Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pastoral Letter To Nevada Episcopalians

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the 76th Convention of the Episcopal Church is drawing to a close. It has been a benchmark in our common life, the beginning of an exciting new stage in our mission. So many things were accomplished.

Among the most important were: The adoption of the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation. This charter gives structure and encouragement for our efforts in the Frensdorff School. It marks the Christian life as one of ongoing learning and commits the church to being a learning community.

We endorsed parish partnerships with local schools. Nevada’s developing partnership with Communities in Schools puts us on this track already. It is not acceptable that only 44% of our Nevada children graduate from high school. We can do better.

Several bold steps were taken to strengthen evangelism. The most important for Nevada is a process for training and licensing lay evangelists. I hope every Nevada congregation will have a licensed lay evangelist soon and that they will form a dynamic network for sharing the gospel of Jesus with our neighbors.

We formed a Provincial Partnership with the Church in Brazil, set up a plan for shared mission projects with Anglican churches in the Americas, and strengthened the program of companion diocese relationships. Nevada presently does not have such a relationship but we are negotiating a partnership with the Diocese of Santiago in the Philippines. This is a more important way of being a Communion than formal mechanisms and institutional structures that do not have the human ties of diocese to diocese and parish to parish bonds.

We provided pensions for lay employees, reduced our health insurance costs, reformed the disciplinary process, and passed a budget against all odds.

We had some opportunities to depart from the traditional faith of the church. There were resolutions deleting the word “virgin” from descriptions of Mary in our prayers and authorizing alternative forms of the Baptismal Covenant. We did not do these things. The bishops and deputies were emphatically orthodox.

But none of this, or the many other important and constructive things we did at Convention, will capture the headlines. The journalists are exclusively interested in our actions dealing with the inclusion of partnered gay and lesbian couples in the life of the Church. We passed two such resolutions. I voted for both of them. Some of you may think we went too far. Others may think we did not go far enough. That is perfectly ok. As Episcopalians, we are free to hold different beliefs about issues of doctrine. I am not trying to convince you that we were right. But I do want you to know and to understand what we did and what we did not do.

Some people want to interpret the resolutions one way; some, another. There is some ambiguity that is open to interpretation. We are after all Anglicans and that’s how Anglicans talk. But there are reasonable limits on fair interpretation. I want to tell you how I see these resolutions. You may want them to be a great step forward. I do not want you to be disappointed if they do not live up to raised expectations. You may think they are the worst thing we’ve done ever. I do not want you to be more distressed than necessary. These are definitely resolutions intended to affirm and include gay and lesbian persons, but I do not believe they are as great a change as they appear in the newspapers, let alone the blogs. So let me tell you about these two resolutions.

The resolution pertaining to ordination begins with an extensive statement of our commitment to the Anglican Communion. That takes up at least half the resolution. It then says two more things: First, it acknowledges that God has in the past called partnered gay and lesbian persons into all of the orders of ministry, and that they have served us faithfully. Second, it acknowledges that God may call such persons in the future and we do our discernment of calls in accordance with the canons of our church.

How does this change things? With regard to the ministries of laity, priests, and deacons, not at all. The possible change would be about bishops. But just how much of a change is there for potential bishops? Less than the newspapers suggest. In 2006, the General Convention asked those involved in calling bishops to use “restraint” in consecrating bishops whose “manner of life” might be contrary to the values of other parts of the Anglican Communion. I am paraphrasing. “Manner of life” was understood to mean partnered gay bishops. The consecration of such persons was not banned. The 2006 Resolution was a call for restraint as part of the discernment.

Resolutions to repeal that restraint policy were considered and rejected before ever reaching the floor of Convention. The new resolution does not explicitly repeal the call for restraint. It merely says that we do our discernment process in accordance with our own canons, as we have always done. Gay and lesbian people were not excluded from the discernment process, even for the episcopacy, even after 2006. Some journalists have portrayed the situation as if gay and lesbian persons were excluded from the discernment process before and now the gates have been thrown open. For better or worse, the shift in this resolution is not so dramatic.

The second resolution on same sex relationships also says two things: The first part is purely pastoral. Every resolution of the Episcopal Church mentioning homosexual persons since the early 1980’s has called upon the clergy to offer them pastoral care. The duty to afford pastoral care to gay and lesbian persons has been affirmed by the Lambeth Conference, the Windsor Report, and the Primates of the 39 Anglican Provinces. Every one of our clergy has taken vows to extend such care to “all” our people. So the principle is well established.

This Resolution notes that there has been a recent wave of law making and law changing concerning these relationships –some laws allowing gay marriage, some laws allowing civil unions, and other laws banning such unions. This new legal situation presents new pastoral challenges to which we must respond. The resolution says bishops “may” – not “must” but “may” – offer a “pastorally generous response.” What that means depends on the situation, the context, and the judgment of the bishop. The New York Times says it means blessing civil unions. But I never heard any bishop, liberal or conservative, define it that way. It could mean a special ritual or a prayer or a phone call. It’s up to the bishop. Pastoral generosity is not defined.

