Bishop Smith Reports on the House of Bishops

From the Bishop’s E-Pistle for Friday September 21 2007
(The Feast of St. Matthew)

I am writing this afternoon from New Orleans where I am attending the House of Bishops’ Fall meeting. What hangs over us a bit like a cloud—and in fact we are expecting to be hit with a severe tropical storm tomorrow—are the decisions we must make after having met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who departed this afternoon after spending about 8 hours in conversation with us.

I must confess disappointment at most of that dialogue. The Archbishop spent most of his time listening, and only about a half hour speaking to the concerns that were raised. He was asked some rather pointed questions including why he had not invited Bishop Gene Robinson to the 2008 Lambeth conference, and what was he going to do about those Primates who had invaded dioceses in this country. Archbishop Williams chose instead to talk mostly about the nature of the office of bishop, which he understands to be “a servant of common discernment, keeping the most people at the table as long as possible because truth can only be found in conversation with the greatest number of the faithful”. That may be true enough, but what about a bishop’s obligation to protect the forgotten and stand with the oppressed?

In broad terms he asked us to postpone our own church’s agenda in favor of peace in the larger Communion. That desire was more strongly expressed by four members of the Anglican Advisory Council who spoke to us this morning. They again urged us to consider affirming in some way what was asked of us by the Primates at their February meeting in Dar Es Salaam, namely to refrain from consecrating openly gay bishops and approving same sex blessings; offer alternative primatial oversight to dioceses who wish it; and allow our church to be monitored by a council made up of other Provinces. Most of us feel again the frustration of being caught in the conundrum of wanting to walk with our world-wide partners without turning our backs on our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Many of us also believe we have already done all we can to appease those who differ with us in these matters. It seems we are being given a “Sophie’s choice,” being ask to pick who we love more. Whatever choice is made, people will be hurt. Even the option of refusing to choose can be interpreted by both parties as rejection.

Up to now we have had the chance to revisit the same old hurts and frustrations. On Monday we will see what we can do to create some kind of a response.

In the meantime, we are going to (literally) put on our work gloves and spend tomorrow in the 9th Ward of the City. On Sunday we will worship at various parishes. Perhaps having a time-out to work and pray together will allow us, as the Archbishop asked, “to find a way to surprise the world.”

Author: Nicholas Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...