23 February 2007

Bonnie to bishops: you don't run the church alone

Today Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, has issued a statement. I predicted this. Publicly, I talked about the way Executive Council will need to respond to some of the primates' requests, and a few of them might even have to wait until General Convention 2009. In the meantime, the House of Bishops can express opinions -- and agree amongst themselves not to do certain things. (Though they may be violating our own constitution of they do this!)

Here's an excerpt from Bonnie's statment:

The polity of the Episcopal Church is one of shared decision making among the laity, priests and deacons and bishops. The House of Bishops does not make binding, final decisions about the governance of the Church. Decisions like those requested by the Primates must be carefully considered and ultimately decided by the whole Church, all orders of ministry, together.

Some are asking whether the Primates can ask our House of Bishops to take certain actions and put a deadline on their request. Yes, they can ask. There are larger questions that need to be addressed, including: Is it a good idea for our House of Bishops to do what they have asked? Is the House of Bishops the right body within the Episcopal Church to respond to the Primates' requests?

Our baptismal promise to seek and serve Christ in all people must be very carefully considered when we are being asked as Episcopalians to exclude some of our members from answering the Holy Spirit's call to use their God-given gifts to lead faithful lives of ministry. Our promise to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people binds us together. The Episcopal Church has declared repeatedly that our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant requires that we treat all persons equally regardless of their race, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, color, ethnic origin, or national origin...

Our tradition of autonomous churches in the Anglican Communion, that come together because of our love of Christ and our common heritage, has allowed us to focus on mission and evangelism to our broken world which is in desperate need of the Good News of God in Christ. In recent times, however, we have spent too much of our time, talent and treasure debating if we ought to deny some people a place at the table to which Jesus calls us all. Instead, we must listen to each other – really listen and not just read reports – so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit moving through all of us and calling us to be more faithful.

This sentiment expresses one of the reasons I've been less despairing of our situation than some others. I fully agree that we must move toward a fully inclusive church, and we should not surrender any of the progress we have made. I am confident that Bonnie Anderson, our Executive Council, and our General Convention will continue to preach and practice the fullness of our baptismal covenant. My hopeful response to Tanzania lies in the outcome having been better than I expected (ECUSA still the only legitimate Anglican body in the US and Bishop Katharine seated, affirmed, and elected to the primates' standing committee).

Bonnie will speak loudly to keep our bishops from asking that we violate our constitution, our baptismal vows, or our obediance to the Gospel commandment to love one another.

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