The second part of the resolution deals with developing theological and liturgical resources for same sex unions. There was no decision to authorize gay marriage or bless same sex unions. We worked with the language of the Resolution the best we could to make it clear that there is not a decision on that hard question. This Resolution requests the Liturgy and Music Commission to compile and develop theological and liturgical resources so that if and when we consider that issue in the future, we will have some examples to look at.

In 2006, we passed a resolution calling for restraint in “authorizing the blessing of same sex unions” until there has been time for an international conversation on the issue. We have exercised restraint for three years and will continue to exercise restraint while that conversation continues. That does not mean no one anywhere will ever bless a same sex union. The Primates have recognized some leeway for conscience in these matters. Well before General Convention, I assured our clergy that no one in Nevada would be disciplined for following their conscience on this question. That is still the case. The new resolution calls for pastoral generosity on the part of bishops. I hope I was already pastorally generous to all of our people and will try to always be so.

I hope and pray that we will respect each other’s feelings and values in these matters. We are called to love one another, not to agree with one another. In the Diocese of Nevada, we are exceptional at knowing where we stand and letting our neighbor do likewise. But not everyone is so mature. There may well be dissension in other dioceses and internationally. While this Convention was by a county mile the most harmonious Episcopal gathering in recent memory, we usually have some post-Convention uproar. So I ask you to hold the entire Anglican Communion in prayer as we come to terms with the aftermath of General Convention. Please pray also for one another and for the success of our new mission and ministry ventures for the sake of the gospel of Jesus here in Nevada.

May God bless you richly and keep you in holy peace.

Dan Edwards
Tenth Bishop of Nevada
This 15th Day of July, 2009

19 comments:

Matthew said...

Thanks Dan. Very helpful. Do you know where I could get a copy or read the proposed baptismal covenants that did not pass. I am interested in reading them though they did not pass. Very good work all around. My only disappointment is that the budget that passed eliminates some positions at 815. Maybe they are not mission critical but I hate to see layoffs. Alas the church is also a business I guess.

Bishop Dan said...

Hi Matthew, I don't know about a copy of the failed revision. If it was in the blue book -- can't remember if it was -- JoAnn would have a copy. It mainly changed the vows to a less "I will" to a discriptive statement and seemed iffier. The layoffs are painful. If all the diocese paid their assessment, we wouldn't be in such a bind.

Nikki said...

I may be missing something - I consider myself pretty well acquainted with church jargon, but the term "lay evangelist" confuses me. Isn't this something we all are/should be anyway? Does this mean something new and different?

Bishop Dan said...

That was one of the arguments offered against recognizing this special ministry. You are exactly right that evangelism is a minsitry belonging to all Christians, but things that are everyone's responsibility in general wind up being no one's responsibility in particular -- and that's when things don't get done. A licensed lay evangelist would lead people -- teaching, training, resourcing, etc. -- in the same way priests lead us in worship, deacons lead us in social justice and mercy ministries, or a choir leader leads a choir. Without leadership, things don't happen. So we will train and license point persons to make it happen through the ministry of everyone.

Seminarian said...

Bishop --

In case you missed it.

From http://fathertlistenstotheworld.blogspot.com/2009/07/time-to-update-my-resume.html

Friday, July 17, 2009

Time to Update My Resume

A drastically reduced budget has been approved by General Convention. Among the cuts are various programs at the Episcopal Church Center.

I'm sorry to have to inform you that the entire Evangelism program, including my position, has been eliminated from the budget.

Other program officer postions eliminated include Worship and Spirituality, Women's Ministries and Lay Ministry.

All together, 37 positions at the Episcopal Church Center have been cut. No explanation has been offered as to why these programs were chosen for elimination.

.....

thisizstupid said...

"As Episcopalians, we are free to hold different beliefs about issues of doctrine."

Ehhh, no. That's why they call it "doctrine". Doctrine is fundamental. Either you believe in the Anglican doctrine, or you believe in something that is NOT Anglican doctrine.

That Woman and the rest of the "815 crowd" certainly fall into the second category, and that's why the Episcopal Church will continue to shrink as it gets ever more "inclusive". But keep fiddling guys, there's still a lot of Rome left to burn!

PS - the word you should have used is "adiaphora".

BabyBlue said...

"As Episcopalians, we are free to hold different beliefs about issues of doctrine."

So - Bishop Ridley and Latimer and even Cranmer himself died for what? A misunderstanding?

heartafire said...

Unbelievable...
You are a bishop?
And your "flock" accepts this letter, as what happened at GC?
Are all of you Nevadans drinking the kool-aid?
Please, to anyone reading this, go immediately to standfirminfaith.com and read about General Convention, and ask yourself if this man's letter adequately sums it up.

Bishop Dan said...

