways to create such a sounding board through which the Communion could engage us in regular conversation about things that come up that might be potentially problematic. The Presiding Bishop announced a team of Episcopal visitors ”“ all bishops on the conservative spectrum of the House ”“ including for example the Bishop of Dallas whom it was hoped would be acceptable to a bishop like his neighbor in Fort Worth. The ACC representatives assured us that a pastoral council would not infringe on our autonomous polity but be a source for preliminary conversation for things that might come up of a challenging nature which could then be marked as such. We hoped that such a council might include radar that swings 360 degrees and is not only pointed at The Episcopal Church. The council would be made up of all the ministry orders: lay, non episcopal clergy and bishops.

In these responses, I believe that we did what we were asked, and then went further to speak about jurisdictional boundary crossings, the ongoing listening process for gay and lesbian believers, our ongoing support as a Communion to the rights of gay and lesbians around the world, and a request to explore Gene Robinson’s potential invitation to the Lambeth Conference. The complete statement was accepted by the House of Bishops with only one nay vote, and that from a bishop who was standing by his GC vote against B033. Bishops who had been unable to sign on to our statement from the March House of Bishops, and Bishops who had rose to distance themselves from B033 at its passing at General Convention 2006, and Bishops who had risen to protest the inability simply to pass the Windsor report at that same Convention all declared themselves of one mind in our response to the Primates. One mind did not mean of the same opinion on the matters at hand, but that we had stated our positions as clearly and openly as we could. Only those who had already decided on the outcome and seemed to be there only to be heard by the Archbishop of Canterbury ”“ Pittsburgh, West Kansas and Quincy ”“ leaving when he did, as well as those who did not attend at all”“ Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Springfield ”“ exempted themselves from the response process altogether.

The Bishop of Rio Grande, however, was in a class by himself, as with great emotion and humility he announced his resignation from The Episcopal Church and his desire to enter the Roman Catholic Church. His profound, personal theological statement and his warmth of feeling for his fellow Bishops as he explained his reasons, was a highlight. In one sense it was the Church at its best in a most sorrowful time, and the standing ovation and embraces he received afterwards will never be forgotten. It was a marked contrast to the arrogance that has been a part of our dispute.

As with most historical and critical times, there was drama. An early draft of where we might be, provided by a selected Writing Committee, was rejected from both sides as non representative, unclear and unhelpful. That draft unfortunately was released as “our statement” by an unknown source as we worked on the process in open session. Even the New York Times “bit” early and Bishops had to send out disclaimers through their diocesan communications officers, warning against premature reactivity among their people.
Whether our own statement will be sufficient for the Archbishop and for those who assess it officially is to be seen. Certainly we were left in no doubt about the seriousness of the requests upon us. The Archbishop ended his statements by stating on the one hand that we were not under any deadline or facing an ultimatum, but went on to say, on the other, that “what happens in these next few days will enable growth to go forward or not.”

For me, three things were very clear. There was not a soul in the place that did not with great affection and passion appreciate their fellowship in the Anglican Communion, and we have to a large extent sought to make space for the broader conversation if members of the Communion really want it. The Archbishop and the members of the Joint Standing Committees of the ACC and the Primates indicated by their presence how much they seek that conversation. We are not however as a Church going to embrace a perspective on gay and lesbian believers which excludes them. That is a missional stance for many of us. And finally through our engagement with the city and people of New Orleans and of the Mississippi Coastal communities, and witnessing their efforts to come back from the devastation of Katrina and the breaking of the levees, we received an incredible charge to be restorers of paths to dwell in. In addition we were challenged by Dr Paul Farmer who works in his volunteer time to bring about the eradication of poverty and disease around the world to see that our constituency as bishops is equal to that of the public representatives of our cities and states and our voices and energy need to be displayed in the public arena. I was reminded that this is the conversation that was going on in the House of Bishops as I joined it, and one that caught my imagination then and still does today.

Out of the breaking of our Communion’s levees, I believe that the Holy Spirit is bringing us back around to God’s great and continuous agenda. It is the agenda of God’s mission which we can do in the unique relationships across the globe called the Anglican Communion, and it is an agenda I know we will continue with our partners already made around the globe. In fact it is also really an agenda we need to seek to carry out in an ever expanding communion of all of Christ’s followers regardless of our diverse and particular ecclesiological personalities. For there is never a shortage of opportunity to be united in mission, if we have the will. In fact life is too short to have it any other way, and the need for God’s love and care too great and too urgent.

