Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Letter I Wish the Presiding Bishop Would Write to San Joaquin

Dear Anglican Friends in San Joaquin,

As you might imagine, I was quite disappointed with the vote of your convention to withdraw from the Episcopal Church. The overwhelming margin by which the constitutional change carried indicates a level of alienation from the elected leadership of our church that can only be described as alarming. I realize that the chain of events leading up to this moment is long and complex, but it's not necessary to rehearse that story now. This is simply a moment for acknowledging the sadness of this turn of events. The very heart of our Lord Jesus himself must be broken over our failure.

There is, of course, an honest division of opinion among us over the appropriate place of lesbian and gay Christians in the Church's life and work. You know my own views, and, so it seems, the prevailing view in the Episcopal Church, as indicated by the decisions of General Convention. Yet, I realize that, while your understanding represents a minority position within our Church, it remains a majority viewpoint within the larger Anglican Communion. While differing from those who hold this view, and even while I hope to contribute to its evolution in a more inclusive direction, I nonetheless honor it as normative at this time for all parts of the Anglican family of churches.

I wish you did not feel compelled to take the action you took today. It grieves me that you did. For my own share of responsibility in the breakdown of our relationship, I apologize. I should have been able to do more to dissuade you from reaching the conclusion that you had no other option. It is apparent to me that I and others have not made a sufficient effort to understand your concerns and to concretely demonstrate that understanding.

The history of Christianity teaches us that, while it is quite easy to rend the fabric of unity within the body of Christ, it is maddeningly difficult to repair such a breach. In the hope of repairing the breach that occurred at your convention, I am letting you know now of my resolve to keep the lines of amicable communication open between us. Accordingly, I am directing my chancellor to indefinitely desist from pursuing litigation against anyone in your diocese, or against any of its congregations or institutions. I will, for the foreseeable future, initiate no canonical action against Bishop Schofield, or any of the clergy of the diocese.

This is to say that, with the exception of providing pastoral care and episcopal oversight of a provisional nature to those congregations and members who wish to remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church (in the interests of which we trust that Bishop Schofield will work with us congenially), we will simply not recognize your action for the time being. As far as I am concerned, we would love to seat the deputies you elected today when we gather in Anaheim in 2009, and Bishop Schofield will remain on the roll of the House of Bishops.

In the meantime, please know that I would receive very positively any invitation to visit your diocese with no agenda other than to listen. The Episcopal Church has obviously failed you, and I want to do everything within my power to put things right. I believe that the heart of God is passionate about the restoration of our relationship.

Faithfully in Christ Jesus,

s / Katharine

10 comments:

Scott K said...

I also wish I would win the lottery. But since I don't buy lottery tickets, I think there is about an equal chance of both wishes being granted.

Seriously, a very sad day no matter where your loyalties lie.

Tregonsee said...

A wonderful letter, but not something which +KJS would even consider writing, nor would DBB approve. Much more likely is that the legal actions, both secular and ecclesiastical, are already prepared, and will be put in motion almost immediately.

As a cradle Episcopalian of 60 years, the hope of rebirth this brings far outweighs any sorrow.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Fr. Dan. May this suggestion get to the highest levels quickly.

-miserable sinner

Jon said...

I'm not sure it's entirely truthful to say that the national leadership hasn't made sufficient efforts to understand the leadership of the conservative dioceses and concretely demonsrate that understanding. It looks to me like the only demonstration of understanding that would be acceptable to those leaders is declaring them to no longer be bound by the canons of TEC in any way. While two consecutive GC's could do that in theory, that sort of blatant rejection of discipline is profoundly unlikely to do the church any good at all. Besides, there doesn't appear to be much interest on the conservative side for taking five more years to get the demand met.

Jon

Dan Martins said...