Well, I do regret any offense. My intent was to write in a healing way, building the Body of Christ in godly love. The cuts to the budget are nothing less than tragic and I share seminarian's sentiments on that point. As for doctrinal disputes, the Anglican tradition has long been able to embrace different views. That's what Elizabeth I meant by "I will open a window into no man's soul." That's why we have a prayer book instead of a detailed doctrinal confession. Willingness to pray and dialouge over differences truly are at the heart of the historic Anglican way. Here in Nevada, and in most of the Episcoal Church, we are eager to remain in relationship with each other based on love of God and each other, not holding the same opinions on all matters. When I say "we are called to love each other, not agree with each other," I am paraphrasing PB Edmund Browning, who was speaking out of the theology of Archbishop Michael Ramsey. And even if I did not hold the current Presiding Bishop in the highest personal regard -- which I do -- I would never refer to her sarcastically. To disagree with the PB is our right. To speak of her disprespectfully is to disrespect the Church itself. (St. Ignatius of Antioch) That is not Anglican.

thisizstupid said...

"That is not Anglican."

And neither is The Episcopal Church, which is our point.

That's why I'd never speak of Archbishop Robert Duncan sarcastically or disrespectfully.

Matthew said...

Dear thisizstupud


Why does respect require being in the same denomination? I try to respect Jews atheists, Bp Duncan, whoever.

I really worry if these are the only limits to respect. And if you believe what goes around comes around, those with that ideology should not get out or travel much or this world could be very unpleasant indeed. One also wonders how successful evangelism is to be if the unc unchurched or non-Anglican are treated with such sarcasm?

Rick+ said...

     Thank you for your work as our bishop to include all the baptized.

     In every generation, Christians have struggled with the meaning of "all" as in, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to me."

     Jesus' use of the word "all" has always been hard to understand... to put into action... in the First Century and in our own... in our private lives and in the Church.

thisizstupid said...

@Matthew

I give everyone respect, so long as they show themselves to be worthy of it.

I grant no respect, not the tiniest little bit, to That Woman. She is destroying my church. She is suing hundreds of faithful believers. She is trying take away their lawful property. She tried to appoint a Buddhist as a Bishop. She has meddled in the affairs of Daughters of the King. She has frequently and without shame used "doublespeak" in dialogs with the rest of the Communion. She has made several public statements that are extremely unorthodox to Christianity, not just Anglicanism in general.

She is, in general, a cancer on the Anglican faith in America. As she pushes for more and more "inclusiveness", parishes close for lack of parishioners and seminaries close for lack of funds. Yet instead of spending what little money TEC has left on honorable and noble causes, she chooses instead to spend millions on legal bills.

Keep in mind that this was "my church". That Woman and her minions are the ones that have changed everything. I must accept gay marriages in my church... or leave? Those are my options? Is it any wonder why millions of Episcopalians have left TEC for Anglican, Roman or Orthodox churches in the past 30 years?

Rick+ said...

Hmm... it appears it may be time to start moderating comments.

thisizstupid said...

Why? People say things you don't like, so now it's time to shut them up?

Gee, what mainstream denomination does THAT sound like?

Well played!

Rick+ said...

One thing not mentioned in your pastoral letter is being a signatory to what is being called the "Anaheim Statement" regarding the moratoria. Could you tell us more about your thinking?

Bishop Dan said...

Sure. The AS was intended by the author as a clarification of the Resolutions, saying essentially the same things Bishop Katharine said in her letter to ABC Williams -- not as a dissent as it was spun in the press. How could we dissent against our own votes? That interpretation is stuck in the old paradigm, not the new reality of this year's effots to reconcile and heal.

The AS, I believe, was not signed by some bishops who opposed the inclusive resolutions. I know it was signed by a number of us who voted for the resolutions. I understand its intent is to reassure the Communion of our continuing commitment to dialogue -- BTW it had some good effect that way according to ABC Williams' reflections -- and to reassure folks in conservative dioceses that we are still orthodox and committed to the Communion. After the last Convention the stir in conservative dioceses was over general orthodoxy, not so much GLBT inclusion. The only possbile snag language in the AS is over the moratoria. You know how I have been dealing with that issue and will continue doing so. Given that approach, I was able to sign the AS and did so to preserve Communion dialogue and so the 30 dissenting bishops can show thier people that those of us who support GLBT incluson also support core doctine and the Communion.

Archangel said...

How come the Episcopal Church tolerates a masked terrorist to wear a mitre and to pilot in the air?

How can a thief expect to be treated for she stole the bread of her neighbor? There are enough evidences that she is a sexual immoralist and that she distorts the meaning of 'communion'. There are enough evidences to throw her in jail for her illegal practices in the Name of God! Shame on you all!

I am sending EMBARGO onto the Episcopal Church!

On behalf of God's Council!
Archangel Gabriel

Jim said...

How refreshing to see a bishop engaged in the discussion without several layers of clergy between himself and the laity.

I am distressed by the failure to apologize for and formally end the life of B033. Attempting to conciliate with the schismatics is simply not going to work. They are not going to suddenly discover the love of God. I wish it were not so, but their actions are clear.

FWIW
jimB