By now many of you are aware that the Primates of the Anglican Communion, gathered in Canterbury this past week, have released a report that places temporary sanctions on the Episcopal Church. The primates voted these sanctions because of our decision this past summer to amend our canons to allow for same-sex marriage. There is a real sense of pain and sadness that the Episcopal Church is being censured for decisions it made in response to the pastoral needs of our members in our local contexts.
I believe it is important to note that the decisions made by our General Convention were done after decades of passionate conversation, biblical and theological engagement, by those in favor and those opposed, and with the understanding that no one is expected to uphold a position that their conscience cannot support. We believed that these decisions were made in response to the Gospel call to proclaim the news of God’s love for the created as far and as broadly as possible, and to listen to the voices of those whom the world has rejected. As a result of these decisions, the Episcopal Church was warned that there would be consequences. Today we have learned what they are.
In the news conference following the end of the meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury stressed that the Episcopal Church was not “punished” or “sanctioned”. Episcopalians are invited to work beside Anglicans in other parts of the world on relieving the suffering of the poor and disaster relief. But it is the decision of the majority of the Primates that the Episcopal Church may not participate with the rest of the Anglican Communion in conversations about common belief and theology or in other wider ecumenical work, at least for the next three years.
Our Presiding Bishop has written of the pain that these decisions bring to many in the Episcopal Church, and in particular to those who feel they have been marginalized once again by the Church in which they long to fully participate. Bishop Michael has also reiterated his intention to remain at the table in what ever capacity is allowed and to work on maintaining relationships as much as possible. And he has said that he does not imagine that the Episcopal Church will reverse its course. I agree with him on this point. I stand by my vote and that of our General Convention deputation this summer. I want to assure the LGBT people of Rhode Island that you are fully welcome in our diocese.
Though I know it will be difficult for many of us right now, I would ask that you join me in standing with Bishop Michael and continuing to participate in the common work of the Anglican Communion to the degree that we will be allowed. When someone rejects you for doing what you prayerfully discern to be the right thing to do, the Bible teaches us that we are to respond in love, by staying in relationship, doing what we can to show God’s love to those who are rejecting us. Walking beside the rest of the members of the Anglican Communion is the best way for us to witness to the World what the Gospel asks us each to do.
Finally, I ask you to pray for our witness to the World. I ask you to pray for the Episcopal Church, for the Anglican Communion and for the whole Church of God.
Gracious Father, we pray for thy Holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen. (BCP p. 816)
If you would like to know more about the decisions that were made, the Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale has done a good job of explaining them. And I’d close by inviting you to listen to these words from the final day of the meeting in Lambeth by our Presiding Bishop.