Jon,
I won't quibble with you over whether my statement is "entirely truthful." If it is even only "partially truthful," my point still stands. The sign of adequate listening is when one can articulate the position of one's opponent in language that the opponent can recognize and empathize with. Until that moment is reached, there is no listening, there is only talking. And, sitting on the conservative side of the divide, I can tell you that the Episcopal Church "establishment" has come nowhere close to adequate listening, because their only articulations of conservative positions are "straw man" caricatures.

HowardRGiles+ said...

Fr. Dan,
Your imagined understanding of KJS is also a caricature since our disagreement is not about the life of some people in the church, it is about where of us as sinners find life, and that is in repentance turning to new life in Christ.

It is also about Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition and KJS and others' refusal to be obedient to it or even to respect it.

It is also about a mis-understanding of Holy Orders. Some believe that they can preach the Gospel while being under Orders to heretics. The two are incompatible.

Finally, any lack of unity in the catholic church is reprehensible, but our vote did not create the breach, it is a vote to heal a breach made when General Convention decided to deny the authority of Holy Scripture, to scorn Holy Tradition and to consecrate and elect those who do.

HowardRGiles+ said...

Fr. Dan,
Your imagined understanding of KJS is also a caricature since our disagreement is not about the life of some people in the church, it is about where all people, as sinners, find life, and that is in repentance turning to new life in Christ.

It is also about Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition and KJS and others' refusal to be obedient to them or even to respect them.

It is also about a mis-understanding of Holy Orders. Some believe that they can preach the Gospel while being under Orders to heretics. The two are incompatible. The Bishop is the Apostle in our midst. Who will preach against him?

Finally, any lack of unity in the catholic church is reprehensible, but our vote did not create the breach, it is a vote to heal a breach made when General Convention decided to deny the authority of Holy Scripture, to scorn Holy Tradition and to consecrate and elect those who do.

RFSJ said...

Fr. Dan,

I think there is much value in your letter. I preached on Sunday about repentqance, about breaking the cycle of you-did-and-then-I-did-and-so-on, and I noted that it's up to each of us, as Christians, to address how to break the cycles that corrupt our lives.

Who will break the cycle here? San Joaquin did not. If it is to be stopped now, I suppose it's up to the PB, or perhaps Archbishop Venables. (The ABC is obviously incompetent to even speak at this point; what a disappointment.)

RFSJ

Jon said...

What if the only concrete response that could be recognized as adequate is outside the realm of the possible? Such a situation strikes me as a contradiction, but it also seems to be what conservative leaders have been demanding.

Jon

Martial Artist said...

Dear Fr. Martins,

I do not know the PB and will therefore refrain from asserting what +KJS would or would not consider, restricting my comments to identifying those things which she might have done but did not do. This necessarily and properly restricts the conversation to facts which are generally verifiable, and avoids making assumptions about the motives, intentions and honor of the person being discussed.

In order for the Presiding Bishop to truthfully say (emphasis added) "I nonetheless honor it as normative at this time for all parts of the Anglican family of churches…"
she must actually treat it as normative, whether or not she believes it to be. If she has done so, it has not been publicized.

Likewise, for her truthfully to say "I should have been able to do more to dissuade you from reaching the conclusion that you had no other option. It is apparent to me that I and others have not made a sufficient effort to understand your concerns and to concretely demonstrate that understanding," she would need to have shown that she did anything concrete to demonstrate her understanding, which, insofar as I am awarem she has not.

Finally, in order for her to truthfully say that "I would receive very positively any invitation to visit your diocese with no agenda other than to listen," one would think there have been ample opportunities to have issued the invitation herself, or taken any of a number of opportunities to have met, and to have publicized at least the fact that such a meeting had taken place, or at least to have publicly announced any attempts to arrange such a meeting. To the best of my knowledge, non of these actions has ever occurred.

I agree with your sentiment and your "wish," but the objective observer within me says that, in order for the PB to have done so would have required her to be other than who she is. I think, given the history that has played itself out over the past several years, your wish is, very unfortunately, more an example of wishful thinking than of hoping for possibilities.

Blessings and regards,