Monday, November 12, 2018

Comment on the Debacle in the Diocese of Albany:

It is sad news indeed that the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Albany is choosing to defy the councils of the church and continue to deny access to the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples under his pastoral care. Our hearts go out to the LGBTQ faithful in that diocese who are once again being told by their bishop that who they are is not acceptable to God and that the love and commitment they share with the love of their life is not worthy of the church's blessing.

The text message I got from one of them today read simply "We are devastated."

Just as the shepherd in Matthew's parable left the ninety-nine sheep to tend to the one who was separated from the flock, so must the church which is the Body of Christ in the world seek out those sheep in Albany who are feeling lost and abandoned by their shepherd. The Episcopal Church must say loud and clear to them that their bishop may have abandoned them but Jesus never will ... and neither will the Episcopal Church.

We are blessed with incredible leadership by our Presiding Officers who quickly issued these statements doing precisely that.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's statement included both this affirmation and this reminder:
We are committed to the principle of full and equal access to, and inclusion in, the sacraments for all of the baptized children of God, including our LGBTQ siblings. For as St. Paul reminds us in Galatians 3, "in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

As members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12), we also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of The Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage. It should be noted that the canons of The Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact.

In all matters, those of us who have taken vows to obey the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church must act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the Church.
And President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings offered this affirmation:
For more than 40 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed, studied and discerned and, in doing so, we have seen the evidence of God's blessing in the lives of LGBT people. The Episcopal Church's General Convention, our highest temporal authority, first acknowledged that God calls LGBT people to any ordained ministry in 2009. In 2012, the General Convention authorized a liturgical rite for the blessing of same sex unions, and in 2015, we authorized marriage equality in the church.

We recognize the Holy Spirit at work in the marriages of LGBTQ people and we know that there are Christians who have been drawn further into fidelity and service to the world by living in committed same-sex partnerships and marriages based on holy love and the gift of seeing Christ in one another. When we celebrate these marriages, the entire church is blessed by the love and fidelity of these faithful couples.
The Episcopal Church has been on a long journey toward the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the work and witness of the church ... including full inclusion in all the sacraments. And for all the progress we have made it is clearly a journey that is not yet over.

In 2015 when liturgies for marriage were made available to all couples in the Episcopal Church and the marriage canons were amended to be fully inclusive, bishops with jurisdiction were required by a resolution overwhelming adopted by both houses of General Convention to "make provision for all couples seeking marriage to have access" to those rites.

Eight bishops with jurisdiction declined to follow that directive. And so in 2018 the General Convention spoke again -- this time in Resolution B012 which gave rectors or clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial use of the marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples: removing the "under the authority of the bishop" clause.

The resolution takes effect on the First Sunday of Advent (December 2) ... and to their credit seven of the eight bishops who hold what is a theological minority position in the Episcopal Church are crafting plans to comply with the actions of General Convention. The Bishop of Albany is not.

There is, in fact, a difference between respecting theological conscience and confusing your theological conscience with your ecclesiastical authority. And while Bishop Love is entitled to the former he must not be allowed to presume the latter.

Let me be clear: I do not believe that anything less than full and unequivocal access for all couples in the Episcopal Church to marriage in the prayer book is good enough for Jesus or for us. I believe in my heart of hearts that we are on the road to that destination -- and I know for a fact certain that we persist until we arrive.

However, we continue to journey there together as a church that has committed itself to both full inclusion and to respecting the theological consciences of those who hold minority positions ... because we're Anglicans.

Nobody ever said that would be easy -- but as Anglicans we claim the spiritual DNA of those who found a way to be both protestant and catholic in the 16th century and so I believe we are uniquely wired to meet this challenge in the 21st. And we do not meet that challenge by allowing one bishop to reject the canons of the church, the resolutions of General Convention and his pastoral responsibility to pastor all the sheep of his flock.

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