25 September 2007

God speed, Bishop Steenson

Yesterday, news came that Bishop Steenson of the Diocese of Rio Grande is going to resign his post and leave the Episcopal Church to join the Roman Catholic Church. Here's a bit from his letter (via BabyBlueOnline):
...my conscience is deeply troubled about where the Episcopal Church is heading, and this has become a crisis for me because of my ordination vow to uphold its doctrine, discipline, and worship. An effective leader cannot be so conflicted about the guiding principles of the Church he serves. It concerns me that this has affected my ability to lead this diocese with a clear and hopeful vision for its mission. I also have sensed how important it is for those of us in this position to model a gracious way to leave the Episcopal Church in a manner respectful of its laws.

I believe that God’s call to us is always positive, always a to and not a from. At the clergy conference next week I hope to be able to share something of this. Many of you already know of my love for the Catholic Church and my conviction that this is the true home of Anglicanism. I will not dwell on this, however, so as not to lose sight of my responsibility to help lay a good foundation for the transition that you must now lead.

I also want to acknowledge with gratitude the pastoral support I have received from the Presiding Bishop and her office during this time. She has offered to visit, and I have invited her to be with us at the clergy conference the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 26, and perhaps also for that evening, for mutual conversation and the opportunity to know each other better in this time reserved for the clergy.
I am sad to see this man, clearly of great integrity, depart. More than that, however, I hope and pray that he finds a spiritual home in his new branch of the Church. I admire his gentle tone -- without a hint of anger or bitterness -- and his desire for the best for the diocese he has served. I commend this letter to all of us. Note how he is even kind to the Presiding Bishop, though he must disagree her direction in innumerable ways.

I'll write more about this soon, but mostly I admire his sense of vocation for himself and for the church. I wish more people in all this conflict had more of Bishop Steenson's integrity. He acknowledges that he cannot obey his ordination vows, and he is seeking a place where his own vocation will match his church's mission.

Let us all pray for Bishop Steenson, and for the Diocese of Rio Grande.

UPDATE: I encourage you to read the account of +Steenson's remarks to the House of Bishops, as reported in The Living Church. His conclusion:
In concluding remarks, Bishop Steenson asked for forgiveness from his fellow bishops "for any difficulty this may cause and for anything I may have said or done that has failed to live up to the love of Christ." [He continued:] "I hope that you will not see this as a repudiation of The Episcopal Church or Anglicanism. Rather, it is the sincere desire of a simple soul to bear witness to the fullness of the Catholic faith, in communion with what St. Irenaeus called 'that greatest and most ancient Church.' I believe that our noble Anglican tradition ('this worthy patrimony') has deep within it the instinct of a migratory bird calling, 'It is time to fly home to a place you have never seen before.' May the Lord bless my steps and yours and bring our paths together in his good time."

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