Dear Clergy of Central New York,
You are aware of the recent Communique from the Primates of the Anglican Communion. During this last week I have prayed and pondered over its contents, not wanting to be merely reactive. Furthermore, I leave for the House of Bishops meeting on March 14th when I will be able to hear more from our Presiding Bishop and be in discussion with the rest of the bishops about a possible way forward in response to the Communique.
As I am sure is true for you, the Communique has some things in it which I find encouraging as well as things which cause me great concern. As I share a few thoughts with you I am not going to make a point-by-point response. I am also offering a time for the clergy to come together to discuss the Communique and how it effects us as a Diocese after the March House of Bishops meeting. This meeting will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon on Wednesday, April 18th at St. David’s, Dewitt. A reminder will be sent out closer to that date.
I would alert you to my expectation that this March meeting will almost certainly not produce a specific response from the House of Bishops to the Primates. What I believe will happen is the opportunity will be given for a broad consideration of the Communique, the seeking of clarification of its expectations, and an encouragement to take the conversation back to each diocese in order to inform the subsequent September House of Bishops meeting.
I am encouraged that the Primates did, in fact, stay in conversation with one another and no one absented themselves from the meeting as some seemed to fear. Seven primates of the thirty-eight did choose not to participate in the Sunday Eucharist. This saddens me on many levels, but it was only seven. Apparently great respect was afforded our Presiding Bishop Katharine and she was elected to be a member of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates. We can rejoice in this. In addition, the Communique did not call for or affirm another tier of Anglican presence along side the Episcopal Church. In addition, considerable time was given to the Millennium Development Goals and other issues of Christian mission around the world, the very issues I believe ought to be occupying the majority of our time as manifestations of what it means to be a people of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Clearly one of the matters that will have to be decided is whether the requests of the Primates, by their very form, would call upon us to violate the polity of the Episcopal Church. We must remain clear that our Church, in an admittedly sometimes cumbersome process, makes decisions which include representation of all the baptized people of God in General Convention. Too often this seems to be misunderstood across the Anglican Communion. The House of Bishops could make some interim decisions which involve the specific responsibilities of the bishops, but a full response which would effect all the Episcopal Church would need to come from the General Convention of 2009. I would not be in favor of a special General Convention as I believe it would bad stewardship of resources and time. The problem, of course, is that the Communique has given what feels to many an ultimatum, specifically that the House of Bishops respond to the requests by September 30, 2007. It may well be that the House of Bishops may have to say something like, “Thank you. We respect your request and desire, but the polity of the Episcopal Church will not allow us to make a response until the summer of 2009.”
It is important to me that we remain a part of the Anglican Communion. I also realize that in difficult conversations and in seeking compromise, not everyone gets all that they want. But let me be clear. As bishop of this Diocese I will not sacrifice GLBT people for the sake of an unjust unity. Indeed, I cannot morally sacrifice anyone else, only myself. To use an image from the civil rights movement, I will not ask gay and lesbian people to go the back of the bus for a time. The gifts of God’s GLBT people will continue to be welcome in this Diocese in all areas of ministry. They are we, and we are who we are because of the gifts of all of God’s people in this Diocese. The wind of the Holy Spirit blows where it will and I will not seek to quench the Spirit’s movement among us. Our recent Diocesan Convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on us to be a people of God which exhibits inclusion at all levels of the Diocese in our seeking to be God’s holy people. I am committed to that value.
Our Presiding Bishop mentions the charism of the Episcopal Church in this time. One of the gifts we bring to the Church is a witness of the welcome and inclusion of GLBT people as we seek to welcome and build the reign of God among us and in witness to the saving grace of Jesus the Christ. I believe that another charism of this Church is to image for all God’s people that it is possible to hold diverse theological perspectives in love and worship. I would even go so far as to say that one way to speak of the opposite of sin is worship. I also refuse to allow any one group or perspective to claim the title “biblical.” The positions to which I have come are formed precisely because of the biblical witness. I do call upon all of us to be more deeply literate in the Scriptures and encourage deeply informed, and yes, even nuanced theological conversation.
Is it possible that parts of the Church will have to walk apart for a time? As much as that would grieve me I believe that is a possible outcome. What I also believe is that a Church focused on judgment and the seeking of so-called correct dogmatic formulas is a Church that will not have much to say to the broken and hurting world in which we live. It will keep us from being a faithful Church of the 21st Century. If we must walk apart for a time in our official capacities, we will not be isolationists. Global mission will continue to be a part of the Episcopal Church and this Diocese. Our diocesan relationships with Anglicans in El Salvador, the Sudan and Liberia will continue. I have had conversations with bishops in those places and know this to be true.
As your bishop I will continue to do what I can to work in the councils of the Church. I desire to be supportive of our Presiding Bishop Katharine and believe that she is the right leader for this time in our history. I remain committed to this Diocese being a safe place where all theological positions on significant matters can be respected and the people who hold them are respected and valued as a part of the Body of Christ. I will seek to remain a part of the Anglican Communion and I will continue to hold up the faithful witness of GLBT people. That may necessitate some hard decisions down the road if those values are in conflict. Even more, however, we must not allow these issues to divert us from the work we are called to do as the Diocese of Central New York. “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus forever and forever.” Ephesians 3:20,21
In a separate e-mail, I am sending you a copy of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presidential Address at General Synod. Please communicate it as you see fit.
The Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III
Diocese of Central New York