–(The Rt. Rev.) Alan Scarfe is Bishop of Iowa

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

Historical Documents from the Diocese of Montana

Check out the documents at Surrounded here and there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC)

Chicago Tribune: Religious-based education on trial

Sarah Potter-Smith, a sophomore at Calvary Chapel Christian School, can’t understand why anyone would think that learning any subject from a Christian perspective is inferior to a secular education.

“We learn just as much as the public schools around here do and, actually, we learn more. For example, we have to learn about evolution on top of creationism too,” said the 15-year-old.

Calvary English teacher Shannon Jonker, 26, said the Christian perspective helps students identify the many religious and biblical themes in literature. “We’re reading ‘Frankenstein’ right now, and there are allusions to the creation story,” said Jonker, a 2002 graduate of University of California, Riverside.

The Christian perspective is why people send their children to a Christian school, said Robert Tyler, head of Advocates for Faith and Freedom and Calvary’s lawyer in a controversial case against the University of California system.

In an unprecedented lawsuit that opens yet another front in the nation’s culture wars, an association of Christian schools, including Calvary, charges that the admissions policy at the university unconstitutionally discriminates against them because they teach from a religious perspective.

The case offers a window into the deepening conviction of many conservative Christians that there is hostility to their faith in the public square and particularly in public schools. “This is just another example of what’s happening on a much larger scale,” said Tyler, who maintains that the university is attempting to secularize private Christian education.

The outcome of the suit could affect not only the college plans of thousands of students at California’s some 800 religious high schools but the way curricula are developed and taught at religious secondary schools around the country. The case could go to trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles before the end of the year.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Religion & Culture

Ben Witherington: Sacred texts in an Oral Culture

I will resist the temptation to preach at this juncture, but here is a text that cries out for adequate exposition. Firstly, we note that Paul refers to his own proclamation of the Gospel to the Thessalonians as ”˜the word of God’, Paul has no doubt at all that he is speaking God’s very word to them, and you will notice he is not likely referring to pre-existing sacred texts from the OT. No, he is talking about the message conveyed about Jesus. Secondly, notice that he says that this preaching was by no means only, or even mainly his own words, or the words of human beings or human wisdom. What it really was was God’s living word. Notice however he uses the singular. The phrase is ”˜the word of God’ on par with previous things that could be called ”˜the word of God’ ranging from the utterances of the OT prophets, to the sacred texts of the OT themselves. But primacy here is given to the spoken word of God, not to something written””a Good News word of God. Thirdly, Paul says that this word of God (singular) had lodged in the lives of the Thessalonians and it was still’ at work in you who believe’. This word of God had taken up residence in the Thessalonian converts and was doing soul work in and on them. It was a living and active two edged sword penetrating their very being, just as the author of Hebrews was to suggest, and he also was not talking about a text, he was talking about an oral proclamation which penetrates the heart. If we ask the question, did any of the NT writers believe they were writing Scripture, it seems to me that the answer must surely be yes, because in the case of someone like Paul, he believed in the first place that he was speaking the very word of God to his converts, not merely his own words or opinions, and furthermore he saw his letters as just the surrogate for a speech he would have given in person had he been there. Letters are just the literary residue of discourses, with epistolary framework added since they must be sent from a distance.

It is no mere rhetoric, full of sound and fury but signifying little, to say that analyzing the NT orally, and rhetorically gets us back in touch with the original ethos and character of these oral texts. It remains to be seen whether more students of the NT will heed the call I am making here, change their dominant paradigms, get up from their computers at least for a while, and receive the living Word of God, about which our earliest NT document sought to persuade us. It is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Read it all.

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Rowan Pelling: If it's freedom you seek, get married

The institution of marriage needs a vigorous PR campaign. We are currently bombarded by reminders that one in three marriages ends in punitive divorce ”” just look at Anne Robinson, jettisoning poor old hubby Penrose after 27 years ”” while the tax system overwhelmingly favours single mothers. Our Government perversely refuses to support marriage in any meaningful way ”” unless you count yesterday’s cynical pledge by Alistair Darling to raise the inheritance tax threshold for married couples to £600,000. Yet the social and personal benefits of wedlock are long established. It sometimes seems as though the only people who dare advocate the advantages of spliced stability are the gay community in their successful petition for civil partnerships.

