The Draft Statement

Preliminary Draft
A Message from the Bishops of the Episcopal Church
Meeting in New Orleans, Louisana
September xx-xx, 2007

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whose Name we serve and whose Cross we glory.

We gathered this week in New Orleans in solidarity with the people of the Gulf Coast region as they continue the challenging work of rebuilding lives and communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina. We also gathered with the deep desire to rebuild trust and confidence with our partners in the Anglican Communion. Rebuilding is difficult work, but God invites us through our baptism to the challenging miracle of renewal in the myriad efforts of people form all over the world who are participating in the rebuilding of New Orleans and other communities along the Gulf Coast …

…Our shared experience of study, dialogue, worship and prayer strengthens our passionate commitment to maintain full participation in the councils of the Anglican Communion. More than one hundred fifty bishops and their spouses attended this meeting. The spirit of our meeting was enriched as we brought a remarkable diversity of perspective and experience to our common work. We regret that several bishops chose to leave the meeting early and did not participate in the development of this message. We genuinely long for full and faithful fellowship with these colleagues and urge them to resume full participation in meetings of the House of Bishops.d

This section just talks about all the lovely things they did while they have been in New Orleans. We’ll pick up at line 60:

A significant portion of our time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests. We expressed clearly our corporate belief that the Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our visitors that the Anglican Communion needs the Episcopal Church.

We are grateful that we had this opportunity to hear the concerns of our guests with an immediacy and clarity born of personal presence and contact. This is an important step in what Archbishop Williams described as “a complex process of taking risks, which eventually builds trust.” We cannot continue productive conversation without greater level of such trust. In that light, we wish to acknowledge that we have heard our guests’ expressions of concern regarding actions and omissions which for them have led to significant diminishment of trust.

Among the concerns we heard were these: We heard that actions taken by the 2003 General Convention have caused great difficulty for some in continuing effective mission and ministry in their own cultural contexts. We heard that we as bishops have sometimes failed to communicate in ways that are sufficiently clear and unambiguous. We heard an expression of concern that we have blurred the distinction between the canonical authorization of public rites of same sex blessing and the allowing of services of blessing for pastoral reasons. We heard from our guests that there is a growing understanding on the part of others in the Anglican Communion that our polity places limitations on our ability as bishops to act independently on some issues. We also heard that many remain frustrated by their view that we as bishops have not always found ways to provide clear and definitive leadership.

Through our deliberations we have come to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is summoning us to a more generous and costly effort to help mend the torn fabric of our Communion. The experience of our time together leads us to offer the following comments. In some cases, we believe these comments provide clarity, and in other cases point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue which necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Council, and the General Convention. Discerning God’s call for our church requires a living partnership among lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons.

1. We affirm and support the PB’s plan to provide Episcopal visitors for dioceses within the Episcopal Church. The Windsor Report (paragraph 152) affirmed that our plan for DEPO is reasonable and saw no reason why such delegated pastoral and sacramental oversight should not be provided by bishops from within this province. We believe the Presiding Bishop’s plan is consistent with DEPO and we thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry.

While we have already expressed concerns about the recommendations made by the Primates for a pastoral scheme, we nonetheless urge the PB to continue conversations with those requesting alternative oversight, seeking ways to create and implement arrangements which meet pastoral needs and which do not violate our Constitution and Canons. We urge those requesting such oversight to participate in these conversations and to assist in finding appropriate solutions. We pray that a way forward can be found which will bring an end to the incursions of extra-provincial bishops. These incursions imperil the Communions principle of honoring one another as we work together in good faith on these very difficult issues.

We continue to invite all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to join in the listening process which was embraced by the 1998 Lambeth Conference I prayerfully considering the place of gay and lesbian people in our common life. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this process from every province if the communion and to our own continuing participation with others in this crucial project. We see an important role for the ACC in helping to accomplish this objective, as well as in addressing other important issues that come before us. The ACC is representative of both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches, and it is the only body possessing a written constitution.

We have attempted to respond to the Primates questions regarding Resolution B033. in honesty we must report that within the HOB there is disagreement as to how this resolution is to be interpreted and applied. As we live with this painful reality, conversation study and prayer will continue. We recognize the challenge our disagreement presents for some in the Communion and we respectfully ask for their patience and forbearance

5. Because we are a liturgical church our actions concerning blessings are expressed in public liturgies. No rite of blessing for persons living in same sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. We wish to make it clear that the House of Bishops has not voted to authorize such liturgies. Even in the absence of such public rites, we acknowledge that the blessing of same sex unions, no matter how public or private, is unacceptable to some of our brothers and sisters in our own House, in our church, and in the Communion. The issue remains perplexing for us as we seek to balance these concerns about rites of blessing and the pressing pastoral need that confronts us. We wish to offer respect for these differing viewpoints.

We are grateful that the Primates have articulated their support for meeting the individual pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons. In 2003 they wrote “there is a duty of pastoral care that is laid upon all Christians to respond with love and understanding to homosexual persons.” The Primates have written that there must be a breadth of private and pastoral responses to individual situations. It is the case that for many decades, the Episcopal Church has explored the most faithful ways of ministering to and with gay and lesbian people who are part of our common life. We acknowledge that in some of our dioceses this includes the blessing of same sex unions.

6. Those among us who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops and dioceses around the world and cherish those relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful opportunity to build on those partnerships.

We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to Lambeth. We are also mindful that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way to include Bishop Robinson in the Lambeth Conference. Because we believe that this is a matter of importance to the House of Bishops, we propose that the Archbishop of Canterbury invite a small group of bishops appointed by the Presiding Bishop to assist him in facilitating Bishop Robinson’s presence and participation.

7. We reaffirm our March 2007 statement in which we said, “We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their difference, often in the name of God.”

In March 2007 we affirmed the “deep longing of our hearts that The Episcopal Church continue as part of the Anglican Communion.” At this meeting we engaged in significant discussion about important Communion matters. The spirit of this meeting was good. We were always keenly aware of the prayers that surround us. We give thanks for the faithful women, men, and children who in Christ’s name give so much to support the ministries of our church. These blessings cannot be counted.

While we acknowledge that we are not of one mind in all things, we strive to be of one heart. At the beginning of our meeting, our Presiding Bishop reminded us that to go forward in rebuilding our relationships we will need to cooperate with the Spirit and to create a space for the Spirit to work. We recognize that this requires real sacrifice from all our members, yet we know that it is the Cross while leads to life, and we believe that faithful sacrifice will be redeemed. Communion in Christ requires that all of us come to the foot of the Cross. We pray that when we gather there we will greet one another with compassion and thanksgiving.

As bishops we pray for the grace to offer ourselves as servants who are willing to follow Christ through death to the full of resurrection life. We find in the poetry of a hymn sung at Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, on Sunday morning both a reflection of our present circumstance and a summation of our hope for our beloved Communion.

The church of Christ in every age,
beset by change but spirit-led,
must claim and test its heritage
and keep on rising from the dead.*

*Wonder, Love, and Praise: Hymn #779. Words: Fred Pratt Green (b. 1903); Copyright 1971 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 6088