The trouble is that many social commentators promote marriage in terms unlikely to appeal to footloose young singles: duty, compromise, social cohesion, enhanced health and wellbeing, security for children. All good and true, but your average singleton interprets them as a domestic penitentiary. What nobody evangelises is the incredible liberation many people find within marriage. Most unwed people under 40 are a seething mass of insecurities. They may be free to go back-packing in Goa at a second’s notice, but they’re imprisoned by self-doubt and vulnerability.

However, the minute a person’s beloved plights eternal troth, solid foundations are laid. As my husband mused the other night: “Marriage is the true place of greater safety.” This very stability, paradoxically, provides a platform from which risky and exhilarating enterprises can be launched. I believe this is what John Bayley meant when he said that, over time, he and Iris Murdoch became “closer and closer apart”. It’s hard to describe the strange blend of intimacy and mystery that characterises long-term unions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Marriage & Family

Notable and Quotable

Q: Apart from that unity point, what is your own view of same-sex blessings?
A: I’ve never licenced one or performed one because I believe that there are significantly serious questions about how that is to be distinguished from marriage not to rush into the innovation. So it is very complex and I don’t have a quick answer.
Q: How will you deal with bishops or clergy in this country who do undertake them?
A: I can only speak with past experience. When I have encountered cases where a cleric has performed a same-sex blessing I have said that this must not happen again. Anything that is done in the name of the Church must be something done by more than just an individual.

–Archbishop Rowan Williams in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, 12 February 2003

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Same Sex Unions Issue Divides Ottawa Diocese

An Elgin St. church might stop marrying straight couples if blessing same-sex unions isn’t endorsed at the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa’s annual synod in Cornwall later this week.

“If we can’t marry everyone who comes to us in faithful union, we won’t marry anyone,” said Rev. Canon Garth Bulmer, who introduced a motion that Ottawa’s bishop allow clergy “whose conscience permits” to bless same-sex unions.

“If gay people cannot have equal access to the sacraments of St. John’s Church, we won’t do the sacrament of marriage. It’s a symbolic act which would be a gesture of solidarity.”

Bulmer hasn’t yet decided to take that step but his church council has discussed it as controversy swirled around Canadian Anglicans and threatened to split the church.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)

Dr Sentamu marks abolition landmark in Jamaica

ROADS were packed, tents were pitched, and crowds wearing their Sunday best were out in droves, as thousands of people gathered in Jamaica to hear the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, speak to mark the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

One of Britain’s most influential church leaders, Dr Sentamu was the preacher at Jamaica’s bicentenary celebration of the abolition of slavery.

Dr Sentamu spoke to the crowds in Jamaica’s National Arena against the evils of the transatlantic slave trade and sent out a message to work with humility and for the grassroots.

“God rejoices in the fact that he created each one of you. That is the greatest message of the sermon this morning, be yourself and don’t try and be somebody else,” he said.

Quoting a sermon from the Archbishop of Zanzibar, he asked the people to reach out and work at the grassroots: “Go out to the highways and byways look for the people who have lost hope and those who are struggling to make good.

“Have Jesus on your lips and the world in your heart, you have been called to freedom to work with justice and to embrace responsibility.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Race/Race Relations

Uganda: Bishop Hannington to Be Honoured

PREPARATIONS to commemorate the death of Bishop James Hannington in Busoga Diocese are underway. The ceremony will take place on October 28 at Kyando in Mayuge district, where Bishop Hannington was killed on October 29, 1885 by the locals on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga. Hannington was the first Anglican Bishop in eastern and central Africa.

The Jinja Archdeaconry, which is one of the five archdeacons in Busoga Diocese, is spearheading this year’s celebrations, according to Rev. John Bamugemereire, an archdeacon.

The day’s theme will be: ‘Sacrifice Yourself for Christ’.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Church of Uganda

For a Trusty Voting Bloc, a Faith Shaken

AFTER the 2004 elections, religious conservatives were riding high. Newly anointed by pundits as “values voters” ”” a more flattering label than “religious right” ”” they claimed credit for propelling George W. Bush to two terms in the White House. Even in wartime, they had managed to fixate the nation on their pet issues: opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research.

Now with the 2008 race taking shape, religious conservatives say they sense they have taken a tumble. Their issues are no longer at the forefront, and their leaders have failed so far to coalesce around a candidate, as they did around Mr. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

What unites them right now is their dismay ”” even panic ”” at the idea of Rudolph W. Giuliani as the Republican nominee, because of his support for abortion rights and gay rights, as well as what they regard as a troubling history of marital infidelity. But what to do about it is where they again diverge, with some religious conservatives last week threatening to bolt to a third party if Mr. Giuliani gets the nomination, and others arguing that this is the sure road to defeat.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture

Police chaplains, others will use prayers to heal troubled city streets

Orlando police Chaplain Andrew Wade doesn’t carry a gun or lock up criminals.

But he has a weapon he says can fight crime on the most troubled streets, and heal communities where even a streetwise policeman could be gunned down at an automated-teller machine.

“We can pray,” Wade said. “We can call on people of faith to do the same. We believe that is a mighty power.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

Bishop Rabb of Maryland Writes about the recent House of Bishops Meeting

On the matter of the concerns before us from the Primates and the rest of the Anglican Communion, I want to offer a few reflections. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, was with us to both hear from us and to share with us. In addition were members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates. They listened to us, were fully a part of our work, and spoke to us. I believe that we came away with a better understanding of one another. Of greatest importance, is that we understand what it means to be in communion, and on an even deeper level, what it means to be the Church. We are in challenging times, and also times of great opportunity, if we can truly listen to one another and walk together. My analogy is that when people are trying to walk and talk it is often the case that one is walking ahead of the other which makes it impossible for the other to hear or be heard. My hope and my prayer is that this meeting will make it possible for us to walk together and to truly listen, one to the other. Some of you may feel that we gave up too much; others may feel that we did not go far enough. I understand these feelings. It is critical that you know I have never seen the House of Bishops work more respectfully or more prayerfully. All bishops were engaged, across the theological spectrum.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops

The Bishop of Albany Writes his Diocese About New Orleans and the Anglican Communion

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As most of you are well aware, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church met September 19th -25th in New Orleans. Immediately following was a meeting of The Common Cause Partnership, held in Pittsburgh, September 25th – 28th. I attended both meetings, the second of which as an observer. Rather than come out with some statement immediately upon my return, I felt it necessary to take a few days to pray and reflect on all that occurred, as well as deal with all the diocesan business that was awaiting me upon my return. I would now like to share some of my thoughts and observations. I greatly appreciate your patience.
Regarding the House of Bishops’ Meeting, there were some hopeful things that occurred, as well as some frustrating and disappointing things, all of which I will speak more about in the following response. The main task confronting the bishops going into the meeting was how to respond to the February 2007 Dar es Salaam Communiqué from the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
Essentially we were asked to make a clear response to four areas of concern:
1) Will the House of Bishops make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will
not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through
General Convention?
2) Will the House of Bishops confirm that the passing of Resolution BO33 of the 75th
General Convention means that a candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same sex union
shall not receive the necessary consent; unless some new consensus on these matters
emerges across the Communion?
3) Will the House of Bishops allow participation in the pastoral scheme proposed in the Dar
es Salaam Communiqué which would provide an alternative Primatial Vicar for those
dioceses requesting it?
4) Will the House of Bishops respond favorably to the urging from the Primates for representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes to suspend all legal actions against one another?
The statement made by the House of Bishops in response to the four areas of concern just mentioned can be found on the Diocesan Website: http://www.albanyepiscopaldiocese.org/news/other/071002.html. As you might expect, there has been a great deal of debate and speculation these past several days regarding the bishops’ response and how it will be received by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
While some believe that the Bishops’ Statement adequately addresses the Primates’ concerns and will thereby be favorably received, helping to mend the “tear in the fabric” of our common life in Christ, others argue that it is more of the same, falling far short of the clear unequivocal response requested by the Primates. Unfortunately, the recently released Joint Standing Committee (JSC) Report on the House of Bishops’ response only adds to the confusion.

On the one hand the JSC report states, “We believe that the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions relating to their response to the questions directed explicitly to them, and on which clarifications were sought by the 30th of September and given the necessary assurance sought of them.” However, as stated by Archbishop Mouneer Aris, Primate of Jerusalem and the
Middle East, “It is very unfortunate that not all the members of the JSC were present when a response to the House of Bishops of TEC was drafted. The lack of discussion and interaction will not produce a report that expresses the view of the whole committee.” He went on to say, “the House of Bishops has not responded positively to either the Windsor Report or the Dar es Salam Primates’ recommendations.”
Ultimately, Archbishop Rowan Williams and the other Primates will decide for themselves as to the adequacy of the Bishops’ Statement. A copy of the JSC report has been sent to all the Anglican Communion Primates and members of the Anglican Consultive Council with the request that they respond back to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the end of October.
Given the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in, with the very future of the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church and ultimately the Diocese of Albany at stake, I urge each of us to keep the Archbishop of Canterbury along with the other Primates and members of the ACC in our prayers as they attempt to discern God’s will in how best to move forward. This truly is a critical time in the life of the Church. As we have all been reminded, the very fabric of the Anglican Communion has been torn. The decisions that will be made in the coming weeks and months could very well determine whether the fabric can be mended or whether it will be completely ripped in half, leading to the breakup of the Anglican Communion. I believe such a development would be tragic, delivering a major blow to all of Christendom.
In John’s Gospel, we read Jesus’ prayer for unity, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one”¦I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world”¦I ask you to protect them from the evil one”¦Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”¦I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:11, 14, 17, 20-21, 23) May our Lord ’s prayer for unity be our prayer. We are not just talking about the future relationship of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The spread of the Gospel and the salvation of countless souls are at stake. The current environment within the Episcopal Church, with all the attacks and infighting is not very conducive to bringing people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
It is time to call a truce in the current battle, to give us time to rethink the road I am afraid the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion may very well go down if we are not careful. There is enough guilt, blame, pain and hurt to cover all sides. It is easy to point fingers at one another, blaming the other for the mess that we are in, but the reality is, we are all guilty. We have all contributed to the broken state of affairs in the Church ”“ conservative, liberal, orthodox, revisionist — whatever classification or label we might have. We are all in need of asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness. Part of the House of Bishops inability to work more closely with one another and with the wider Anglican Communion is a result of past hurts and offenses that have never healed, been forgiven, or honestly dealt with. With that said, however, there are hopeful signs with the current governance of the House of Bishops that some healing can start taking place.
Genuine theological differences are another major contributing factor to the House’s inability to offer a more clear response to the Primates’ request. While the final statement made by the House of Bishops was much better than it started out, it fell far short of what I and several other Windsor Bishops had hoped for. It does however show the division within the House over the issues we are struggling with. Much of the apparent ambiguity in the response was actually an indication that the House is not all of one mind, but in fact is divided, despite various statements to suggest otherwise.
In the March 2007 Statement from the House of Bishops, the following remark was made: “In truth, the number of those who seek to divide our Church is small”¦The fact that we have among ourselves, and indeed encourage, a diversity of opinion on issues of sexuality should in no way be misunderstood to mean that we are divided, except among a very few, in our love for The Episcopal Church”¦”
During the House of Bishops Meeting, I along with other conservative bishops challenged the above statement. At the very least I believe this statement is inaccurate and fails to acknowledge the pain, frustration, embarrassment and anger that thousands of theologically conservative and orthodox Episcopalians are experiencing throughout the Episcopal Church. I’m not sure what is more frustrating, the fact that the statement was ever made, or that some actually believe it in light of the growing exodus of some of our largest parishes to include Christ Church, Plano (the largest Episcopal Church in the nation); Falls Church, VA; Truro Church, VA; the Pro Cathedral of St. Clement, El Paso; as well as numerous other smaller churches around the country, not to mention the tens of thousands of individual Episcopalians who have left the Episcopal Church in the last few years to go elsewhere because they cannot support the current direction of the National Church and because they are tired of fighting. In discussing the March statement, I pointed out that not only did I believe it was inaccurate for the reasons just mentioned, but to suggest that the number of people upset about the current state of affairs in the Church is “small” or “a very few” is insulting, insinuating that their views are insignificant. I stated, “I don’t consider myself or others who share similar theological views to be insignificant.” Fortunately, attempts to put similar statements in the September HOB response were not approved.
In the various attempts these past several years, as well intentioned as some of them may have been, to correct past injustices and make The Episcopal Church more inclusive, reaching out to the marginalized in society (particularly within the homosexual community), the Church has unfortunately become more exclusive, creating a new class of victims ”“ the traditional orthodox believers. Clergy and laity alike, who acknowledge the authority of Holy Scripture, recognizing it as the revealed Word of God, and who believe the faith proclaimed in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, as well as the traditional moral teachings of the Church, now find themselves under attack not only from the world as Jesus warned they would, but even more disturbingly, from within the Church itself. I believe the growing exodus of thousands and thousands of Episcopalians out of the Episcopal Church to CANA, AMiA, and the various other Anglican bodies that are springing up bear witness to the truth of this statement. The average Sunday attendance in The Episcopal Church across the United States is now under 800,000.
If we are to stop the current downward spiral of The Episcopal Church and the unraveling of the Anglican Communion, it is essential that the leadership of the Episcopal Church (Lay and Ordained) as well as the leadership of the wider Anglican Communion acknowledge the reality of the crisis we are in and then commit ourselves to work together to identify and honestly address the issues that have brought us to this point. While some are working toward this goal, much more still needs to be done. One thing is certain, if there is to be a turn around in the Church, there must be a viable place for the conservative orthodox voice. I was pleased at the September meeting that more conservative orthodox bishops began speaking up. I was also encouraged by the greater sense of cooperation between bishops of highly differing views. The warm reception that I, as a conservative bishop, have personally received by the vast majority of the bishops has been greatly appreciated and ads to my sense of hope for the future.
Some of the major problems we find ourselves confronted with include how to work through the very real theological differences in understanding of Holy Scripture and its authority in our lives; how to live out one’s human sexuality in a manner that is pleasing to God; how to best minister to those who find themselves to be homosexual; and what it means to live in communion with one another, exercising appropriate discipline when necessary while at the same time not falling into Satan’s trap of dividing ourselves into opposing camps at war with one another. As Jesus himself said, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house.” (Luke 11:17) The more we divide the weaker and less effective we become in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While not compromising Himself by conforming to or adopting the ways of the world, Jesus didn’t isolate himself from people living sinful lives, as we currently seem to be doing by saying who we will and won’t associate with. But rather, he ate and drank and socialized with them. His presence amongst them brought transformation and healing into their brokenness. It is time that we recognize that we are all broken and that our enemy is not the person who thinks differently than we do, but Satan and the powers of evil who are intent on confusing, dividing and destroying us. If we are to overcome the chaos, confusion and division that threaten our Church, we must unite with one another in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Unity for unity sake is of little value. True meaningful unity within the Church can only occur in and through Christ. As you have heard me say over and over again, we must keep our focus on Christ as we go through the midst of the current storm we find ourselves in. Jesus is “the Way, and the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) If we come humbly before the Lord, seeking His guidance, He will lead us, giving us the grace we need to work with those of a different mind, while we work toward a common understanding. I am not suggesting that it will be easy, but just the opposite. It will take tremendous effort, great humility, forgiveness, patience, understanding, and grace, depending not upon ourselves, but rather upon our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. Apart from Christ we will fail, but in and through Christ ALL things are possible. It is for this reason that I have hope and am unwilling to write this person or that person or this group or that group off. I am constantly reminded of Paul’s Damascus Road experience and how an encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, turned one of the greatest enemies of the Church into one of the greatest saints of the Church.
A member of our Diocese recently emailed me and asked, “Can you give me any good reason (s) why I should remain a member of TEC (The Episcopal Church)?” In response to my friend who asked this question and to all the others who are thinking it, I offer the following reasons:
 The Diocese of Albany including each of its parishes is The Episcopal Church within the 19 counties and 20,000 square miles that make up its borders.
 The Bishop and leadership of this Diocese are Christ centered, and are committed to helping the Diocese live out The Great Commandment and The Great Commission, sharing the love and Good News of Jesus Christ, proclaiming Him as Lord and Savior, The Way, the Truth and the Life.
 The Lord is doing a mighty work in the Diocese of Albany, pouring out his Holy Spirit on the various ministries of the Diocese, particularly in the ministry of healing.
 At its best, The Episcopal Church as a member of the Anglican Communion has much to offer the larger Church, through its rich history, liturgy and tradition as well as its unique position uniting the best of Catholicism and Protestantism into one faith.
 The Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, although far from perfect, are worth fighting for. There is no perfect Church this side of Heaven. And yet even in our brokenness, God’s strength can shine forth.
 You are a unique child of God, created in His image and likeness. We love and need you. I say this to all the members of this Diocese, regardless of where you find yourselves on the theological spectrum.
While being very conscious of the length of this letter and your time in reading it, there are a couple more things that I need to comment on. Regarding that which was asked by the Primates of the Anglican Communion, while I can’t speak for the entire House of Bishops, I will speak for myself as the Bishop of Albany and a member of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.
1) I will not authorize or permit any Rite of Blessing (public or private) for same-sex unions in this Diocese for the following reasons:
 There is no Biblical president or support in either the Old or New Testament for such blessings. To do so would be encouraging individuals to live in a lifestyle that I believe is contrary to God’s Word as revealed in the teachings of Holy Scripture and 2000 years of Church tradition, and is therefore not in a person’s best interest to do so.
 I recognize that many in our Church see this as a “justice issue.” I strongly believe that the Church has a responsibility to fight injustice protecting the dignity of all human beings, and to reach out and minister to all people including those who find themselves to be homosexual. The Church needs to reassure all people of God’s love for them and His gift of salvation made possible for all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Savior. While God loves ALL His children, He does not necessarily approve of or bless all of our behavior. For this reason and the reasons listed above, I believe the Church would in fact be doing a great injustice to our homosexual brothers and sisters in Christ, by blessing same sex unions, even when those unions are within the confines of a loving and committed relationship.
 As a member of the Anglican Communion, I believe The Episcopal Church has a responsibility to the other members of the Communion who have clearly stated that such blessings are not appropriate and in fact to authorize them would cause great pain, suffering and damage throughout the wider Communion.
2) While the interpretation of Resolution BO33 of the 75th General Convention seems to be
somewhat debatable, depending on who you talk to, as the Bishop of Albany, I will not
consent to any candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same sex union or anyone
involved in sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and woman, unless some
new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion. I make this
commitment for the same reasons listed above. I would remind us that in 1991,
the General Convention passed Resolution B020, addressing “human sexuality issues.” It concluded by saying, “these potentially divisive issues”¦ should not be resolved by the
Episcopal Church on its own.” Unfortunately, we failed to heed our own warning which
proved to be very prophetic.
3) In regard to lawsuits, I believe every effort should be made by the Church to avoid going
to court over property issues. Once you go to court, everyone loses, the Diocese, the
Parish, the local community and the Church at large. There has to be a more Christian
manor of resolving legal disputes than the one currently being employed by the National
Church in dioceses across the country. I applaud those bishops who have tried to deal
with these issues in a pastoral way.

Finally in reference to the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Pittsburgh, as mentioned at the beginning of this letter, I did attend the meeting as an observer. I believe I have a responsibility as your bishop to be as informed as I can be regarding the current situation facing our Church. As I stated at the Diocesan Convention in June, it is my hope and prayer that we never have to decide between the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. We are currently a member of both. God willing, we will stay that way. You will recall at the Diocesan Convention, I stated if either The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion took any action that would require us to choose between one or the other, I would call for a Special Convention, at which time we would come together as a Diocese to decide how best to respond to whatever confronts us. To date, there is no need for such an action. Again, I pray there never will be.
With that said, as much as I love The Episcopal Church (even with all its current frustrations) and as much as I love the Anglican Communion, I love the Lord Jesus Christ most of all. As your bishop, I will do everything within my power, through the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to remain Christ centered, seeking His will in all that we do, as we move forward living out The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. May we never loose sight of who we are as children of God and the mission entrusted to us by our Lord Himself, to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded. In so doing, our Lord promised he would never leave us, but would be with us to the end of the age.” God’s peace.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,

(The Rt. Rev. Bill Love is Bishop of Albany

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Primary Source, -- Statements & Letters: Bishops, Episcopal Church (TEC), Sept07 HoB Meeting, TEC Bishops